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In the Name of Terrorism
SUNY series on the Presidency: Contemporary Issues
John Kenneth White, editor
SUNY series in the Trajectory of Terror
Loui...
In the Name of Terrorism
Presidents on Political Violence in the
Post-World War II Era
Carol K. Winkler
State University o...
Published by
State University of New York Press, Albany
© 2006 State University of New York
All rights reserved
Printed in...
To
Bill, Cori, and Jordan
Contents
Acknowledgments ix
1. What’s in a Name? 1
Presidential Discourse and Terrorism 4
Terrorism and Ideology 7
2. The ...
7. America under Attack: George W. Bush and Noncitizen Actors 155
Labeling the Crisis 159
The Terrorist Narrative 166
Terr...
Acknowledgments
No book like this could have been written without the generous assistance
of the staffs of Lyndon B. Johns...
to Joseph Valenzano, James Roland, Adrienne Proeller, Leslie Wade, Judy
Butler, Francesca Bianchi, Nayed Tantawy, and Henr...
1
What’s in a Name?
Terrorism is perhaps the most emotive, pejorative term in the English
language. The nation’s leadershi...
The events of September 11 have fundamentally transformed long-
standing debates about what constitutes a governmental ove...
The patriotic surge, made all the more palpable in the face of a danger-
ous, external threat to the nation, reflected the...
for those who identified with the cause of supporting freedom and democ-
racy around the globe.
PRESIDENTIAL DISCOURSE AND...
Besides these and other standing agencies, presidents have historically con-
structed small, ad hoc groups of trusted advi...
stories in the New York Times written in the early 1990s, for example, Steven
Livingston concludes that government officia...
Authors writing about terrorism must abide by this taboo. It is telling that
one can claim expertise regarding ‘terrorists...
context and within the specific application to modern presidential discourse
about terrorism.
Labeling
Labels are linguist...
tion, kidnapping, torture, hostage taking, bombing, foreign military aggres-
sion, and the use (or potential use) of weapo...
between narratives and an individual’s identity. He argues that individuals
“can develop personal identities only if they ...
narrative involves the rejection of the other (Bennett and Edelman 158).
Narratives must evolve or risk losing their defin...
are collective terms of political allegiance that embody a society’s ideals.
Michael McGee, the originator of the concept,...
marker for the culture, a label must be capable of an expansive range of pos-
sible applications. If a term’s meaning is c...
As with other ideographs, the lack of clear goals related to terrorism has
not prevented the term from prompting the colle...
Nicaragua. By the 1990s Osama bin Laden was either the mastermind of a
brutal international terrorist network or a leader ...
administration to assign guilt to an entire group or class of individuals, they
would expose themselves to charges of raci...
2
The Vietnam War and the
Communist Terrorists
Terrorism was commonplace in South Vietnam beginning as early as the
1950s....
Spokespersons depicted the Viet Cong as “Communists” and “terrorists”
interchangeably. Early in 1961, Secretary of State D...
Director of Central Intelligence John McCone maintained the campaign of
Viet Cong terrorism was having a demoralizing impa...
as Paradise Island), located south of the 17th parallel. Beginning in May
1964, SOG used unmarked gunboats manned with Vie...
Somewhat ironic within such a rhetorical context was Nixon’s use of the
most inflammatory terrorism analogy of all US lead...
The three administrations involved in the US labeling strategy during
the Vietnam War forecast much of what was to come. T...
Robert Ivie’s analysis of Vietnam War metaphors illuminates the conven-
tional setting found in the Cold War narrative: “C...
Conventional cold warriors depict Communists as the characters who
threaten the fragile scene of emerging peace and freedo...
that the Chinese would use a Communist success in Vietnam to demonstrate
to the Soviet Union that wars of liberation could...
Liberation of South Viet-Nam is the screen behind which the Communists
carry out their program of conquest” (422). If the ...
Honolulu, Johnson called for a revolutionary transformation in the Vietnam
economy that could not “wait until the guns gro...
dismantle fragile democracies in their drive to achieve global conquest, the
United States had a missionary obligation to ...
minds when asked the follow-up: “Would you still want to get out of
Vietnam if that meant that Americans would be fighting...
Sampled from ninety-seven percent of the South Vietnamese population, the
Quayle poll only excluded areas heavily controll...
the most hopeful prospect that the South Vietnamese elections would result
in a democratic administration.
Within three mo...
showing mothers and small children killed by the bombings.
(Memo to USIA)
The memo revealed the administration’s public st...
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
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In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
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  1. 1. In the Name of Terrorism
  2. 2. SUNY series on the Presidency: Contemporary Issues John Kenneth White, editor SUNY series in the Trajectory of Terror Louise Richardson and Leonard Weinberg, editors
  3. 3. In the Name of Terrorism Presidents on Political Violence in the Post-World War II Era Carol K. Winkler State University of New York Press
  4. 4. Published by State University of New York Press, Albany © 2006 State University of New York All rights reserved Printed in the United States of America No part of this book may be used or reproduced in any manner whatsoever without written permission. No part of this book may be stored in a retrieval system or transmitted in any form or by any means including electronic, electrostatic, magnetic tape, mechanical, photocopying, recording, or otherwise without the prior permission in writing of the publisher. Cover photo: Firefighters raise a U.S. flag at the site of the World Trade Center. Collection: Getty Images. Photographer: Thomas E. Franklin/The Bergen Record. For information, address State University of New York Press, 194 Washington Avenue, Suite 305, Albany, NY 12210-2384 Production by Diane Ganeles Marketing by Susan M. Petrie Library of Congress Cataloging in Publication Data Winkler, Carol. In the name of terrorism : presidents on political violence in the post-World War II era / Carol K. Winkler. p. cm. — (SUNY series on the presidency) (SUNY series in the trajectory of terror) Includes bibliographical references and index. ISBN 0–7914–6617–5 (hardcover : alk. paper)—ISBN 0–7914–6618–3 (pbk. : alk. paper) 1. Terrorism—Government policy—United States. 2. Political oratory—United States. 3. Rhetoric—Political aspects—United States. 4. Presidents—United States—Language. 5. Ideology—United States. I. Title. II. Series. III. Series: SUNY series on the Presidency. SUNY series in the trajectory of terror. HV6432.W56 2005 303.6Ј25Ј0973—dc22 2005000072 10 9 8 7 6 5 4 3 2 1
  5. 5. To Bill, Cori, and Jordan
  6. 6. Contents Acknowledgments ix 1. What’s in a Name? 1 Presidential Discourse and Terrorism 4 Terrorism and Ideology 7 2. The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 17 Labeling the Threat 17 The Terrorist Narrative in the Vietnam War 22 Terrorism and Ideology 28 3. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 37 Labeling the Captors 38 The Narrative of the Iranian Hostage Crisis 42 Ideology and the Iranian Hostage Crisis 55 4. Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph: The Reagan Era 65 Labeling the Threat 70 The Terrorist Narrative in the Reagan Era 78 Terrorism and Ideology 90 5. The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991: The Cold War Narrative in the Post-Cold War Era 97 Labeling the Crisis 98 The Narrative of the 1991 Persian Gulf Crisis 105 Ideology and Persian Gulf Terrorism 118 6. Terrorism and the Clinton Era: A Prophetic Moment 127 Labeling the Threat 130 Clinton’s Terrorist Narrative 136 Terrorism and Ideology 151 vii
  7. 7. 7. America under Attack: George W. Bush and Noncitizen Actors 155 Labeling the Crisis 159 The Terrorist Narrative 166 Terrorism and Ideology 182 8. Terrorism and American Culture 189 Notes 213 Works Cited 217 Index 251 viii Contents
  8. 8. Acknowledgments No book like this could have been written without the generous assistance of the staffs of Lyndon B. Johnson Presidential Library, the Jimmy Carter Presidential Library, the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library, and the George Bush Presidential Library. Going far beyond providing normal access to internal documents, the staffs of these libraries helped me puzzle through various issues that crossed the administrations covered in this book. My ability to complete the manuscript was possible due to the professional leave, the travel support to the various libraries, and the graduate research sup- port that I received from Ahmed Abdelal, Dean of the College of Arts and Sciences at Georgia State University. I am particularly grateful to Mary Ann Romski and Carolyn Codamo, who assumed the Georgia State Department of Communication chair duties in my absence. The patient administrative hand of Dean Lauren Adamson allowed me complete final revisions. Many colleagues have contributed thoughtful comments in an effort to improve this book. My initial interest in terrorism was spawned when I was conducting research for Dr. Chuck Kaufman at the University of Maryland. More recently, Mary Stuckey offered not only expert editorial commentary, but knowledge of resources from allied professional disciplines that spoke to themes of the manuscript. Other important commentaries were provided by Marilyn Young, Celeste Condit, Karlyn Campbell, James Darsey, Thomas Goodnight, David Cheshier, Robert Newman, Cori Dauber, and Gordon Mitchell. I am also grateful for the comments from the anonymous reviewers of SUNY Press who provided detailed commentary throughout the manuscript, the watchful eyes of my copyeditor, Wyatt Benner, production editor Diane Ganeles, pro- duction assistant Ryan Hacker, and the assistance of Michael Rinella, who shepherded me through the first part of the publication process at SUNY Press. Graduate research assistants were invaluable in the collection and cata- loging of source materials as well as in editorial assistance. My special thanks ix
  9. 9. to Joseph Valenzano, James Roland, Adrienne Proeller, Leslie Wade, Judy Butler, Francesca Bianchi, Nayed Tantawy, and Henrietta Aswad. Mark Carnet and Jarvis Darrisaw helped prepare the manuscript according to the SUNY’s specifications. Earlier drafts of portions of various chapters in this manuscript have pre- viously been published. I am grateful for the generosity of Controversia and South Bound Press in permitting the use of my earlier work: “Globalized Manifest Destiny; The Rhetoric of the Bush Administration in Response to the Attacks of September 11th,” Controversia: An International Journal of Debate and Democratic Renewal (2002) 85–108; and “Terrorism and Freedom as Oppositional Forces: Origins and Evolution in Presidential Discourse,” Studies in Terrorism: Media Scholarship and the Enigma of Terror in the 21st Century (Penang: South Bound, 2002) 1–17. Finally, I want to express my heartfelt thanks to my family. Cori and Jordan were patient and understanding when Mom had to go work on the book (again!). Bill was a daily sounding board for ideas, a constant source of new Internet revelations, and my rock-solid system of love and support. x Acknowledgments
