David Miliband regrets the use of the term "War on Terror". One conservative blogger, Iain Dale, takes Miliband to task for 'cowardice' and for only condemning the term days before George W. Bush, who coined it, leaves office. Nonetheless, Miliband's speech is an interesting one, encompassing as it does the sensitive issue of how governments define and represent their response to the terror threats that face their citizens. My own dislike of the term is based more around a cynicism about the reasons for using it. Call something a war, and you can justify a whole raft of state activity to prosecute it. The War on Terror has produced a whole new department in the USA devoted to internal security - the Department of Homeland Security - and to add to an apparatus that already includes the NRA, CIA and FBI. In Britain, it has been used as a justification for ID cards, for increasing the length of time you can hold prisoners without trial, and to provide iniquitous shows of strength like David Blunkett's sending of the tanks to Heathrow airport when there was no conceivable justification for doing so.
The currency of government dialogue is thoroughly devalued, and the use of the erroneous phrase "War on Terror" is one of the reasons, together with the persistent lying of the Blair administration about its reasons for going to war in Iraq. The regular justification of draconian domestic policies by the use of this phrase has continued to provoke scepticism and outright distrust of any government pronouncements. David Miliband is right to regret it. It would be more helpful if he also admitted the host of previous government falsehoods, and committed to a greater level of truth from government in future.