Hamdan, Terror, War

What makes a "war"? Professor Weiner argues that the self-styled "war on terror" launched by the United States against al-Qaeda and other terrorist entities mischaracterizes the nature of the conflict. This mischaracterization is not merely a matter of semantics, but has been used to vest the Executive Branch with substantial legal powers only available in wartime. Although Professor Weiner acknowledges certain important similarities between the "war on terror" and conventional forms of armed conflict, he submits that the Executive Branch has chosen not to accept wartime's legal duties even as it claims wartime rights in the fight against terrorism. Professor Weiner criticizes the Supreme Court's decision in Hamdan v. Rumsfeld that Common Article 3 of the Geneva Conventions applies to the Guantanamo detainees. Although this ruling extended some limited protections to the Guantanamo detainees, it effectively endorses the Executive Branch's assertion of sweeping wartime powers in the fight against terrorism. Finally, Professor Weiner argues that the potentially unbounded character of the conflict against terrorism creates powerful reasons for the Judiciary to apply traditional principles of checks and balances and to limit Executive Branch powers in this new "war on terror."