April 4, 2007

Global War on ________.

During the 2006 Senate campaign (and even before) Senator Santorum was criticizing the President for using the phrase "Global War on Terror"? Santorum wanted the war called what it is... a War on Islamofascism. He even got the President to say it once, and then Mr Bush apologized for it.

The Democrats in Congress agree. They also have a problem with "the Global War on Terror."

Sort of.

The House Armed Services Committee is banishing the global war on terror from the 2008 defense budget.

This is not because the war has been won, lost or even called off, but because the committee’s Democratic leadership doesn’t like the phrase.

A memo for the committee staff, circulated March 27, says the 2008 bill and its accompanying explanatory report that will set defense policy should be specific about military operations and “avoid using colloquialisms.”

So are Democrat colloquialisms fair game?
Committee staff members are told in the memo to use specific references to specific operations instead of the Bush administration’s catch phrases. The memo, written by Staff Director Erin Conaton, provides examples of acceptable phrases, such as “the war in Iraq,” the “war in Afghanistan, “operations in the Horn of Africa” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.”

“There was no political intent in doing this,” said a Democratic aide who asked not to be identified. “We were just trying to avoid catch phrases.”

Of course!! What was I thinking?

110th Congress Posted by AlexC at April 4, 2007 5:18 PM

I can think of at least two things wrong with the use of the phrase “Global War on Terrorism” in a defense authorization bill:

1) Authorizing this Administration to fight a “Global War” is analogous to authorizing Michael Jackson to run a day care center (the Globe), let alone to babysit two children (Iraq and Afghanistan).

2) Authorizing this Administration to fight a “Global War” against a tactic, “Terrorism,” is analogous to authorizing Michael Jackson to run a day care center with carte blanche to do as he will with the children as long as he says he believes they have misbehaved.

But as pedantic as all this sounds, there’s more to what Representative Skelton and his Democrat compatriots are up to here. Authorizing, even if only by inference, a “Global War on Terrorism,” is de facto declaring war on the entire world. Even Hitler didn’t do that. “Terrorism,” and by default “terrorists,” is a ubiquitous presence throughout the “Globe.” I would confidently assume that every nation on Earth has “terrorists” committing “terrorism” every day. To the victim, “terrorism” is “terrifying,” regardless of how many victims there are. So, from small acts of “terror” to massive assaults, “terrorism” is a worldwide fact of life. For any one entity, or nation, to fight “terrorism” “globally” is both impossibly arduous and unacceptably presumptuous. It is for each nation, each peoples, each authority to deal with “terrorism.” Sure, we can work together, even “globally,” to prevent “terrorism” and prosecute “terrorists” - that’s called DIPLOMACY, not “war.”

And “terrorism,” is too broad a term to be declaring war upon it. For example, per American law, if you were to call someone on the telephone and tell them that you are going to punch them in the face, you have commited an act of terror. A warrant could be issued for your arrest for “terrorizing” the receiver of that call. And “terrorism” is in the eye, or at least the rhetoric, of the beholder. In 2002, Chinese authorities made an active effort to portray the practitioners of Falun Gong, a Buddhist sect that concentrates on “better health and inner peace,” as terrorists. Somehow I think the American people are not up for shipping Chinese housewives to Guantanamo for performing slow-motion exercizes in the park.

All this aside, words have meaning, and words in legislation have meaning in law. The Bush Administration has shown itself to be irresponsible, inept and callous in it’s application of the 2002 Authorization for Use of Military Force Against Iraq. It has shown itself irresponsible, inept and callous in it’s handling of Afghanistan. It has made thinly veiled threats against Iran. The Constitutional authority to declare war and maintain the military rests squarely on the Legislature - not the Executive. This Executive, in particular, has shown a propensity to circumnavigate circumlocutous law, be it through piddling “signing statements” or catastrophic foreign policy. Ike Skelton and the Democrats on the House Armed Services Committe are not playing semantic games - they are legislating responsibly. It’s about time and it’s been a long time coming.


Posted by: Jersey McJones at April 5, 2007 9:43 AM


While I don't share your evaluation of the Bush administration, we might have a few areas of common ground.

I cannot rise to the defense of the term "Global War on Terror." I doubt if anybody here can. I would prefer that we name our enemies and not their tactic. Islamo fascist works for me, Senator Santorum and Christopher Hitchens. I enjoy Mayor Giuliani's term "the war the terrorists declared on us."

Refusing to authorize conflict that cannot be defined is likely, as you suggest, responsible. And I suppose that we agree on Michael Jackson's basic unfitness to seek employment in the child care sector.

Yet I'm not ready to fly the Democrat's flag in this discussion. They have proven themselves to be irresponsible allies, seeking political advantage now that the war is out of favor.

Why don't they fill the void and name the conflict or enemy? To refuse to, or to define it too narrowly is in no way better than defining it too broadly or ambiguously.

Posted by: jk at April 5, 2007 10:03 AM | What do you think? [2]