  10. 10. 1 What’s in a Name? Terrorism is perhaps the most emotive, pejorative term in the English language. The nation’s leadership has used it to justify policies and actions that the American public would abhor in virtually any other context. US presidents have authorized the use of sabotage, skyjacking, military coups, mass deportations, and assassination when responding to terrorism. They have used secret courts to prosecute suspected terrorists based on hearsay testimony and guilt by association. They have reserved the right to imprison American citizens and deport aliens who financially support terror- ist groups, even in cases when those implicated have been unaware of the illegal activities. They have held Americans accused of terrorist activity in solitary confinement for more than two years without the benefit of a trial. They have granted military tribunals jurisdiction over terrorism cases involv- ing immigrants, abandoned the evidentiary standard of proof beyond a rea- sonable doubt, and exempted tribunal decisions from appellate review. Indefinite confinement of alleged terrorists and public contemplation of gov- ernment-endorsed torture demonstrate the extremes US leadership will con- sider in the fight against terrorism. The public will never know the full extent of terrorism’s influence on American culture. Classified presidential papers, the reluctance of govern- ment officials to discuss matters of national security openly, and the secrecy of related judicial proceedings ensure that much of the nation’s battle against terrorism will remain beyond the scrutiny of the average citizen. Nevertheless, what can be known about actions undertaken in the name of terrorism can be revealing. One former senior administration official admit- ted he ignored a direct order from his commander in chief because of his confidence in his own plan for responding to terrorism (Turner 67). Another advocated a military attack on a foreign country allegedly involved in terror- ism, believing the action would have a positive influence on the outcome of an upcoming presidential election.1 Still others have leaked false information to members of the media, including the rumor that a foreign leader believed to be involved in terrorism was a cross-dresser!2 1
  11. 11. The events of September 11 have fundamentally transformed long- standing debates about what constitutes a governmental overreaction to the threat of international terrorism. On an empirical level, it is still true that more Americans have died from crossing the street than from being victims of terrorist attacks, that only six Americans have died as a result of chemical or biological terrorism since 1900, and that no American has ever died from an act of nuclear terrorism (Simon 107–08; Lluma 15). Still, memories of the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks have removed many doubts about the destructive potential of America’s worst nightmare. Anthrax scares and abandoned al Qaeda laboratories have compounded American’s feelings of fear and insecurity, rendering worst-case scenarios about weapons of mass destruction realistic probabilities in the public’s imagination. Relatively few Americans would now agree with one scholar’s earlier conclusion that the government’s response to terrorism is nothing more than a “an old and well- tried trick to divert attention from economic and social problems to focus attention on an ill-defined and frightening enemy” (Wardlaw 78).3 Security from terrorism has become a primary concern, whether in conversations of the mainstream public or in the deliberations of the political elite. Those who focus on the comparatively small number of civilian casual- ties to argue that the government’s response to terrorism is disproportionate misunderstand the role that terrorism plays within American society. The leadership does not calculate the magnitude of its response exclusively on the nation’s actual or projected loss of life at the hands of terrorists. The threat from terrorism appeals at a much more fundamental level. Terrorism func- tions as a signifier of American identity, defining what the nation stands for and against. The term divides those who are civilized from those who are uncivilized, those who defend economic freedom from those who would attack America’s way of life, and those who support democracy from those who would disrupt it. Supporting the fight against terrorism enacts political allegiance; resisting it opens one to charges of disloyalty. Reconsider the nation’s response in the immediate aftermath of the events of September 11. Calling for national unity in a televised speech the day after the attacks, George W. Bush proclaimed: “Freedom and democracy are under attack” (FDCH Transcripts 9/12/01). The nation rallied to support the president. The members of a previously divided, partisan Congress united, singing “God Bless America” on the steps of the Capitol Building and passing a forty-billion dollar supplemental appropriations bill to aid in the relief and response effort. Members of the public gave more than a bil- lion dollars to the families of those killed in the tragic event. National polling revealed an unprecedented ninety percent approval rating for Bush’s handling of the crisis (qtd. in “Bush Best Pop in Poll” 21). American flag sales soared. 2 In the Name of Terrorism
  12. 12. The patriotic surge, made all the more palpable in the face of a danger- ous, external threat to the nation, reflected the public’s heightened sense of identification. Had the country been less unified, members of the public and the media might reasonably have expected Bush to announce that he knew who the perpetrators were before insisting that he knew why they acted. Interviews conducted by the 9/11 Commission now reveal that while Bush suspected al Qaeda as the perpetrators of the attack, he also considered Iraq and Iran as potentially culpable parties (National Commission, Final Report 334).4 Instead of waiting until he knew who was responsible, Bush publicly grouped all terrorists, including the perpetrators of 9/11, into a homogenous collective characterized by opposition to fundamental American values. Bush proclaimed that terrorists “have a common ideology...they hate freedom and they hate freedom-loving people” (FDCH Transcripts 9/19/01). His approach defined the clash as one between those who supported America’s foundational principles and those who opposed them. Bush reaffirmed America’s sense of self by defining the nation’s mission as the defender of freedom around the globe. The notion that depictions of the nation’s threats are integral to concep- tions of American identity is not new. Noted language theorist Kenneth Burke reminds us that within any social interaction, “identification is com- pensatory with division” (On Symbols and Society 182). In the context of international relations, David Campbell argues that representations of danger are integral to the ever-evolving boundaries of a state’s identity (3). Political scientist Murray Edelman explains why leaders define their enemies not according to the harm that they do, but by the identifying function they serve within the political process. He reasons, In constructing such enemies and the narrative plots that define their place in history, people are manifestly defining themselves and their place in history as well; the self-definition lends passion to the whole transaction. To support a war against a foreign aggressor who threatens national sovereignty and moral decencies is to construct oneself as a member of a nation of innocent heroes. To define the people one hurts as evil is to define oneself as virtu- ous. The narrative establishes the identities of enemy and victim- savior by defining the latter as emerging from an innocent past and as destined to bring about a brighter future world cleansed of the contamination the enemy embodies. (76) Such insights help explain the public’s reaction to Bush’s early remarks about the terrorists of September 11. Bush’s claims about the terrorists’ motivations helped elevate a newly elected president into the natural leader What’s in a Name? 3
  13. 13. for those who identified with the cause of supporting freedom and democ- racy around the globe. PRESIDENTIAL DISCOURSE AND TERRORISM This book explores the ways in which terrorism functions as a term of iden- tity formulation within American society. It examines the public communi- cation strategies of the executive branch of the US government since the end of World War II. The choice to focus on the words of the presidents and their executive branch surrogates is deliberate. The citizenry turns to the president during times of national crisis. The public seeks understanding regarding who is responsible for the attacks, why the nation has been attacked, and what will be the most effective response. In the short run, the public looks to the president for reassurance that the nation will again be safe. Over the longer term, presidential discourse focuses attention on spe- cific aspects of terrorism that warrant ongoing governmental concern. The chief executive’s role as a key spokesperson on the international stage magnifies the influence of presidential discourse about terrorism. Both in public forums and in private correspondence with foreign leaders, the president and his executive branch appointees select the aspects of the terror- ism problem and the range of appropriate response options that will receive a heightened focus. Such choices have international ramifications. American presidential discourse has, at times, set the international standard for responding to terrorism. Consider the prime minister of Israel’s public justi- fication for air attacks on Palestinians in the West Bank and the Gaza Strip in December 2001. Echoing the Bush administration’s post–9/11 rhetoric, Ariel Sharon proclaimed, “Just as the United States is conducting its war against international terror, using all its might against terror, so will we, too” (“Excerpts from Talk by Sharon” A8). Sharon followed Bush’s lead both in his choice of a military response and in his strategy for justifying the decision to the public. To a large degree, the executive branch’s public terrorism strategy is influential due to the institutional powers of the presidency. The constitu- tional powers of the commander in chief, clarified and interpreted in the War Powers Act, give presidents the right to engage military forces to defend the nation against external attack (Keynes 1). Accordingly, the offices primarily responsible for responding to terrorism all fall within the purview of the chief executive. Examples include the Central Intelligence Agency, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the Office of Homeland Security, the National Security Council, the State Department’s Office of Counter-terror- ism, the Office of Public Diplomacy, and the Office of Diplomatic Security. 4 In the Name of Terrorism
  14. 14. Besides these and other standing agencies, presidents have historically con- structed small, ad hoc groups of trusted advisors to develop and implement their responses to specific terrorist events (e.g., Jimmy Carter’s Special Coordinating Committee during the Iranian hostage crisis and George Bush’s Persian Gulf Working Group in response to Iraq’s 1990 invasion of Kuwait). Taken together, groups constructed within the executive branch are the principle source of policy initiatives and implementation in the terrorism arena (Greenstein 3–4). Not only do the executive agencies have institutional decision-making authority over terrorism, they routinely have informational control over intel- ligence related to the nature of the threat and the effectiveness of the nation’s response. While the State Department does release an annual list of abbrevi- ated descriptions of international terrorist acts, the bulk of information about the attacks, the alleged perpetrators, and the government’s response remains outside the public arena for extended periods. Even information related to terrorist events that occurred more than two decades ago remains classified. The power of the executive branch to control the bulk of the nation’s terrorism information is unlikely to change. Historically, presidents have argued to the public and to the courts alike that failure to grant them exclusive access to certain information compromises the intelligence-gath- ering capabilities of the government. Bill Clinton publicly refused to reveal the evidence justifying his bombing of the Sudanese pharmaceutical plant in August 1998 in the interest of protecting US intelligence methods; George W. Bush offered a similar rationale for not initially releasing the evidence regarding bin Laden’s involvement in the attacks of September 11, 2001. Bush further expanded presidential prerogatives over classified materials by signing Section 3(d)2 of Executive Order 13233 on November 1, 2001 (“Executive Order”). The order permitted a sitting president to withhold national security information, even in cases where former presi- dents have authorized access to their own records. Senator Orrin Hatch’s indiscreet mention of U.S. intercepts of Osama bin Laden’s satellite phone conversations in the early days after September 11 may serve as a prototyp- ical cautionary tale for future presidents willing to expand public informa- tion about terrorism, given bin Laden’s immediate and highly publicized shift to other modes of communication.4 The executive branch will unlikely relinquish its hold on terrorism data, given the potential costs of having it more widely disseminated. With access to information about terrorism strictly limited, the executive branch becomes the primary source of information for the media’s coverage of terrorist events. Members of the American media have tended to reiterate administration’s statements about terrorism, rather than present a balanced presentation of competing perspectives. In a study of follow-up terrorism What’s in a Name? 5
