The Language of War: A Battle of Words at Guantanamo Bay

AuthorJennifer Bond
70 AP PE AL V OL UM E 10 2005
Jennifer Bond
Over the past 35 months, a plethora of opinions have been
provided on the legality of the detainees at Guantanamo Bay.
Scholars, lawyers, government agencies, NGOs, and even courts
have commented on the application of specific legal rules to the
hundreds of individuals being held in this remote naval base in
Cuba. What has not frequently been recognized, however, is that
Guantanamo Bay is as much about power as it is about legal
interpretation, and that this power is being created and controlled
through the careful manipulation of legal discourse. This paper
will explore two specific linguistic techniques being used by the
U.S. government to legitimize its actions at Guantanamo Bay,
and will argue that in each case legal discourse is being used as a
tool to increase that government’s own position of power.
“The Bush Administration has attempted to turn the forty -eight
square miles of its naval base at Guantanamo Bay into territory
beyond the reach of any law and outside the jurisdiction of any
court. In its treatment of the detainees at Guantanamo, it has
been unwilling to fully apply international humanitarian law (often
called the laws of war), has flouted international human rights

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