I have in my office a very impressive commendation that was presented to me when I retired from the US State Department's Office of Anti-Terrorism Assistance "for service that has greatly contributed to our nation's cause in the Global War on Terrorism (GWOT)." Needless to say, this commendation means a great deal to me because after the events of 9/11, I was asked to come out of retirement and take on a senior role in combating terrorism abroad as a member of the Department's Bureau of Diplomatic Security. I did so willingly to serve my country and do what I could to neutralize Islamic extremism.
So, you can imagine how I felt when I heard recently that the newly installed administration of President Barack Obama has eliminated the "Global War on Terrorism" and now refers to it as "Overseas Contingency Operations," whatever in the world that means. To make matters worse, the Obama Administration has also eliminated the use of the term "enemy combatant." Also, most recently, Secretary of Homeland Secretary Janet Napolitano has referred to acts of terrorism as "man-made disasters."
Although the motivation for the elimination of GWOT by the Obama Administration was no doubt linked to Mr. Obama's disdain for the eight-year presidency of George W. Bush, he may not realize that many countries abroad actually embraced the U.S. Government's leadership role in establishing the GWOT. First of all, let me say that I am hardly an apologist for the former administration of President George W. Bush. That being said, I firmly believe that regardless of what people may think of him, President Bush was genuinely committed to preventing another catastrophic terrorist attack on U.S. soil. And that he did. Unfortunately, many Americans have never given him the credit he legitimately was due.
Imagine what our allies in the formerly known GWOT are thinking? "Assuredly, they are now doubt asking themselves, "Has the U.S. gone mad?" How absurd it is to change terminology simply because of distain for a previous president, rather than for reasons that make sense. Sadly, this new government apparently is more concerned with political correctness than with substance.
Now, here's the interesting part. In 2003, former President Bush in Executive Order 13289 created two military medals: the Global War on Terrorism Service Medal and the Global War on Terrorism Expedeitionary Medal. The former is for duty performed in an anti-terrorism program in the U.S., while the later is awarded for service in foreign countries. Military members can earn both medals.
Let's then presume that you and I proudly wear one of the medals on our uniform for risks we have taken for our nation. Suddenly, a new president is inaugurated and within weeks abolishes the term "Global War on Terrorism." What message does that convey to our men and women in uniform who have earned either or both of these medals? It conveys that our commander in chief, or his advisors, cannot possibly fathom what the wearing of an American military uniform means.
Having served in a senior civilian anti-terrorism position for nearly five years, I would interpret the elimination of the GWOT as a slap in the face. To me, for my commendation, and for many men and women in uniform who have paid the ultimate price in serving the Global War on Terrorism.