In the world of legal and constitutional analysis, words matter. A lot. For instance, have you been wondering whether the assassination or, elimination, neutralization or murder of Major General, or terrorist, or freedom fighter Qasem Soleimani, was authorized, legal or illegal, depends on what military, or non-military classification he falls into under one of several possibly applicable federal statutes. Keep in mind that throughout this article we will be discussing the very same person.

In the 1990s, a string of important cases regarding prisoners from the Middle East detained in Guantanamo Bay detention camp (it’s a military prison) located within Guantanamo Bay Naval Base, and often referred to as Gitmo, was decided by the US Supreme Court. These cases involved detainees imprisoned by and within US custody, being held indefinitely, without formal charges brought and lacking any meaningful access to evidence, or legal counsel while awaiting battlefield justice (a bullet to the back of the head) a military tribunal (hanging) or, a trial with the prosecution deciding what evidence was admissible and what was “classified” (basically everything) and unavailable to the defendant and his or his not lawyer much less legal team.

In the last case decided, Boumediene v. Bush, it was ruled even high-value prisoners had at least some, however minimal, due process rights. But the amount of rights depends on an analysis of various classifications of status under several different domestic and international laws. But let’s start here. Are we talking about

1. A well-defined conventional war? With conventional soldiers wearing uniforms on a traditional field of battle? Or are we discussing part of the never-ending, vague and amorphous “War on Terror?” An asymmetrical war with no actual “soldiers” and no defined battlefield? If the latter then classify the individual as an “enemy combatant” with no rights under the Geneva Convention and subject to, in most cases, US Military law(s) of which there are several that may apply.

2. Is the enemy combatant (not a soldier) an American Citizen? If so, check the box for more rights, if not, then less rights it is.

3. Is the enemy combatant being held on American soil? Or in Gitmo which conveniently happens to be classified as “foreign territory.” If currently detained, incarcerated, on foreign dirt, its constitutional limbo time as in how low can your rights go? Keeping in mind even if you are “three for three” you still have some due process rights.

And so, keeping all of this in mind, how exactly would you classify the recently assassinated, liquidated, ambushed, attacked, killed, murdered, nothing left but a black smudge on the ground after being hit by a drone strike on Iraqi soil Soleimani?

Who just so happens to carry a military rank the equivalent of an American Major General and as the leader of the “Quds Force” or elite Revolutionary Guard, the second most important person in the Iranian government? The same person and group the Americans have classified as “Terrorists” (see above for not soldiers) and can only be led by a terrorist (see not a soldier on a battlefield and, therefore, an “enemy combatant”.

The reason I ask is because, is it not true that one person’s “terrorist” is another person’s “freedom fighter?” If not, then I imagine we will have to re-classify George Washington as an enemy combatant and subject to something along the lines of military tribunal as opposed to civilian courts with little to no due process rights as part and parcel of the British “war on terror.”

Of course, once you’re dead, you really don’t care what your due process rights were, or at least, could have been. Did I mention that detainees, prisoners, recipients of torture, victims were given a happy meal for their supposed cooperation? Like I said, words matter.

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