Something We Must Learn From the Brits: Drop the “War on Terror” Gibberish

January 3, 2008

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We begin this Feliz Ano Nuevo, Happy New Year with a focus on language, the language of war, the war of language. Here’s a bit of good news from where you least expect it.

This recent story from (of all places) Military.com describes how the British government has deleted the phrase “War on Terror” from its official government communications. According to the December 28 story, ” The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said”.

Describing the rationale behind this important linguistic shift, Sir Ken Macdonald, Britain’s Director of Public Prosecutions, said ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.”

Imagine living in a country where the top lawyer in the land says “We resist the language of war” or one where a top government official describes violent activities like the 9-11 bombings not as the acts of “terrorists” requiring the deployment of ships, missiles, troops and other expensive (and largely unnecessary and ultimately and tragically wasted) resources but of members of”death cult” requiring police actions.

Imagine.

Britain Drops ‘War on Terror’ Label

Daily Mail | December 28, 2007
Military.com

The words “war on terror” will no longer be used by the British government to describe attacks on the public, the country’s chief prosecutor said Dec. 27.Sir Ken Macdonald said terrorist fanatics were not soldiers fighting a war but simply members of an aimless “death cult.”

The Director of Public Prosecutions said: ‘We resist the language of warfare, and I think the government has moved on this. It no longer uses this sort of language.”

London is not a battlefield, he said.

“The people who were murdered on July 7 were not the victims of war. The men who killed them were not soldiers,” Macdonald said. “They were fantasists, narcissists, murderers and criminals and need to be responded to in that way.”

His remarks signal a change in emphasis across Whitehall, where the “war on terror” language has officially been ditched.

Officials were concerned it could act as a recruiting tool for Al Qaeda, which is determined to manufacture a battle between Islam and the West.

The term “Islamic terrorist” will also no longer be used. Officials believe it is unhelpful because it appears to directly link the religion to terrorist atrocities.

In an interview with BBC Radio’s World at One, Macdonald made a fresh attack on plans to extend beyond 28 days the length of time a terror suspect can be held without trial.

He said that the evidence had shown that the existing limit was working well and he accused ministers of legislating on the basis of ‘hypotheticals’.

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