Forget “GWOT” — It’s Now CAEWWTDUH — or “Duh!” for Short

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March 26, 2009 6:17 a.m.

Some mid-level civil servant in the Office of Management and Budget must be getting a lot of flack. To recap, according to OMB director Peter Orszag, a bureaucrat in his agency communicated to the Pentagon that the administration wanted to scrap the term Global War on Terror (GWOT) and replace it with the term Overseas Contingency Operations (OCO).

The only problem is, the administration had no such plans. Or so they say. But the memo went out anyhow, and now it seems to be causing, if not confusion, then at least minor head aches for government spokesmen and other officials.

At yesterday’s Pentagon news briefing, a reporter asked Pentagon Press Secretary Geoff Morrell about this very issue:

Q (Off mike) — e-mail sent, from the Obama administration to Pentagon officials, about using the phrase the global war on terror, to using overseas contingency operations….

MR. MORRELL: I’ve never received such a directive. I think the White House and OMB for that matter have been very clear about this as well, that they have never issued such a directive. I think they’ve explained that perhaps somebody within OMB may have been a little overexuberant and done so. But I can just tell you, I’m the one who speaks publicly about these matters. And I have never been told which words to use or not to use. So I don’t think there’s anything to the story….

Q What’s your preferred nomenclature?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t really have one….

Q (Off mike) — GWOT, global war on terror, lumps together an entire — you know, the entire Muslim faith and an entire region. Do you see that as a concern?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I don’t think there’s anything in that term that identifies any particular faith or ethnicity. I mean, there are terrorists of all faiths, of all colors, of all races and ethnicities. And so perhaps a better — another way to refer to it would be, you know, a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm.

Emphasis mine. So the new term is “Campaign Against Extremists Who Wish To Do Us Harm. CAEWWTDUH. That’s not quite as economical as GWOT, or OCO, but it’s better than George Bush did when he tried to rename his war on terror on the fly.

Full exchange after the jump.Q (Off mike) — e-mail sent, from the Obama administration to Pentagon officials, about using the phrase the global war on terror, to using overseas contingency operations —

MR. MORRELL: I’m sorry. Say it one more time.

Q (Off mike) — e-mail sent, from Obama administration to Pentagon —

MR. MORRELL: (Off mike) — global war on terror directive that was or wasn’t a directive.

Q Yes.

MR. MORRELL: I’ve never received such a directive. I think the White House and OMB for that matter have been very clear about this as well, that they have never issued such a directive.

I think they’ve explained that perhaps somebody within OMB may have been a little overexuberant and done so. But I can just tell you, I’m the one who speaks publicly about these matters. And I have never been told which words to use or not to use. So I don’t think there’s anything to the story.

Q You still use the phrase.

MR. MORRELL: I think I have used it. I think I have. I don’t avoid it. I don’t seek it out. If it’s appropriate, I’ll use it. I could be wrong, but I think the president has used it. But, so I don’t — I was surprised to see that story, as well, because I know of no directive prohibiting the use of that term.

Q What’s your preferred nomenclature?

MR. MORRELL: I don’t really have one. I mean, I don’t think a whole lot about it. I think that we are involved in global operations to protect the homeland and the American people. And a large part of that is going after terrorists, seeking them out, wherever they are, wherever they’re plotting, wherever they are training to launch attacks against us.

So —

Q (Off mike) — GWOT, global war on terror, lumps together an entire — you know, the entire Muslim faith and an entire region.

Do you see that as a concern?

MR. MORRELL: Well, I don’t think there’s anything in that term that identifies any particular faith or ethnicity. I mean, there are terrorists of all faiths, of all colors, of all races and ethnicities. And so perhaps a better — another way to refer to it would be, you know, a campaign against extremists who wish to do us harm.

I mean, there’s a variety of ways to describe this. But I don’t — the point is, there has been no mandate from anybody as to how we should talk about this.

Q How do you feel about overseas contingency —

MR. MORRELL: I think that is — that is — the new way of referring to war spending is that overseas contingency — it’s still new to me, so let me get it right — overseas contingency operations budget.

So.

Q So more of a budgetary term, would you say, than a kind of broader term of the administration to describe the military campaigns and —

MR. MORRELL: No, this is a budget term. I mean, this is — this replaces supplementals. But it’s not just a — this is not a matter of semantics. There is a difference here. And the difference here is that the overseas contingency operations budget will be sent to the Hill with the DOD base budget and considered with it so that the Congress will be able to assess it together and make determinations together with the base budget. So I think there is — even though it is above and beyond the base, it is coupled with the base, it’s part of the president’s budget, it goes up there packaged together and they will consider them together.

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