- The Washington Times - Wednesday, April 4, 2007

Here’s a change a long time in the making: Congressional Democrats who squeal when Republicans call them soft on terrorism are now banishing the phrase “war on terror” from the 2008 defense budget.

This act of revisionism is at the hands of the House Armed Services Committee, where the new Democratic leadership now claims to regard “war on terrorism” as a “colloquialism” and a “catch phrase” to be avoided. In an internal memorandum obtained by the Military Times, Democratic leaders instruct congressional staffers to use more “specific” terms such as “war in Iraq,” “war in Afghanistan” or “ongoing military operations throughout the world.” Staffers are also supposed to avoid the term “long war,” often substituted by conservative critics of the phrase “war on terrorism.” Unnamed Democratic aides insist that the move isn’t political, even though many Democrats associate the term with President Bush and despite the fact that Republicans on the committee were not consulted.

This is yet another sign that the Democrats are going hard-left on national-security issues generally and not just on Iraq — in this instance, trying to airbrush away the very war on terrorism from our most basic defense legislation.

This is also hypocrisy, simple and rank — the sort that causes us to question motives. There is no other conclusion given that the phrase “war on terror” still has its uses for some Democratic lawmakers. One of them is Rep. Ike Skelton of Missouri, who chairs the House Armed Services Committee and is ultimately responsible for these directives. “Today, we are in the midst of a long struggle against the evil of terrorism,” reads his press release commemorating the fifth anniversary of the September 11, 2001. Iraq is “separate and distinct from the war on terrorism,” which, according to the Ike Skelton responsible for the Sept. 3, 2006, release, still retains merit. Of course, this document is intended for public consumption. It is only secondarily a means of cudgeling Mr. Bush.

Which is it, Mr. Skelton? A catch-phrase or a long struggle? We suppose it depends on whom you’re talking to.

Perhaps we shouldn’t be so taken aback. Many Democrats have been uncomfortable with “war on terrorism” for its alleged bellicosity, its lack of “nuance” and its clarity on whom the bad guys are. Above all, they dislike its close association with the presidency of George W. Bush.

Consider the implications for a moment, though. If there is no real war against terrorism pitting civilized peoples against Islamist militants, then even Sen. John Kerry’s vision of a war on terror which is “not primarily a military operation” can be viewed as unduly hawkish. It would mean that the attacks of the last decade, from Bali to Beslan to Madrid to Manhattan, can be regarded as disparate, unrelated events. Because al Qaeda and allied terrorist groups no longer have a hierarchical structure, any al Qaeda-inspired violence by the many hundreds of thousands of Islamist militants worldwide can also be regarded as disparate and unrelated.

This is the intellectual path to subordination to Islamist terrorism, the problem defined away in semantics and doublespeak. It must be resisted.

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