In the name of terrorism; presidents on political violence in the post-world war ii (2006)
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  • 1. In the Name of Terrorism
  • 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. 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. 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. To Bill, Cori, and Jordan
  • 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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. 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
  • 42. within the Johnson administration because of their lack of fortification, their lack of effective leadership, their Viet Cong infiltration of up to eighty per- cent, and their negative impact on the effort to improve the self-sufficiency of the South Vietnamese (Helms). By early 1965, the administration’s intel- ligence advised, “Enclaves can probably prevent the VC from completely overrunning the nation, but they will also prevent the rehabilitation of the nation—and they will deny the people what this survey tells us they clearly want [...] security from the VC, better government and above all else, a greater measure of economic dignity” (Quayle, “Survey”). Needing a visible program of counterterrorism in South Vietnam, the US government never- theless continued its support for a program it knew had questionable value. More shocking, however, was the fact that the leadership remained dedicated to the approach even when the South Vietnamese government pronounced it would need to burn some local villages to accomplish the relocation effort (Memo for the Record). The rubric of counterterrorism also became the public strategy for those in the administration who favored expanding the bombing campaign into North Vietnam. The role combating terrorism played in justifying military attacks against North Vietnam became obvious in the planning documents of Johnson’s National Security Council. In preparation for a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff in early April 1964, NSC staff member Michael Forrestal submitted a draft plan for justifying South Vietnamese and US mil- itary action in North Vietnam. After outlining a series of proposed domestic and foreign diplomatic initiatives that should precede military action, Forrestal recommended the next step: “On the assumption that no change occurs in NVN attitude and behavior, Khanh makes speech immediately after appropriate VC incident, i.e., cutting of rail line, killing of U.S. person- nel or destruction of POL dump; announces need to inflict appropriate type of damage on NVN. Khanh deplores necessity of taking such action and sit- uation that makes it necessary for SVN to send military force to North, instead of food and medicine. First targeted attack occurs as promptly as possible.” In Forrestal’s plan, the particulars of a given terrorist act were not relevant to the decision to use force; any act of Viet Cong terrorism served as a sufficient public rationale for military action in the region. By early in 1965, the administration implemented the plan for using ter- rorism to justify bombing North Vietnam. Secretary of Defense Robert McNamara wrote a memo to Johnson to remind him of the decision to pub- licly blame terrorism for US military escalation in the public arena. He noted that official spokespersons would describe the bombing program as having begun “in an atmosphere of reprisal” (100) for the attacks on Bien Hoa Airfield and the bombing of the Brinks Hotel in Saigon. Later in the corre- spondence, however, McNamara cited the administration’s actual rationales The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 33
  • 43. for instigating the bombing program. He listed five benefits the administra- tion hoped to achieve by escalating the campaign: promoting a settlement, interdicting infiltration, demonstrating US long-term commitment to Vietnam, raising morale in South Vietnam, and reducing criticism of the administration from advocates of a bombing program (ibid.). Terrorism, in short, became the public excuse for expanded military action. The Johnson administration also used counterterrorism to justify its sys- tematic defoliation program. Administration officials defended the program, Operation RANCH HAND, as a necessary step to remove the vegetation grown to feed the Viet Cong forces and provide cover for the enemy terroriz- ing the people of South Vietnam. During the 1967 campaign alone, the Twelfth Air Commando Squadron used 4,879,000 gallons of herbicides, defoliating 1,226,823 acres in South Vietnam and destroying 148,418 acres of crops (Cecil 109). The military historian and former RANCH HAND pilot Paul Cecil notes that Washington authorized approximately half the area of South Vietnam to undergo defoliation (ibid.). Before the end of the Vietnam War, the United States defoliated almost 4 million acres of South Vietnam at least once, a factor that contributed to the forty-five percent casualty rate among civilians during the war (Bornet 276). The negative consequences of the defoliation program became evident early in the war. By 1967, scholars denounced the crop destruction program for its disproportionate impact on the elderly, small children, and childbearing women. By 1969, concerns mounted regarding the impact of herbicides, such as Agent Orange, on the health and welfare of US troops participating in Vietnam. Even State Department officials voiced opposition to the program, arguing the program’s adverse impacts on the civilians provided the Viet Cong with strong propaganda to use against the United States (Cecil 52). A final example of how the administration used counterterrorism as a justification for increased powers during the Vietnam War involved assassi- nation and murder. In the aftermath of the Tet offensive, shocked American audiences saw an AP photograph showing General Nguyen Ngoc Loan, head of South Vietnam’s national police, aiming a pistol point-blank into the head of a bound Viet Cong prisoner in the streets of Saigon. Loan summar- ily executed the man without the benefit of a trial. The South Vietnamese government later claimed the man was a Viet Cong captain involved in the terrorist killing of a policemen and his family. In preparation for an upcom- ing NBC-TV program taking up the incident, Special Assistant for National Security Affairs Bill Bundy provided a series of general talking points for Illinois senator Paul Douglas and Wyoming senator Gale McGee to use. Bundy wrote that one of several general points the senators could use for rebuttal argument should be: “Nobody will excuse this act, but it must be looked at in the light of a situation where Loan undoubtedly knew, as every- 34 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 44. body did, that the VC had just been murdering civilians, including the wives and families of officials all over Saigon. He acted in hot blood, and this is not the first time that there have been such summary executions in wars in Asia or elsewhere.” As the Loan example dramatically illustrated, the Johnson administration justified a wide variety of US and allied actions by considering them in the context of terrorism and counterterrorism. Taken together, the available evidence supports the contention that the Johnson administration took the advice of the Quayle report to present the Vietnam contest as a conflict between good and evil. All violent acts of the Viet Cong, the NLF, or the North Vietnamese were terrorism. All actions by the United States and its allies were counterterrorism. Administration officials used counterterrorism to justify the displacement of its ally’s citizens, the bombing of a nation that had not declared war on the United States, the destruction of a nation’s food supply, and the execution of alleged suspects without the benefit of a trial. Because these actions were cast as responses to terrorist acts of the enemy, they functioned within the public campaign as necessary steps for ensuring the security of the Vietnamese populace. The Johnson administration capitalized on the power of the terrorism label to prevail in the Vietnamese elections of September 11, 1966. On the day of and the day before the elections, the Viet Cong did their part to but- tress the US strategy. They increased the number of terrorist attacks to 166, a fivefold increase from the daily average of the previous month (Joint US Public Affairs Office, General Briefing Book). For perhaps the first time in the post–World War II era, America’s leadership both understood and exploited the potential cultural significance of the terrorism label. The South Vietnamese, fearful for their own personal safety, were susceptible to appeals to unite behind anyone who could counter the terrorist threat. The specifics of how the leaders would proceed became secondary concerns to the princi- pal outcome of national security. Despite the short-term political gains associated with use of the ter- rorism label, the rhetorical approach was not without consequence. When the United States pulled its troops out of the region and left the South Vietnamese people to defend themselves (unsuccessfully), the “Commu- nist terrorist” became the victor. The end of the Cold War two decades later allowed the United States to publicly reclaim its victor status in democracy’s ideological contest with Communism. However, the power of terrorism to succeed in conflicts with the United States remained an ongoing legacy of the Vietnam conflict. America’s vulnerability to terror- ism would become evident only too soon. This time, the nation’s leader would be unwilling to unleash the full ideological potential of the terror- ism label, with the result that both the nation and the president himself would suffer consequences. The Vietnam War and the Communist Terrorists 35
  • 45. 3 The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy On November 4, 1979, several thousand demonstrators gathered outside the United States Embassy in Tehran and began shouting anti- American slogans. At approximately 10:30 a.m., some of the demonstrators scaled the compound walls and forced their way into the basement and first floor of the chancery building. Within a few hours, the demonstrators took control of the embassy and held sixty-three Americans hostage. Three other Americans—Chargé d’Affaires Bruce Laingen, Political Counselor Victor Tomseth, and Security Officer Mike Howland—took refuge in the Foreign Ministry, unable to leave without risking their own safety. Iranian officials assured the US government the takeover was nothing more than a university sit-in and predicted it would end shortly. Meanwhile, the Ayatollah’s son, Ahmed Khomeini, came to the embassy, scaled the wall, and congratulated the students on their victory. Emboldened by Khomeini’s support, the group refused to release their hostages on the grounds that the embassy personnel were spies. At the urging of a delegation from the Palestinian Liberation Organization, the Iranians released thirteen female and black hostages not suspected of espionage on November 18–19, 1979. For months, the Carter administration attempted diplomatic overtures and gradually escalated economic sanctions to obtain the release of the remainder of the hostages. The United States severed diplomatic ties with Iran on April 7, 1980, when the administration concluded that chances for concrete progress were unlikely. On April 11, Carter told his National Security Council that he planned to proceed with a military rescue mission to extract the hostages from Tehran. On April 24, 1980, eight helicopters and six C-130 transport planes traveled to a location called Desert One, 265 miles southeast of Tehran. Due to mechanical problems, only five of the eight helicopters arrived at the target location. Carter ordered the mis- sion aborted, having previously determined that six helicopters would be 37
  • 46. minimally necessary for a successful rescue. As the planes were leaving the Desert One site, one of the helicopters and one of the C-130 transport planes collided, burst into flames, and killed eight American servicemen. The military evacuated the rest of the officers on the remaining transport planes and left behind helicopters, weapons, equipment, and classified documents (P. B. Ryan 91). Eventually, the captors permitted the remaining fifty-two American hostages to leave Iran 444 days after the embassy takeover. The release coincided with the transfer of power between the Carter and Reagan administrations. Carter and his aides were initially inconsistent in how they labeled the perpetrators of the crisis. Ultimately, the administration denounced those responsible as terrorists and portrayed the events in Tehran as an American tragedy. The approach had the advantage of minimizing the potential ideo- logical conflict between the United States and Iran. Unfortunately for Carter, the strategy also produced political costs for the president himself. LABELING THE CAPTORS Memories of the Vietnam War were highly influential in the development of the Carter administration’s labeling strategy during the Iranian hostage crisis. From the early days of the crisis, those who held the embassy compared their quest to the student antiwar protests of the 1960s. They identified them- selves with Vietnam-era protesters by stressing their standing as university students. They referred to themselves as “the Muslim Students Following the Imam’s Line” and issued more than fifty communiqués to the world media highlighting their student status. The captors made explicit reference to America’s recent history with Vietnam when, in a statement distributed worldwide, they proclaimed, “[T]he American people have the power to force Carter to return the Shah and the wealth he has ‘plundered,’ in the same way you forced your previous President to end the Vietnam War” (“Iran-Cravath, Swaine and Moore I”). By recalling the American public’s opposition to the Vietnam War, the captors implied that they were law- abiding student protesters on a righteous mission to expose the immoral actions of the American government. Within two days of the embassy takeover, Carter was emphatic that the captors not control the public labeling of the crisis. On his way to breakfast with members of his senior aides, he said, “I’m tired of seeing those bastards holding our people referred to as ‘students.’ Jody [Jody Powell, Press Secretary], you and Hodding [Hodding Carter, the State Department spokesman] get together and figure out what to call them. But they should be referred to as ‘terrorists’ or ‘captors’ or something that accurately describes 38 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 47. what they are” (as qtd. in Jordan 34). Reminiscent of Nixon’s labeling of antiwar student protestors, Carter’s approach invited attention to the unac- ceptable means of those holding Americans hostage, while downplaying the captors’ student status. Carter’s directive to his aides notwithstanding, his spokespersons continued to call the captors “students” throughout the first week of the crisis. Hodding Carter repeatedly employed the phrase, “so-called students,” or used quotation marks around “students” or “student groups” (Press Briefing 11/11/79) when briefing members of the press. On two separate occasions, members of the press corps asked him why he was using quotation marks when referring to the stu- dents. He responded, “I am saying clearly that our reports are no better than what you read as to who they may be and that I am in no position to evaluate or to describe in any way except in quotation marks. I simply don’t know” (Press Briefing 11/7/79). Without an alternative labeling strategy from the administra- tion, members of the Washington press corps adopted the captors’ labeling strategy, calling those who held the embassy “students.” Officials did speculate on the identity of the captors when speaking to the media on background. Carter aides acknowledged their ambivalence about the accuracy of their intelligence, but still presented educated guesses about the identity of those holding the hostages. Assistant Secretary for Near East and South Asia Harold Saunders expressed the administration’s lack of certainty when he stated, “[A]s nearly as we can tell, the group that occupies the compound may be a composite of several groups, or people related to several groups, with a coordinating committee on top” (Press Backgrounder). Saunders speculated that the captors might range from conservative religious elements, such as the Mujahedeen group, to leftist-oriented groups, like the Cheroks. Not knowing the true identity of the captors and unwilling to invite comparisons to the Vietnam War by erroneously misleading the press, the administration remained equivocal about the public label for the captors (Kifner 175; Taheri 123). Carter’s own public statements did not clarify the situation. During the first two months of the crisis, his speeches were inconsistent in the way they referred to those who held the hostages in Iran. Most of Carter’s public statements avoided depictions of the captors as terrorists; instead, they described events in Iran using the passive voice (i.e., American citi- zens are being held hostage). Linguistically, passive voice functions to remove active agency, leaving the subject of responsibility unclear. When Carter did mention the topic of terrorism, he mostly spoke of the general fight against terrorism, stopping short of labeling the US Embassy takeover in Iran a terrorist act. In only three of the dozens of statements Carter offered during the first two months of the crisis did he label the embassy takeover an act of terrorism. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 39
