Politics, Technology, and Language

If thought corrupts language, language can also corrupt thought — George Orwell

Britain drops phrase ‘war on terror’

Posted by metaphorical on 11 December 2006

In the “Words Matter” department comes this story from the UK Guardian:

Britain stops talk of ‘war on terror’

Cabinet ministers have been told by the Foreign Office to drop the phrase ‘war on terror’ and other terms seen as liable to anger British Muslims and increase tensions more broadly in the Islamic world.

The Christian Science Monitor reports,

Senior British politicians and counterterrorism experts have for some time believed that the phrase allowed militants to use the sense of war and crisis, and the “clash of civilizations,” to recruit new and younger supporters. They see words like “war,” “battle,” and “war on terror” as being ultimately counterproductive.

Two things give one pause as we prepare to celebrate this minor-key return to reality-based thinking. First, the British are not abandoning the term because it makes no sense, even though it doesn’t (as many have pointed out, you can’t declare war on a concept), second, the phrase continues to be embraced in the U.S.

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