Promoting a Culture of Fear

Tara Kirkpatrick, Indiana University
Heather Tillberg, University of Virginia

After September 11th, the United States declared a "War on Terror" and mobilized to avenge that horrific terrorist attack. The target was the Taliban in Afghanistan, a nation harboring terrorist groups that orchestrated the attacks on New York and Washington. After the attacks, the Bush administration identified an "Axis of Evil," which included Iraq, Iran, and North Korea, omitting both Afghanistan, who had provided refuge for terrorists and Saudi Ariabia, the home of the majority of September 11th perpetrators.

In this way, the Bush administration has skillfully and systematically used the "War on Terror" and September 11th to build up a case for invading Iraq, and skilfully has used language and rhetoric to cement a connection between Saddam Hussein and September 11th for the general American public. Furthermore, the Bush administration has turned actions of dissent from the government's policies into criminal acts through the Patriot Act. This has created an environment where post-September 11th, real dialogue and critical discussion of our own government's actions was suppressed.

Through discourse analysis of George W. Bush's speeches rallying U.S. support for an invasion of Iraq after September 11th, we will examine the language used to create a fear of a monolithic force of terror and Islam and to connect Iraq with recent terrorist events. We will explore Bush's use of, language, imagery, and semiotics to secure support for the invasion of Iraq under the guise of the "war on terror" with no evidence that Iraq had been involved with September 11th. By juxtaposing imagery of September 11th with its agenda to invade Iraq, thereby leveraging the fears of citizens who felt under attack in the wake of September 11th, the government has used language to exploit fear and carry out its own agenda in the Middle East.

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Updated 05/20/2006