  • 48. The lack of a consistent public strategy that labeled the seizure “terror- ism” was also evident from the internal drafts of the president’s public state- ments. A good illustration is the speech Carter delivered before the American Federation of Labor and Congress of Industrial Organizations (AFL-CIO) less than two weeks after the capture of the hostages. In draft C2, an early version of the speech, no mention was made of terrorism; the draft portrayed those holding Americans hostage as “extremists” and depicted US policy as “we refuse to bow to blackmail.” By the final manu- script, the wording shifted to a public frame of the crisis in Iran as a terrorist event: “This is the 12th day that more than a hundred innocent human beings, some 60 of whom are members of the United States diplomatic mis- sion, have been held hostage in our Embassy in Iran. [...] This is an act of terrorism—totally outside the bound of international law and diplomatic tra- dition” (Carter, Public Papers, 1979 2:2123). Both internally circulated speech drafts and final manuscripts demonstrate that the administration’s labeling strategy was uncertain during the early months of the crisis. Once the administration had taken the public step of labeling the embassy takeover a terrorist act, it provoked an irate and lengthy response from the Ayatollah Khomeini. In an interview with a CBS-TV correspon- dent in Qom just three days after the AFL-CIO speech, Khomeini charged that Carter’s word choice had not been judicious. He argued that the stu- dents could not possibly be terrorists, because the entire Iranian nation of thirty-five million people supported them. He insisted the Iranians were not terrorists, because they had treated the hostages well. Finally, Khomeini stressed that the United States was hypocritical to even use the term, given its own decisions to refuse demonstration permits and to freeze the financial assets of Iranian students in America to force them to return to Iran. As he explained, “[Y]ou must be assured that our nation is Muslim, and Muslim is not terrorist, and [the Iranian students] treat them with complete clemency, better than your treatment of our students abroad. [...] The acts which you commit are the ones that resemble terrorist acts” (as qtd. in “Iran-Cravath, Swaine and Moore I”). Khomeini’s statement drew an historical parallel between the Carter and Nixon administrations. Both administrations had opposed student demonstrations questioning the government’s actions. Khomeini recalled America’s past in Vietnam by maintaining any divisive- ness was between the US government and its people, not between the world community and Iran. Publicly ignoring Khomeini’s protests about the labeling strategy, the Carter administration relied on a consistent public affairs strategy of referring to the captors as “terrorists” by January 1980. The strategy arguably mini- mized the Iranian government’s responsibility for controlling the captors’ conduct, essentially erasing what might have been an embarrassing challenge 40 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 49. to that government’s ability to rule its own people. Instead, the administra- tion’s approach depicted the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran as a crimi- nal act of terrorism requiring the intervention of the international community. In a familiar refrain offered throughout the remainder of the crisis, Carter told John Chancellor of NBC News, “Iran is at this moment involved in a criminal act, a terrorist act. And it’s not a matter of negotiating on a diplo- matic basis between two nations. This is a matter of condemning Iran for international terrorism and kidnapping” (Public Papers 1980-1981 1:36). Moving past the initial period of confusion, the administration consistently adopted the crime metaphor to frame its public rhetoric about the crisis. Not everyone in the administration agreed that crime should be the over- riding theme of Carter’s rhetoric. Some of Carter’s aides argued that the war metaphor was more appropriate, reasoning that the Iranian hostage crisis and the Vietnam War were inextricably linked in the public’s mind. These aides maintained that the administration could not ignore the connections between the two historical events and that Carter should address broader public confi- dence concerns stemming from the Vietnam War as he handled the hostage crisis. Carter received advice from his congressional liaisons, Anne Wexler and Al From, to adopt a security theme in his State of the Union address that responded to both the public’s concern about Iranian terrorism and its anxiety about the Vietnam War. Wexter and From reminded Carter, Americans have traditionally felt secure, part of the greatest and strongest nation on earth. But the past two decades have shaken that feeling. The Vietnam War and recent incidents like the Iranian and Afghan crises have pierced the aura of our military invincibility. The energy shortages and persistent inflation have made Americans aware that their energy and economic security is no longer in their hands. [. . .] Security is a word that people can both easily understand and identify with. [...Security] is some- thing that Americans want in their gut, particularly in unsettling times like we have today. For that reason, your political adversaries will find it very difficult to attack the security framework. The aides envisioned the use of the security theme both as a means of unit- ing the country behind the administration’s effort to resolve the crisis and as an avenue for putting the nation’s recent foreign policy failure behind them. Wexler’s and From’s advice prevailed in the final drafting of the State of the Union address. Seven months after the seizure of the embassy, National Security Advisor Zbigniew Brzezinski advised Carter once again to rely on more labels reminiscent of the Vietnam War. Brzezinski praised Carter for his earlier choices and told him, “You have rightly been very sensitive to the The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 41
  • 50. symbolic choice of words—e.g., calling the kidnappers in Tehran not ‘stu- dents’ but ‘terrorists.’ Let me suggest that in case of Afghanistan you make it a point to refer always to ‘freedom fighter’ and more generally to the ‘national liberation struggle’ of the Afghan people. The latter phrase will have special resonance in the Third World and it will be particularly awkward for the Soviets” (Memo to the President 6/13/80). Brzezinski’s suggestion was risky, and not simply because these same “freedom fighters” would eventually orchestrate the World Trade Center and Pentagon bombings. By recalling the Vietnam War, the linkage associated the Iranian hostage crisis with the worst foreign policy debacle in American history. Had the administration been successful in obtaining the hostages’ release, the strategy of linking the crisis in Iran to the Vietnam War may have fostered a profound healing of the American psyche. In failure, how- ever, the choice risked a deeper public malaise. Ultimately, the administra- tion further compounded public disenchantment by depicting its hostage crisis in tragic terms. THE NARRATIVE OF THE IRANIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS Tragic drama is a dramatic form that emphasizes the metaphor of crime. Burke explains that criminality always applies to the device of tragedy, given that its subject matter focuses on conflicts with established values (On Symbols and Society 300). Vogel argues that American tragedies involve a focus on crime and punishment due to a Christian heritage that rejects Greek notions of fatalism (115). By choosing a dramatic vehicle that featured crime as a central theme, the Carter administration provided a public alter- native to a declaration of war on terrorism. Scholars in literary circles do not agree on the generic requirements of tragic drama. Nevertheless, a look at the characteristics of tragedy that recur throughout the work of multiple literary theorists reveals that the Carter nar- rative echoed the great historical works of tragic literature. While members of the Carter administration may not have knowingly adopted the tragic frame in response to the hostage crisis, the key elements of the literary genre were present in their public response strategy to the hostage crisis. For most genre theorists, tragedies depend on the presence of a tragic hero. Reviewing the breadth of literature related to tragedy, Richard Palmer explains why the tragic hero is central to the dramatic form: “Those who see the essence of tragedy as a humanistic affirmation believe that the hero embodies those values; theorists who approach tragedy in terms of response usually assume that the hero stimulates that response, and metaphysically ori- ented theorists see the tragic hero as the prime vehicle of metaphysical aware- 42 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 51. ness” (138). To qualify as an appropriate subject for the role of tragic hero, an individual must be able both to identify with the audience and to represent an ideal sense of humanity for the group (Heilman 7; Steiner 15; Raphael 31; and Leech 33, 46). Both roles have importance for the drama itself. As repre- sentative of the people, the tragic hero’s suffering elicits a sympathetic, emo- tional response from the audience. As an emblem of humanity’s potential, the hero amplifies the consequences resulting from the tragic flaw. Carter’s public persona established him as an ideal candidate for the tragic hero of the Iranian hostage crisis narrative. In his initial bid for the presidency, Carter campaigned as both a common man and an individual destined for greatness. In his announcement speech, Carter identified him- self as “a farmer, an engineer, a businessman, a planner, a scientist, a Governor, and a Christian” (as qtd. in Glad 309). The approach permitted ample opportunity for Carter to identify with the multiple and varied audi- ences on the campaign trail. His presidential campaign stressed themes of hard work and honesty, qualities his ads claimed Carter shared with the American people. Carter’s ads and speeches promised a “president who is not isolated from our people, but who feels your pain and shares your dreams, and takes his strength and wisdom and courage from you” (as qtd. in Jamieson 343). Carter’s introduction to a national audience in his 1976 pres- idential campaign presented an image of him as a man among the people. At the same time, his campaign projected Carter as having the potential for extraordinary leadership. One campaign ad featured Rosalynn Carter explaining, “Jimmy is honest, unselfish, and truly concerned about the coun- try. I think he’ll be a great president” (as qtd. in Jamieson 350). Another used an actor to represent a potential voter in the 1976 presidential election. The ad stated: I’ve always felt that when Franklin Roosevelt died that was the end of the good and great presidents. And then after Harry Truman I thought, well that’s the last of them. And then we had Jack Kennedy. For such a short time, too. I learned something from them. I learned that in the proper time the man and the moment can meet, so to speak, with a vision. Take up a country and lead it to a more secure future. Where the goal truly is justice for all. I look forward to voting for Jimmy Carter. That’s the truth of it. I feel it’s in the air and we are going to have a new Democratic President. In the tradition of the best Democratic presidents. (Qtd. in Glad 353) The ads maintained that Carter had the potential to move beyond the constraints of the common man, both due to his party affiliation and his personal character. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 43
  • 52. After assessing the totality of Carter 1976 presidential campaign materi- als, presidential scholar Betty Glad agrees that Carter’s projected image blended the tragic hero qualities of the real and the ideal. She concluded, “Jimmy Carter’s campaign persona was that of a ‘great man’ destined to be a great president. This man in jeans with red Georgia dust on his work boots offered a set of virtues that were complementary and reassuring. He was self- confident but humble, tough but compassionate, intelligent but still one of the boys, religious but accepting of differences, always working toward what he wanted by not wanting anything for himself. He was, in essence, extraor- dinary but ordinary” (355). The complicated mix allowed for the public to both identify with Carter’s fate during the Iranian hostage crisis and distance itself from eventual responsibility for the ensuing tragedy. The existence of a tragic hero is, by itself, an insufficient condition for achieving the conventions of dramatic tragedy. A second element of tragedy is that such plots must engage narrative themes that transcend transitory political and social conditions. Literary theorists posit that a key factor dis- tinguishing tragedy from melodramas, epics, or tragic irony is subject matter. Tragedies address topics that are timeless and universal. They take up ques- tions such as the relationship of humanity to its environment, humanity’s position within the universe, and the ultimate meaning of life (Muller 14). Problems that are time-bound are not appropriate for tragedy, because their resolution is imminent; those inextricably linked to particular social struc- tures are equally ill suited, given their potential to undergo refinement by the individuals who created them (Vogel 105). At first glance the Iranian hostage crisis might not appear to be appro- priate subject matter for a tragic drama. The seizure of fifty-three Americans for a little more than a year was arguably a time-bound conflict that yielded little insight into humanity’s position in the universe or the ultimate meaning of life. The capture of the US Embassy in Tehran might seem more suited to melodrama, a dramatic form that stresses a victor-victim polarity where “vic- tory is not tempered with the rigors of cost accounting, nor defeat with the reckoning of spiritual growth” (Heilman 87). Despite the apparent difficulties, Carter’s public statements invited the conclusion that the act of holding the embassy personnel was a subject matter befitting tragic drama. From the first days of the crisis, Carter por- trayed the actions of the militants and the Iranian government as transcend- ing the moment. He insisted the situation was “unprecedented in human history” (Public Papers 1979 2:2167), “a departure from accepted custom and tradition down through the centuries” (2162) and “the first time that such an activity has been encouraged by and supported by the government itself (2170). Within the administration’s narrative, the uniqueness of Iran’s breach of diplomatic security did not render the incident an isolated, transi- 44 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 53. tory moment in the history of international relations. Instead, the public dis- course presented the unprecedented nature of the event as a warrant for immediate international condemnation and a historical precedent against such behavior in the future. The seizure of the US Embassy was not only a timeless concern in the Carter narrative; it was also a universal problem. Carter posited that the embassy seizure transcended provincial interpretations relegating the matter to the status of a bilateral conflict. He insisted, “It’s vital to the United States and to every other nation that the lives of diplomatic personnel and other cit- izens abroad be protected and that we refuse to permit the use of terrorism and the seizure and the holding of hostages to impose political demands” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2109). Carter argued from principle that other nations should stand with the United States and oppose Iran. He emphasized that Iran’s violation transcended any one social structure, because the embassy seizure opposed essential principles of international law, diplomatic tradi- tions, human rights, the Islamic faith, common ethical and religious founda- tions, and human decency. Carter elevated the matter to an issue of international survival, pronouncing, “Iran today stands in arrogant defiance of the world community. It has shown contempt not only for international law but for the entire international structure for securing the peaceful resolu- tion of difference among nations” (2277). For Carter, the seizure of the American hostages was not a parochial concern. The event in his depiction was steeped in timeless relevance for the entire international community; in short, it was appropriate content for tragic drama. The presence of universal subject matter, while important, is also insuf- ficient to create a dramatic tragedy. A certain progression of the plot must also be present to designate something suitable for dramatic tragedy. The lit- erary theorist Dorothea Krook identifies four fundamental elements that must be present for a tragedy to exist. These include the act of shame or horror, the resulting suffering from that act, the knowledge of the funda- mental human condition generated from that suffering, and the affirmation or reaffirmation of the dignity of the human spirit resulting from the knowl- edge gained (8–9). She maintains that the four elements are interrelated, “separable in analysis but not in experience” (9). Hence, the following analy- sis examines each of the four elements discretely, first expanding on their generic qualities and then applying them to the Carter’s administration’s nar- rative of the Iranian hostage crisis. Early in a tragic drama, the hero undertakes an act of shame or horror involving a betrayal or rejection of the fundamental nature of humanity (Krook 10–11). The act is possible because of the tragic hero has free will even within the universe of constrained options. The hero discovers quickly that his available choices are limited and that his own powers are finite. The The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 45
