The Lament of the Damned Detainee

By Gus Tyler

Published June 04, 2004, issue of June 04, 2004.
  • Print
  • Share Share

The recent scandals about the maltreatment of prisoners in Iraq have raised the question of whether such wartime captives have any rights. According to the Geneva Convention on the prisoners of war, they do. And the rights they have would have made impossible the hair-raising abuses they suffered at the hands of their American jailers. But — a big “but” — they are not being held as “prisoners of war” but as “detainees.”

If you consult a dictionary to find out just what a “detainee” is, you may be frustrated. It may not be there. It is a word of very recent vintage. It was invented to serve a purpose. Under the rules that are laid down in the Geneva Convention, prisoners-of-war are entitled to certain rights, including human and humane treatment. But as detainees, they are not protected by any rules or regulations relating to prisoners of war. They are at our merciless mercy.

What follows is a poetic lament, composed with rhyme and reason, that might have been written by one such detainee.

The Lament

of the Damned Detainee

I am a battered old “detainee,”

A word that rhymes with Richard Cheney.

The word’s not in the dictionary.

It really is quite fictionary.

They picked me up on some suspicion,

They thought I had an evil mission.

I told them that they were in error,

They said I was a man of “terror.”

They tossed me pronto in a prison,

A state from which I haven’t risen.

They said they did it ’cause it’s wartime,

And for some guys it is a sore time.

They made me strip and stay all naked,

I never thought I’d ever make it.

I said, “This is a mean invention,

Contrary to a great convention.”

They said, “Don’t count on old Geneva,

The law they wrote will simply leave ya

With the feeling you are zany.

No ‘prisoner’ you — one damned detainee.”

So, now I’ll turn to dear old Rummy,

And say, “I know that you’re no dummy.

I know you said that you’re unhappy,

Because you treated us so crappy.

Now here’s your chance to do some justice,

The thing you do is simply just this:

Make me a ‘prisoner,’ no ‘detainee,’

And get approval from Dick Cheney.”






Find us on Facebook!
  • "My wife and I are both half-Jewish. Both of us very much felt and feel American first and Jewish second. We are currently debating whether we should send our daughter to a Jewish pre-K and kindergarten program or to a public one. Pros? Give her a Jewish community and identity that she could build on throughout her life. Cons? Costs a lot of money; She will enter school with the idea that being Jewish makes her different somehow instead of something that you do after or in addition to regular school. Maybe a Shabbat sing-along would be enough?"
  • Undeterred by the conflict, 24 Jews participated in the first ever Jewish National Fund— JDate singles trip to Israel. Translation: Jews age 30 to 45 travelled to Israel to get it on in the sun, with a side of hummus.
  • "It pains and shocks me to say this, but here goes: My father was right all along. He always told me, as I spouted liberal talking points at the Shabbos table and challenged his hawkish views on Israel and the Palestinians to his unending chagrin, that I would one day change my tune." Have you had a similar experience?
  • "'What’s this, mommy?' she asked, while pulling at the purple sleeve to unwrap this mysterious little gift mom keeps hidden in the inside pocket of her bag. Oh boy, how do I answer?"
  • "I fear that we are witnessing the end of politics in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict. I see no possibility for resolution right now. I look into the future and see only a void." What do you think?
  • Not a gazillionaire? Take the "poor door."
  • "We will do what we must to protect our people. We have that right. We are not less deserving of life and quiet than anyone else. No more apologies."
  • "Woody Allen should have quit while he was ahead." Ezra Glinter's review of "Magic in the Moonlight": http://jd.fo/f4Q1Q
  • Jon Stewart responds to his critics: “Look, obviously there are many strong opinions on this. But just merely mentioning Israel or questioning in any way the effectiveness or humanity of Israel’s policies is not the same thing as being pro-Hamas.”
  • "My bat mitzvah party took place in our living room. There were only a few Jewish kids there, and only one from my Sunday school class. She sat in the corner, wearing the right clothes, asking her mom when they could go." The latest in our Promised Lands series — what state should we visit next?
  • Former Israeli National Security Advisor Yaakov Amidror: “A cease-fire will mean that anytime Hamas wants to fight it can. Occupation of Gaza will bring longer-term quiet, but the price will be very high.” What do you think?
  • Should couples sign a pre-pregnancy contract, outlining how caring for the infant will be equally divided between the two parties involved? Just think of it as a ketubah for expectant parents:
  • Many #Israelis can't make it to bomb shelters in time. One of them is Amos Oz.
  • According to Israeli professor Mordechai Kedar, “the only thing that can deter terrorists, like those who kidnapped the children and killed them, is the knowledge that their sister or their mother will be raped."
  • Why does ultra-Orthodox group Agudath Israel of America receive its largest donation from the majority owners of Walmart? Find out here: http://jd.fo/q4XfI
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.