Joho the BlogBritain drops "war on terror" rhetoric? Apparently not. - Joho the Blog

Britain drops “war on terror” rhetoric? Apparently not.

I was quite pleased when I read in a posting to a mailing list that the British government was no longer going to use the phrase “war on terror.” [SPOILER ALERT: The posting was wrong.] The post pointed to an article in the Daily Mail quoted at length by It said:

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.

Ah, someone speaking sense! Except it seemed odd to me that the Director of Public Prosecutions would get to decide how the British government is going to characterize issues of defense. So, I checked the Daily Mail site and the best I could come up with was an article from last January in which Sir Ken talked about the language he thinks the government should use, not a decision by the government about the language that it will use.

If you can come up with an actual source for this, I’d be very happy to be acknowledge your superior googling skills and celebrate this one small step towards a sensible approach to peace and security.

(BTW, I think the article got to posted to the mailing list I’m on via Dave Farber’s high-visibility mailing list.) [Tags: ]

6 Responses to “Britain drops “war on terror” rhetoric? Apparently not.”

  1. This is the article in the Daily Mail, though it’s little more enlightening:

  2. Thanks, Seth.

    The fact that there has been (apparently) no other coverage of this, and no explanation of why the chief prosecutor gets to determine what the government says, plus the fact that Sir Ken has been arguing for this change for a while, makes me highly skeptical that the British government has indeed made this change.

  3. I remember this story from a while back and The Observer reports it here on Dec 10, 2006 as being a policy from the Foreign Office:,,1968668,00.html

    The change of policy was highlighted by Hilary Benn, International Development Secretary in a speech in New York, April 2007:

    And again in August 2007 by Gordon Brown in a visit to the US:

  4. There was fuller coverage in The Guardian.

    As to shifts in the UK government’s position, you might find this more significant:

    Mr Benn, a candidate for Labour’s deputy leadership, confirmed that UK officials would stop using the term.

  5. The quote from Sir Kenneth McDonald appears (not quite verbatim) in his forward to the book Security and Human Rights, edited by Goold and Lazarus. The book is dated February 2007, so it might seem that he wrote the forward long before the article in the Daily Mail, but the article from The Guardian was dated January 24, 2007.

  6. And in this article, Gordon Brown confirms that his government is not going to use the term any more:


    The article is from July 2007.

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