Wednesday, January 14, 2009

I always said you can't declare war on a noun

It was one of the most idiotic phrases to come out of the Bush administration.

The foreign secretary, David Miliband, today argues that the use of the "war on terror" as a western rallying cry since the September 11 attacks has been a mistake that may have caused "more harm than good".

In an article in today's Guardian, five days before the Bush administration leaves the White House, 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 comprehensively discarded in the most outspoken remarks on US counterterrorism 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, the foreign secretary says the concept of a war on terror is "misleading and mistaken".

"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.

Bush's 'You're either for us or against us'; 'Bring it on'; and 'Wanted, dead or alive' quotes all reflect the bizarre simpleton thinking of the neocons. Sweeping up everybody who doesn't like us into a big pile and treating everyone the same loses the ability for using diplomacy, nuance, tolerance, and the capability of addressing wrongs. Wanting the world to be black or white, good or evil, wrong or right will not make it so. Acting like it is is even worse.


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