Feature

Renaming ‘enemy combatants’

Is Obama dropping a controversial Bush policy on Guantanamo terror suspects, or just changing a term?

Chalk up another win for the terrorists, said the New York Daily News in an editorial. President Obama, who has already ordered the detainment camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, to be closed, on Friday stopped calling the prisoners there enemy combatants, “possibly paving the way to recasting how the U.S. deals with them.” This is just another example of how the Obama and Bush administrations, aided by the courts, have made “prosecuting the blatantly guilty virtually impossible.”

“Right-wing polemicists,” said Glenn Greenwald in Salon, love to accuse Obama of “radically reversing Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies” (read former vice president Dick Cheney’s comments to CNN). But in the case of one of Bush’s most “extremist” detention theories—the power to detain “enemy combatants”—Obama is ditching the term while asserting the right to hold terrorism suspects without criminal charges. So Obama’s change is really just “cosmetic.”

Not entirely, said Frank James in the Chicago Tribune. The Bush administration insisted that the Constitution gave the president the right to hold enemy combatants in time of war, but Obama says it’s international law that gives him the right to hold the Guantanamo crowd. This is a rare “instance of a president voluntarily relinquishing some power claimed by a predecessor.”

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