We need to come to terms with the terms we use. “The rule of law” and “national security” are often applied haphazardly or at what appears to be the whim of judges and other officials and can resemble the law of the jungle or the Wild West. Despite constant harangues from the media and politicians, the public remains confused by distinctions that don’t relate to the real-world situations they confront or to the actions of those they have chosen to conduct business in what we call “representative government.”

The Bush administration designated un-uniformed fighters “enemy combatants” in order to try them before military tribunals or imprison them indefinitely without trial. It was determined that the usual protections provided US citizens or foreign military personnel weren’t relevant in such cases and the term rule of law ceased to have the same impact it had in the past. This fit nicely with Bush-team legal opinions which rendered Geneva Convention guidelines regarding prisoners and torture quaint and not applicable to the demands of modern-day warfare.