Obama team drops "war on terror" rhetoric

THE HAGUE Tue Mar 31, 2009 12:01am BST

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THE HAGUE (Reuters) - U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton said on Monday the Obama administration had dropped "war on terror" from its lexicon, rhetoric former President George W. Bush used to justify many of his actions.

"The (Obama) administration has stopped using the phrase and I think that speaks for itself. Obviously," Clinton told reporters travelling with her to The Hague for a conference on Afghanistan, which Bush called part of his "global war on terror."

The term "war on terror" was coined after the September 11, 2001 attacks against the United States, which were planned in Afghanistan by the militant group al Qaeda.

The phrase was strongly criticized by human rights groups who said it was used to justify many actions, such as the opening of the Guantanamo Bay prison for detainees held without trial at the U.S. Naval base in Cuba.

Internationally, the phrase was seen by critics as a "with-us-or-against-us" philosophy, overly dependent on military force and what many Muslims decried as an attack on Islam.

Since taking office on January 20, Obama has moved swiftly to reverse some of Bush's practices, ordering the closure of Guantanamo within a year and an end to harsh interrogation of terrorism suspects.

"I have not heard it used. I have not gotten any directive about using it or not using it. It is just not being used," said Clinton when asked whether the term had been officially dropped by the Obama administration.

Clinton has said one of her main roles as top U.S. diplomat is to improve the U.S. image abroad, particularly after the U.S. invasion of Iraq in 2003.

She has embarked on aggressive public diplomacy during her visits to Europe, the Middle East and Asia, seeking to reach out to ordinary people.

(Editing by Jon Boyle)

(Reporting by Sue Pleming; 1-202 422 1008)

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