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April 13, 2004

Defining the Language of War

The ugly turn in Iraq (if a war can get uglier) has set me to thinking about who the hostages are and how they fit in to the semantics of war. The hostages that aren’t soldiers can’t – I think – be considered Prisoners of War because they’re civilian employees, regardless of what role they actually play on the ground. Since they’re not POW’s, they’re also not subject to the Geneva Convention rules for Prisoners of War. This would include the “private security forces”, though I wouldn’t call them private security forces, I’d probably call them mercenaries.

In Guantanamo Bay, we have “illegal combatants” who also aren’t subject to the Geneva Convention - that’s why they were so classified. Jessica Ryan and her crew were considered POWs; they were enlisted folks, not civilian employees of Haliburton or any other company contracted for reconstruction in Iraq.

The hostages aren’t illegal combatants or POWs. One might argue that folks like Jessica Ryan and Thomas Hamill, were already hostages of the policies of the Bush administration, after all both Ms. Ryan and Mr. Hamill ended up in Iraq because of economic despair.

Paul Bremer said on national television that “We will not negotiate over hostages.” About the same time, Donald Rumsfeld stated that the troops in Iraq who’d been scheduled to go home will now have to wait. And layoffs in corporate America continue with Dupont announcing that they’re cutting six percent of their work force.

Who's a hostage? Who's a POW? Who's an illegal combatant? And who decides?

Posted by pam at April 13, 2004 08:51 AM | TrackBack
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