Thursday, August 04, 2005

It's the war on terror again, baby!

Oh, I heard it through the grapevine (Grapevine, Texas, that is). First it was G-WOT (Global War on Terror), then Rumsfeld et al. tried to slip G-SAVE (Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism) by us, and now Bush reminds that, uh, nothing's changed, it's still a war and the enemy is still terror... or terrorism... or terrorists. Whatever.

Here's how the Times puts it:

President Bush publicly overruled some of his top advisers on Wednesday in a debate about what to call the conflict with Islamic extremists, saying, "Make no mistake about it, we are at war."

In a speech here, Mr. Bush used the phrase "war on terror" no less than five times. Not once did he refer to the "global struggle against violent extremism," the wording consciously adopted by Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld and other officials in recent weeks after internal deliberations about the best way to communicate how the United States views the challenge it is facing.

In recent public appearances, Mr. Rumsfeld and senior military officers have avoided formulations using the word "war," and some of Mr. Bush's top advisers have suggested that the administration wanted to jettison what had been its semiofficial wording of choice, "the global war on terror."

So what happened?

[A]dministration officials became concerned when some news reports linked the change in language to signals of a shift in policy. At the same time, Mr. Bush, by some accounts, told aides that he was not happy with the new phrasing, a change of tone from the wording he had consistently used since the attacks of Sept. 11, 2001.

It is not clear whether the new language embraced by other administration officials was adopted without Mr. Bush's approval or whether he reversed himself after the change was made. Either way, he planted himself on Wednesday firmly on the side of framing the conflict primarily in military terms and appeared intent on emphasizing that there had been no change in American policy.

"We're at war with an enemy that attacked us on September the 11th, 2001," Mr. Bush said in his address here, to the American Legislative Exchange Council, a group of state legislators. "We're at war against an enemy that, since that day, has continued to kill."

Mr. Bush made a nod to the criticism that "war on terror" was a misleading phrase in the sense that the enemy is not terrorism, but those who used it to achieve their goals. In doing so, he used the word "war," as he did at least 13 other times in his 47-minute speech, most of which was about domestic policy.

"Make no mistake about it, this is a war against people who profess an ideology, and they use terror as a means to achieve their objectives," he said.

Well, fine. At least it wasn't another "Mission Accomplished" speech.

Nothing happens by accident or without official approval in the Bush White House, and I suspect that Bush has simply backed down from G-SAVE in the face of widespread public disapproval (much like Jon Stewart backing away from his ugly new set). In the end, after all, it's all about public relations. "War on terror" isn't much of a slogan, I admit, and the "war" against the fascist jihadists does require more than military might, but G-SAVE was just stupid. At least we're back where we were.

For more, see:

Bookmark and Share


Post a Comment

<< Home