I can’t help wondering…

When did we start calling prisoners of war “detainees”?? It sounds so innocuous, like they’re just being held for a few hours, then let go. But this term is being applied to foreign citizens (or enemy combatants, maybe) held for multiple years without trial, our own citizens who disappear without access to basic rights, etc. I was driving home last night and heard a reporter on NPR using this term. It just seems Orwellian to me, and I wonder how the administration got the media to buy into it so thoroughly that even independent public radio uses it. Now that I think about it, even “enemy combatants” is just a way to avoid saying “prisoners of war” and having the Geneva Conventions applied. Sigh…


3 thoughts on “I can’t help wondering…

  1. Debbie says:

    That’s a good point.

    Spin is a wonderful thing – if you’re the government. It turns illegal immigrants into “undocumented workers” and war into a “police action” (I’ve always loved that the Korean conflict was never officially a “war”).

    It is rather Orwellian. And I’m starting to feel like Cassandra screaming at folks not to trust the Trojan horse.

  2. PattyM says:

    That word “detain” has bothered me since the start of this “war”.
    Another that the press (including the left) has accepted is “insurgent”.
    From the dictionary an insurgent is

    “a person who rises in forcible opposition to lawful authority, esp. a person who engages in armed resistance to a government or to the execution of its laws; rebel”.

    Implicit in that is the idea that the US forces and the puppet government of Iraq are legitimate authorities.

    “War” is another one. The distinction is semantic and really meaningless to the guys and gals on the ground. Iraq invasion and occupation does not meet the constitutional requirement of a declaration of war. The congress did give Bush authority to use the armed forces but no declaration of war has been issued. In law such fine distinctions make a lot of difference.

  3. I find it really hard to imagine how invasion of another country with the declared intent to overthrow its government (and succeeding in doing so) and subsequent occupation could be considered anything other than a war – by a common sense definition at least. It seems to me that if anything like that happened anywhere else in the world, we’d be calling that a war and asking the combatants to cease hostilities. But you’re right, it’s a very semantic issue, and makes little difference to the troops on the ground. While I feel strongly that it was a “war” against Saddam, that part has been long over, and what is left is a very confusing mess of hostilities of all kinds.

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