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Benn to criticise 'war on terror'

BBC | April 16, 2007

President George W Bush's concept of a "war on terror" has given strength to terrorists by making them feel part of something bigger, Hilary Benn will say.

The international development secretary will tell a meeting in New York the phrase gives a shared identity to small groups with widely differing aims.

And Mr Benn, a candidate for Labour's deputy leadership, will confirm that UK officials will stop using the term.

The White House coined the phrase after the attacks of 11 September 2001.

'Disparate groups'

Mr Benn will say: "In the UK, we do not use the phrase 'war on terror' because we can't win by military means alone.

"And because this isn't us against one organised enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives."

It is "the vast majority of the people in the world" against "a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common", he will say.

"What these groups want is to force their individual and narrow values on others, without dialogue, without debate, through violence.

"And by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength."

'Battle of values'

In a New York meeting organised by the Center on International Cooperation think-tank, Mr Benn will urge world leaders to find common ground with potential enemies, rather than relying on "hard" military power.

"The fight for the kind of world that most people want can, in the end, only be won in a different battle - a battle of values and ideas."

Mr Bush first outlined the concept of a "war on terror" shortly after New York and the Pentagon were attacked by Islamist terror group al-Qaeda on 11 September 2001.

"Our war on terror begins with al-Qaeda, but it does not end there," he told Congress nine days after the attacks.

"It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated."

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