  • 54. resulting act, as Aristotle reminds us, is brought on “not by vice and deprav- ity but by some great error of judgment” (238). Once put into motion, the act becomes the catalyst for all future actions of the tragic drama, a set of events that lead to disaster and a downward spiral beyond the capacity of the tragic hero to control. The act of shame in the Iranian hostage crisis was Carter’s decision of October 22, 1979 to allow the shah of Iran, Mohammad Reza Pahlavi, to enter the United States to receive medical treatment for cancer. Carter’s senior aides have confirmed that while the president made the choice to permit the shah to come to the United States, he did so reluctantly, given few feasible alternatives available. Hamilton Jordan reported that Carter strongly preferred that the shah live abroad to improve the chances America could rebuild its relationship with Iran. He only changed his mind once administration officials had verified the shah’s dangerous medical condition and the group had received Iranian assurances that they would protect the US Embassy in Tehran (Jordan 31-32). The decision to allow the shah to enter the United States functioned as the act of betrayal, given Carter’s commitment to international human rights. The shah’s historical record of human rights abuses in Iran, coupled with his refusal to transfer his powers to the Iranian government, made him a difficult ally for a US president publicly proclaiming to be a defender of international human rights. Since 1953, when the Eisenhower administration ordered the CIA overthrow of Iranian leader Mohammed Mossadegh, the shah had ruled Iran with brutality and torture designed to quell political dissent (Roosevelt 90). The US government subsequently defended the shah, despite his barbarity with the Iranian people. Carter’s infamous 1978 New Year’s Eve toast praised Iran as “an island of stability in a turbulent part of the corner of the world,” a line anonymously added to the original draft of the speech prepared by the State Department and the National Security Council on board Air Force One during the trip from Warsaw to Tehran. To date, no official on the flight has publicly accepted responsibility for the wording change (Sick, All Fall Down 344). Having established human rights as a cor- nerstone of his foreign policy, Carter’s close association with the shah of Iran qualified as a tragic act of shame. As expected in the tragic genre, Carter’s act of shame became the cata- lyst for all future acts in the Iranian hostage drama. Initially, Carter’s public statements were consistent with the tragic hero who has yet to come to knowledge and understanding that his own actions contributed to his fate. Carter resisted any insinuation that he had backed away from his commitment to human rights. He insisted that the shah’s past human rights abuses of the Iranian people were “ancient history” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:307) and he was not interested in “trying to resolve whether 46 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 55. or not the Shah was a good or bad leader” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2205). Carter tried to recast his decision in positive terms, maintaining that his decision to permit the entry of the shah was a direct result of his commit- ment to human rights. Having linguistically transformed the shah from a public to a private figure, Carter announced he had “no regrets about it nor apologies to make because it did help to save a man’s life, and it was com- patible with the principles of our country” (2169). In the early months of the crisis, Carter maintained his complete lack of responsibility for having instigated the hostage crisis. Members of the Carter administration strived to prevent public discus- sion of the shah’s governance as the precipitating act of the crisis. In a mem- orandum written in January 1980, Assistant to the President Al McDonald reminded Carter, “The Iranian issue is one of hostage release, not the reign of the Shah” (Memo to President). In accordance with McDonald’s advice, the administration demanded publicly that the release of all the hostages was a necessary precondition for consideration of any other issues. References by administration officials to the previous reign of the shah did not appear in prepared statements. The former Iranian regime was mentioned infrequently and only in response to pointed questions from White House reporters. When those outside the administration attempted to raise the topic of the shah’s reign, the administration was vigorous in its defense of the deci- sion to admit the shah into the United States. Carter publicly and strongly denounced Ted Kennedy, his Democratic primary opponent in the 1980 elections, for making the statement reported over the Tehran International Service that “The American people are now blaming those who agreed to accommodate the deposed Shah” (“Iran-Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, III”). Categorically, he insisted that Kennedy’s denouncements “have not been true, they’ve not been accurate, and they’ve not been responsible, and they’ve not helped our country” (Carter, Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:308). The administration wanted no insinuation that Carter’s decision was responsible for the hostage crisis; aides crafted their rhetoric to foreclose all public dis- cussion of US culpability. While Carter refused publicly to admit that his decision regarding the shah had contributed to the onset of the hostage crisis, he was willing to confess he had erred when he decided to trust the Iranian government. Carter recalled, “We had received repeated assurances of protection from the highest officials in the Iranian Government, even a day or two before the mob was incited to attack and before the protection was withdrawn at the last minute” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2124). By focusing on his own will- ingness to take the Iranians at their word, Carter publicly bolstered his commitment to the principles of respect and dignity that undergirded his human rights policy. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 47
  • 56. Carter’s public statements aside, previously classified memoranda from his administration confirm that the decision to admit the shah resulted in the subsequent spiral of disastrous events. The shah’s presence in the United States was the critical factor preventing the early release of the embassy per- sonnel. By early January 1980, a report entitled Diplomatic Strategy for Iran—The Period Ahead circulated through the offices of Carter’s top aides. It offered insights into the subsequent negotiating postures assumed by the various players in the hostage crisis. The report reasoned, “Our assessment of the basic situation in Tehran is unchanged. The militants have the hostages and will not let them go unless either the Shah is returned or Khomeini tells them to. Khomeini will not tell them to unless he gets the Shah. The Revolutionary Council wants to release the hostages in return for a face-saving gesture—an international tribunal, but cannot persuade Khomeini. The U.S. is willing to meet the Council’s terms if the hostages are released first, but not to meet those of Khomeini and the militants. The impasse continues.” According to Carter’s own intelligence, his refusal to return the shah was the key factor in the continued confinement of the American hostages. Heroes in tragic drama, having committed the shameful act that sets off a chain of unfortunate events, must endure agonizing suffering. The necessary suffering can take the form of actual disaster or anticipated catastrophe. The tragic hero can experience the suffering directly or the spectators, who have already perceived the hero’s fall, can experience it indirectly (Palmer 148). Throughout the ordeal, the tragic hero is simultaneously innocent and guilty: innocent by the arbitrary, random nature of his or her lot and the dispropor- tionate level of suffering that he or she must endure; guilty by membership within a guilty society or one where injustices are inescapable (Frye 209; Sewall 72). Sharing in the guilt of the tragic circumstance, the tragic hero serves as a scapegoat who is gradually isolated from society (Sewall 5; Frye 217). The hero endures the devastating fate due to a moral nature that will not permit the use of expediency to escape life’s consequences (Heilman 9). Predictably, the theme of crime and punishment was prevalent in the Carter administration’s depictions of the Iranian hostage crisis. Labeling the seizure an act of kidnapping, blackmail, and extortion, Carter maintained the embassy takeover constituted “a criminal act” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:36), “an illegal incarceration” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2242), and an “illegal and outrageous holding of the innocent hostages” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:611). Carter placed the full blame for the criminal act on Iran, insisting, “The Government of Iran must recognize the gravity of the situation, which it has itself created” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2168). Because Iran had committed a heinous criminal act, the administration’s narrative called for the foreign nation’s punishment. As a matter of US 48 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 57. policy, Carter maintained, “failure to release the hostages will involve increasingly heavy costs to Iran” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:2141). By July 1980, Carter publicly evaluated the strategy of punishment as successful: “We are punishing Iran severely for holding the hostages. It’s costing them literally millions of dollars every day in lost revenue, lost trade, a poorer qual- ity of life for their people. Their Government is divided, they’re in chaos politically, because they’re holding these hostages” (2:1312). According to the administration’s narrative, Iran’s economic suffering was warranted due to the fact that the guilt for the crisis was Iran’s, and Iran’s alone. By contrast, the administration’s narrative portrayed the United States as an innocent victim in the conflict. Statements from the White House were adamant that the detention of the hostages was “without justification” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2141). Carter defended the United States as the “aggrieved party” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:36), maintaining the United States had “done nothing and will do nothing that could be used to justify violent or imprudent action by anyone” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2123). After the militant Iranians produced a purported State Department cable proving the hostages were CIA officers operating under diplomatic cover, adminis- tration officials declined to even dignify the charge with a statement (“Iran- Cravath, Swaine, and Moore, I”). Instead, the administration argued that every international forum (e.g., the United Nations Security Council and the International Court of Justice) had upheld the guilt of Iran and the inno- cence of the United States. By depicting the United States as the innocent party, the administration strived to avert its own public condemnation for the downward spiral of events in Iran. While deflecting personal responsibility for the hostage crisis, Carter did acknowledge that certain actions at home had made the nation vulnerable to Iran’s illegal actions. Carter focused on how the nation’s overreliance on for- eign oil had left it exposed to the transgressions of militant actors in the Middle East. Carter reasoned, “It is our entire Nation which is vulnerable, because of our overwhelming and excessive dependence on oil from foreign countries” (Public Papers, 1979 2:2168). America was the victim, but one that had the power to change the course of its fate. Carter called for sacrifice by the rank-and-file, encouraging adoption of his conservation plan of gas rationing to avoid future incidents similar to the embassy seizure in Tehran. As the months of the crisis continued, it was Carter himself who accepted suffering to account for the events in Iran. The administration’s narrative portrayed Carter’s sacrifice as occurring on many levels. Personally, he had to endure the agony of his own inability to protect Americans abroad. Carter admitted that the hostage crisis was “a problem that [was] always on [his] mind” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:1907). He depicted the depth of his concern by emphasizing, “It’s as though those hostages were members of my The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 49
  • 58. own family, my own sons and daughters” (1641). By personalizing the tragedy, Carter displayed the suffering expected in a tragic drama. On a political level, Carter suffered a reduced level of public confidence in his ability to lead the nation. Much of the criticism focused on the han- dling of the Iranian hostage crisis itself. Five days after the seizure of the embassy, Carter received written notification from Representative George Hanson that he planned to introduce a congressional resolution of impeach- ment if stronger and more effective action was not forthcoming. As the crisis lingered, members of the press and his political opponents criticized him for having “been too patient” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:670). By the first week of January 1980, Lou Harris offered an internal administration assess- ment of a ABC-News Harris Survey that Carter’s political fate would only get worse: “[T]he American people are beginning to run out of patience with President Carter’s handling of the hostage crisis in Iran. A 53-27 percent majority now feels that if ‘in three weeks, the hostages are still held by Iran and it does not appear that any real progress has been made in getting their release,’ then President Carter’s policy on the Iran crisis has been a failure. If the stalemate continues on for another three months, then an even higher 78-12 percent majority would then view the President’s efforts as a failure.” A top secret review of foreign policy presented at the March 25, 1980 meet- ing of Carter’s Special Coordinating Committee for the crisis confirmed the pollster’s prediction: “On a number of specific issues, notably Iran and the Middle East, we are in fact losing momentum, with potentially very destruc- tive consequences for our interests” (Foreign Policy: Coherence and Sense of Direction). By July 1980, Carter’s approval rating had fallen to an all-time low of twenty-one percent (Greenstein 139). The public’s perception of Carter as an indecisive leader unable to effectuate the release of the hostages was a key component of the suffering he endured. The administration highlighted the arbitrary nature of Carter’s fate when the rescue mission failed to obtain the release of the American hostages. Carter described the reason the mission failed as “we were just plagued by bad luck” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:883). He noted that the source of the problem was equipment failure, not a lack of commitment, courage, or ability on the part of the president or the involved members of the armed services. The rescue mission had presented Carter with the oppor- tunity to display his effectiveness as a leader, but he again fell victim to the arbitrary fate of the drama’s tragic hero. In accordance with the expectation of tragic form, the administration’s narrative presented Carter’s sacrifice not only as arbitrary, but unjust and dis- proportionate as well. Carter publicly admitted that the Iranian hostage crisis had made him vulnerable in his 1980 reelection bid. He reinforced that mes- sage when he adopted the Rose Garden strategy of remaining at the White 50 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 59. House to respond to the hostage crisis rather than campaigning in primaries across the nation. He stressed his willingness to endure the consequences of the isolation when he stated, “I think at this time it’s better for me to take that political sacrifice, accept fewer votes and fewer delegates, in order to carry out my duties as President” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:733). Appropriate to the role of the tragic hero, Carter publicly accepted the unjust nature of his isolation and sacrifice. Behind the scenes, some in the administration were unwilling to accept Carter’s political sacrifice. Consider the administration’s response to charges that Carter planned to manipulate events in the hostage crisis to assure his reelection bid. Jack Anderson and Dale Van Atta were the first journalists to document the charges in a series of newspaper articles written for United Feature Syndicate (scheduled for release on August 19–23, 1980). Their articles announced “a startling Carter plan to invade Iran and create a mili- tary crisis on the eve of the presidential election” (“Anderson, Jack. Planned Oct. Invasion”). The White House responded by categorically denying the allegation. It issued the following statement: “Erroneous and totally irresponsible reports such as the Anderson column increase the danger to the American hostages in Iran, impede efforts to obtain their release peacefully, and jeopardize American interests in the area generally” (Carter, Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:1545). The deputy press secretary, Rex Granum, sent a telegram to Sidney Goldberg, the vice president and managing editor of United Feature Syndicate, requesting that the organization withdraw the column altogether or that it send a telegram to each recipient of the article with copies of the White House’s response (“Anderson, Jack. Planned Oct. Invasion”). Many newspapers and magazines, including the Washington Post, refused to print the series of columns. The administration’s emphatic response was consistent with the expectation that a tragic hero would not compromise moral princi- ple to engage in actions of political expediency. After conducting subsequent interviews with both the journalists responsible for the story and the relevant members of the Carter administra- tion, the former National Security Council staff member Gary Sick con- cluded, “Anderson’s charges were indeed false. No invasion of Iran was planned, for October or any other time. His description of the operation, however, did bear at least some resemblance to the plan for the second rescue mission” (October Surprise 25). Sick’s conclusion underscored Carter’s unjust suffering by documenting the unfair nature of the attacks the president had to endure. Ironically, the categorical denial of the White House was also false. The administration insisted in its denial that “neither the President nor any other responsible official has expressed any intention to take such an action either in The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 51
  • 60. October or any other time” (Carter, Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:1545; emphasis mine). In a memorandum written August 7, 1980, less than two weeks before the White House denial, Brzezinski had reminded Carter, “Foreign policy should offer you the greatest opportunity for the exercise of Presidential leadership, in a manner that could significantly influence the outcome of the elections” (Memo to the President, 8/7/80). In the memo he went on to describe six dangers that might occur in the international arena, “the handling of which could decisively affect the outcome of the elections.” One of the six dangers included developments related to the hostage crisis. Trigger events included that a hostage would be placed on trial, would die, or would disappear. After itemizing the six dangers, Brzezinski followed imme- diately by saying, “All of the above could also offer opportunities for decisive leadership. Such a reaction could galvanize national support and cause a patriotic upsurge. Thus, on the hostage issue we should at least have the option to take prompt military action, either through a blockade or (perhaps) the seizure of Kharg Island. I believe that you should ask Harold Brown to take some quiet steps to make sure that prompt military action could be initi- ated in the event of such a crisis.” Kharg Island was notably one of the potential locations of the planned attack that Anderson and Van Atta had specified (“Anderson, Jack. Planned Oct. Invasion”) and the one named in Brzezinski’s memo to Carter (8/11/80). Brzezinski’s statements leave little doubt that a Carter administration official had indeed expressed the inten- tion to plan for an invasion of Iran for political effect, the “responsible offi- cial” qualifier of the administration’s denial notwithstanding. Within the conventions of tragic drama, the value of the tragic hero’s suffering is that it produces knowledge. The hero and/or the spectators of the drama develop an understanding for both the nature of the world and humanity’s place within it (Palmer 147). Tragic heroes ordinarily come to understand the finiteness of their powers (Vogel 115; Leech 40; Heilman 153). Spectators of the drama see evil and good in unprecedented ways (Sewall 23–24; Krook 13). Aristotle advises that discovery is not a simple process when he writes, “[O]f all recognitions, the best is that which arises from the incidents themselves, where the startling discovery is made by nat- ural means” (86). Knowledge thus gained through the events of the drama is particularly resonant, because it appears less contrived. Carter’s failed rescue mission functioned as the event that led to his public acknowledgment of America’s limited power. Prior to the mission, Carter hailed the wide range of options the United States had for asserting leverage on Iran to release the hostages. Publicly, he detailed