British foreign secretary says 'war on terror' is wrong

By staff writers
January 15, 2009

As US president George Bush finishes his last week in office, British foreign secretary David Miliband has said that the use of the "war on terror" as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks has been a mistake.

In an article in today's Guardian newspaper, he acknowledges that the strategy, backed enthusiastically by former Prime Minister Tony Blair, may have caused "more harm than good".

Miliband delivers a comprehensive critique of its defining mission, saying the war on terror was misconceived and that the west cannot "kill its way" out of the threats it faces.

British officials quietly stopped using the phrase "war on terror" in 2006, but this is the first time it has been systematically analysed and discarded in the most outspoken remarks on US counter-terrorism strategy to date by a British minister.

In remarks that will also be made in a speech today in Mumbai, in one of the hotels that was a target of terrorist attacks in November 2008, the foreign secretary says the concept of a war on terror is "misleading and mistaken", reports the Guardian.

"Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good," Miliband says, adding that, in his opinion, the whole strategy has been dangerously counterproductive, helping otherwise disparate groups find common cause against the west.

"The more we lump terrorist groups together and draw the battle lines as a simple binary struggle between moderates and extremists or good and evil, the more we play into the hands of those seeking to unify groups with little in common," Miliband argues, in a clear reference to the signature rhetoric of the Bush era. "We should expose their claim to a compelling and overarching explanation and narrative as the lie that it is."

"Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology," he says.

He argues that "the war on terror implied a belief that the correct response to the terrorist threat was primarily a military one - to track down and kill a hardcore of extremists".

But Miliband quotes an American commander, General David Petraeus, saying the western coalition in Iraq "could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife".

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