  15. 15. stories in the New York Times written in the early 1990s, for example, Steven Livingston concludes that government officials encouraged a selective inter- pretation of terrorism that replicated and reinforced the State Department’s official reports on terrorism. Competing viewpoints received far less press attention. Livingston notes “officials and offices of ideological and/or foreign policy adversaries of the United States” accounted for only five percent of the references in the stories on terrorism (75). Embedded reporters in the recent US war with Iraq have further reinforced the media’s reiteration of the administration’s message. Positioned within military units outside of Iraqi strongholds and subjected to American commanders’ prerogatives for selec- tive news blackouts, field reporters presented news accounts generally consis- tent with the administration’s public framework during the major combat operations in Iraq. The events of September 11 altered the relationship between the media and official administration sources to some degree. Brigitte Nacos reveals that US television networks mentioned bin Laden more frequently than they did President Bush after the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks (41). Nevertheless, she concludes that the executive branch still remained a power- ful influence in media coverage. She points to Condoleezza Rice’s successful plea to the networks to limit coverage of bin Laden’s threats against the American people to avoid the incitement of more violence (48–49). She also cites the media’s likening of George W. Bush’s address to the joint session Congress to that of Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War and that of Winston Churchill during World War II (50). Assessing media coverage related to both bin Laden and the anthrax attacks, Nacos concludes, “In the face of an ongoing terrorism crisis at home and a counterterrorism campaign abroad, the mainstream watchdog press refrained from barking in the direc- tion of public officials” (51). Jarol B. Manheim studied why the media relies so heavily on official sources. He concludes that a lack of direct access to foreign events, limits on the media’s inclination to devote resources to foreign news reporting, and the new era of instantaneous communications has made “the manipulation of the news and public images of actors and events in foreign affairs actually more likely to have an effect than it [would] in the domestic sphere (127). With the media contributing to the issue agenda for the public at large, journalists’ continued reliance on governmental sources magnifies the importance of the executive branch’s public terrorism strategy. Compounding the influence of executive branch statements is the heavy reliance on such sources by academic researchers. Joseba Zuliaka and William A. Douglass dramatically critique the entire field of terrorism research when they observe, “One characteristic of the work of terrorism experts is the very prohibition upon personal discourse with their subjects. 6 In the Name of Terrorism
  16. 16. Authors writing about terrorism must abide by this taboo. It is telling that one can claim expertise regarding ‘terrorists’ without ever having seen or talked to one” (179). Academics, shunning interviews with the terrorist themselves, routinely turn to sources within the executive branch and admin- istration databases as the foundation for their eventual findings. Prominent scholars engaged in terrorism research have extensive connections with the federal government and its attendant funding apparatuses (Collins 155–74). Taken as a whole, the presidents’ institutional authority over terrorism, access to classified information, and agenda-setting function for much of academe and the media ensure that the discourse of the executive branch is the single most vital source for understanding how terrorism functions within American culture. TERRORISM AND IDEOLOGY Contemporary presidents evoke terrorism as a key component in their ideo- logical formulations of the American culture, but the precise nature of that role remains a subject of open debate. Some argue that terrorism is an ideol- ogy in and of itself, masquerading as objective reality while “actually express- ing the narrow interests of a dominant group” (Collins 157). Others deny that terrorism qualifies, because the term “does not itself explain and evaluate conditions or provide people with an orientation” (Ball and Dagger 8). Evaluating the merit of these competing perspectives depends on one’s defi- nition of ideology, itself a contested concept (Cormack 9–10; Williams 55–71; and McLellan 1–9). I myself would argue that terrorism functions as a symbolic marker of the culture that does not represent an ideology, in and of itself, because it fails to evoke a coherent, positive orientation for members of the collective. However, the term does perform ideological work within the culture. By functioning as a recognized point of contrast, terrorism encompasses behav- iors considered unacceptable for those belonging to American society. The term’s adaptability of meaning and usage renders it a powerful tool for those wishing to advance various ideological perspectives. John Lucaites and Celeste Condit, both scholars in the field of commu- nication, theorize the evolutionary process of language development associ- ated with ideological orientations. For them, terms serving as cultural markers must function as three distinct types of discourse units: namely, labels, narratives, and ideographs (7–8). Given the centrality of these three units to the transformation of terrorism’s cultural meaning, the remainder of this section will elaborate the role each plays within a general communication What’s in a Name? 7
  17. 17. context and within the specific application to modern presidential discourse about terrorism. Labeling Labels are linguistic terms used to describe agents, agencies, acts, scenes, or purposes within the public vocabulary (Burke, A Grammar of Motives xv). The process of labeling is not neutral. Each use of a term is a choice (whether conscious or unconscious) that emphasizes certain aspects of what is being described, while de-emphasizing others. “Wars of aggression” rather than “wars of liberation,” “collateral damage” rather than “civilian casualties,” and “prisoners of war” rather than “battlefield detainees” (to name but a few) simultaneously highlight and obscure aspects of the referenced material cir- cumstances. By happenstance or by design, labeling necessarily entails per- spective taking. This book examines the evolving perspectives of the terrorism label within the public discourse of the executive branch since the end of World War II. The study encompasses all material circumstances where the execu- tive branch made more than one hundred public references to an event or series of events as terrorism. The decision to focus on clustered references rather than on more unique, isolated examples of the use of the terrorism label stems from Burke’s insight that mundane repetition of key terms invites an audience to associate with a particular ideological orientation (On Symbols and Society 229). A review of executive branch rhetoric since World War II reveals dra- matic distinctions between clustered and isolated usages of the terrorism label. On a few occasions, the nation’s leadership has used the word “terror- ism” to describe agents as diverse as American college students, US World War I veterans, a US senator, and members of the antiabortion movement. Such cases, however, have been anomalies in the totality of presidential dis- course. The clustered references emergent from the speeches of the executive branch have highlighted extremist groups that influence foreign states (Carter), state sponsors of terrorism (Reagan and George W. Bush), terrorist states (both Bush administrations), nonstate terrorist actors (Clinton and George W. Bush), and terrorist-sponsored states (George W. Bush). When applying the terrorism label to actions, a full range of activities has qualified for inclusion in the term’s meaning. The presidents have made occasional mention of antiwar protests, computer hacking, domestic vio- lence, protests against US governmental policies, and political disagreements between presidential candidates at election time as terrorism. In their clus- tered references, however, the nation’s leadership has tended to focus on more extreme forms of violence. Examples have included acts of assassina- 8 In the Name of Terrorism
  18. 18. tion, kidnapping, torture, hostage taking, bombing, foreign military aggres- sion, and the use (or potential use) of weapons of mass destruction. In public discussions of terrorist scenes, the presidents have historically narrowed the range of possible locations worldwide. They make infrequent mention of acts perpetrated within the borders of Europe, Africa, Central and South America, or Australia. In their clustered references, the Middle East has emerged as the dominant backdrop for terrorism since World War II. Spectacular terrorist assaults in North America have also received focused presidential attention (e.g., the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, the 1996 Olympic bombing, the first World Trade Center bombing, and the events of 9/11). When members of the executive branch have used terrorism to depict purpose in their public statements, they have generally erased the terrorists’ stated rationales (whether secular or religious) for their own behavior. Only rarely do the presidents discuss jihad, revolution, retaliation, or other terrorist causes. More regularly, the presidents have insisted that such enemies act out of goals of regional/world domination or out of an ingrained hatred for democratic ideals. At times, the clustered events chosen for inclusion in this book may be frustrating for the reader. Sensible observers could easily categorize the events that contemporary presidents have labeled terrorism to be acts of war, instances of nonterrorist political violence, or something else altogether. Nevertheless, the choice to allow the presidents’ words to define what consti- tutes terrorism is essential to understanding the ideological ramifications of the cultural marker. As this book will illustrate, knowing the terrorist threat as defined by the nation’s leaders helps illuminate the cultural boundaries of American society. Narratives Serving as a label alone is insufficient to elevate terrorism into a language marker of American culture. The term must also function within recurrent societal narratives that provide meaning to the lives of the community’s members. Narratives are public stories that provide coherence and consis- tency to the scenes, characters, and themes that guide the moral conduct of a society (Fisher 64–65). They structure the relationships between and among various labels (Lucaites and Condit 8). Their meanings come, in part, from the interrelationships that a given story has within the context of other narra- tive accounts (Katriel and Shenhar 376). Narratives can provide justifications to perpetuate the status quo or be compelling reasons for social change. Narratives are critical to the formulation and reformulation of the multi- ple levels of identity. Jürgen Habermas theorizes a complex interaction What’s in a Name? 9