his systematic process of exhausting diplomatic and economic alternatives before exercising military options sufficient to obtain the hostages’ release. Once the mission failed, however, the internal public affairs strategy designed to explain the 52 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 61. timing of the military endeavor unveiled the administration’s own acknowl- edgment of its impotence to impact the hostage situation: What are the reasons for the decision: 1) the failure of all diplo- matic efforts; 2) the absence of any reason to believe that the hostages would be released at any time in the foreseeable future; 3) the danger posed to the hostages by the deteriorating situation in Iran; 4) the obvious complications associated with the military interdiction of commerce; 5) the need to resolve a crisis that was heightening tensions in an already volatile and vital region; 6) the need to remove a situation that complicated relationships among friends and allies; 7) the judgment of the president and senior mil- itary and defense advisors that the rescue operation was a sound and feasible plan; and 8) concern for the physical and psychological effect on the hostages of prolonged captivity. (McDonald, Memo to Senior Staff and Deputies) Having previously argued that the administration had exhausted all diplo- matic and economic means prior to the rescue attempt, Carter offered little hope through his public assurance the nation would continue to pursue peaceful and diplomatic means in the mission’s aftermath. Carter’s recogni- tion that America’s powers were insufficient to resolve the crisis was evident in his national address reporting the decision to abort the rescue mission. In what would become a prophetic statement, Carter explained the rescue team “knew then what hopes of mine and of all Americans they carried with them” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:772). Like America’s influence over the hostage crisis, Carter’s political hopes crashed with the helicopters into the Iranian desert. Through the remainder of the crisis, Carter discussed the limits on the government’s ability to obtain the hostages’ release. Publicly, he accepted that the matter was “not in [his] hands” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:1827). He recognized “We must expect prolonged management of seemingly intractable situations and often contradictory realities” (1:873). He indicated that he was praying that the nation’s diplomatic overtures and economic sanctions, as well as other world events, would convince the Iranians to return the hostages. While the public enactment of Carter’s discovery coincided with the rescue mission, the administration’s internal documents suggested the actual moment of revelation came several months beforehand. A telegram sent to the Swiss ambassador outlining the US negotiating position in February 1980 revealed that the administration was willing to accept partial responsi- bility for the US conflict with Iran. In a straightforward repudiation of the 1953 CIA operation to influence the Iranian elections, the transmission The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 53
  • 62. noted, “The US administration is prepared to make a statement at an appro- priate moment that it understands the grievances felt by the people of Iran, and that it respects the integrity of Iran, and the right of the people of Iran to choose their own form of Government” (Telegram to Swiss Amb. Lang). Accepting the legitimacy of Iranian claims, the telegram inferentially acknowledged the precipitating role of the United States in the resulting hostage crisis in Iran. The final generic convention of tragic drama involves affirmation or reaffirmation of human dignity. After the tragic hero suffers and comes to an understanding of personal responsibility for his or her own condition, the audience might reasonably expect to feel depression or sadness. Instead, tragedies end with what Aristotle called catharsis (230), a paradoxical finality alternatively described by literary theorists as a balance between pleasure and pain, imperative and impulse, spiritual victory and natural defeat, attraction and repulsion, or affirmation of self and suicide (Heilman 9; Raphael 15; Palmer 112). By accepting suffering as both necessary and a result of the hero’s actions, societal purification occurs. No resurrection of the hero is pos- sible, as no solution exists to the catastrophic consequences that he or she must endure. But the society, now estranged from the hero, transcends the existing moral order. It develops a stronger sense of human dignity, having observed the hero’s courageous confrontation with disaster (Steiner 129). The administration’s narrative employed the theme of reaffirmation in the immediate aftermath of the attempted rescue mission. After visiting the five men who were injured in the rescue attempt, Carter elevated the partici- pating members of the armed forces into models for all Americans in difficult times. He affirmed, “[W]e are reinspired and rededicated to freedom and the responsibilities of a free nation in a democracy by the self-sacrificial and heroic attitude of these men” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:786). At the eulogy for the American servicemen killed in Iran, Carter stressed the role that duty must play in the nation’s consciousness. He emphasized, “[W]e know that it is not the length of a life that determines its impact or its meaning or its qual- ity, but the depth of its commitment and the height of its purpose” (864). Carter defined the pursuit of duty and responsibility to be laudable ends worth pursuing. He reasoned in his first news conference after the rescue mis- sion, “There is a deeper failure than that of incomplete success, and that is the failure to attempt a worthy effort, a failure to try” (793). Carter implied that both the members of the rescue team and he himself had sacrificed to purge American society of its collective guilt for the events in Iran. Carter argued that reaffirmation required a steadfast commitment to the international goals of freedom, dignity, and human rights. Carter explicitly defined the future duty of the nation when he said, “We do not maintain our power in order to seize power from others. Our goal was to strengthen our 54 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 63. own freedom and the freedom of others, to advance the dignity of the indi- vidual and the right of all people to justice, to a good life, and to a future secure from tyranny. In choosing our course in the world, America’s strength must be used to serve America’s values” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 2:1556). In his farewell address to the nation, he cautioned against temptations to abandon such principles during difficult times. Instead, he steadfastly main- tained, “We should never be surprised nor discouraged, because the impact of our efforts has had and will always have varied results. Rather, we should take pride that the ideals that gave birth to our Nation still inspire the hopes of oppressed people around the world. We have no cause for self-righteous- ness or complacency, but we have every reason to persevere, both in our own country and beyond our borders” (3:2892). Through a reaffirmation of cher- ished American values, Carter provided a means of spiritual rebirth even as American society was in the midst of its second stunning foreign policy defeat in a decade. Like tragic dramas more generally, the Carter administration narrative for the Iranian hostage crisis included an act of shame, inevitable suffering, acquisition of knowledge, and value reaffirmation. The rhetorical approach reinforced that the ongoing battle against terrorism would involve catharsis, i.e., the pain of periodic setbacks coupled with the pleasure of defending the nation’s foundational ideals. IDEOLOGY AND THE IRANIAN HOSTAGE CRISIS Action in tragic dramas rarely focuses on ideological conflicts. The responsi- bility for society’s ills falls on an individual (the tragic hero), rather than on an opposing culture. Tragic heroes, as representative of humanity’s potential, avoid politically expedient clashes of culture and, instead, emphasize tran- scendent moral themes. As T. R. Henn, a fellow at Cambridge University, posits, “[W]hile it might be reasonable to expect that tragedies will be writ- ten concerning conflict which will necessarily accumulate on the periphery of such ideological situations, we shall not expect the central conflicts to be sus- ceptible of tragic statement” (248). Consistent with the traditions of tragic drama, the Carter public communication strategy generally avoided ideologi- cal depictions of the Iranian hostage crisis. Remaining on the outskirts of an ideological conflict, however, would not be easy for the Carter team. The administration faced a hostage crisis staged as ideological warfare by opposing forces within just a few days of the embassy takeover. On November 22, 1979, the Ayatollah Khomeini labeled the crisis a de facto “war between Islam and the pagans” (“Iran-Cravath, Swaine, and Moore I”). The following day, the Tehran International Service The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 55
  • 64. quoted Khomeini identifying a series of steps all Muslims should follow: “(1) All Muslim officers must attack with their weapons against U.S. imperialism and its agents in Muslim countries and must support the Iranian people in battle. (2) All Muslims must demonstrate against the U.S. and its agents in Muslim countries in order to make the U.S. under- stand that Iran is not alone. (3) All U.S. interests, embassies and estab- lishments in Muslim countries must be destroyed” (as qtd. in “Iran-Cravath, Swaine, and Moore III”). By the next day, Khomeini charged that the United States and Israel had attempted to seize Moslem mosques in Mecca and Medina. Some mul- lahs throughout Iran began equating a visit to the US Embassy in Iran with a pilgrimage to Mecca (Taheri 124). Gary Sick has described the difficulties the administration faced when he wrote: “Khomeini was a total ideologue. He saw the world through the exclusive prism of his own beliefs, separating events into opposites: right or wrong, good or bad, black or white. And since he considered his ideology divinely ordained, he was the most danger- ous of all ideologues” (All Fall Down 219). Given Khomeini’s status as pri- mary religious leader for many Iranian fundamentalists, his ideological depiction of the contest became a notable factor in the world’s perception of the hostage crisis. The captors who held the embassy publicly reflected Khomeini’s fram- ing of the crisis. They called for mourning possessions carrying flags of mar- tyrdom and revolution as a show of Muslim unity against the United States. They announced that anyone insulting or using obscene language about the policies of the Imam should be considered an agent of the CIA or SAVAK, the brutal military police organization of the shah. Even when they announced the humane treatment of the hostages, the captors were careful to clarify that such action was not a capitulation to the United States; it was an act consistent with Muslim ideology (“Iran-Cravath, Swaine, and Moore I”). Khomeini and the captors elevated the international stakes of the conflict by raising the act of hostage taking to a clash of cultures. The calls from Khomeini and the embassy captors resonated throughout much of the Middle East. A telegram from the Chargé d’affaires Bruce Laingen to Cyrus Vance assessed the sentiment in Iran less than a month after the embassy takeover. He warned, “Khomeini and his entourage of cler- ics have skillfully used the seizure of our embassy, charges that our diplomats are spies, and our refusal to hand over the shah to develop a mass psychology of hate that may have few parallels in history [...]. In Pakistan, hundreds stormed the US Embassy, killing one American and trapping dozens of embassy personnel in a vault for five hours. Pakistanis also attacked the US Consulate in Karachi, the American Library in Lahore, and the American Cultural Center in Rawalpindi. In Beirut, fifty Iranian students marched on 56 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 65. the US Embassy, tore the US seal off the building, and burned an American flag. In Libya, approximately two thousand demonstrators marched on the US Embassy in Tripoli, chanting support for the Iranians and setting fire to the embassy’s furniture. Amid the chants of “Death to America” and “the Great Satan” in various quarters around the Middle East, the Carter admin- istration faced a ready-made ideological battle with the Muslim world. Both Carter and his key advisors recognized the importance of fore- stalling a clash of Islam with the United States. Strategically, they believed the United States could ill afford to make an enemy of the entire Muslim world, given the dependence on Middle Eastern oil both at home and by key allies abroad. A top-secret internal report entitled Foreign Policy: Coherence and Sense of Direction offered the following assessment: “The stakes are so great (even greater to Western Europe and Japan which are far more depen- dent on Middle East oil) that it is strategically imperative the U.S. orches- trate a credible response with our Allies and (to the extent feasible) the nations of the region—and that we then together can carry out that response.” The administration’s cost-benefit analysis strongly argued against broadening the conflict from Iran to the broader Muslim community. Accordingly, the administration attempted to deflect attention away from ideological interpretations of the struggle. Charged with providing Carter daily policy advice regarding the Iranian hostage crisis, the Special Coordinating Committee (SCC) reported its consensus that the president should “reaffirm that the U.S. has no quarrel with the people of Islam, has long-standing ties with Islam, and great respect for the principles of the faith” (Donovan). Noting that Carter was in full agreement with the SCC, Harold Saunders recalled, “The President wanted at a minimum to be sure that, in dealing with the Iranian revolutionaries, we did not do or say things that would make us seem at odds with the whole Islamic world” (“Diplomacy and Pressure” 124). Consistent with the character of the tragic hero, Carter held to a pragmatic, rather than an ideological, approach to the public policy governance of the Iranian situation (Morris 260). Multiple public statements by administration officials during the hostage crisis stressed the mutual interests of the United States, Iran, and the remainder of the Muslim world. The State Department, for example, orga- nized a reception for all the faculties of Islamic Studies in the Washington, DC area. Held in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, the event fea- tured Carter addressing the group in celebration of the close and valued ties between America and the Muslim world. He told his audience, “We share, first and foremost, a deep faith in the one Supreme Being. We are all com- manded by Him to faith, compassion and justice. We have a common respect and reverence for the law. Despite the strains of the modern age, we continue to place special importance on the family and the home. And we The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 57
  • 66. share a belief that hospitality is a virtue and that the host, whether a nation or an individual, should behave with generosity and honor toward guests” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:284). Carter closed his remarks with an expression of his continued interest in developing closer political, eco- nomic, and cultural ties with Islamic nations. His message was straightfor- ward: the United States wished to continue its relationship with Muslim nations around the globe despite the tensions resulting from the Iranian hostage crisis. Administration officials felt so strongly about the consequences of alienating Muslim countries that they attempted to influence the American media’s reporting of the hostage crisis. Aides asked reporters to avoid depic- tions of the events in Iran as a clash between the United States and the Muslim world. Harold Saunders was ardent in a press background briefing of December 6, 1979: “The issue has little to do with religion, although the Iranian authorities have cast the issue on religious terms. [. . .] It seems to me that in the interest of sound reporting, whether it be our official com- mentary or your reporting of the situation, we all might together reflect on our own practice in using words like ‘Muslim’ or ‘Islamic’ to generalize about what has been called the crescent of the crisis. This is not principally, I think, an issue between Islamic nations and the U.S.” (Saunders, Press Backgrounder). He then reminded the press that the United States still enjoyed strong relations with other Muslim states and that many Arab gov- ernments had denounced the holding of hostages as a violation of interna- tional law and diplomatic practice. The Carter administration used expanded Voice of America broadcasts to send a conciliatory message to the people of Iran directly. Having elimi- nated Persian programming due to lack of funding prior to the crisis, the administration resumed running half-hour, indigenous language programs to Iranian audiences. In November 1979, the Voice of America programs inter- viewed leading Muslims discussing U.S.-Iranian relations and their unfavor- able reaction to the taking of the hostages (Reinhardt, Memo to Brzezinski). On a more long-term basis, James M. Rentschler, the director of the International Communication Agency, recommended to Brzezinski on December 3, 1979, that the United States needed to develop programming stressing American identification with Islam. As he stated, “It should not be too difficult for ICA people to devise a series of programs, valid over the next one to five years, which point up the commonality of values, spiritual and secular, that link our societies.” By stressing identification, rather than divi- sion, the administration hoped to strengthen ties between the United States and Iran and further America’s long-range interests in the Middle East. The orchestrated effort to diffuse the contest between the United States and the Muslim world was not the only potential ideological conflict facing 58 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 67. the Carter administration. The potential clash with a joint Muslim/Com- munist enemy was perhaps even more ominous. From Carter’s first days in office, the administration identified Iran as the most likely spot for conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. As Colonel William E. Odom, member of the National Security Advisor’s staff, recalled, “In the regional areas of East-West competition, the largest strategic stakes and the most fragile situation was in Iran and the Persian Gulf area.” As early as November 1978, Carter’s diary recorded his concern the Soviet leadership would intervene in Iran (Keeping Faith 440). The Soviet move was not only one of high probability; it was one with high stakes as well. Internal administration analyses detailing the dangerous consequences of a Soviet takeover of Iran reasoned, “In geo-political terms, the Soviets would be in a position from Iran to dominate the Middle East and South Asia, and ultimately to deny Gulf oil to the West. [. . .] A suc- cessful Soviet operation in Iran, even if it did not lead to a cut-off of other Gulf oil, would affect the power balance almost as decisively as a long-term disruption of that supply” (“Iran-11/79”). A top-secret report of the SCC added a projection of the economic impact of a Soviet movement into the Iran: “The effect of Soviet control of [Persian Gulf oil], either through overt military action or by internal subversion or political intimidation, would destroy the free market economies and dissolve our alliances in Europe and in East Asia” (Building Up Our Deterrent Capabilities). Administration officials saw Iran as pivotal for the very survival of American influence around the world. US intelligence reports confirmed the Soviet Union was attempting to capitalize on the Iranian hostage crisis to improve its standing in the Muslim world. Even before the seizure of the embassy, the Soviet Union had ordered its leftist, pro-Soviet elements in Iran to participate in revolutionary demon- strations against the shah and had promised Soviet assistance and material support for a left-wing coup expected sometime in 1979 (Middle East Bureau). In the early days after the embassy seizure, Carter’s chief of the Covert Action Staff reported that FBI summaries of National Voice of Iran clandestine broadcasting from the Soviet Union came “close to saying Iran has support and will be protected by the USSR.” After assessing all FBI summary reports of Soviet clandestine broadcasting to Iran from November 1979 through March 1980, a National Security Council staff member Paul Henze concluded, “[T]he Soviets have not only done nothing to help us in the Iranian hostage situation—they have persistently and insidiously done their damnedest to stir up Iranian opinion against us” (Memo to Brzezinski 4/7/80). Using available intelligence at the time, officials in the Carter administration believed the Soviet Union was a palpable threat to Iran and the rest of the Middle East. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 59
