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Professor Bruce Ching Analyzes "War on Terror" Presidential Statements

Posted on Monday 3/23/2020
Bruce Ching
"Echoes of 9/11: Rhetorical Analysis of Presidential Statements in the 'War on Terror'". Seton Hall Law Review (forthcoming 2020). 

In "Echoes of 9/11," Professor Bruce Ching examines persuasive statements by presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump, involving appeals to national identity as a rhetorical foundation for anti-terrorism policy since 9/11. 

Their specific rhetorical methods have included the use of memorable catch-phrases, alliteration, metaphorical framing, and contrast between values of the United States and those of the terrorists. 

President Bush focused on rallying the nation’s response against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, identifying the US with “freedom itself” and invoking the phrase “War on Terror.” President Obama emphasized the importance of the nation’s values while denouncing the Bush administration’s torture of terrorism suspects, and again extolled American values when announcing that US forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. 

In contrast to his predecessors, who explicitly stated that the US was not at war with Islam, President Trump has tended to invoke anti-Muslim sentiment in his anti-terrorism rhetoric and his immigration policies. The presidential statements presented justifications for the actions of the chief executives and reflected their priorities in directing the “War on Terror.”