  19. 19. between narratives and an individual’s identity. He argues that individuals “can develop personal identities only if they recognize that the sequence of their own actions form narratively presentable life histories; they can develop social identities only if they recognize that they maintain their membership in social groups by way of participating in interactions, and thus that they are caught up in the narratively presentable history of collectivities. Collectivities maintain their identities only to the extent that the ideas members have of their lifeworld overlap sufficiently and condense into unproblematic back- ground convictions” (136). At the personal, social and cultural level, narra- tives function to integrate discrete aspects of an individual’s existence into a coherent sense of identity. Narratives also function to warrant and guide the behavior of individu- als hoping to qualify as members of the collective. Maurice Charland offers three ways that narratives help constitute collective publics (133–50). First, narratives render collective subjects by demonstrating how, through the story’s characters, members of the polity are supposed to believe and behave to demonstrate community allegiance. Narratives define the atti- tudes and actions characteristic both of the members and of the outcasts of the collective. Second, narratives transform individuals into transhistorical subjects. Narratives identify what interpretations of historical events are relevant for understanding the current opportunities and challenges of the community. Not only do narratives select and emphasize certain salient events of the past; they also reframe interpretations of past events in a manner consistent with the moral force of the story. Finally, narratives create an illusion of freedom for individuals function- ing within the collective. Individuals believe that they are selecting the stories that they will accept, the beliefs that they will cherish, and the behaviors that they will practice as members of the culture. Once identification with the narratives ensues, however, free choice becomes an illusion. The narrative plotline defines what concerns are important and what public beliefs and acts are appropriate. The scene of the narrative identifies the relevant elements of the situation that should influence thought and action of the culture. Taken together, Charland’s three insights into the functioning of narratives reveal how the stories embodied within societal discourse help form the boundaries of the culture. Narratives are not static; they change over time. The process of narrative evolution is complex and multifaceted. The public tends to cling to accepted narrative accounts when other stories confront them directly (M. H. Ross). Nonetheless, accepted societal narratives do change. Sometimes narratives combine, as in the case of two or more stories being compatible and comple- mentary with each other (Mink 142). At other times, the acceptance of one 10 In the Name of Terrorism
  20. 20. narrative involves the rejection of the other (Bennett and Edelman 158). Narratives must evolve or risk losing their definitional currency for the mem- bers of the collective. The use of narratives has been a recurrent quality of modern presidential discourse about terrorism. The nation’s leadership has presented terrorism to the public as a moral drama, pitting good against evil in an ongoing battle for the survival of civilization itself. George W. Bush’s recent announcement of America’s new war on terrorism has enhanced the likelihood that narratives will play a central role within future presidential discourse on terrorism. Narratives function at the level of a generic expectation for presidential war discourse. They emerge as an anticipated element of war discourse because they dramatically exhort a generally reluctant American public to favor the use of military force (Campbell and Jamieson 107–11). With the United States now involved in a long-term war against terrorists, narratives will likely play a central role in the future terrorism discourse of the presidency. Presidents since the end of World War II have used the terrorism label within a diverse set of societal narratives already familiar to American audi- ences from other contexts. Notably, the presidents have borrowed narratives from literature, religion, military affairs, and American history to develop their public communication strategies about terrorism. These seemingly diverse narratives have relied on similar themes and characterizations that have contributed a consistency and cogency to US discourse about terrorism throughout the contemporary period. Modern US terrorist narratives have displayed one key difference trace- able to the unique approaches of the two political parties. The point of clash mirrors a long-standing debate in scholarly terrorism circles: whether crime or war constitutes the most appropriate metaphor to apply to the unconven- tional violence of terrorism. Democratic administrations have focused on narratives that feature crime as the predominant theme since the end of the Vietnam War; Republican administrations have relied on stories that borrow heavily from US war narratives. Despite the dominance of one metaphor within each of the two parties’ narratives, both groups have resisted an exclusive focus on either crime or war. Neither party has been willing to cede to their opponents complete linguistic control over the two dominant terrorism metaphors. Nonetheless, the decision to focus on crime or war as the featured element of the narrative does have ideological implica- tions for American society, as the next section will preview. Ideographs Terrorism, like all labels recurrent in society’s dominant narratives, must function as an ideograph to constitute a defining cultural term. Ideographs What’s in a Name? 11
  21. 21. are collective terms of political allegiance that embody a society’s ideals. Michael McGee, the originator of the concept, defines an ideograph as a “one-term sum of an orientation, the species of ‘God’ or ‘Ultimate’ term that will be used to symbolize the line of argument the meanest sort of individual would pursue if that individual had the dialectical skills of philosophers, as a defense of a personal stake in and commitment to the society” (7). Ideographs “typically serve as the primary purpose term” (Lucaites and Condit 8) for the central narratives of a culture. They define the foundational values that serve as the basis of a culture’s identity. Equality, justice, and lib- erty are examples operating within the American culture.5 Ideographs are not limited to ideal cultural values; they also include terms that define the society through negation. To know what a culture is requires an understanding of what it is not. Negative ideographs contribute to our collective identity by branding behavior that is unacceptable (McGee 15). American society defines itself as much by its opposition to tyranny and slavery as it does by a commitment to liberty and equality. Nevertheless, the few studies that do mention negative ideographs limit their discussion to the antithetical relationship such terms have with a culture’s foundational values. Most prevalent is the observation that terrorism frequently functions in opposition to freedom and democracy (Parry-Giles 191; and Railsback 412). A brief synopsis of the four defining characteristics of ideographs reveals that terrorism currently functions to define American culture through nega- tion. The first definitional element of an ideograph is that it must be “an ordinary language term found in political discourse” (McGee 15). If a partic- ular term gains usage only in conversations of the political elite, it lacks the persuasive impact needed for the broader audience that identifies itself with the culture. To perform ideological work for the culture, the term must “come to be part of the real lives of the people whose motives they articulate” (7). It must be readily available for use by members of the collective. Certainly, terrorism has qualified as a common term of political dis- course. It has been the subject of thousands of presidential addresses and scholarly books. It has been the topic of blockbuster movies (e.g., Die Hard, Air Force One, and The Negotiator) and, since September 11, the repeated subject of both print and television advertisements. Political cartoonists have capitalized on the term’s currency with the public, as have those who are in the business of selling patriotic memorabilia. Terrorism’s recent impact on the stock market, unemployment, and airport security increase the likelihood that rank-and-file citizens will be using the term in their political discourse into the foreseeable future. The second characteristic of the ideograph is that the term must be “a high order abstraction representing collective commitment to a particular but equivocal and ill-defined normative goal” (McGee 15). To function as a 12 In the Name of Terrorism
  22. 22. marker for the culture, a label must be capable of an expansive range of pos- sible applications. If a term’s meaning is constrained to a particular set of cir- cumstances, it lacks the transcendent character necessary to encompass and appeal to a broad cultural audience that includes diverse subgroups. Cultural markers must be flexible, permitting shifts over time in the perspectives of those who define themselves to be members of the in-group. Elasticity of the term’s meaning allows for renewed and reaffirmed interpretations for a group’s identity. By virtually all accounts, terrorism has been such a flexible term. It has defied concrete definition. Rarely has a book on the subject failed to bemoan the plethora of definitions used by government officials, scholars, and the media. A sampling of scholarly opinion about terrorism exposes the futility of striving for a consensus definition of the term: • “Encapsulating terrorism in all its varieties could require upwards of fifty distinct attributes, potentially yielding an unworkable million different combinations.” (Weimann and Winn 25) • “Terrorism can mean just what those who use the term (not the ter- rorists) want it to mean.” (Jenkins 1–2) • Terrorism “resembles pornography, difficult to describe and define, but easy to recognize when one sees it.” (Laqueur, “Reflections on Terrorism” 381) • Terrorism is “a catch-all pejorative, applied mainly to matters involving force or political authority in some way but sometimes applied even more broadly to just about any disliked action associ- ated with someone else’s policy agenda.” (Pillar 12) • In the context of terrorism, there are “especially strong reasons for avoiding the excessive preoccupations with definitions.” (Roberts 9) The flexible application of the terrorism label has been precisely what has allowed it to remain a resonant indicator of identity for an ever-evolving American society. Its elasticity of meaning has permitted the term to adapt to changes in the international context. Early on, terrorism referred to violence committed by the state (i.e., during the Reign of Terror in the French Revolution). Modern-day interpretations of the term have not abandoned its historical meaning, as presidential references to state-sponsored terrorism attest. At the same time, however, the nation’s leadership has applied the term to the very antithesis of its earlier meaning. Now terrorism involves not only politically motivated violence by the state, but also that carried out by individu- als or groups against the state. Any act of violence carried out for any reason by any group or individual can conceivably qualify as an act of terrorism. What’s in a Name? 13
  23. 23. As with other ideographs, the lack of clear goals related to terrorism has not prevented the term from prompting the collective commitment of the American public. The US citizenry has proven time and again its willingness to unite behind military actions targeting terrorist activity. US retaliatory bombings in Libya, Afghanistan, the Sudan, and Iraq have garnered the overwhelming support of the public.6 Even the failed rescue mission in Tehran in 1980 attracted public support, because it demonstrated the Carter administration’s willingness to do something to end the hostages’ confine- ment.7 The widespread presence of yellow (or now red, white, and blue) rib- bons, candles, American flags, and chants of “USA” at sporting events have been signs of the unity of the US commitment in the fight against terrorism. The third characteristic of the ideograph is that it “warrants the use of power, excuses behavior and belief which might otherwise be perceived as eccentric or antisocial, and guides behavior and belief into channels easily recognized by a community as acceptable and laudable” (McGee 15). The public accepts extreme measures due to a belief that a threat exists to the continued existence of the culture. Ideographs evoke an “end justifies the means” approach, initially compromising the very foundational values that America is ultimately fighting to protect. Even a cursory review of presidential actions in response to terrorism reveals that the term has justified response measures that the American public would not ordinarily accept from its leadership. The opening of this book details several of the actions that presidents have employed in order to defend the nation against terrorism. Others include asset forfeiture, govern- mental monitoring of library records and computer usage, temporary suspen- sion of the freedom to associate, revocation of a suspect’s ability to speak to an attorney in private, and the calculated risk of losing critical foreign alliances. Increasingly, civil liberties have lost their sacred status within American society as the public has felt increasingly at risk from terrorism. The final characteristic of the ideograph is that the term’s meaning is culture-bound. Members within the society are socialized or conditioned to the vocabulary of ideographs “as a prerequisite for ‘belonging’ to the society” (McGee 15). A willingness to accept a given interpretation of the term becomes a virtual litmus test for membership within the collective. Perhaps no phrase better illustrates the cultural nature of the terrorism definition more than the oft-repeated statement that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter.” In the 1970s the Ayatollah Khomeini was a powerful religious leader to one culture, while qualifying to another as a despicable zealot who enabled kidnappers of diplomatic personnel. In the 1980s the Contras were alternatively depicted as a critical insurgency group bent on bringing freedom to an oppressed nation or as a lawless group of ter- rorists who raped, kidnapped, and tortured the civilian population of 14 In the Name of Terrorism