  • 68. The Iranians who worked with the Carter administration attempted to exploit the struggle between the United States and the Soviet Union by invoking the use of ideological terminology. The shah himself blamed the rise of the revolution on enforcement of laws designed to undermine Communist influence in Iran (Carter, Keeping Faith). Both the shah and intermediaries of the Iranian government subsequently told Carter aides that the militants who held the embassy were Communists or had Marxist lean- ings (Washburn, Memo to Precht). The Iranian foreign minister Sadegh Ghotbzadeh relayed an account of being kicked out of the embassy com- pound by “those idiot communists” after demanding that the captors allow an international commission to visit the hostages (Sick, Memo to Brzezinski). Ghotbzadeh argued the United States should work through him to release the hostages, because he remained the “main obstacle to commu- nist influence in the new revolutionary regime” (qtd. in Precht). By April 1980, US assessments did not accept the ideological conclusions of the for- eign minister. Instead, they concluded his argument was simply designed to induce the United States to be more flexible in its negotiations with Iranian intermediaries (ibid.). While members of the administration did accept that the Soviet Union was a threat to Iran, they were reluctant to conclude that a Communist nation was coordinating the events of the hostage crisis. Carter was initially reluctant to publicly fuel the ideological conflict between the United States and the Soviet Union. Having invested much of his own political capital in the SALT II arms control treaty, Carter initially preferred alternative explanations for the Soviets’ behavior. After the Soviets first entered Afghanistan, Carter used labels such as “Soviet military inter- vention,” “Soviet invasion,” and “Soviet action” (See Public Papers, 1980– 1981 1:194–200, 21–24) to depict the move. The approach steered away from an ideological frame that would have depicted the conflict as a contest between Communism and democracy. Publicly, Carter did not recall the Soviet Union’s history of aggression or its current adventurism as an integral part of the Communist ideology, opting instead for the pragmatic explana- tion that the Soviet Union sought direct access to oil reserves of the Persian Gulf (38–42). Early on, Carter acted to avoid a clash of cultures, leaving open the possibility for improved relations in the future. Eventually, Carter did adopt the rhetorical strategy of ideological war- fare to portray the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan. The timing of his shift coincided with the International Olympic Coordinating Committee’s refusal of his request to move the 1980 Moscow games to Athens, Greece. Cognizant of Hitler’s celebration of Nazism at the 1936 Berlin games, Carter called on all democratic nations to refuse to send their flags to the Soviet Union in protest of the Afghanistan invasion (Public Papers, 1980–1981 1:675). Some of the allies rebuffed Carter’s request, not wanting 60 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 69. to disrupt their trade with the Soviet Union (Drachman and Schank 226–27). Carter’s call for the boycott ultimately resulted in sixty out of a pos- sible one hundred and fourteen countries complying with his request and another sixteen refusing to participate in the opening ceremonies. Unable to rally the entire world community around his boycott of the Olympic games, Carter subsequently became increasingly strident in his por- trayal of the conflict. Facing stiff competition in his 1980 presidential cam- paign, Carter’s campaign trail appeals became increasingly ideological. At a town hall meeting in South Carolina, Carter proclaimed, “When the Soviets went into their neighboring nation, Afghanistan, this was not a triumph of communism, it was an indication of the failure of communism” (Public Papers, 1980–1981 3:2565). Having failed to rally the public behind nonide- ological frameworks for portraying America’s foreign policy challenges, Carter adopted a more aggressive cultural clash strategy with the approach of his final election. Throughout the final year of his presidency, Carter publicly associated the seizure of the US Embassy in Tehran with the Soviet invasion in Afghanistan. He frequently made public statements that described the two international incidents in tandem. When discussing Afghanistan, he stressed many of the themes of tragic drama that he had already rehearsed with the American public in regard to the Iranian hostage crisis. Examples included: (1) the invasion constituted an illegal act that violated international law, (2) the Soviet Union would suffer increasing costs for remaining in Afghanistan, (3) punitive actions by the United States were unlikely to persuade the Soviets to withdraw, and (4) public sacrifice would be necessary during the crisis. Merging the two foreign crises into a single phenomenon of disrespect for international law had the advantage of providing focus to the problem. However, failure to achieve positive results in one crisis reinforced the tragic outcome of the other. By linking the crises, Carter invited his audience to conclude that the American and Islamic cultures were not at war. When speaking to Iranian audiences, Carter administration officials actively engaged in a campaign to present the Soviet Union, not America, as the real threat facing Iran. The strategy, dominant by May 1980, sought to capitalize on the fear Iranian clerics had of the Soviet-dominated Left overtaking Iran (Dodson). In Jody Powell’s statement to David Hartman on Good Morning America, he argued that the Soviet Union, not the United States, was anti-Muslim: “When you have 50,000 troops right across your border who are actively engaged in killing your co-religionists because they wish to practice the same religion that you wish, it seems to me that might be a matter of greater concern than any imagined threat from the United States.” Repeatedly, administration statements referenced the vote of thirty-four Muslim nations in Islamabad The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 61
  • 70. condemning the Soviet Union and calling for a withdrawal of its troops in Afghanistan. By refocusing the conflict as one between Communism and Islam, the Carter administration attempted to de-emphasize the antipathy that existed between Iran and the United States. To broaden the Iranian audience for the anti-Soviet message, Carter approved broadcasts by the Board of International Broadcasting, a unit of the International Communication Agency, in areas adjacent to Iran and Afghanistan. As Harold Saunders revealed, Carter “wanted to take whatever advantage could be taken of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, a nonaligned Islamic nation” (“Diplomacy and Pressure” 124). Carter approved a SCC plan of December 12, 1979 that called for increases in US broadcasts to Muslim audiences, additional transmitters, and additional personnel. The intent of the broadcasts was to underscore the unfavorable treatment of Muslims by the Soviet Union. The plan for the broadcasts was to reiterate that the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan demonstrated the willingness of the current Soviet Union to intervene in the internal affairs of Muslim countries. Recognizing that funding for the Board of International Broadcasting plan was insufficient to accomplish the intended task, Carter requested and received authorization for a substantial increase in funding. On May 8, the House Foreign Affairs Committee authorized additional appropriations of $3 million for FY 1980 and $9.7 million for FY 1981 to the Board for International Broadcasting to provide four new transmitters and additional management and support personnel to enhance broadcasting by Radio Liberty to the Central Asian areas of the Soviet Union, including areas adja- cent to Afghanistan and Iran (“Meetings-SCC 266”). Despite congressional approval, the Office of Management and Budget did not allocate the funding for the project. Perhaps in a final bit of tragic irony, Paul Henze complained in June 1980, “It is exactly six months since President’s approval of expand- ing broadcast to Muslims. Not much has happened as a result. [...] Not a penny has been allocated to expanding Muslim broadcasting staffs and no new transmitters have been leased or otherwise secured” (Memo to Brzezinski, 6/7/80). The choice of a tragic narrative to depict the Iranian hostage crisis appeared in concert with Carter’s reluctance to elevate terrorism into an ide- ological marker of American culture. Terrorism now fell into the same cate- gory as other great tragic themes, such as the relationship of humanity to the environment, the place of humanity within the universe, and the meaning of life. It had become an ongoing crisis of the ages with universal implications. Facing such an important matter, the public began to question why Carter did not take stronger action. Carter’s more pragmatic approach was productive on a policy level. By virtually any objective measure of success in hostage-taking affairs, Carter’s 62 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 71. methods achieved better results than those of his contemporaries who embraced an ideological framing of terrorism. During Carter’s tenure, for example, fewer Americans became hostages, fewer Americans died in foreign captivity, and those who were held spent fewer years in captivity than during Reagan’s presidency. (US Dept. State, “International Terrorism Incidents,” US Dept. State “Casualties”). Nonetheless, it was Carter, the tragic hero, who had to symbolically experience “death” for American society to under- stand its own limits. His own administration’s narrative presented Carter as willing to endure such unjust suffering so that society’s commitment to human dignity could be reaffirmed. The tragic framing of the Iranian hostage crisis positioned Carter for his legacy as a strong ex-president. Because tragic heroes are willing to endure suffering to absolve society’s responsibility for a crisis, they become ennobled even as they are defeated. Their commitment to transcendent moral values, such as human rights, freedom, and dignity for all people, appears all the more substantial given their own willingness to sacrifice on behalf of their principles. Their responsibility to the moral order becomes a defining ele- ment of their character, as does their awareness of and resistance to the short-term temptations of political expediency and ideological confrontation. Recent opinion polls rank Carter as having the highest moral character of any president, a somewhat unsurprising finding for the hero of America’s modern tragic drama (Schulman M1). Carter’s approach to the Iranian hostage crisis limited America’s response options to those that responded directly to the proven perpetrators of a criminal act of terrorism. Not wanting to risk more clashes with Muslim nations around the globe, he refused to fully employ the ideological power of the terrorism label. His successor would not be so restrained. The Iranian Hostage Crisis: An American Tragedy 63
  • 72. 4 Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph: The Reagan Era During the 1980 presidential campaign, Ronald Reagan promised the American public that, unlike Carter, he knew the answers to the nation’s terrorism problem. Once elected, however, Reagan experienced a sharp increase in global terrorism. Attacks against Americans and their prop- erty rose from eight and a half percent of the world total in the five years immediately preceding Reagan’s tenure to between twenty and thirty-five percent from 1983 to 1988 (Terrorist Incidents). More than five thousand terrorist attacks occurred worldwide. The Middle East became a focal point of terrorism, serving as the site of thirty-five percent of all international inci- dents and the source of about one fourth of all attacks in Europe (Middle East and Terrorism). Over 550 Americans lost their lives in terrorist attacks during the Reagan era (Turner 24). Iran’s celebrated release of American hostages on Reagan’s inauguration day foreshadowed the public prominence the topic would have throughout the remainder of his presidency. Reagan gave literally hundreds of public statements addressing the topic. A dozen specific acts of terrorism domi- nated Reagan’s discourse, all involving the deaths of Americans outside the United States. In the substantial majority of Reagan’s speeches, he discussed incidents that occurred in two regions of the world: Central America and the Middle East. One particular Central American incident captured congressional and public attention. It involved the murder of four American churchwomen by the El Salvadoran National Guard in December 1980. The nuns’ previous work with the poor had raised local suspicions that they were rebel sympa- thizers, a position reinforced by initial administration statements on the sub- ject (Arnson 62–63). While the executive branch assured Congress that the government of El Salvador was conducting a full investigation, the Salvadorans were actually engaged in a cover-up that included job transfers 65
  • 73. for confessed killers and a weapons exchange designed to avoid ballistics detection. The perpetrators were eventually brought to justice, but not until the US government obtained the names of the murderers, turned them over to the El Salvadoran military, and insisted upon arrests (Leogrande 93–94). The Reagan administration, with its well-known support of the El Salvadoran government, faced embarrassment as a result of the incident. In the Middle East, the frequency and deadliness of terrorist attacks spiked after Israel responded to terrorist raids across its border by invading Lebanon in June 1982 (Hougan). The resulting violence prompted the United States to send the Marines into Lebanon as part of a multinational peacekeeping force. On April 18, 1983, a suicide bomber, allegedly moti- vated by the desire to drive the United States out of Lebanon and to punish America for supporting Iraq in the Iran-Iraq war, rammed a van loaded with TNT explosives into the front of the US Embassy in West Beirut (Oakley). The attack killed sixty-seven people, including seventeen Americans. In an October 11, 1985 press briefing, Secretary of Defense Casper Weinberger claimed to have circumstantial evidence linking the bombing to the Iranian- backed Hezbollah, but no US retaliatory response was forthcoming. In a predawn attack on October 23, 1983, another suicide bomber crashed into the US Marine barracks in Lebanon. Two hundred and forty- one Americans stationed to protect the Beirut airport died in the bombing. The US government implicated the Islamic Jihad and Hezbollah as having caused the attack (Buhite 222–23). Reagan initially proclaimed a staunch, continuing commitment to the initial size and mission of the peacekeeping force (Press Briefing). Four months later he became convinced of the inability to ensure the safety of American military forces in Lebanon and ordered the redeployment of the Marines to ships offshore (Public Papers, 1984 1:186). Not all of the specific terrorist acts Reagan publicly discussed victimized American military forces; he also mentioned acts of Middle Eastern terror- ism that targeted civilians. On June 14, 1985, two twenty-year-old Lebanese men, armed with two grenades and a pistol, hijacked TWA Flight 847, which was en route from Athens to Rome. One hundred and fifty-three people on the plane, including 135 Americans, became hostages. When the captors’ initial demand for an intermediary went unheeded, they shot Navy Petty Officer Second Class Robert Stethem. Afterward, the captors threw the serviceman’s dead body down onto the airport’s tarmac. Over the next sixteen days, approximately a dozen heavily armed men took control of the plane. They flew back and forth from Beirut to Algiers, releasing hostages intermittently. Their demands included: the release of seven hundred Lebanese Shia Muslims held by Israel, the release of two Shia Muslims held by Spanish authorities for shooting a Libyan diplomat, the release of seven- teen Shia Muslims imprisoned in Kuwait for a series of six bombing attacks 66 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 74. in December 1983, an end to Arab world oil and arms transactions with the United States, a removal of US navy ships from the Lebanese coast prior to the hostages’ release, and a pledge that the United States and Israel would not retaliate once the situation was resolved (Summary of Events). One addi- tional demand, never officially released to the American public, was for the United States to admit CIA involvement in a previous covert Beirut car bombing (Turner 191). The captors released the remainder of the hostages on June 30, 1985, following Israel’s release of thirty-one Shia Muslim detainees from Atlit Prison and after the US State Department’s public statement reaffirming “its long-standing support for the preservation of Lebanon, its government, its stability, and security and for the mitigation of the suffering of its people” (Summary of Events). Despite the appearance that the Israeli and US actions constituted concessions to the hostage-takers, the leadership of both nations insisted that their actions were in no way con- nected to the release of the TWA 847 hostages. Less than four months later, four members of the Palestine Liberation Front hijacked the Achille Lauro on the high seas between Alexandria and Port Said, Egypt. The hijackers, purportedly on their way to Ashdod, Israel to avenge an earlier Israeli bombing raid on PLO headquarters in Tunis, took four hundred individuals hostage on October 7, 1985 (Sec. of St., Telegram to Amman, et al.). The hijackers threatened to blow up the ship and to execute an American hostage every five minutes if their demand to release fifty Palestinians imprisoned in Israel was not met (Sec. of St., Telegram to Am. Emb. Belgrade). Egypt mediated a resolution of the crisis at the written request of Italy and the Federal Republic of Germany. The subsequent agreement, previewed and approved by Reagan, required the hijackers to release the captives in exchange for safe passage and delivery to the PLO for prosecution (Am. Consul in Alexandria). Reagan’s consent was contingent on the hijackers not killing any of the passengers. Captain Gerardo De Rosa of the Achille Lauro satisfied the agreement’s conditions when, threatened with his own life and the murder of another passenger, he confirmed in writing that all passengers were safe. The kidnappers released the passengers and crew fifty-two hours after the ship’s initial takeover. A few days later, the Syrians recovered Leon Klinghoffer’s body, shot in the forehead, on the seacoast near Tartous (US Dept. of St., Operations Center). Recognizing the death of an American passenger, the United States immediately asked Egypt to hold the kidnappers for Italian extradition. Instead, an Egyptian 737 carrying the four terrorists, two Palestinians (including the alleged mastermind Abu Abbas), and four Egyptians took off for Tunis. When Tunis and Athens denied landing privileges to the aircraft, it turned back to Egypt. On route, four US F14s from the USS Saratoga intercepted the plane and escorted it to Sigonella, Italy (Weinberger). The Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 67
