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HE WHAT ON TERRORISM?
By Larry C Johnson
Stop the presses. WOT--the War on Terrorism may still be alive. The counter terrorism community is abuzz over the President's comments yesterday at a principals meeting of the Homeland Security Council. Bush reportedly said he was not in favor of the new term, Global Struggle Against Violent Extremism (GSAVE). In fact, he said, "no one checked with me". That comment brought an uncomfortable silence to the assembled group of pooh bahs. The President insisted it was still a war as far as he is concerned.
The battle over language and the confusion within the National Security Council is an unfortunate reminder of the chaos that is afflicting the Bush Administration's effort to deal with terrorism. Unfortunately, every agency and department is doing its own thing without strong, clear direction or control from the White House. Makes longtime bureaucrats long for the days of Richard Clarke, when at least there was someone in charge.
While the Bush Administration has trumpeted that it is waging a war on terrorism rather than treating it as a law enforcement problem, the reality is that the terrorists do not present a target that can be readily attacked with military assets. In fact, the major captures of terrorist targets, such as Khalid Sheikh Mohammed and Hambali, have been carried out through intelligence operations or thru police round-ups.
Last fall I was told by friends in the counter terror community that the NSC was pushing to change the Global War on Terrorism into the War on Extremism (WOE). The original intent was to eliminate GWOT and replace it with WOE (I realize this sounds like a skit from the Daily Show, but it is the honest to God truth). Apparently someone at the White House realized that WOE would provide endless grist for comedy writers and decided instead to go with GSAVE.
The sad reality is that there is still no one in charge of directing a coordinated U.S. Government policy to combat terrorism. General Wayne Downing, who was put in charge in October of 2001, tried to do so but was slapped down by Don Rumsfeld. Downing resigned in frustration after spending less than a year on the job. Since then we have seen a virtual game of musical chairs, as different folks move in and out of the NSC slot responsible for coordinating terrorism policy.
At the end of the day this episode is a reminder of why Bin Laden is still at large. We cannot even agree on what to call the fight against Islamic radicals (FAIR is already taken as an acronym). We had WOT, thought about WOE, moved to GSAVE and may go back to WOT. Someone needs to find out WHAT is happening.