  24. 24. Nicaragua. By the 1990s Osama bin Laden was either the mastermind of a brutal international terrorist network or a leader of a righteous jihad, depending on one’s cultural perspective. In the aftermath of the attacks of September 11, public rejection of the maxim that “one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter” has become increasingly commonplace. A number of government officials have denounced the view that the definition of terrorism depends on one’s cultural orientation. Given the rise in patriotism associated with the tragedies at the World Trade Center and the Pentagon, such opinions should not be surpris- ing. The inclination to see one’s own cultural perspective as the only inter- pretation reflects how embedded the term has become within America’s definition of itself. Attacked and vulnerable, the nation has less tolerance for dissension and competing views. Just as antiwar sentiments prompted accu- sations of anti-Americanism during the Vietnam War, acknowledgment of cultural differences about terrorism in the aftermath of 9/11 has constituted an act of collective betrayal for some. Having met the four definitional requirements, terrorism constitutes an ideograph for American culture. It is a cultural-bound, abstract term of ordi- nary political discourse that warrants the use of power in ways the public has normally considered unacceptable. Like all conceptions of collective identity, ideographs do change. Over time, the meaning of any specific ideograph both expands and contracts in response to changing circumstances. To understand the progressions of terrorism as a contemporary ideograph, this book will explore the shifts of the term’s meaning since the end of World War II. The meaning of ideographs also changes due to interactions with other slogans characteristic of collective life (McGee 10-14). As this book will demonstrate, terrorism’s recurrent pairing with terms such as “piracy,” “barbarism,” “tyranny,” “slavery,” “Nazism,” and “Communism” has all con- tributed to the term’s meaning. Administrative choices related to terrorism have ideological implications for American culture. The flexible application of the terrorist label gives the nation’s leadership substantial freedom in defining the acts, agents, agencies, purposes, and scenes that will fall outside the boundaries of the culture. The terrorist label encompasses a plethora of potential outcasts, making it a pow- erful linguistic option for those who would employ it. For administrations that focus on crime as the featured element of their terrorism narratives, the ideological force of the term is comparatively small. The primary reason is that conventional responses to crime concentrate on the individual. Is the person guilty or innocent? Has the individual received proper due process? If punishment is warranted, is it consistent with the mit- igating circumstances of the individual’s life history? The crime metaphor’s focus on the individual undercuts the totalizing impulse of ideology. Were an What’s in a Name? 15
  25. 25. administration to assign guilt to an entire group or class of individuals, they would expose themselves to charges of racial profiling or judicial unfairness. The war narrative, by contrast, invites the public to embrace an ideolog- ical perspective related to the conflict. The culture is under attack, not from an individual as the crime narrative would portend, but from a menacing group that threatens the continued existence of America’s cherished values. The evocation of ideological discourse, which in turn prompts the nation’s rank-and-file to accept new powers and prerogatives for their leadership, leads to a spiral of events that gives impulse to cultural warfare. 16 In the Name of Terrorism
  26. 26. 2 The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists Terrorism was commonplace in South Vietnam beginning as early as the 1950s. Targets included local political figures, province chiefs, teachers, nurses, doctors, military personnel, and others who supported the nation’s infrastructure. From 1965 through 1972, terrorists killed more than thirty- three thousand South Vietnamese and abducted another fifty-seven thousand of them. By 1971, one of every one thousand South Vietnamese had become a reported victim of terrorism (Thayer 50–51). The assassination rate in South Vietnam (a figure included in official US terrorism counts) was approximately “50 percent higher than the murder rates of the three worst U.S. cities” (“Terrorism in South Vietnam” 15). The Vietnam War was the first incident in the post–World War II era to prompt more than one hundred presidential speeches addressing the topic of terrorism. While the labeling strategy of the United States evolved over time, each of the related administrations linked terrorism and Communism as paired threats to American interests in the region. To reinforce the association, each relied on the conventional Cold War narrative to publicly frame acts of terror- ism during the war. The approach recalled the nation’s war history by mapping the terrorist tactics of the Nazis during World War II onto the Communists in Vietnam. As this chapter will discuss, the strategy functioned differently for the US audience than it did for the South Vietnamese populace. Despite the distinctive reactions, the leadership of the United States came to understand that, within certain contexts, terrorism could function as a powerful cultural term capable of uniting the rank-and-file citizenry of a nation. LABELING THE THREAT The Kennedy administration was the first to employ terrorism as a public justification for American involvement in the Vietnam War. 17
  27. 27. Spokespersons depicted the Viet Cong as “Communists” and “terrorists” interchangeably. Early in 1961, Secretary of State Dean Rusk demonstrated the approach by grouping the two as members of a homogeneous collective: “During 1960 alone, Communist armed units and terrorists assassinated or kidnapped over 3,000 local officials, military personnel, and civilians” (757). Kennedy comingled the two labels further by creating a linguistic merger reminiscent of the “Nazi terrorists” of World War II. In an open letter to President Diem of South Vietnam, Kennedy applauded the people of South Vietnam for their refusal to submit to “Communist terror” (Kennedy 680). By coupling terrorism and Communism into a companion phrase, the Kennedy administration merged the tactics of terrorism with the ideological objectives of Communist powers. Kennedy’s call for an international “truce to terror” (619) before the 1961 General Assembly of the United Nations thereby became a warrant for nourishing democratic nations around the globe. Despite having originated the phrase, the Kennedy administration’s actual use of “Communist terror” to describe events in Vietnam was infre- quent. Kennedy referenced the merger only three times, and US State Department officials limited their public usage of the terms to about a dozen instances. The Kennedy administration, having committed military advisors to a conflict considered by many Americans to be a foreign matter, was cir- cumspect in its public discussions of Viet Cong terrorism. When Lyndon Johnson assumed the presidency, he abandoned his pre- decessor’s reticence about discussing terrorism in official public statements about the war. He did so on the advice of his foreign policy advisors. Johnson’s aides were concerned about terrorism’s potential to have a disas- trous impact on the outcome of the Vietnam conflict. The American ambas- sador to Vietnam, Henry Cabot Lodge, told Johnson in June 1966 that the North Vietnamese believed they could win in South Vietnam “as long as they [could] do so well with local terrorism” (Memo to President 160), and a month later noted that they considered proficiency at terrorism to be “their ace in the hole” (Telegram [27 July] 193). By August 1966, Lodge called ter- rorism a “time tested traditional Viet Cong weapon” (Telegram [10 August] 208), and followed up in November the same year by noting that terrorism was “the heart of the matter in the war in Viet-Nam” (Letter 294). For key members of the administration, terrorism was not a peripheral issue; it func- tioned as a primary matter that could determine the war’s outcome. Johnson’s aides gave many reasons for their concern about terrorism in South Vietnam. A primary one was that their belief that terrorism correlated with the expanding size of the enemy. US Embassy officials in South Vietnam argued that the Viet Cong’s ability to recruit was a direct result of coercion and terrorism (Nolting 152). They also worried that terrorism was sapping the strength of the South Vietnamese and their willingness to fight. 18 In the Name of Terrorism
  28. 28. Director of Central Intelligence John McCone maintained the campaign of Viet Cong terrorism was having a demoralizing impact on the South Vietnamese government (368). Internal concerns mounted to such a point that aides even resisted the option of an early bombing campaign in North Vietnam, fearing it would spawn increased terrorist assaults by the Viet Cong against the South Vietnamese (M. Taylor 425). In a variety of ways, the enemy’s successful campaign of terrorism appeared to be undermining the US military effort in Vietnam. The Johnson administration translated its private concerns about terror- ism into a public campaign of linking the terrorist label to the Communist threat. By early 1964, the Johnson team had adopted the Kennedy strategy. A White House statement announced, “It will remain the policy of the United States to furnish assistance and support to South Viet-Nam for as long as it is required to bring Communist aggression and terrorism under control” (L. B. Johnson, Public Papers, 1963–1964 388). The repeated use of the association throughout Johnson’s tenure underscored the central theme: terrorism and Communism were to be indistinguishable concepts in the American popular psyche. For the Johnson administration, the terrorism label functioned more to delineate the agents who conducted violent acts than it did to parse the spe- cific nature of their activities. The resulting double standard allowed American soldiers to commit essentially the same acts that qualified as Viet Cong terrorism in official US counts. When the Viet Cong attacked popula- tion centers in South Vietnam, for example, administration officials referred to the actions as an intentional, systematic campaign of terrorism; when the United States targeted Haiphong power plants in North Vietnam and killed large numbers of civilians, administration officials portrayed the action as an unfortunate case of unintended collateral damage. Another example of the selective application of the terrorism label involved US Op 39, also named Sacred Sword of the Patriots League (SSPL). The Studies and Operations Group (SOG) of the Military Assistance Command, Vietnam (MACV) conducted the covert psychologi- cal operation beginning in the mid-1960s. The operation’s purpose was to create “in the minds of the North Vietnamese a fabricated resistance organi- zation” (Schultz 139). The administration wanted the North Vietnamese to believe that the Vietnamese citizenry had established an effective resistance organization, but did not want to assume the risks of an actual oppositional movement. It achieved both purposes by approving an act of covert decep- tion, while prohibiting SOG from actually liberating any North Vietnamese territory (138). Operating within the leadership’s constraints, SOG created a mock North Vietnamese fishing village on the island of Cu Lao Cham (also known The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 19
