Lyndon Hood - harmless drudge, Lower Hutt

Wednesday, November 10, 2004

After all this time, it’s become tempting to accept the default Pentagon-style terminology in discussing those chaps in the orange jumpsuits in Cuba. Since this can be confusing, I though I’d take this opportunity to provide a glossary.

Guantanamo Bay A location supposedly outside any legal jurisdiction, like the duty free zone at international airports but with no shops or even vending machines. Hence, a useful place for detaining those who it would be inconvenient to treat in accordance with the law or received moral standards.

The recent discovery that Guantanamo Bay is, in fact, a little slice of America has caused important changes. Most notably, detainees have a new joke: "Land of the Free. Ha ha ha ha ha ha." Further court rulings promise to provide more hilarity in the future.

The playful abbreviation "Gitmo" appears to be a reference to "Pomo" or Postmodernism, a philosophy known for questioning traditional enlightenment values and rational thought.

Camp X-Ray So called because it transparently breaches human rights.

Detainee One being held by the authorities who has not yet been found to be a prisoner. Detainees should be kept uncharged as long as possible; it is assumed that the case against them will mature with cellaring.

A detainee has no noteworthy human rights. These are considered forfeited by said detainee’s being captured fighting in the hills of Afghanistan, or in the Tora Bora caves, or sitting in a cab in Kabul, or minding their own business in Pakistan or Africa.

Terror Suspect A form of detainee. Held, for all this lexicographer can tell, under suspicion of being scary.

Geneva Conventions A series of rules drafted with the wide-eyed idealistic intention of making life less horrible. Under the conventions a prisoner may be either a civilian charged with some particular crime or an enemy fighter held as a prisoner of war. Both are to be treated according to certain standards.

Once ratified by the government the Conventions have the force of law and as such are cited indignantly or breached flagrantly as circumstances dictate.

Prisoner of War One who was fighting for the other side and is now in your custody. Under the relevant Geneva Convention, cannot be charged with fighting against your soldiers etc. and is to be released once the war in question is over.

War in Afghanistan A war that you would have thought was over.

Enemy Combatant One who was fighting for the other side and is now in your custody. Also used of those suspected of terrorist actions or sympathies. The outmoded concept of ‘criminal justice’ is apparently not able to deal with such people, necessitating the invention of this admirable legal fiction.

War on Terror Not a proper war. The on terror should be taken as abrogative rather than descriptive. Compare counterfeit money, virtual sex, Republican moral values.