vietnam prisoner of war question

Right now, CSPAN is showing coverage of a bill to recognize all of the various prisoners of war from the Vietnam “conflict”, as they’re referring to it. No disrespect intended to anyone who was in this situation, but how can you be a prisoner of war when war was never declared by Congress?

They can be POW’s even though Vietnam was never a “declared war” if Congress says they’re POW’s. Whether or not there was ever a declaration of war, people got shot at (and shot) in large numbers, and some of them were taken prisoner after engaging in combat with an armed enemy. And Vietnam is already legally defined as a “period of war”; from 38 U.S.C. 101:

From the same section:

Which makes me wonder why any such bill would be necessary, as it sounds like Vietnam POW’s are already legally recognized as such. What exactly was the purpose of this bill? Was it “recognize” in the sense of “we legally declare these people to be former POW’s”, or are we just talking about “recognize” in the sense of a ceremonial bill declaring “on behalf of the American people Congress thanks all former POW’s from the Vietnam era for their sacrifice on behalf of our country”?

I don’t think that’s what the bill’s for. It’s hard to tell which bill you’re talking about (and I don’t watch C-SPAN), but I suspect you’re seeing discussion of a bill to provide benefits for POWs suffering from health problems that are not currently recognized as being war-related.

There’s also a move afoot for certain pre-war-era KIAs to be added to the Vietnam War Memorial, but I don’t think that’s current.

Well, we are treating those captured in Afganistan, and taken in the so-called “war on terrorism” as enemy combatants. If you look at Guantanamo Bay it’s hard to distinguish between “enemy combatant” and “prisoner of war.”

We also claim to be following the requirements of the Geneva Convention with respect to them although I haven’t heard about any Red Cross visits to the place yet. But then maybe I wouldn’t hear of them. That’s not nearly as newsworth as Saddam Hussein. In any case it looks like they are POW’s even though there is nor formal war going on.