  29. 29. as Paradise Island), located south of the 17th parallel. Beginning in May 1964, SOG used unmarked gunboats manned with Vietnamese speakers to abduct more than one thousand North Vietnamese fishermen and bring them to the island. En route, SOG operatives bound, blindfolded, and placed the fisherman below deck in an effort to confuse them into believing they were still in North Vietnam. Many detainees faced trial, conviction, and death sentences from SSPL “courts” after arriving on Cu Lao Cham. The detainees, subsequently offered clemency for their allegiance to SSPL, “chose” to participate in a three-week indoctrination program about the goals of the resistance organization. They received high-calorie food and needed medical care so that upon their return, other North Vietnamese would wit- ness the benefits of “joining” the resistance movement (Schultz 146–47). Had the kidnappings of Op 39 been carried out by the Viet Cong, they would have fallen within the official count of terrorist atrocities; when con- ducted by US forces, they qualified as covert military tactics necessary to achieve success in the overall war effort. Perhaps the most infamous example of the Johnson administration’s selective use of the terrorism label involved the Phoenix Project. The CIA officially began the program in July 1968 and continued it in various config- urations until 1972. The main objective of the project was to undermine and destroy the political infrastructure of the Viet Cong through acts of intimi- dation, torture, kidnapping, and killing (Dunnigan and Nofi 195). In form, it was not unlike the North Vietnamese strategy of sending guerilla forces into South Vietnam to assassinate critical personnel, an approach US officials insisted was terrorism (Bernstein 335). Phoenix operatives dramatically affected 65,000 Viet Cong throughout the war, including 20,000 killed, 28,000 captured, and 17,000 turned (Dunnigan and Nofi 196). As one Johnson biographer surmised, “Sometimes the Viet Cong would have to kill a few villagers to make their point, and after a time, profiting from their lesson, the generous Americans had to do that, too” (M. Miller 466). The Nixon administration was more circumspect than the Johnson administration in its usage of the Communist terrorist label. It adopted a dual approach for public discussions of terrorism during the war: one for Nixon himself and another for his aides. In his own public statements, Nixon generally refrained from labeling the actions of the Viet Cong or the North Vietnamese as terrorism. He depicted Communist acts as aggression, rather than as terrorism. At home, Nixon announced his 1972 decision to adopt a less inflammatory, more conciliatory approach, claiming he was exercising “a degree of restraint unprecedented in the annals of war” (Public Papers, 1972 585). By adopting such a posture, he portrayed himself as the best hope for peace in Southeast Asia. 20 In the Name of Terrorism
  30. 30. Somewhat ironic within such a rhetorical context was Nixon’s use of the most inflammatory terrorism analogy of all US leaders during the Vietnam War era. Speaking to the nation in 1969, he compared the actions of the Communists in South Vietnam to those of the French revolutionaries during the 1793–94 Reign of Terror (Public Papers, 1969 902). By recalling one of the most heinous periods of state terror in history, one in which 40,000 French citizens received death sentences for alleged disloyalty to the state (Fromkin 684), Nixon suggested the North Vietnamese had placed the Vietnamese people themselves at risk for attempting to exercise their own rights of self-determination. Nixon’s executive branch surrogates publicly countered his own posture of conciliation. The State Department’s diplomats, seeking concessions that would leave the United States a dignified exit from the conflict, adopted a more assertive, confrontational approach. The officials made explicit and repeated reference to Viet Cong terrorism at the Paris peace talks. In an opening statement at the 15th Plenary Session on Viet-Nam, for example, Ambassador Lodge reminded the world community, the Viet Cong “assassi- nate village and hamlet officials who are duly elected by the people. Each day innocent civilians die because of [the Viet Cong’s] tactics of terror and vio- lence” (419). The pointed reference to Viet Cong involvement with terrorism became a mainstay of each Paris session held to resolve the conflict. Besides adopting a bifurcated public strategy within his administration, Nixon strayed from the public communication strategies of his predecessors by expanding the definition of who qualified as a terrorist. Unwilling to restrict the label’s application to the nation’s enemies abroad, Nixon used the term “terrorism” to depict the actions of American students protesting his administration’s war policies. He was particularly inclined to do so when speaking on the record, but without the benefit of a prepared statement. In one 1970 incident, a reporter asked him whether he wished to rethink his earlier reference to Americans opposing the Vietnam War as “bums.” Nixon declined, offering the explanation, “[. . .] when students on university cam- puses burn buildings, when they engage in violence, when they break up fur- niture, when they terrorize their fellow students and terrorize the faculty, then I think ‘bums’ is perhaps too kind a word to apply to that kind of person” (Public Papers, 1970 417). Nixon became more strident after protest- ers struck his presidential motorcade with rocks following his speech in San Jose, California, during the 1970 congressional campaigns. Noticeably irri- tated, he urged the nation to seek solutions to the “violence and terrorism by the radical antidemocratic elements in our society” (1027). For Nixon, ter- rorists encompassed a broad range of individuals who opposed his adminis- tration’s policies, both at home and abroad. The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 21
  31. 31. The three administrations involved in the US labeling strategy during the Vietnam War forecast much of what was to come. They demonstrated that who qualified as terrorists was a matter of interpretation—indeed, one that could benefit both the United States as a whole and the political party in power. Further, the term’s flexible meaning allowed for an easy merger with other terms of enmity already carrying persuasive force with the American public. The merger with Communism heightened the ideological function of the terrorist label. In an effort that reinforced the connection, the US leadership relied on the Cold War narrative to frame the events of the Vietnam War. THE TERRORIST NARRATIVE IN THE VIETNAM WAR For more than four decades, the Cold War dominated American foreign policy. The Cold War was unique within the history of US warfare, given its primary reliance on rhetorically constituted, imagined threats all falling within the framework of what the Soviet Union might do next (Medhurst, “Rhetoric and Cold War” 19-21). Not tied to a single, provocative act of vio- lence, the Cold War provided a framework whereby successive administra- tions renegotiated the global power relationships in the post–World War II era. Communication scholars analyzing the Cold War campaign argue that such rhetoric had two primary purposes: to foster the strategic interests of the two military superpowers and to avoid nuclear war in the process (Medhurst, “Rhetoric and Cold War” 19–27; Scott 1–16; Hinds and Windt; Newman 55–94; Cragan 47–66). The Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations borrowed heavily from Cold War discourse to depict the scene, characters, and themes of the Vietnam War. Coming off the Korean conflict, the presidents could apply the Cold War narrative as a well-rehearsed public framework for under- standing the events in Vietnam. The approach transformed a conflict of remote interest to most Americans into a resonant battleground in the ongo- ing, worldwide struggle between democracy and Communism. Rhetorical theorists maintain that the essence of the Cold War narra- tive, including its scene, characters, and themes, recurs predictably in the public discourse of the presidency (Medhurst, “Rhetoric and Cold War” 26; Scott 11–13). Conventional cold warriors locate the scene of their narrative in the newly free nations around the globe. They argue that the defeat of fas- cism coming at the end of World War II left many nations on the precipice of enhanced freedom and liberty. More uncertain was whether those same nations could nurture their newly acquired freedoms into full-fledge democ- ratic regimes, with the attendant rights and privileges of self-determination. 22 In the Name of Terrorism
  32. 32. Robert Ivie’s analysis of Vietnam War metaphors illuminates the conven- tional setting found in the Cold War narrative: “Cold War rhetors talk vari- ously of the beacon of liberty as a flickering flame, freedom as a frail body threatened by the cancer of Communism, as a defenseless quarry set upon by relentless predators, and so on” (75). In the Cold War narrative, the depicted scene is precarious, requiring a strong commitment by both the United States and the emerging democratic nation to bring the promise of self- determination to fruition. In presidential discourse focusing on terrorism in Vietnam, South Vietnam functioned as the emerging democracy that required assistance to ensure its own freedom. The administration depicted South Vietnam, attacked by forces outside its own border, as having no realistic hope of defending itself without US military assistance. As Johnson reasoned in 1965, “Most of the non-Communist nations of Asia cannot, by themselves and alone, resist the growing might and the grasping ambition of Asian communism” (Public Papers, 1965 794). Even when Nixon touted Vietna- mization (his policy requiring South Vietnam to become increasingly respon- sible for its own defense), he portrayed South Vietnam as incapable of mounting an effective indigenous defense. In 1969, he placed the blame for that situation on the Johnson administration: “The policy of the previous administration [. ..] did not adequately stress the goal of strengthening the South Vietnamese so that they could defend themselves when we left” (Public Papers, 1969 906). Throughout the years of American involvement in the conflict, administration rhetoric portrayed South Vietnam as a fragile democracy requiring external assistance to protect its commitment to emerg- ing freedom and liberty. As the Vietnam War entered its second decade, the Nixon administra- tion’s narrative expanded the scope of fragile freedom beyond South Vietnam. Advocating what became to be known as the domino theory, Nixon maintained that other fledgling democracies also would be at risk should South Vietnam fall to the Communists. He reasoned an immediate American pullout of forces would be a mistake, for it would set the stage for increased aggression worldwide. In 1972, he warned, “[A]bandoning our commitment in Vietnam here and now would mean turning 17 million South Vietnamese over to Communist tyranny and terror. [...] An Ameri- can defeat in Vietnam would encourage this kind of aggression all over the world, aggression in which smaller nations armed by their major allies could be tempted to attack neighboring nations at will in the Mideast, in Europe, and other areas. World peace would be in grave jeopardy” (Public Papers, 1972 584). Expanding the scope of vulnerable democracies beyond Southeast Asia, the administration’s narrative heightened the need to attend urgently to the scene. The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 23
