Non State actors — WTF?

The murderers who attacked Mumbai have been called by External Affairs Minister Pranab Mukerjee and Secretary of State Rice as “Non State Actors”. Imagine telling the victim’s family “Your father was killed by a non-state actor”. As euphemisms go, this one is pretty bad. If you want to say that the murderers were not state-sponsored, just say “Non State Murderers” or “Non State Terrorists”.

On a related note, the BBC was taken to task for not referring to the Mumbai attackers as terrorists but as militants or bombers. BBC countered by saying

“The fact is terrorist does not have a universal meaning. It translates as freedom fighters in certain languages. We are not alone in not calling them terrorists.”

I can’t imagine how “terrorists” can be translated as freedom-fighters? Isn’t BBC broadcasting in English? Do they worry how each word gets translated in every other language? Have they verified that the word “militant” or “bomber” gets translated correctly in all the languages?

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