Vietnam War on Trial: The Court-Martial of Dr. Howard B. Levy
1994 Wis. L. Rev. 839
126 Pages Posted: 7 Dec 2020
Date Written: 1994
This Article examines the history of a Vietnam War-era case: the court-martial of Dr. Howard B. Levy. The U.S. Army court-martialled Dr. Levy for refusing to teach medicine to Green Beret soldiers and for criticizing both the Green Berets and American involvement in Vietnam. Although the Supreme Court eventually upheld Levy's conviction in Parker v. Levy, its decision obscures the political content of Levy's court-martial and its relationship to the war. At the court-martial Levy sought to defend himself by showing that his disparaging remarks about the Green Berets, identifying them as "killers of peasants and murderers of women and children," were true and that his refusal to teach medicine to Green Beret soldiers was dictated by medical ethics, given the ways in which the soldiers would misuse their medical knowledge. Ultimately, Levy put the war itself on trial by arguing that had he trained the soldiers he would have abetted their war crimes. This Article seeks to recapture the history of the Levy case as a case about the Vietnam War. Yet the case was also about much more.
The Article shows how imagery evoking beliefs about race and racial difference, war, frontier violence, and medicine and healing all came into play in the Levy case. It also explores the manner in which the court-martial became a forum in which the Vietnam War and aspects of U.S. Army policy and conduct were debated, and in which that debate was eventually suppressed. Ultimately, this Article begins the exploration of how American legal institutions coped with the crisis of political and moral legitimacy that they confronted in the late 1960s.
Keywords: Court-Martial of Dr. Howard B. Levy
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