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UK: 'War on terror' phrase did harm

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  • Phrase "war on terror" may have done more harm than good, UK minister says
  • David Miliband: "Notion is misleading and mistaken"
  • Foreign secretary spoke at Taj Hotel, set ablaze during Mumbai terror attacks
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MUMBAI, India (CNN) -- The phrase "war on terror" is misleading and may have done more harm than good as countries around the world fight extremism, British Foreign Secretary David Miliband said Thursday.

Use of "war on terror" also implied a fight against a shared single enemy, David Miliband said.

Use of "war on terror" also implied a fight against a shared single enemy, David Miliband said.

Miliband said in a speech in Mumbai, India, that the phrase joined nations against a common enemy rather than together with common ideals.

"Ultimately, the notion is misleading and mistaken," Miliband said. "Historians will judge whether it has done more harm than good."

The foreign secretary spoke at the Taj Hotel, the historic building set ablaze during the terrorist attacks in the coastal city in November, on the last day of his three-day trip to India. He praised the response of the Indian people after the attacks and expressed Britain's sympathy and support.

He said the British government has refrained from using "war on terror" recently because it does not accurately describe the threat that the UK, India, or other countries now face.

"The notion of a war on terror gave the impression of a unified, transnational enemy, embodied in the figure of Osama bin Laden and the organization of al Qaeda," Miliband said. "In fact, as India has long known, the forces of violent extremism remain diverse. Terrorism is a deadly tactic, not an institution or an ideology."

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The phrase also implies that the best response to terrorism is a military one, tracking down and killing hardcore extremists, Miliband said. He pointed to the U.S.-led coalition's challenge in Iraq, where "the coalition there could not kill its way out of the problems of insurgency and civil strife."

Use of "war on terror" also implied a fight against a shared single enemy, Miliband said. It aimed for solidarity among nations based on who they are against instead of what they are for.

"Democracies must respond to terrorism by championing the rule of law, not subordinating it," he said. "If we want to promote the politics of consent instead of terror and of democratic opportunity rather than fear and oppression, we must uphold our commitments to human rights and civil liberties both at home and abroad."

He added that it was a lesson learned from the U.S. prison camp at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba, and he said Britain welcomed President-elect Barack Obama's commitment to close it.

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