I'm not sure Jonathan Powell has got this quite right somehow, how can you possibly compare Northern Ireland and Hamas to al-Qaeda, both the former have or have had specific aims, but al-Qaeda is totally fanatical with no aim apart from killing as many people as possible of any denomination colour or creed, including their own kind.
It took the IRA many years to realize that in the end they would have to get round the conference table. As for Al-Qaeda it seems to me that they would rather just die and go to some paradise or other than ever talk with anyone.
Who are we to decide who is a terrorist or a patriot. The name of the game is to watch people dying in the name of any cause. We in the Western World sold the weapons to Arabs for oil now we are suffering the consequence. Dubya has sent all his "highly trained" forces into Iraq when they should have been deployed in Afghanistan to deal with the drugs being sent to the States. After all it was the supply of drugs to US Troops that lost them that war ???
Terrorism aims to achieve political or other goals, when direct military victory is not possible. The goals of Al-Queda and the Talibaan seem to be to rid the world of non muslims.They will only be happy when we all adopt Sharia law and live our lives according to their distorted interpretation of the Koran. Sorry,but i have decided that this is terrorism.
A patriot is someone who loves and defends his or her country . It is not someone who goes around the globe trying to wipe out others who have a different religon or beliefs to their own. How you can liken Al-Queda and the Talibaan to patriotism is beyond me.
"Maybe talking to them is the best start we could have."
The problem I have with that is when one section of society is intent on killing another, then that negates any valid argument they might have had by going down the killing route. If the killing stops then we should listen, we might not agree, but that doesn't matter their voice will be heard legitimately. Killing is a cowards way of putting an argument across.
In the meantime I wouldn't be happy for any elected politician to talk to them on my behalf.