- Hardcover: 402 pages
- Publisher: Outskirts Press (November 22, 2010)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 1598000217
- ISBN-13: 978-1598000214
- Product Dimensions: 6.1 x 0.9 x 9.2 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1.7 pounds (View shipping rates and policies)
- Average Customer Review: 7 customer reviews
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #7,730,188 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Command Influence: A Story of Korea and the Politics of Injustice
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About the Author
Robert A. Shaines is a practicing attorney in Portsmouth, New Hampshire. He was awarded the Korean Service Medal in 2010 by the President of the Republic of Korea. His next book is a work of fiction based on his experiences working for the Defense Nuclear Agency from 1992 to 1996 in the former Soviet Union.
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At the time, the Korean press and government was charging the US military with abusing Korean citizens in a brutal way. From appearances, The US Army hoped to clear these claims with a designated human sacrifice. George C. Schreiber, a twenty-five year old second lieutenant, was accused of ordering the execution of a still unidentified man apprehended for looting. "Both Schreiber and I were really pawns in a power game among ambitious and vindictive men, eager to please those whom they felt could advance their military careers," writes Shaines.
Schreiber was convicted, but the uproar over the injustice ultimately involved the Chief of Staff of the Air Force, the Governor of Illinois, and the President of the United States. A Supreme Court decision in this case has been cited in recent lawsuits limiting the president's power to try Guantanamo Bay detainees by military commission. Shaines augments his excellent memory of these events with recently released documents and interviews with participants and their survivors, providing a dramatic chronology of otherwise all but forgotten events.
(A tip--I originally purchased the Kindle edition. The volume contains both photographs and reproduced documents which are more easily viewed in the print edition.)
The story takes place in Pusan, Korea 1952. Lt. George C. Schreiber is the 25 year old second lieutenant in charge of the Air Police (Air Force) guard unit. The former fifth grade teacher from Brookfield, IL is charged and court martial for premeditated murder.
For 23 year old Air Force lawyer (and author of this memoir) the charge makes no sense and he does his best, convinced of Lt. Schreiber's innocence, to get the accused released.
"Command Influence" by Robert A. Shaines is a captivating book in which Mr. Shaines recounts his memories as a defending lawyer in the case of The United States v. Lt. George C. Schreiber. Lt. Schreiber was the appointed scapegoat in a trial for the murder of a Korean man (whose real name was never found). Mr. Shaines, a military attorney on the Lieutenant's defense team, was fighting a battle which outcome was already decided.
Part of the book is a scathing criticism of what was then the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ), part of it is a memoir and part is interjections by Mr. Shaines himself. The title of the book comes from what Mr. Shaines said drove the trial - mainly that those in command influenced the outcome regardless of justice. Unfortunately "command influence" is still seen these days, if not in the courts then in reshaping history.
As a former solider myself I can certainly understand how a lowly grunt feels when being grilled by a superior officer, looking for the "right" answers regardless of what is just. On top of that keep in mind that not having the "right" answers could make your life extremely difficult - the last thing a grunt wants in a war zone.
Mr. Shaines goes to great lengths to make his point, that is that Lt. Schreiber was set-up by the commanding generals to appease the Koreans and the mother of the solider who actually killed the Korean man (the Lt. was charged with giving the order). The author provides letters, quotes court transcripts, conversations, press releases and other relevant material.
This is a very convincing memoir and I have no doubt, as does the author and anyone who actually followed the trial (including lawyers not on the team) as to Lt. Schreiber's innocence. It is fascinating to read the transcripts and get the lawyer's opinion of how those questions and answers made an important point during the trial, how the behavior affected the outcome and what it's like to deal with/ argue in-front of a hostile person who outranks you.
To me, the last few chapters were especially fascinating and by themselves worth the price of the book. Mr. Shaines goes on to explain how this specific court case is still relevant to this day. The case forced U.S. Congress to tweak the UCMJ and put better measures in place to protect civilians who have been discharged from the military. The implicaiton of this case still resound with us today where the President can order a citizen arrested without trial and the shadow of Guantanamo Bay floats over the news headlines almost daily.
However, I thought the book could be a bit better written and edited. The narrative didn't flow smoothly at times, some of the descriptions were reiterated unnecessarily and I don't know if it was essential at times to quote from the transcripts verbatim instead of simply summarizing questioning and adding the transcripts as appendices at the end of the book. Not that the transcripts (for example) weren't valuable, they were, but sometimes they just slowed down this important story and the feeling of how most all involved were simply pawns in a power game among the military high command.