Call Them Not "Enemy Combatants": Obama Distances Himself From Bush?

I was all set to scathingly mock Obama’s latest “policy” of no longer calling the detainees at Gitmo “enemy combatants,” but as I read about it, I realized that he’s got a point (and a political agenda) in doing so. Sure, he wants to distance himself from some of Bush’s less popular policies, and this is a nice, polite, and politic way of doing just that. Some of the detainees, apparently, were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time and got swept up in some vast terrorist conspiracy. Poor guys. These, I guess, are the ones who’ll be released (allowed to go free). These poor saps aren’t “enemy combatants” at all. They don’t seek to harm anyone who is Jewish, Christian, or American (the hard core terrorists don’t seem to care if you are a Muslim American, you’re American first, and therefore need to be killed, or should that be “disallowed to live”?).

Before reading this story, I thought “enemy combatants” was a pretty good, not too insulting term (I’ve read and –ahem– said far worse descriptives of terrorists and their ilk), but I do understand that the term is one the Bush administration put in place, and I can see how its use connects (or connotes connection to) and continuity of those policies. Eliminating the term and freeing a bunch (no one knows how many of the remaining 240) of the less dangerous detainees makes Obama look good to the left.

But not too good because Obama’s still going to hold the other detainees “who provided ‘substantial’ support to al Qaeda, the Taliban or similar groups — or who were ‘part’ of those groups.” That’s okay with me, but I guess I’m not too hung up on what is considered “substantial” support or what constitutes being a “part” of “al Qaeda, the Taliban, or similar groups” (now that’s a broad and vague range of “groups” there). And isn’t that the same sort of criteria the Bush administration used in the first place?

And note, too, that according to the Obama administration there is a third group of people being held at Gitmo who are neither warm and fuzzy enough to be released nor guilty enough of some crime to be tried but who are just “too dangerous” to be released (I think the Bush administration came to the same conclusion, no?). That’s a bummer for the Obama folks who need to figure out what to do with this type of prisoner (um, I mean, “detainee”). If they can’t be released, tried, or held, according to Obama and his people, what in the world are we going to do with them? I know! We’ll stop calling them “enemy combatants,” that’ll fix it.


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