  • 75. Italians agreed to a request for extradition of the four kidnappers. Both the Italian and Yugoslavian governments refused to extradite Abu Abbas to the United States, given that the case for his guilt was based exclusively on Israeli sources (Egyptian Handling). The Reagan administration did not limit discussion of Middle Eastern terrorism to attacks on Middle Eastern soil. Less than six months after the Achille Lauro incident, agents of the Libyan People’s Bureau of East Berlin exploded a bomb in a West Berlin discotheque, killing two people and injur- ing two hundred and thirty others (a figure that included fifty American ser- vicemen). The US government claimed to have convincing evidence that Libyan leader Moammar Qadhafi directed the April 5, 1996 attack, evidence that included intercepts of contact between the bombers and the Libyan gov- ernment both the day before and the day after the attack (Burnett). The administration released a State Department White Paper cataloging more than fifty instances of Libyan terrorism from 1979 to 1985 and intelligence linking the government of Libya to the highly dangerous Abu Nidal terrorist group. Claiming to have evidence of plans for future attacks against high- ranking US officials and intercepts from the Libyan embassy in East Germany verifying their prior knowledge of the attack on the discotheque, the Reagan administration decided to respond (Libya under Qadhafi). On April 14, 1986, administration officials asked a group of European foreign ministers to join the United States in imposing economic sanctions against Tripoli. When the ministers refused, the administration initiated controver- sial air and naval strikes. Officially, the targets were Libyan command posts, training bases, and transport capabilities, but when a US bomb hit a military barrack that housed one of Qadhafi’s residences, speculation arose that the actual objective was the assassination of the Libyan leader (Targets; Drachman and Shank 245). A second event where Reagan referred to a Middle Eastern source tar- geting American civilians in Europe occurred on December 21, 1988. Pan Am Flight 103, en route from Frankfort to London to New York, exploded over Lockerbie, Scotland. The attack killed 259 individuals aboard the plane and 11 bystanders on the ground. The day after the bombing, a group calling itself “the Guardians of the Islamic Revolution” took responsibility for the incident, claiming revenge for the US decision to give refuge to the shah and for the July 1988 downing of an Iranian civilian airbus by the USS Vincennes that had previously killed 227 adults and 63 children (Am. Emb. in London). Years after the explosion, Reagan administration officials posited the theory that the Pan Am 103 attack had been Qadafi’s retaliation for the US air raid that had killed the Libyan leader’s daughter (Cannistraro). On January 31, 2001, more than a decade after the onset of the initial investigation by US, Scottish, and German authorities, a special three-judge 68 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 76. Scottish court found Abdel Basset Al-Megrahi, an alleged Libyan security agent, guilty of murder related to the Pan Am 103 incident. Based on cir- cumstantial evidence, the prosecution’s case linked a coat that Al-Megrahi purchased in Malta to the inside of the suitcase bomb. He received a sen- tence of life imprisonment with a possibility of parole after twenty years, while his codefendant Al-Amin Khalifa Fahima was found not guilty. More than two decades after Pam Am 103 crashed, the Libyan government agreed to pay $2.7 billion to victim’s families in the airliner crash, with each family receiving $10 million. Their announced timeline for payment was forty per- cent of the amount when the UN lifted its sanctions against Libya, forty per- cent when the United States lifted its sanctions against Libya, and twenty percent when the United States removed Libya from its list of state sponsors of terrorism. While the vast majority of Reagan’s public examples of Middle Eastern terrorism focused on bombings, he also commented publicly on hostage inci- dents. Throughout the entirety of Reagan’s second presidential term, Islamic fundamentalists held more than a dozen Americans hostage in Lebanon. Targets included CIA agents, members of the clergy, journalists, and fac- ulty/administrators of both American University in Beirut and the International School in South Beirut. The Islamic Jihad organization exe- cuted two hostages—William Buckley and Peter Killburn—claiming retalia- tion for Israel’s bombing of the PLO headquarters in Tunis and for the US bombing raid on Libya. The murder of Buckley was particularly salient because of his standing as the most senior US intelligence officer knowledge- able about the Middle East. Other groups holding hostages demanded arms sales and the release of seventeen Shia Muslims imprisoned for their role in six December 1983 bombings targeting American and French embassies in Kuwait (Buhite 223). While publicly maintaining a stance of no concessions to terrorists, Reagan privately authorized the sale of more than fifteen hun- dred TOW and Hawk missile parts to Iranian emissaries from August 1985 through November 1986 (“Iran/Arms Transaction”). He also approved a plan to release the seventeen Da’wa prisoners (Lytton). After the initial exchange of arms for three hostages, the captors kidnapped three more Americans and increased the price of obtaining future hostage releases (Wroe 87). When a Middle Eastern newspaper made the arms-for-hostage deal public, Reagan experienced a loss of US credibility abroad (Platt, Memo to Poindexter 11/14/86), the largest drop in domestic presidential approval ratings ever recorded over a several-week period (D’Souza 247) and the onset of a joint congressional investigation that uncovered the diversion of pro- ceeds from the Iranian arms sales to the Nicaraguan Contras. While the bulk of Reagan’s discourse emphasized terrorist incidents spawned in the Middle East, he made an exception when a Soviet aircraft Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 69
  • 77. fired on a commercial US airliner. In the predawn hours of September 1, 1983, a Soviet SU-15 fighter shot down KAL Flight 007 as the plane left Russian airspace over Sakhalin Island. All 269 passengers and crew died in the subsequent crash, constituting the fifth worst air disaster in history (R. W. Johnson 1). The US government condemned the attack as a wanton act of murder against a civilian airliner; the Soviet government maintained it was an unfortunate, but necessary, response to a provocative violation of Russian airspace. Ultimately, both governments retracted their initial state- ments on the crisis, with the Soviets admitting the incident had actually happened and the United States divulging that one of its RC-135 recon- naissance aircraft had been in the vicinity of the Korean airliner when it was originally detected by Soviet radar (Sec. of St., Telegram to All Dipl. Posts). Official US sources insisted the airliner’s deviation into Soviet airspace was accidental. Interviews and an independent assessment of the flight tapes led analyst David Pearson to conclude, “The evidence suggests that Flight 007’s deviation was known to its crew. It suggests that U.S. civilian and military personnel knew the plane to be headed toward the Soviet Union hours before the shoot down and did nothing to direct it back to course. And it is clear that the Administration has tried from the beginning to limit inquiry into the downing” (Pearson 360–61). The Reagan administration’s selection of these twelve examples of ter- rorist acts was, in and of itself, a revealing act. Reagan primarily focused on terrorist attacks (usually bombings) that involved government-backed perpe- trators in the Middle East. As the next section of the chapter will argue, Reagan’s focus was not random; it had important implications for the imple- mentation of his administration’s foreign policy agenda. LABELING THE THREAT Faced with more than five thousands acts of international terrorism, the Reagan administration focused on a subgroup it labeled “state-sponsors of terrorism.” The new label carried institutional currency, given Congress’s recent passage of the Export Administration Act of 1979. That law empow- ered the secretary of state to place on an annual list nations found to be sponsors of multiple acts of international terrorism. Once on the list, foreign nations became subject to export restrictions. As would become apparent during Reagan’s tenure, states on the list could also expect to be the recipient of a host of other measures ranging up to and including military retaliation. State sponsorship of terrorism was a phrase expansive enough to encom- pass a wide range of activity perceived to be threatening to the United States. The phrase allowed the government to differentiate state aid to terrorist 70 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 78. groups from self-supported terrorism or tactical terrorism (Public Report of VP Task Force). Operationally, the administration defined the phrase as “logistical aid, provision of weapons and/or training, granting of safe-havens, use of diplomatic pouches and/or documentation, and—in some cases— actual targetting [sic] and/or provision of information about the selected target” (McFarlane). By grouping foreign states refusing to extradite accused terrorists with others that actively conspired to commit acts of violence, the label offered expansive possibilities for those the administration considered deserving of public condemnation, economic reprisal, or military retaliation. Members of the Reagan administration both recognized and exercised broad latitude in assigning state-sponsor status. Deputy Assistant of National Security Affairs Nancy Bearg Dyke wrote to Vice President George Bush in March 1982 to inform him that the secretary of state had removed Iraq from the list, despite internal intelligence demonstrating that the Middle Eastern nation continued to sponsor terrorism. The rationale for the decision, she explained, was that the administration wanted to encourage Iraq to become more like other more moderate Arab nations. Dyke went on to indicate that even for countries that did make the list, the United States could apply different strategies of reprisal. She offered the cases of Syria and South Yemen, which could buy civil aircraft, while Libya and Cuba could not. Multiple factors besides a nation’s history with terrorism fed into the decision for inclusion on the list. The administration used the notion of state sponsorship to justify a reengineering of the nation’s response options to terrorism. Publicly, Reagan maintained, “The new phenomenon we have seen of the use of ter- rorism as an instrument of state policy demands new approaches from us” (Public Papers, 1985 1:517). Behind the scenes, much of the focus was on the past: namely, the early republic’s approach to the Barbary pirates. National Security Assistants Don Gregg and Doug Menarchik argued in a memo to Bush that the Barbary pirate analogy was appropriate for develop- ing response options to current terrorist acts. They reasoned, “Just as the Barbary powers were held responsible for their piratical actions as well as for actions of independent pirates who exploited the permissive environment, the US could bring pressure to bear on state actors to ‘police’ their spheres of influence.” Apparently impressed, Bush praised the aides’ work. In the margins of the memo, he wrote “very good” and encouraged that it be dis- tributed to counterterrorism spokesperson Admiral Holloway and to mem- bers of the State Department. Internal administration correspondence was specific about the direction of the administration’s new approaches. One memo identified eight strategic considerations implied by the concept of state sponsorship: “(1) more atten- tion to physical protection, (2) may effect US ability to deploy ground forces Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 71
  • 79. in high risk area (air power may be used more as a substitute for power pro- jection), (3) may have to accept higher level of risk, (4) more retaliatory oper- ations/preemptive strikes, (5) greater investment in Special Operations, (6) rescue operations in a hostile environment, (7) military operations limited; (8) utility will be debated, and military measures alone won’t solve problem” (“Terrorism-II”). As the list detailed, the “state sponsor” label was not innocuous; it shifted priorities within the administration for the funding and implementation of the nation’s security initiatives. One particular agency bolstered by the administration’s new labeling strategy was the Central Intelligence Agency. Donald Gregg, a former CIA agent and assistant to the vice president in the National Security Agency, advocated both the use of increased US covert activities and use of US unconventional forces in response to state-sponsored terrorism. Encomp- assing both options under the rubric of “an international response,” Gregg wrote, “Until I’m shot down in flames, I’m going to try to push ‘an interna- tional response to international terrorism.’ Makes it easier (in some ways) to move into a situation, and makes it harder for terrorists to retaliate.” Involving the international community became a strategic calculation for jus- tifying US responses to terrorism that were difficult to explain both at home and abroad. Despite the latitude the new label offered, the Reagan administration’s emphasis on state-sponsored terrorism did have its drawbacks. The phrase’s ambiguity soon became a point of controversy. Several members of Congress insisted that El Salvador, which enjoyed the support of the Reagan adminis- tration, belonged on the list due to its involvement in the murder of the four nuns and the subsequent cover-up. Similarly, the Democratic Party codified into its 1988 party platform that South Africa should be named a terrorist state after it engaged in three simultaneous raids against alleged African National Congress bases in Zambia, Zimbabwe, and Botswana. In the polit- ical arena, the phrase’s flexible adaptation opened the administration to charges of bias in the selection of who qualified as state sponsors. The greater problem was the perception that the United States itself belonged on the list. The American public began to question whether the United States was sponsoring terrorism because of the government’s support of the Nicaraguan Contras. Reports by Americas Watch and the former New York assistant attorney general Reed Brody corroborated that the Contras were guilty of terrorist acts such as torture, mutilation, kidnapping, and rape of Nicaraguan civilians (Americas Watch 4–6; “Attacks” iv–xi). The Associated Press fueled public concern when it broke a story on the CIA’s “murder manual” for the Contras (“CIA’s Murder Manual”). The manual, designed by John Kirkpatrick to train the Contras on how to use violence more selectively, contained the following word choice that appeared to advo- 72 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 80. cate the limited use of assassination: “It is possible to neutralize carefully selected and planned targets such as court judges, justices of the peace, police and State Security officials, CDS [Sandinista Defense Committee] chiefs, etc.” (as qtd. in Leogrande 364). Armed with such revelations, members of Congress began arguing that by supporting the Contras, the United States was sponsoring terrorism. Media reports of administration activities in the Middle East further underscored the concern that the United States was supporting terrorism. On May 12, 1985, Bob Woodward wrote in the Washington Post that the CIA had provided training for counterterrorist groups in Lebanon that had subsequently hired others to bomb the front of Sheik Fadlallah’s house (Woodward and Babcock A1). The CIA had targeted the sheik, due to the administration’s belief that his chief of security was responsible for the bombing of the Marine barracks, the first American embassy bombing in Beirut, and the kidnapping of then CIA station chief, William Buckley (Hougan). The attack, which took place in a public square just outside a mosque, resulted in eighty civilian deaths and more than two hundred civil- ian injuries. The Saudi leadership, which had allegedly provided funding and operatives for the attack in collusion with the CIA, gave millions of dollars of humanitarian assistance to West Beirut as compensation once the attack failed to kill the sheik (Ibid.). Woodward later recanted the story, and a follow-up U.S. Congressional committee investigation found no evidence of US complicity. Carter’s former director of the CIA Stansfield Turner questioned the inquiry’s findings, however, based on his assumption that the committee itself would have had prior knowledge of the event and would have shared in the responsibility for the tragic outcome (183–85). Woodward recently changed his story for a second time. In 2001 interview with Frontline, he claimed Casey did meet with the Saudi ambassador to the United States and, during a garden stroll, the two agreed the Saudis would pay two million dollars to build a car bomb and hire operatives to kill the sheik (Woodward). By 1985, the majority of the American public agreed that the United States was a state sponsor of terrorism. Internal administration polls recorded that sixty-six percent of the public responded positively to the statement, “There is little point to our condemning a state of terrorism against American interests in the Middle East if we support our own terrorists in Central America” (“Libya, July 1985 [2 of 3]”). With a skeptical American public, the administration began facing increased constraints on its ability to carry out its foreign policy objectives. Now on the defensive, the administration distributed an official state- ment to White House spokespersons that specifically addressed the differ- ence between terrorism and insurgency. The statement compared US support Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 73
