If I had to say that there was one underlying thread to this blog, it is that “language is important.” In editing and re-editing my post yesterday, I realized that I was muddling my thoughts, and, as I listened to Patrick Leahy this morning on NPR, discussing what to do with Guantanamo prisoners, I realized that he was, to a certain extent, muddling his thoughts, as well.

Why? Why is the issue of releasing those held at Guantanamo or providing them due process so problematic? Why don’t we know what to call those that are being held? Enemy combatants? Prisoners? Prisoners of war? Terrorists? Terrorist suspects? Alleged terrorists? I believe that all of the above terms have been used, sometimes interchangeably, depending upon the source. And, the fact is, with the possible exception of those that have had access to some legal recourse, we don’t know what to call them because little to nothing has been disclosed about them.

We don’t know where, exactly, most of them were captured (presumably Afghanistan). We don’t know the circumstances in which they were captured. We don’t know what specific charges are being held against them. We don’t know on what evidence they are being detained, and we don’t know how that evidence was obtained. We don’t know if it was obtained through coercive methods that would not be acceptable in a US or international court of law. If someone knows, please tell me.

How can we even ask the question about the appropriate method of trial for these individuals, if they don’t legally exist, if all information about them is “classified” because our government would have it so?