International Relations

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Richard Jackson

This chapter focuses on the way that senior policy-makers discursively constructed the 'war on terrorism' as a 'good' war. It examines the ways in which the discourse of the 'good war on terrorism' manages its inherent tensions and contradictions. The power of the 'good (new) war' construction lies in the fact that from within the confines of the discourse itself, it is virtually impossible to deny the legitimacy of the war or to suggest any kind of non-military alternative. Even if the Bush-led 'war on terrorism' is sometimes poorly executed, it is extremely difficult to argue against the rightness and justice of the overall counter-terrorist war. Two main discursive constructions can be observed in the official discourse about the war's cause: first, that it is a legally defined defensive war; and second, that it is a war to secure justice and to defend freedom.

in Writing the war on terrorism
Language, politics and counter-terrorism
Author: Richard Jackson

This book is about the public language of the 'war on terrorism' and the way in which language has been deployed to justify and normalise a global campaign of counter-terrorism. It explains how the war on terrorism has been reproduced and amplified by key social actors and how it has become the dominant political narrative in America today, enjoying widespread bipartisan and popular support. The book also explains why the language of politics is so important and the main methodological approach for analysing the language of counter-terrorism, namely, critical discourse analysis. Then, it provides the comparison drawn between the September 11, 2001 attacks and World War II and the attack on Pearl Harbor. One of the most noticeable aspects of the language surrounding the attacks of September 11, 2001 is its constant reference to tragedy, grievance and the exceptional suffering of the American people. The book focuses on the way in which language was deployed to construct the main identities of the protagonists. It demonstrates how terrorism is rhetorically constructed as posing a catastrophic threat to the American 'way of life', to freedom, liberty and democracy and even to civilisation itself. The book analyses how the administration's counter-terrorism campaign has been rhetorically constructed as an essentially 'good' and 'just war', similar to America's role in World War II. Finally, the book concludes that responsible citizens have a moral duty to oppose and resist the official language of counter-terrorism.

Richard Jackson

This chapter examines the way the threat of terrorism facing America since September 11, 2001 has been constructed discursively and the reasons it is so crucial to the prosecution of the 'war on terrorism'. It then examines the discursive construction or 'writing' of threat and danger. Following this, the chapter also examines the reasons it is necessary for officials to construct threat and fear. The 'reality effect' of terrorist violence induces an anxiety that no amount of rationalising can counteract; the visual pictures of violence are far more powerful than any counter-factual statistics could ever be. Although threat and danger is ultimately a matter of perception and perceptions can vary greatly from person to person, it would still be possible to present a range of perspectives and information which would allow a less hysterical assessment of the situation.

in Writing the war on terrorism