Everyone, it seems, has a problem with the phrase still used by the Bush Administration to describe and justify a wide range of controversial policies. John Edwards called it a "bumper sticker" slogan, and before he could elaborate, Republicans gleefully, if dishonestly, jumped on him for allegedly denying the existence of an existential threat. Well, no one talks about the "war on terror" now. Rudy Giuliani refers to the "terrorists' war against us," and Mitt Romney likes to talk about the "threat of global jihad." Barack Obama today seemed to endorse a variant of Rudy Giuliani's.

Instead of saying “war on terror,” he said “al-Qaida’s war against us. . .” and “the terrorists are at war with us.”

Why does "the war on terror" stink so badly? Perhaps it's because the Bush Administration has been too successful in adding Iraq to the groaning-under-its-own-weight conglomeration of issues it already, persistently, walled off as "war on terror" sacred: Afghanistan, Pakistan, Saudi Arabia, "Terrorist Surveillance Program," Alberto Gonzales, Valerie Plame, Vice Presidential imperiousness, etc. The phrase, in other words, connotes a lot more than simply a set of policies designed to fight against Islamic extremists. It has become a bumper sticker slogan that both parties reject.

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