  • 81. for the Contras with the role that third countries played in the successful outcome of the American Revolution. It continued by reminding the spokespersons, “[I]t is important to differentiate between terrorism’s rampant indiscriminate brutality against innocent third parties and the organized armed opposition to communist tyranny that is taking place in Nicaragua” (Kimmitt). By evoking the American Revolution, the administration sought to align US efforts with the cause of freedom fighting, while retaining the latitude to denounce terrorists abroad. To bolster its case, the administration produced an expanded definition of terrorism that highlighted the differences between the actions of the Nicaraguan Contras and those of terrorists. In a memo to Attorney General Edward Meese, National Security Advisor Robert McFarlane provided the administration’s definition of terrorism: Terrorism is the use or threatened use of violence for a political purpose to create a state of fear, which will aid in extorting, coerc- ing, intimidating or causing individuals and groups to alter their behavior. A terrorist group does not need a defined territorial base or specific organizational structure. Its goals need not relate to any one country. It does not require nor necessarily seek a popular base of support. Its operations, organization and movements are secret. Its activities do not conform to rules of law or warfare. Its targets are civilians, non-combatants, bystanders or symbolic persons and places. Its victims generally have no role in either causing or cor- recting the grievance of the terrorists. Its methods are hostage- taking, aircraft piracy or sabotage, assassination, threats, hoaxes, and indiscriminate bombings or shootings. By providing an expanded definition of terrorism, the administration attempted to distinguish the actions of the Contras from those engaged in terrorist acts of political violence. Despite administration officials’ repetition of the new list of characteris- tics, the public remained unconvinced the Contras were not engaging in ter- rorist activities. In response, members of the administration publicly highlighted the characteristic features of freedom fighters. In his memo to Meese, McFarlane provided a contrasting definition of insurgency, empha- sizing that the two terms diverged with regard to intentions, organizational makeup, operational methods, targeted populations, international law com- pliance, and level of secrecy: Insurgency is a state of revolt against an established government. An insurgent group has a defined organization, leadership and location. Its members wear a uniform. Its objectives are acquisition 74 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 82. of political power, achievement of participation in economic or political opportunity and national leadership or, ultimately, taking power from existing leadership. Its primary interests relate to one country. Its methods are military and paramilitary. Its targets are military, both tactical and strategic, and its legitimate operations are governed by the international rules of armed conflict. It oper- ates in the open, and it actively seeks a basis of popular support. Administration officials, armed with the contrasting definitions of ter- rorism and insurgency, received instructions to use them “only on an if asked basis” (McFarlane). Publicly, Reagan’s spokespeople balked at the cliché that one man’s terrorist was another man’s freedom fighter (see, for example Reagan, Public Papers, 1986 1:563). Privately, Reagan’s national security advisors warned that, despite the coordinated rhetorical strategy, the “distinction [was] not clear” (Menarchik). The failure to persuade the public had its costs; the administration lacked the ability to mobilize the necessary pressure on Congress to have it reverse the decision to prohibit support for the Contras. As the administration was defending itself against charges the United States was a state sponsor of terrorism, it was simultaneously shifting to a public communication strategy of merging drug trafficking and terrorism into a joint threat. In 1984, US Ambassador Lewis Tambs used the encom- passing phrase “narco-terrorism” to describe guerilla activity in Colombia (Qtd. in Executive Intelligence Review). Beginning in 1985 and more fre- quently in 1986 and 1987, Reagan himself argued the nation would increas- ingly have to face terrorism and narcotic drug trafficking as “twin menaces” (Public Papers, 1986 1:45) and “twin killers” (162). Drug traffickers, not renegade foreign states, were now depicted as being in collusion with terror- ists and had become the nation’s dangerous new threat. The shift in labeling strategy invited the public to rehabilitate the administration’s image in response to the terrorism problem. By highlighting nonstate actors, the new framing refocused the administration’s public agenda away from potentially embarrassing questions about who qualified as a state sponsor of terrorism. In its place was a new approach designed to delegitimate the terrorists. Terrorists, now associating with the drug traffick- ers, were not misunderstood freedom fighters; they were dangerous enemies who plagued American society. The strategy encompassed hope of renewed innocence for the United States and reinforced guilt for those who attacked American values and principles. At the time Reagan was publicly espousing terrorism and drug traf- ficking as associated threats, his administration began a concerted cam- paign to reveal the extent of the linkage. Reagan signed National Security Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 75
  • 83. Directive 221 on April 8, 1986 (as rpt. in Simpson 640). While the specific wording of the directive remains classified, a draft of the agency’s public responses revealed that the directive empowered the intelligence commu- nity to “continue its efforts to target specific drug source and transit regions for in-depth analysis of the links between drug trafficking organizations, insurgent groups, and terrorists” (Agency Responses). Bush announced that implementation of the directive would initially target Nicaragua, Cuba, and Colombia to discover evidence of a narco-terrorist threat (as rptd. in Simpson 640). Over the next seven years, the Reagan and Bush administrations spent more than three billion dollars to implement NSDD 221 (ibid.). By June 1988, the administration was still in the process of building its case that an actual link existed between drug trafficking, terrorism, and guerilla activity in Central America. Responding to a request for information from Washington, the American Embassy in Bogota wrote a telegram to the secretary of state describing ten incidents of hostage-taking that occurred in Colombia between February 1980 and June 1988. Also included in the embassy’s response was the admission that its conclusions were drawn from the incomplete consular files and the faulty memories of its personnel. Included within the report’s ten incidents were ones that the embassy freely admitted lacked detailed information or the identity of the groups involved. At no point did the response claim to have solid intelligence linking acts of kidnapping with drug trafficking in the region. Privately, administration officials warned that even if actual events did support a linkage between terrorism and drug trafficking, emphasizing the association would undermine Reagan’s case that he had an effective strategy for responding to terrorism. Terry Mattke, another national security assistant to the vice president, warned of the consequences of conflating the two threats in the public’s mind. Mattke wrote, There is a fundamental difference in character between the war on drugs and the war on terrorism. The war on drugs involves efforts to confront both the supply and demand sides of the equation. The supply is interdicted and harassed, and we are steadily edu- cating the population in an effort to reduce the market, the demand. But until the market, the demand dries up, we face an enormous task. In the war on terrorism we face a very different sit- uation. The world’s demand or market for terrorism is limited to a few unprincipled causes and regimes. Civilized nations uniformly reject the concept and the use of terror. So what we intend to do is confront the issue at the source, the supply [. . .] and the terror- ist resources. [T]he human supply although too great at present, 76 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 84. will be easier to dam than the flow of chemicals and substances that poison our societies. In short, some advisors feared that the public merger of terrorism and drug trafficking was risky. They believed it opened Reagan to charges he was overstating the extent of the problem, and it risked the public’s judgment that Reagan was ineffective in handling terrorism when he would not be able to stop the flow of drugs into the United States. Why take such risks? One possibility was the administration may have wanted to reduce its vulnerability to charges the United States was sponsor- ing narco-terrorism in Central America. With a highly touted public cam- paign of “Just Say No” to drugs, the Reagan administration found itself in the awkward situation of supporting allies in Central America linked to drug running. As early as 1984, the CIA had received information the Contras were involved in drug trafficking into the United States (Castillo). The story, made public in an Associated Press article in December 1985 (Barger and Parry A22), resulted in an administration admission that, “Individual mem- bers of the resistance [. ..] may have engaged in such activity [drug traffick- ing] but it was, insofar as we can determine, without the authorization of resistance leaders” (as rptd. in Leogrande 464). William Leogrande, former staff member of the Democratic leadership working on Central American policy, suggested that the administration’s denial of resistance leader involve- ment was suspect, given linkages between the firms hired to ship nonlethal aid to the Contras and involvement by those same firms in trafficking and drug laundering (464). With evidence supporting that the Contras were associating with drug traffickers, the administration’s new strategy of focus- ing on the linkages of the nonstate actors was again carrying political risks. To make matters worse, the administration could not corroborate its claims that the group it opposed in Central America was involved in drug trafficking. In August 1984, a supposed Nicaraguan government defector accused high-level Sandinista officials (including Minister of the Interior Daniel Ortega) of smuggling drugs into the United States. After conducting an investigation, members of Reagan’s Drug Enforcement Administration admitted, “no evidence was developed to implicate the Minister of the Interior or other Nicaraguan officials” (as qtd. in Arnson 336). In short, the administration aligned itself against narco-terrorism in the public arena at a time when it needed to divert attention from its private sponsorship of allies linked to drug trafficking. With both state sponsorship of terrorism and narco-terrorism raising questions about the actions of the US government, Reagan faced mounting political difficulties. Having promised the public he held the answers to the terrorism problem, Reagan needed a convincing strategy. As the next section Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 77
  • 85. will reveal, the administration responded by crafting a deceitful application of the Cold War narrative. In the process of that strategy’s implementation, the criminality of terrorism became subordinated to the war metaphor. When public confidence in Reagan’s approach waned by the start of his second term, the stage was set for elevation of terrorism into an American ideograph. THE TERRORIST NARRATIVE IN THE REAGAN ERA Having lost more Americans to terrorism in 1983 alone than in the previous fifteen years of US history combined (McFarlane, Memo to Meese), Reagan aides were stinging from the humiliation of having to withdraw US troops from Lebanon. Current retrospectives by the administration’s central players reveal the depth of the reaction to the forced retreat. On Frontline, Vincent Cannistraro summed up the reigning sentiment at the time: “Hezbollah won a victory. That war was over. We lost that war. I don’t know if it was recog- nized at the time, but the withdrawal of the U.S. represented a victory for Hezbollah.” Also appearing on Frontline, US State Department coordinator for counterterrorism, Robert Oakley, likewise remembered, “It was a huge shock [...] it caused us to reevaluate a lot of things.” Convinced they had lost a war against terrorists, the Reagan administration committed itself to making a change. Just a few days after the terrorist attack on the marine barracks in Lebanon, the Republican House minority whip Newt Gingrich wrote to Ken Duberstein, Reagan’s chief of staff, expressing his concerns for Reagan’s political future. In that memo to Duberstein, he worried the American public and media were shocked by all the violence around the world, includ- ing outbreaks in Lebanon, Grenada, Nicaragua, and El Salvador, as well as the nuclear missile demonstrations in Europe. He warned, In fact, if Reagan gets bogged down in the technical detail of each fight in each theatre he begins to look like a man who has walked into a room and started to randomly pick fights with people. Since there is no time in American memory that we have been involved in this much violence in this many places, it will begin to sink in to many Americans that if they are separate incidents, then maybe we ought to get a less violence-prone President. After all, if he has found four different areas of tension simultaneously, maybe he really is a troublemaker. Having won a recent presidential election in which his Democratic opponent had characterized him as irresponsible in the foreign policy arena, Reagan could ill afford to compound the problem. 78 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 86. Gingrich stressed the need for the administration to adopt a single explanation for why so much global violence was occurring. Later in the memo, he predicted, “If we allow our vision to be fragmented, then we will lose piecemeal on each front as the American people come to conclude that ours is a randomly violent, short-tempered and overbearing administration.” The solution, according to Gingrich, was to blame the Soviet Union for international violence whenever and wherever it occurred. He predicted such a rhetorical framing would have considerable political advantages for Reagan. As he explained, “If in fact we are faced with Soviet trained, financed and guided terrorists, guerilla and military coups, then it is Andropov rather than Reagan who is the real cause of all the problems. Then the American people can focus their anger on Andropov, the KGB, and the Soviet Union.” The approach, Gingrich noted, would result in a lasting political alliance between the friends of Israel, those who cared about access to oil fields, and those who wanted freedom in the Caribbean. Gingrich, in short, recommended Reagan scapegoat the Soviet Union for all acts of worldwide terrorism. Members of Reagan’s own executive branch echoed Gingrich’s conclu- sion that blaming the Soviets would have political advantages for the admin- istration. Their expressed motivation for urging the strategy was less about Reagan’s political future and more about garnering public support for the administration’s policy in Nicaragua. An analysis of two years of polls on Nicaragua led analysts in the State Department to conclude, “[T]he conflicts in Central America have aroused less concern among the public than such other foreign policy issues as relations with the Soviet Union, arms control negotiations, trying to deal with terrorism, and reducing the US trade imbal- ance” (Smalley, Memo to Sec. of St. 5/16/85). Lacking strong public support and facing a Congress steadily withdrawing its financial support from the Contras, Reagan’s presidential assistant Robert Smalley recommended a reframing of the threat posed by the Sandinistas. He told the secretary of state, “Perception of threat to the US would be enhanced to the extent the Sandinista regime could be credibly pictured as a surrogate of Cuba or the USSR, as repressive at home, or as subversive among its neighbors.” In agreement, Gingrich and Smalley both worked to persuade Reagan that he had political and policy reasons to blame all international terrorism on the Soviet Union. One difficulty with the plan was that Reagan’s CIA analysts did not believe the Soviets were involved in organizing the bulk of international terrorism. A December 1981 report, “Growing Terrorist Danger in America,” by the National Foreign Assessment Center of the CIA con- cluded, “The actions of some terrorist groups may influence future behavior of other groups, but we see no evidence of a central coordinating authority. [. . .] The US is facing terrorist threats from several quarters which, Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 79
