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And the backtracking begins…

And the backtracking begins…

David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, admits the ‘war on terror’ was “wrong” only days before Bush is due to leave office. Good timing.

January 15, 2009 3:01 by

There’s nothing like the ushering of new American president to get the world’s politicians to back-track on their government’s blunders. Take David Miliband, the British foreign secretary, and his concise and slightly amnesiac article published in The Guardian – a UK-based newspaper – on January 15, 2008. Entitled ‘War on terror’ was wrong, the article argues that military force will not eradicate the world of terrorism, and questions the idea of the ‘war on terror’. The article was published only five days before US President George W. Bush will leave office:


“Since 9/11, the notion of a “war on terror” has defined the terrain. The phrase had some merit: it captured the gravity of the threats, the need for solidarity, and the need to respond urgently – where necessary, with force. But ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken.”


He added: “The “war on terror” also implied that the correct response was primarily military. But as General Petraeus said to me and others in Iraq, the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife.


This is what divides supporters and opponents of the military action in Gaza.”

Miliband stressed that the phrases ‘terrorism’ and ‘war on terror’ insinuated that the world had a common enemy, a single terror unit: “The idea of a “war on terror” gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida. The reality is that the motivations and identities of terrorist groups are disparate.”


He then wrote about the importance of upholding human rights and civil liberties, a commitment that US President-elect Barack Obama has made several times. “That is surely the lesson of Guantánamo,” he wrote.

Miliband’s article hasn’t received much love from other politicians. The Scottish National Party leader at Westminster, Angus Robertson, accused Miliband of backtracking his government’s decisions, accusing him of hypocrisy: “This declaration by David Miliband and the Labour Party is rank hypocrisy. His government acted as a poodle to the Bush doctrine in Iraq and elsewhere.


“People will not be misled by this wishful re-writing of history.”


The letter comes eight-and-a-half years after the phrase was first used by President Bush on September 20, 2001, when addressing Congress. Some may say it’s too late for UK begin analyzing the semantics of the phrase or to backtrack on his nation’s commitment to Bush’s war(s), and that the damage caused by Bush’s ‘war on terror’ is irrevocable. Others, however, may be happy to watch the UK do its political dance for the US’s incoming president…it makes for good reading.

What do you think?


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1 Comment

  1. dania khoury on January 18, 2009 10:26 am

    good old british hypocrisy


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