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  • Livia

    Great piece.

    I would like clarification about your one detour into straw men. Can you cite whether anyone has actually said, “The rules of war do not apply to enemy combatants.” Who else would you be at war with for these rules to apply besides enemy combatants?

  • This article is riddled with factual and interpretative errors but for clarity on the above comment: the issue of Geneva Conventions applying to “enemy combatants” is misquoted here. Bush Administration officials referred to “illegal enemy combatants”. Illegal enemy combatants, legally speaking, do surrender many of their rights under the Geneva Conventions (not all though). The contentious part in this was that they were deemed “illegal enemy combatants” not on account of any act they may or may not have done, but purely on account of being identified as part of the Taliban or Al Qaeda.

    Also important when going down the road of “Obama’s drones are just as bad for civilian victims as the Boston bombings” is to remember that according to the applicable law, terrorism (as defined in the additional protocols to the Geneva Conventions) is an act designed to create terror amongst a civilian population. This would appear to be the case in Boston. But UAV strikes in Yemen/Pakistan? If the intended target is an enemy combatant it would be hard to prove it was an act of terrorism. Any adverse effects (death, injury, displacement etc) on civilian population may well breach conduct of hostilities but would be hard to pin it as terrorism.

    I do enjoy the range of articles available at Muftah but editors, please get people with the capacity to give informed interpretations of the law to write about it. Otherwise you fall in the same category of so many other media pushing uninformed commentary.

  • Livia, thanks for your comment. As far as the traditional laws of war not being applicable to enemy combatants, this is something Congress helped to define post 9/11. In terms of Boston, in particular, Graham and McCain (if memory serves me correctly), were among the prominent political voices using this rhetoric again. You might find this piece interesting: http://www.slate.com/articles/news_and_politics/jurisprudence/2013/04/tsarnaev_an_enemy_combatant_john_mccain_and_lindsey_graham_s_harmful_campaign.html Cheers and many thanks.

  • Dear Quang,

    Thank you for your comment. You are correct: my PhD is not in the domain of law. I am not qualified to conduct legal analysis, in that respect. However, this article was a thought piece on the plasticity of terminology, and the implications of redefined vocabulary in international conflict — rather than a legal argument.

    I intended to draw attention to the fast and loose use of terminology beyond the legal realm, such as widespread abuse of a term like “terrorism,” which does not have a unilaterally accepted definition (various international actors have their own definitions, albeit overlapping, yet differing on minute points), or “asymmetric,” which is used in political discourse in a manner that does not necessarily align with its legal definition.

    I by no means intended to suggest that “Obama’s drones and the Boston marathon bombing are the same thing.” Rather than an interpretation of legality, per se, it is the power of vocabulary which interested me in this piece, and its often extremely subjective power.

    I appreciate your constructive criticism. Thank you.

  • The above is a great article that will probably get overlooked by many in the flood of news and information coming out via the Internet. It is good that we have a good definition and understanding of what is ‘asymmetric warfare’ in today’s hostile world with loaded words.

    The major forces at war today are the forces of liberation and the forces of repression. Each of us must decide which side we are on or risk being shot in a crossfire as we sit on the fence. I agree with Ms. Rogers that we need to define our terms on occasion. It is hard to be on the same page when we are not even in the same library.

    We utilize the power of the word, the image and emotion to communicate to others and convince them of the humaneness of our various positions on matters. Words are relative symbols we use to exchange ideas and ideals.

    Power to the Truth! Peter S. López aka @Peta_de_Aztlan
    Sacramento, California, Nazi Amerika c/s

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