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FYI, Obama's AG says Gitmo guests no longer 'enemy combatants'

March 14, 2009 |  1:16 am

A guardhouse at the Guantanamo Bat detention facility where prisoners are no longer called enemy combatants

Well, it's official now. You may still hesitate to invite them over for Saturday dinner. But the Obama administration has changed the words to describe those fellows staying as guests in the Guantanamo Bay detention facility.

You should no longer call them "enemy combatants."

Technically, of course, the president and Atty. Gen. Eric H. Holder Jr. have an accurate parsing point. These men were "enemy combatants." That's why they were captured and sent there. But as long as they are in Guantanamo they can't actually be "enemy combatants." Which explains the tall surrounding fences, razor wire and armed guards.

According to some estimates, five dozen or so of the men formerly known as enemy combatants who were released after enforced unarmed sabbaticals in Cuba made their way back to war-torn regions to resume combat duties, making these ex-government guests -- what? -- "renewed enemy combatants"?

Friday's linguistic change was yet another handy way for the new administration to differentiate itself from the Bush administration, which used the term enemy combatants to avoid giving certain international legal rights that could, in the previous administration's controversial mind, have permitted them to become renewed enemy combatants sooner.

That's a stand that former constitutional law teacher Barack Obama disagreed with in the recent presidential campaign. And as our colleague Frank James astutely notes over here, Obama's move is a rare instance of a president voluntarily relinquishing some presidential powers.

Blogger Don Surber, who's been a voluntary but verbally combative prisoner in West Virginia for years, has started a contest over here to find a new name for these not currently enemy combatants. Our favorite so far: friendly combatants. Tell us your nominees below. How about visiting jihadis?

Obama's already signed an order to close within the next year or so the Guantanamo Bay prison facility that now no longer holds enemy combatants. No public word yet from the new administration on where, precisely, these fellows will go next. Other countries are not exactly clamoring to receive immigrants whose fashion tastes tend toward bomb belts.

But without consulting any constitutional texts, it's probably pretty safe to say that even though officially they are now legally no longer enemy combatants, the new location for these guys won't be anywhere near Chicago's South Side Hyde Park neighborhood.

-- Andrew Malcolm

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Photo: Joe Skipper / Reuters

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