A few years ago a friend was heading off for the first of several tours of duty in the RAN patrolling the Persian Gulf. “Well, I’m off to take part in the War on Terror,” he said. “No you’re not,” I replied. “You’re off to the war in Iraq.” Naturally I wished him well.
Our John Howard understands these things better than most. George Bush says so, after all, so it must be right.
PRESIDENT BUSH: Thank you, all. It’s my honor to welcome the Prime Minister of Australia here to the East Room for a press briefing. I’m going to feed him tonight — before I feed him tonight, I’m going to feed him to you. (Laughter.)
We just had a really interesting discussion about a lot of issues. First, I admire John Howard’s understanding that the war on terror still goes on and that we’ve got to be steadfast and firm if we intend to succeed in defeating the terrorists.
Secondly, I appreciate very much his understanding and discussions about the way forward in Iraq…
The Prime Minister is capable of not only seeing the problems for today; he’s capable of looking down the road…
PRIME MINISTER HOWARD: Well, thank you very much, Mr. President. Again, can I thank you very warmly for the great hospitality that you have extended to me. It was a real privilege to sit around the Cabinet table and talk to your Cabinet officers, which followed a very extensive discussion between the two of us about all of those issues of which you spoke.
We remain a steadfast ally of the United States in the war against terror. I’ve made that clear on every occasion I’ve spoken here in the United States. The war against terror will go on for a long time; I think we have to accept that. Progress is being made. The challenge remains very, very strong and there needs to be a continued commitment. And we admire and respect the leadership given by you and by the United States in that war. And it’s a war that confronts us all. Those who imagine that somehow or other you can escape it by rolling yourself into a little ball and going over in the corner and hoping that you’re not going to be noticed are doomed to be very, very uncomfortably disappointed…
— May 16, 2006
Mrs Liddell also used her speech to argue for a values-driven approach to combating the threat of terrorism. She urged Australia and Britain to look to the values that had made the countries great – such as democracy, liberty and tolerance – and which were now at risk.
“Our enemies hide behind those values and yet they try to crush them by bringing bombs and fear to our streets,” she said.
The high commissioner arrived in Australia on July 8, 2005, stepping off her plane to hear London had been targeted by home-grown extremists, killing 52 innocent people including one Australian.
She argues a more inclusive society is the best way to stop people becoming terrorists in the first place.
“We must counter their narrative of hate with our own narrative based on our shared values,” Mrs Liddell said.
Britain, along with Australia and the United States, was among the main proponents of the “war against terror” in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, terrorist attacks.
The UK has now begun moving away from that phrase, believing it is too simple an assessment of the problem.
British minister Hilary Benn this week warned the war against terror rhetoric was encouraging terrorists and sending out the wrong message.
Mrs Liddell said that Iraq was never seen as part of the campaign termed the “war against terror”. “We have never seen Iraq as part of the war on terror, certainly we are engaged in a war on the streets in Iraq against terrorism but our raison d’etre for our involvement in Iraq has not been about terrorism,” she said. “We have always said … you cannot defeat what is going on in some parts of the world by military might alone. You have to use the techniques of soft power and this debate about values and this narrative about values.”
Earlier, a member of the Blair government had been speaking in New York.
The New York Times reported yesterday that Hilary Benn – a senior politician in the Labour Party and Tony Blair’s international development secretary – has spoken out against the Bush administration’s use of the phrase “war on terror” and its emphasis on military force.
In a speech at the Center on International Cooperation of New York University, Benn said: “In the UK we do not use the phrase ‘war on terror’ because we can’t win by military means alone….”
Benn suggested that the Bush “War on Terror” even encourages the terrorists – “…by letting them feel part of something bigger, we give them strength.”…