  33. 33. Conventional cold warriors depict Communists as the characters who threaten the fragile scene of emerging peace and freedom around the globe. Within such portrayals Communist motivations are always destructive. Likened to Hitler’s fascists, Communists seek to impose totalitarian rule on the objects of their triumphs as a necessary first step toward the ultimate goal of worldwide conquest (Cragan 52). Within this perspective Communists are willing to rely on ruthless and barbaric means to achieve their expansive, destructive objectives (D. Campbell 15–33). The acts of savagery of Communists lie in sharp contrast with the behavior of the rest of the civilized world. In the Vietnam narrative, it was the Viet Cong, supported by the North Vietnamese and the Communist Chinese, who sought to destroy the non- Communist government of South Vietnam. The Kennedy administration insisted that North Vietnam, fearful of unfavorable comparisons between the growing economy of South Vietnam and its own languishing economy under a Communist dictatorship, used terror to reverse the economic and educa- tional advances of South Vietnam. In his open letter to the president of South Vietnam, Kennedy applauded South Vietnam’s rice exports, new hos- pitals, improved roads, and new schools, while chiding the perversity of the North Vietnamese government for wanting to undermine those very achieve- ments. He told the people of South Vietnam, “The Communist response to the growing strength and prosperity of your people was to send terror into your villages, to burn your new schools and to make ambushes of your new roads” (680). From Kennedy’s public perspective, the Communists hoped to dupe fragile democracies into changing their political allegiance by under- mining the advances of democratic societies. The presidents in the Vietnam era insisted the Communist alliance sought to enslave the South Vietnamese citizenry. Administration accounts emphasized the Communist’s intention to deny the South Vietnamese their rights of self-determination. Their public statements paired “Communism” with terms of domination such as “aggression,” “Communist slavery,” “Communist masters,” “dictatorial control,” “tyranny,” “totalitarianism,” and “dictatorship.” Within the administrations’ frame, the citizenry of South Vietnam had no hope of determining their destiny under Communist rule. The Communists’ thirst for domination was not limited to South Vietnam. Roger Hilsman, the assistant secretary for Far Eastern affairs, introduced the theme of world conquest to the 1963 Conference on Cold War Education, when he stated, “ [T]he aim of the Chinese Communist is to gain predominant control in Asia and eventually to secure the establish- ment of Communist regimes throughout the world” (44). The Johnson administration warned that South Vietnam was critical to the Communist belief they could actually achieve world domination. Public officials argued 24 In the Name of Terrorism
  34. 34. that the Chinese would use a Communist success in Vietnam to demonstrate to the Soviet Union that wars of liberation could be fought and won around the globe (see McNamara, “United States Policy in Viet-Nam” 562–70). The potential threat posed by a joint Sino-Soviet enemy elevated the importance of defeating the Viet Cong in South Vietnam. Having rendered all Communists both in and outside North Vietnam as united in wanting to achieve world conquest, the Vietnam narrative depicted the enemy’s means in a similarly homogenous fashion. The nation’s leader- ship maintained that North Vietnam and all of its surrogate forces planned to engage in a “war of unparalleled brutality” (L. B. Johnson, Public Papers, 1966 394), because they could not defeat the combined forces fighting for South Vietnam in a traditional military confrontation. The presidents and their State Department officials cataloged assassinations, kidnappings, stran- gulations, harassment, and destruction of civilian property as the common- place and unconventional tactics of the Viet Cong. The enemy’s barbarity served not only to vilify the Communist Party, but became the public ratio- nale for why US troops had to resort to unconventional methods themselves. The targets of Viet Cong terrorism contributed to the image of Communist barbarity. Victims included schoolteachers, local chiefs, and medical personnel. The Viet Cong also attacked roads and communication systems. Such targets were critical components of the societal infrastructure that, when disrupted, raised doubts about the effectiveness of the South Vietnamese government. In 1967, Lyndon Johnson warned of the conse- quences if the terrorist’s strategy succeeded: “The terrorist knows that if he can break down this fabric of community life, then he is well on his way to conquest” (Public Papers, 1967 1235). The narrative portrayed terrorists as threatening civilization both through their targets and their violent methods. Finally, the discourse of the US government maintained the Communist alliance of the Viet Cong, the Communist Chinese, and the North Vietnamese was not to be trusted. Administration spokespersons cat- aloged historical instances of the Communists’ false promises to reinforce the dishonesty theme: the Communists conducted campaigns of terrorism against the citizenry in secret; they attempted to hide those who were directing, supplying, and supporting their efforts; they violated their com- mitments codified into the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962; they repeat- edly changed their requirements for negotiating a peaceful settlement to the conflict; and they set up phony organizations, such as the National Liberation Front (NLF), to make the conflict in Vietnam appear to be civil war. The US State Department’s own white paper, “Aggression from the North,” emphasized the sharp divisions between appearance and reality associated with the Communist threat. The report was unequivocal in its conclusions regarding Communist duplicity: “The National Front for the The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 25
  35. 35. Liberation of South Viet-Nam is the screen behind which the Communists carry out their program of conquest” (422). If the Communists could be suc- cessfully cast as untrustworthy, any claims the opposition might make regarding their limited objectives, justified means, or constructive outcomes for South Vietnam became presumptively false. For conventional cold warriors, a strong national character is essential for an effective response to the Communist threat. Rhetorical analysts main- tain that America, as the narrative’s hero, adopts the persona of a missionary for freedom within the narrative (Wander 153–83). Cold War discourse is steeped in religious references, presenting America as righteous and commit- ted to the sacred cause of freedom (Cragan 58). Communication scholar Phillip Wander dubs the approach “prophetic dualism,” (157) and explains it this way: “One side acts in accord with all that is good, decent, and at one with God’s will. The other acts in direct opposition. Conflict between them is resolved only through the total victory of one side over the other” (ibid.). As missionary for the divine, the United States acts not only to assist those countries too weak to defend themselves, but also to liberate itself. America becomes the hero who can “barely tolerate and no long endure a world that was half free and half slave” (Cragan 62). For good to triumph over evil in accordance with God’s will, the US government cannot act alone; the public must also have faith in the American cause (58). Consistent with Cold War expectations, then, the United States assumed the role of missionary for freedom in the Vietnam War narrative. Politically, the United States sought elections free from terror that would permit the South Vietnamese people to exercise their rights of self-determi- nation. Terms such as “freedom,” “justice,” “fairness,” “independence,” and “self-determination” pervaded the discourse. In 1965, Johnson made the political goals of the United States explicit when he announced, “[W]e insist and we will always insist that the people of South Viet-Nam shall have the right of choice, the right to shape their own destiny in free elections in the South and throughout all Viet-Nam under international supervision, and they shall not have any government imposed upon them by force and terror as long as we can prevent it” (Public Papers, 1965 796–97). Committed to freedom and the right of self-determination, the United States stood rhetor- ically as a strong counterbalance to the communist menace. In the economic arena, the narrative presented the United States as committed to increasing the prosperity of the people of Vietnam. Goals of progress, human welfare, economic growth, rural development, and educa- tion were recurrent themes throughout administration discourse. The United States was both willing and able to expend significant resources to ensure the economic growth necessary to stabilize Vietnam. Following a 1966 meeting of the highest-level officials of both South Vietnam and the United States in 26 In the Name of Terrorism
  36. 36. Honolulu, Johnson called for a revolutionary transformation in the Vietnam economy that could not “wait until the guns grow silent and until the terror- ism stops” (Public Papers, 1966 156). Within the rhetorical vision, the United States was committed to rebuilding the South Vietnamese economy, even as opposing forces tried to dismantle it. The narrative depicted the final goal of the United States to be the restoration of peace in South Vietnam. By coming to the aid of small coun- tries unable to defend their own freedom, the United States ensured the security of all (including itself). Evoking the words of his predecessor, Harry Truman, Johnson declared in 1967, “We shall not realize our objectives unless we are willing to help free peoples to maintain their free institutions and their national integrity against aggressive movements that seek to impose upon them totalitarian regimes. This is no more than a frank recognition that totalitarian regimes imposed upon free peoples, by direct or indirect aggression, undermine the foundations of international peace and hence the security of the United States” (Public Papers, 1967 317–18). By emphasizing the mutual interests of protecting South Vietnamese security, the United States underscored the depth of its commitment to its ally’s defense. Administration officials posited that the United States, with its commit- ment to constructive rather than destructive methods, offered the best hope for the future of Vietnam. The narrative held that the United States relied on means consistent with its divine mission and distinguishable from its evil counterpart. In the diplomatic arena, officials maintained South Vietnam could trust the United States to uphold its commitments. Administration speakers stressed that America had previously upheld its responsibilities in relation to the Geneva Accords of 1954 and 1962. In the economic arena, South Vietnam could trust the United States to rebuild Vietnam. In April 1965 Johnson demonstrated his commitment to Vietnam’s economic future by announcing a one billion dollar development effort of the Mekong River Delta, a project designed to provide food, water, and power “on a scale to dwarf even our own TVA” (Public Papers, 1965 397). In the military arena, the narrative portrayed US tactics as honorable. Governmental spokespersons insisted the United States exercised careful restraint in selecting bombing sites to minimize civilian casualties, rather than intentionally targeting civil- ians to wreck havoc among the citizenry. As Johnson surmised in a news conference in 1966, “We were very careful not to get out of the target area, in order not to affect civilian populations” (Public Papers, 1966 751). Drawing sharp contrasts between democracy and Communism, the approach posi- tioned the United States to be a trustworthy ally whether in the political, economic, or security arenas. In sum, the Vietnam War narrative was consistent with the conventional expectations of Cold War discourse. With barbaric Communists poised to The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 27
  37. 37. dismantle fragile democracies in their drive to achieve global conquest, the United States had a missionary obligation to further the political, economic, and security interests of foreign nations at risk. The Cold War narrative framed the Vietnam War as an ideological conflict with important cultural values at stake. As the remainder of the chapter will argue, the receptivity to that message depended on who was listening. TERRORISM AND IDEOLOGY The frequent use of the “Communist terrorist” phrase within the Cold War narrative implies that terrorism served an ideological purpose for the Kennedy, Johnson, and Nixon administrations. Closer examination, how- ever, reveals that the actual function of the phrase was not so straightforward. Merger of the two terms within a single overarching label allowed different audiences to interpret the meaning of the phrase in different ways. More specifically, American and South Vietnamese audiences harbored distinctive visions of the enemy subsumed under the rubric of the “Communist terror- ist.” The encompassing nature of the phrase permitted the two audiences to coalesce around mutual, yet distinctive, interpretations of the opposing forces in the war. The American public focused on fighting Communism as its impetus for supporting the war effort. In a briefing of twenty columnists and political pollsters in early January 1968, Lou Harris reported that forty-five percent of the public identified the one main objective in Vietnam to be “to stop Communist aggression once and for all in Southeast Asia” (as qtd. in Panzer). Johnson’s press secretary, Bill Moyers, echoed Harris’s finding in written correspondence to the president: “The American people believe that we are in South Vietnam to draw the line. If we don’t stop the Communists here, they will take over all of Asia.” Johnson’s internal pollster, Fred Panzer, pressed the point, concluding that the American public was “definitely sup- porting the Adm. position that the war [was] preventing further Communist aggression in Southeast Asia.” Those with primary responsibility for crafting Johnson’s public message all agreed: the public’s chief concern in the war effort was Communism. Even for US citizens who supported an American withdrawal from Vietnam, interjection of the term “Communism” into the polling questions enhanced support for Johnson’s handling of the war effort. Forty-nine per- cent of those who reported they believed the United States should get out of Vietnam changed their minds when asked the follow-up question: “Would you still want to get out of Vietnam if that meant losing it to the Communists?” Fifty-three percent of the same antiwar group changed their 28 In the Name of Terrorism
