LONDON – The British government has stopped using the phrase "war on terror" to refer to the struggle against political and religious violence, according to a Cabinet minister's prepared remarks for a Monday speech.
International Development Secretary Hilary Benn, a rising star of the governing Labour Party, says in a speech prepared for delivery in New York that the expression popularized by President Bush after the Sept. 11 attacks strengthens terrorists by making them feel part of a bigger struggle.
Extracts from Benn's speech at New York University's Center on International Cooperation were released by his office.
"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 organized enemy with a clear identity and a coherent set of objectives," Benn said.
"It is the vast majority of the people in the world — of all nationalities and faiths — against a small number of loose, shifting and disparate groups who have relatively little in common apart from their identification with others who share their distorted view of the world and their idea of being part of something bigger."
Prime Minister Tony Blair's official spokesman said he was unsure when Blair had last used the phrase.
"We all use our own phraseology, and we talk about terrorism, we talk about the fight against terrorism, but we also talk about trying to find political solutions to political problems," he said on condition of anonymity, in line with government policy.
According to the advance text, Benn urged Americans to use the "soft power" of values and ideas as well as military strength to defeat extremism.
Benn's comments were at least partly directed at his own Labour Party, which is uneasy about Blair's close alliance with Bush and overwhelmingly opposed to Britain's participation in the Iraq war.
Benn currently is the bookies' favorite to become Labour's deputy leader in a party election once Blair steps down as premier later this year.