- The Washington Times - Friday, January 23, 2009

End of ‘war’?

“Has President Barack Obama ended the ‘war on terror’?” David Corn asks in a blog at www.motherjones.com.

“On his second day in office, he signed an executive order that would prevent any officer of the U.S. government from engaging in torture. As he placed his name on the order - keeping a prominent campaign promise - he declared that this move ‘effectively ensures that anyone detained by the United States for now’ will be interrogated in a fashion consistent with the Army field manual, which notes that the use of force, threats, or inhumane treatment is prohibited by law. ‘We can abide by a rule that says we don’t torture,’ Obama maintained. In other words, good-bye to waterboarding. …

“What was intriguing was how Obama characterized the fight against terrorism. He said, ‘The message we are sending around the world is the United States intends to prosecute the ongoing struggle against violence and terrorism’ vigilantly, effectively, and ‘in a manner consistent with our values and ideals.’ Notably, he did not use the term ‘war on terror.’ And moments later, he proclaimed, ‘We intend to win this fight and we’re going to win it on our terms.’ Again, no ‘war.’

“Is this a purposeful shift in rhetoric? Has Obama decided to drop the war on terrorism metaphor that the Bush-Cheney administration used extensively?” Mr. Corn wondered.

“At Robert Gibbs‘ first briefing as White House press secretary on Thursday afternoon, I asked if the president had booted the war metaphor. Gibbs replied that Obama had used language that was consistent with his inaugural address. In that speech, Obama had indeed said that ‘our nation is at war, against a far-reaching network of violence and hatred.’ But he did not use the standard ‘war on terror’ phrase. Instead he threw the word ‘war’ against a specific target.

“At the press conference, I followed up and inquired if Obama had decided not to deploy that phrase as president. ‘Not that I’m aware of,’ Gibbs answered.

“De-emphasizing the war metaphor would be a significant change. But if it is a deliberate change, the White House does not want to acknowledge it.”

Raising expectations

“For nearly three months since the election, we have been warned by President Obama, his staff, and the media not to burden him with unreal expectations that no mere mortal could meet,” Victor Davis Hanson writes at National Review Online (www.nationalreview.com).

“But why then consciously borrow from Abraham Lincoln´s speeches? And why re-create Lincoln´s historic train ride to his inauguration - especially by flying back from Washington to Illinois to then return to D.C. by slow-moving railcar? Lincoln took the train because it was the only feasible way to get to Washington in 1861, not to copy the grand arrival of some earlier American savior,” Mr. Hanson said.

“Candidate Obama once adopted a presidential-like seal. He held a mass rally at Berlin´s Victory Column (after his request for the more dramatic Brandenburg Gate was refused).

“He adopted Greek temple sets at the Democratic convention. And like Zeus on Mt. Olympus, he talked about making the planet cool and the oceans recede.

“And now he´s capped all that by warning us to lower our expectations!

“But if Obama deliberately takes on the trappings of a messiah, why shouldn´t we expect messianic solutions?”

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