  38. 38. minds when asked the follow-up: “Would you still want to get out of Vietnam if that meant that Americans would be fighting future wars against the Communists?” (Watson). The potency of the Communist label with domestic audiences resided in the term’s apparent ability to unite both pro- and antiwar elements. By contrast, the role served by terrorism in the popular psyche of the American public was more illusory. No internal polls within the Johnson administration asked open-ended questions regarding why America was in Vietnam. Of those tailoring a list of possible answers for the nation’s involve- ment, terrorism was not a response option (Memo to Bundy et al.; [US] Dept. of State, “American Opinion Summary”). The internal poll that came closest to asking if Americans considered terrorism a sufficient reason for US involvement in Vietnam was a Harris Poll conducted in January 1975. In a confidential poll conducted for the leadership’s eyes only, respondents were offered five possible explanations for US involvement and asked their degree of agreement with each option. The five options included: to win victory over aggression, to defend the security of the United States, to help a non- Communist nation resist Communism, to stop Communist infiltration, and to try to keep the Communists from taking over all of Southeast Asia. After discovering that seventy-one percent of the population indicated that stop- ping Communist infiltration was very important and another sixteen percent found it somewhat important, Bill Moyers wrote in the margins of the report’s findings for Johnson’s review, “This indicates a fair understanding on the part of the American people of the guerilla warfare.” Whether the result, “Communist infiltration,” actually constituted guerrilla warfare or could be stretched to mean terrorism remains uncertain. Like other internal tracking polls, no specific question about terrorism appeared on the survey. If Communism, rather than terrorism, guided American thinking about the war, the reverse was true for the people of South Vietnam. Early after assuming office, members of the Johnson administration considered terror- ism the dominant concern of the South Vietnamese populace. Fearful that a worried South Vietnam might vote for a Communist leader if given the opportunity in free elections, Johnson hired the independent polling firm of Oliver Quayle and Company to determine how the United States might pre- vent such an outcome. The firm undertook two tasks to assess the mind-set of the South Vietnamese people. Initially, they reviewed all previous administration polling of South Vietnam conducted from fall 1964 through fall 1966. Then, they carried out an internal poll using Vietnamese interviewers trained by Dr. Robert Sullivan of the United States Information Agency (USIA). Sullivan’s group conduced 974 personal interviews with the citizens of South Vietnam from October 17, 1965 through December 23, 1965. The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 29
  39. 39. Sampled from ninety-seven percent of the South Vietnamese population, the Quayle poll only excluded areas heavily controlled by the Viet Cong or those so contested that they would risk the safety of the interviewers (“Quayle Study”). It could be argued that any Johnson-backed assessment of South Vietnamese attitudes was biased, but the Quayle study did constitute the most extensive public opinion analysis conducted during the war. Besides being stronger methodologically than prior polling, the study’s findings were also consistent with field reports from South Vietnamese comman- ders. Provincial representatives in South Vietnam for some time had warned the American Embassy that “support exists for the GVN in direct proportion to the degree of security established by government forces” ([American] Embassy in Vietnam 306). Finally, as the following will demonstrate, the Johnson administration quickly acted upon the recom- mendations in the Quayle report. Quayle & Co. showed that stopping terrorism, not Communism, was the overriding concern of the South Vietnamese. The Quayle report of previ- ous internal administration polling revealed the Vietnamese “just didn’t care about the war, the ideological struggle between the forces of Communism and freedom and the need for a better government for the nation” (“Survey”). The results of the new Quayle poll echoed the point. The interviewers found that the most apt adjective to describe the people of South Vietnam in 1965 was apathetic. They attributed the sources of apathy to be the fear of terrorist attacks by the Viet Cong, the repeated unwillingness of the South Vietnamese government to stand up to these attacks, and the looting and cruelty carried out by the ARVN forces themselves. While the poll’s results showed that sixty-four percent of the South Vietnamese expressing support for the present government with only twenty-nine percent supporting the Liberation Front, the Quayle report warned that a “campaign of terror could change that” (“Quayle Study”). The report concluded that above all else, eradicating terrorism was the chief concern of the people of South Vietnam. For them, it was the equivalent of personal and cultural survival. The Quayle report recommended that the Johnson administration insti- tute a public campaign of reinforcing the linkage between the Viet Cong and terrorism. In the words of the report, “[T]he political struggle must be planned to tag the VC and the NLF as terrorists who have caused violence and strife here. If we can be forgiven, it should be made clear that the choice is between ‘the good guys’ and ‘the bad guys’” (“Quayle Study”). The report maintained that such a strategy would be effective because of the perceptual leanings of the South Vietnamese. At the time of the survey in late 1965, the interviewers found, “People definitely think of VC as enemy,” and “the essence of the VC image is terrorism.” Reinforcing those perceptions and mapping the chief concern of the South Vietnamese onto the enemy offered 30 In the Name of Terrorism
  40. 40. the most hopeful prospect that the South Vietnamese elections would result in a democratic administration. Within three months of having received the Quayle report, the Johnson administration began implementing its recommendations. On April 5, 1965, the administration established the Joint United States Public Affairs Offices (JUSPAO) under the auspices of USIA. JUSPAO became the organization charged with carrying out all psychological operations in Vietnam. The orga- nization adopted multiple strategies for reinforcing the linkage between Communism and terrorism. Among them, it distributed select Johnson quo- tations about Viet Cong terror, repression, and murder to the people of South Vietnam (“Trial Leaflets”). JUSPAO spread Johnson’s message by dropping leaflets that recalled specific instances of terrorism committed against the South Vietnamese people. The messages, written in Vietnamese, reminded the citizenry that the Viet Cong and its backers were the primary source of terrorism. One leaflet described the National Liberation Front’s execution of US Sgt. Harold Bennett, as well as the terrorist bombing of the My Canh restaurant in Saigon, an incident that killed forty-four people from Vietnam, America, France, Switzerland, and the Philippines. A translation of the leaflet read, “Among the victims were women and little children. The so-called Liberation Front knew that more civilians stroll along the riverfront near this restaurant after the day’s heat and that large numbers of workers and children gather there” (“Trial Leaflets”). By emphasizing that Communists used ter- rorism intentionally to target civilian populations, the leaflets worked to vilify the enemy and keep terrorism a central public concern. In a February 1966 memo written to USIA headquarters in Washing- ton, JUSPAO touted the effectiveness of its efforts to reinforce the image of the Viet Cong as terrorists. After describing to senior USIA officials three examples of successful leaflet missions, the memo explained why JUSPAO believed its communication campaign had been effective: Rather than accenting the horror of the bombings that would have aided the VC in accomplishing their goal of striking fear in the hearts of the local populace, emphasis was placed on the fact that the VC was cutting off individuals in the area from their source of income as well as from their friends. A special point was made in each of the leaflets circulated that it was ordinary people who were being killed, not GNV officials or soldiers. The question was repeatedly brought up on all propaganda materials produced: “[I]s this the action of a group desiring national liberation?” Photographs of victims were utilized only in cases where resentment to the atroc- ity would be aroused rather than fear; for example, photographs The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 31
  41. 41. showing mothers and small children killed by the bombings. (Memo to USIA) The memo revealed the administration’s public strategy on a number of levels. First, it demonstrated that the United States was striving to disassoci- ate itself from terrorism, even to the point that the nation’s propaganda avoided the use of vivid examples that might further frighten the South Vietnamese. Second, it showed JUSPAO’s intention to reinforce, if not ele- vate, the nation’s fear about terrorism by heightening public identification with the victims of Communist terrorism. The primary theme reiterated across JUSPAO operations was that the National Liberation Front did not engage military forces for the cause of liberation; instead, it sought only to terrorize innocent civilian populations into succumbing to its will. The JUSPAO campaign to tag the Viet Cong terrorists was an enor- mous effort. In its article “US Drops Passes to Spur Red Defections,” the Milwaukee Journal reported that by the end of March 1966, the United States had dropped more than 133 million leaflets on South Vietnam and broadcasted similar themes six and a half hours per day on Voice of America. The magnitude of the campaign was so large that it severely impacted bud- getary allocations within the USIA. In FY 1967, Deputy Director Hewson Ryan complained to his superiors at USIA that the effort required $12 mil- lion and approximately one-eighth of its manpower worldwide for the infor- mation campaign in Vietnam, Thailand, and Laos. The size and expense of the campaign underscored the importance the Johnson administration placed on strengthening the association between terrorism and the Viet Cong in the minds of the South Vietnamese. Having moved on one front to associate the Viet Cong with terrorism, the Johnson administration simultaneously sought to disassociate the violent actions of the United States and its allies from similar interpretations. The approach had ideological implications with ramifications for enhanced power by the US and allied forces. The government wanted a highly visible pro- gram of counterterrorism that would convince the South Vietnamese that a democratic regime offered their best hope for security. The administration settled on a program, initially named the “strategic hamlet program” and later called the “pacification program.” The approach called for the relocation of many South Vietnamese into strategic enclaves, the establishment of a local security force, the identification and elimination of hidden VC cells, the establishment of institutions of local government, and the commencement of programs for economic and social development (Bell). The Johnson administration’s commitment to this high-profile coun- terterrorism program continued even in the face of mounting evidence the program was a resounding failure. Strategic enclaves became controversial 32 In the Name of Terrorism
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