Opinion: Obama administration snuffs global war on terror (the term anyway)

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Now we know why President Obama could be so dismissive in his Sunday ’60 Minutes’ interview of former Vice President Cheney’s recent criticisms and concerns over the new Democratic administration’s national security policies.

All these years of political and military struggle and controversies, the Senate debates and votes, Obama’s long-lost antiwar speech, the Democratic primary campaign arguments and non-apologies last year, all of that fighting over the Iraq fighting and the global war on terror.


And in less than 10 weeks the new no-drama Obama crowd has ended the global war on terror. And all it needed was a simple memo. Not even an executive order. Why didn’t anyone else think of this?

Welcome word just in from the Washington Post’s ever-alert Al Kamen that the global war on terror is over, gone, kaput, finito.

Kamen confirms persistent recent reports that war has been declared on at least the term ‘global war on terror’ as well as another suspiciously Republican phrase -- ‘long war.’ They’ve been ordered ended internally by the Obama administration. So we can all relax and maybe even release everyone from Guantanamo.

Kamen obtained an e-mail from Dave Reidel in the Office of Security Review saying, ‘This Administration prefers to avoid using the term ‘Long War’ or ‘Global War on Terror’ (GWOT). Please use ‘Overseas Contingency Operation.’ ' Reidel asked memo recipients to spread the word to speechwriters and others.

Kamen quotes a spokesman for the Office of Management and Budget as denying the existence of such a linguistic guidance memo.

We’d wondered since the other day when we heard Homeland Security Secretary Janet Napolitano go way out of her way -- almost back to Arizona out of her way, in fact -- to avoid employing the long-used GWOT phrasing. She said her department would be ready for ‘whatever kind of disaster might strike -- man-caused or natural.’

On Wednesday, White House press secretary Robert Gibbs denied the existence of such a memo and a Defense Department spokesman said he’d not been told to use certain language, although ‘overseas contingency operation’ is an Obama budgetary term that has appeared in recent congressional testimony.

Kamen quotes OMB’s Kenneth Baer as saying, ‘There was no memo, no guidance. This is the opinion of a career civil servant.’

Which makes it sound like this no-more-global-terror-memo-writing guy has been around quite a while.

But then we got to thinking: If there was no memo and there was no guidance on no longer using the terrifying global war on terror phrase, what exactly then is left to be the mere opinion of a career civil servant?

-- Andrew Malcolm

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