  • 87. although unconnected, will challenge the US ability to react to widely dis- persed and potentially serious international terrorist attacks.” Reagan’s intel- ligence at the time was unequivocal: the Soviet Union was simply not responsible for all acts of terrorism around the globe. In a recent interview on Frontline, Vincent Cannistraro, Reagan’s direc- tor of National Security Council Intelligence, remembered how the adminis- tration resolved the discrepancy between the recommended public strategy and the extant realities of terrorism. He recalled, “[CIA Director] Bill Casey had already been trying to cook the analytical books on terrorism, particularly by the pressure he had placed on the analysts to come up with an analysis that said the Soviet Union was behind these acts of terrorism.” Despite its apparent basis in fiction, Gingrich’s proposed strategy gathered momentum as the preferred administration approach. Within a matter of weeks, the Reagan administration adopted a Cold War narrative to frame its public dis- cussions of terrorism. Reagan’s terrorism narrative reflected the scene, characters, and themes of Cold War discourse. Echoing the terrorist narrative of the Vietnam War era, the scene was the fragile state of freedom and democracy around the globe. Reagan identified two areas of the world particularly vulnerable to outside forces. The first was Central America. Reagan maintained, “In Honduras, democratic institutions are taking root. In El Salvador, democ- racy is beginning to work even in the face of externally supported terrorism and guerrilla warfare” (Public Papers, 1983 2:1192). Relying on natural, organic metaphors that suggested the possibility of renewal and regenera- tion, Reagan referred to “the fragile flower of democracy” (Public Papers, 1985 1:370) that was blossoming in Central America. The administration’s narrative insisted democracy would flourish in Central America if it were simply permitted to grow. The other vulnerable region was Lebanon. Reagan described Lebanon’s history by recalling, “In the early 1970’s many thousands of Palestinians entered Lebanon. Lebanon’s fragile political consensus collapsed, and a savage civil war broke out” (Public Papers, 1983 2:1679). Reagan depicted Lebanon in the present day as “a small country” and a “troubled land,” (1517) but insisted it had “made important steps toward stability and order” (1518). Praising Lebanon’s progress, Reagan said, “Lebanon has formed a govern- ment under the leadership of President Gemayal, and that government, with our assistance and training, has set up its own army. In only a year’s time, that army has been rebuilt” (ibid.). Like its companion state in Central America, Lebanon held potential for the spread of democracy in Reagan’s articulated public view. The administration’s narrative presented the Soviet Union and its client states as enemy forces attempting to take advantage of the fragility of the 80 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 88. emerging democracies. Following Gingrich’s advice, Reagan argued that the general rise of state-sponsored terrorism could be traced back to “increased Soviet support for terrorism, insurgency, and aggression coupled with the perception of weakening U.S. power and resolve” (Public Papers, 1984 1:480) in the 1970s. He insisted that in Central America, there was a “Soviet-Cuban-Nicaraguan plan to destroy the fragile flower of democracy [. . .]—a plan that could, for the first time, bring tyranny to our own bor- ders, carrying the same specter of economic chaos, the same threat of politi- cal terrorism, the same floodtides of refugees we’ve seen follow every Communist takeover from Eastern Europe to Afghanistan, Laos, Vietnam, Cambodia, Ethiopia, and, now, Central America” (Public Papers, 1985 1:370). Shifting regions, he maintained that Syria, backed by the Soviet Union, used terrorism in hopes of acquiring portions of Lebanon to create greater Syria (Public Papers, 1983 2:1713). The goal in each region around the globe was the same: “to bring about a one-world Communist state” (1714). Reagan publicly maintained all acts of international terrorism were the direct results of an aggressive Soviet influence. The means terrorists used to accomplish their objectives further paral- leled the conventional claims of Cold War discourse. Within the narrative framework, terrorists relied on savage acts of barbarism to instill fear in civil- ian populations. Reagan told Congress that terrorists relied on “indiscrimi- nate threatening, intimidation, detention, or murder of innocent people” (Public Papers, 1984 1:576). He labeled their methods “uncivilized” (Public Papers, 1983 2:1556), “crude” (Public Papers, 1984 2:806), “cowardly” (ibid.), and “evil to its core and contemptible in all its forms” (ibid.). Committed to uncivilized methods of attack, terrorists posed a dangerous threat to American society. The description of the final primary character in the administration’s narrative, the United States, borrowed heavily from conventional Cold War discourse. As in the case of the Vietnam War narrative, the United States emerged as a missionary for peace and freedom in the global arena. Reagan described the moral nature of his quest in a toast to Queen Elizabeth II: “ [T]he greatest glory of a free-born people is to transmit that freedom to their children. That is a responsibility our people share. Together, and eager for peace, we must face an unstable world where violence and terrorism, aggres- sion and tyranny constantly encroach on human rights. Together, committed to preservation of freedom and our way of life, we must strengthen a weak- ening international order and restore the world’s faith in peace and the rule of law” (Public Papers, 1982 2:752). For Reagan, the United States was uniquely qualified and responsible for preserving the values of peace, free- dom, and justice. Speaking to Christian evangelists in Florida, he described the confrontation between the United States and the Soviet Union as a Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 81
  • 89. struggle between good and evil. He labeled the Soviet Union the “evil empire” (Public Papers, 1984 1:364), thus elevating the mission of the United States into a religious calling. He declared, “There is sin and evil in the world, and we’re enjoined by Scripture and the Lord Jesus to oppose it with all our might” (362). Placing his argument within the context of the divine, Reagan argued the public should accept on faith their responsibility for spreading peace and freedom. In sharp contrast to the destructive, evil nature of the Communist nemesis in the narrative, the administration portrayed the United States as having a commitment to a constructive approach toward emerging democra- cies. The United States, with its goal of rooting out the fragile conditions that spawned terrorism, adopted a multifaceted model of political, economic, and security assistance reminiscent of America’s policy toward Vietnam. Nowhere was the strategy more apparent than in Central America. A brief- ing paper for Ambassador Kirkpatrick’s visit to Central and South America demonstrated the three-pronged strategy of promoting democratization, eco- nomic revitalization, and security support (US Dept. of St. Briefing Paper). In 1982, the United States committed $400 million of economic assistance and $120 million of security assistance to Central America in an effort to “break the region out of its cycle of right wing dictatorships vs. left wing insurgencies” (ibid.). As the Cold War narrative portended, the constructive approach of the United States promised to effectively guard against the evil forces operating around the globe. Reagan’s application of the Cold War narrative transformed the national debate about the crime of terrorism. The metaphor of crime was still present, but reconstituted within the context of war. Terrorism became less about individuals committing crimes and more about the Soviet Union and its client states permitting and encouraging terrorism as the means of furthering their ideological perspective. The shift placed the primary burden for responding to terrorism on the heads of state, not on federal prosecutors or judges. States that permitted terrorists to flourish in their spheres of influ- ence had to face the possibility of answering to the full range of response options available to the American commander in chief. The public generally accepted Reagan’s application of the Cold War narrative to the situation in Central America, but not in a beneficial way for the administration. With the most recent public memory of Cold War dis- course being the Vietnam War, the public mapped their perceptions about America’s first losing war effort onto the Nicaraguan conflict. After review- ing national polls conducted in late 1984 and early 1985, Smalley noted that the majority of the public believed “U.S. involvement in Nicaragua could lead to ‘another Vietnam’ with US forces becoming entangled in a drawn-out, internal conflict in which both sides are viewed negatively” (Memo to Sec. of 82 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 90. State 5/16/85). Various administration officials reached the conclusion that even Reagan, the great communicator himself, could not change the negative perceptions of the public (ibid.). Compounding the problem of public opin- ion was the difficulty the administration had of making a credible case that its counterterrorism strategy was actually bolstering democratic governments, economic recovery, or national security (Dallek 163-194). By the mid-1980s, the Reagan camp determined that rather than build public support for the administration’s policy of engagement in Central America, its narrative was hardening attitudes against reinstating aid for the Nicaraguan Contras. Reactions to the administration’s use of the Cold War narrative in rela- tionship to the events in the Middle East were no better. The American public no longer accepted the claim that the Soviet Union was behind all acts of international terrorism. Internal administration polling revealed that the public blamed Iran for the TWA 847 hijacking, not the Soviet Union or Syria (Smalley, Memo to Sec. of State 6/20/85). Smalley surmised from his review of the administration’s internal polls that “Principle blame ‘for the current hostage situation’ is placed on security conditions at Athens airport and Nabih Berri, ‘the leader of the Shiite Moslems” (ibid.). By the mid-1980s, the public appeared ready to assign responsibility for terrorist acts on a case-by-case basis, and the executive branch complied with the new sentiment. In a 1985 interview with Time, CIA Director William Casey admitted, “There is no one person, there is no one capital in the world that controls terrorism. [...] This is a war without clear borders, without clear enemies.” On a more general level, the public was losing patience with Reagan’s inability to win the fight against terrorism. The administration’s internal polls showed almost half of the public reporting they disapproved “of the way Ronald Reagan is handling terrorism” (Decision Making Information). Terrorism against Americans was on the rise, and the administration antici- pated further escalations of terrorist activity in response to the administra- tion’s covert foreign policies (McFarlane, Memo to Meese). Reagan’s Task Force on Combating Terrorism took up the charge of assessing why the public was losing faith in administration’s response to ter- rorism. Young and Rubicam, the firm hired by the task force to more fully understand the viewpoint of the American public, conducted focus groups of regular readers and viewers of the news in Des Moines Iowa, Trumbull, Connecticut, and New York City. The groups ranged from eighteen to sixty- four years of age and were balanced for political ideology. In November of 1985, the firm presented its conclusions to the task force. While the study revealed no direct effects of terrorism on the citizens who participated, it found that terrorism reduced “America’s status to being seen as a pawn: pow- erless, easily manipulated, and at the mercy of those who attack us because we cannot fight back” (Young and Rubicam). Focus group members reported Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 83
  • 91. feeling fearful, vulnerable, helpless, victimized, [and] angry” (ibid.). Reagan’s analysts concluded that the public was frustrated with the ability of terrorists to expose the limits of America’s power. Internal assessment of public sentiment coalesced around the call to have a stronger response to terrorism. Young & Rubicam reported that “Americans want to fight back against terrorism because it (1) Emasculates the American nation; (2) Is wrong and must be stopped; (3) Threatens American lives; and (4) Makes Americans mad.” A Newsweek poll, appearing in a widely circulated internal memorandum at the time of the TWA hijack- ing in June 1985, underscored the need for more forceful responses. It noted, “54% believe that Reagan’s actions have not been tough enough [...]” (McDaniel, Memo to McFarlane). Reagan’s polling information was consis- tent; both the administration’s public communication strategy and its terror- ism policy needed to change. In a May 1985 speech delivered before the American Bar Association, Reagan introduced the new approach. The Soviet Union was no longer the sole source of terrorism around the globe; instead, five foreign states that sponsored terrorism emerged as the primary enemies of the United States. Reagan identified the offending nations to be Iran, Libya, North Korea, Cuba, and Nicaragua. His public list of state sponsors of terrorism differed from those identified by the State Department under the Export Administration Act of 1979. Syria and the People’s Republic of South Yemen were labeled state sponsors on the official list but omitted in Reagan’s account; Nicaragua and North Korea were named by Reagan as state spon- sors but did not qualify for the secretary of state’s list (McFarlane, Memo to Meese). Despite these discrepancies, the new narrative shifted the identity of the enemy to new state sponsors of terrorism, but retained the depiction of the scene, character traits, and themes of the previous Cold War narrative. At times, transitioning between the two approaches posed rhetorical dif- ficulties for the administration. Recasting the scene consistent with the administration’s prior rehearsals of the narrative, for example, was problem- atic. Now the targets of terrorism (i.e., Americans traveling abroad, European nations, etc.) were no longer fragile democracies or new nations in search of their right for self-determination. They had established govern- ments, they had stable economies, and they belonged to the world’s preemi- nent security alliance. To argue that such democracies were fragile risked a loss of credibility, if not ridicule, at home and abroad. To resolve the problem, the new narrative shifted the emphasis away from the fragility of a particular nation to the vulnerability of democracy as a whole to terrorism. Reagan reasoned, “Terrorism is the antithesis of democ- racy . [...] Where democracy seeks to consult the common man on the gov- ernance of his nation, terrorism makes war on the common man, repudiating 84 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 92. in bloody terms the concept of government by the people” (Public Papers, 1985 2:1019). The United States, as the exemplar of an effective democracy, became the natural target of choice for terrorists in the administration’s nar- rative. As Reagan explained, “[T]he very reason for [terrorists’] cruelty and viciousness of their tactics is to disorient the American people, to cause dis- unity, to disrupt or alter our foreign policy, to keep us from the steady pur- suit of our strategic interests, to distract us from our very real hope that someday the nightmare of totalitarian rule will end and self-government and personal freedom will become the birthright of every people on Earth” (899). The terrorists’ focus, coupled with their growing collusion with foreign states, had ominous implications for free nations around the globe. As Reagan asserted, “Government-sponsored terrorism, in particular, cannot continue without gravely threatening the social fabric of all free societies” (Public Papers, 1986 1:512). Reagan’s new narrative preserved the vulnerable nature of the scene called forth by conventional Cold War discourse, but it reconstituted terrorism as an inevitable outcome of a healthy democracy, not a sign of national fragility or governmental weakness. As Reagan publicly expanded the scene of his narrative from a single emerging democracy to democracy as a whole, the leaders of his executive branch disagreed. The task force report, touted by the administration as its most comprehensive examination of international and domestic terrorism, concluded that attacks on democracies were not the sole or even the primary cause of terrorism. The Public Report of the Vice President’s Task Force, approved by the National Security Council, the Department of Defense, the Central Intelligence Agency, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Federal Bureau of Investigation, and the White House, among others, noted that Middle Eastern nations (i.e., those without democratic forms of government) were frequently the intended targets of terrorism. Charles Hill, the executive secretary for the State Department provided a more detailed explanation for why the United States had come under increasing attacks from terrorism in a memo to the National Security Advisor, Robert McFarlane. In the text of that June 1984 memo, he wrote, “We are a prime target because we have an extensive official and commercial presence overseas which is high in numbers of people and profile; and citi- zens and facilities are accessible and open to the public; our policies are opposed to the interests of many terrorist groups; and we often support gov- ernments which terrorists are attempting to bring down.” While terrorists had chosen to attack the citizens of a democracy as Reagan had suggested, the Hill memo suggests that the reasons for doing so were not clearly related to America’s political ideology. Official spokespersons even undercut Reagan’s contention that terrorists placed the US culture in jeopardy. James Holloway, the executive director of Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 85
  • 93. the task force, told reporters on March 6, 1986, “While terrorism poses no serious challenge to the national will or national survival, it remains a com- plex, dangerous threat for which there is no quick or easy solution” (Holloway, Draft Statement). The administration appeared far from publicly united on the stance that terrorism was a dangerous juxtaposed enemy of democracy and freedom. Portraying the state sponsors of terrorism as having similar traits to their Communist predecessors posed a second rhetorical challenge for the Reagan administration’s effort to reconstitute its Cold War narrative. To a certain extent, the former characterization of the Soviet Union and the new state sponsors of terrorism offered a good match. The use of savage, barbaric means to achieve political objectives was a trait the administration could readily apply to either enemy. Reagan aides could also argue that the inability to trust the adversary equally pertained to both threats. More difficult was making a credible case that the five individual states identified as sponsors of terrorism qualified as a homogenous collective. Kent Oots’ 1986 study of transnational terrorism argued that coalitions among such groups were infrequent, ad hoc, and short in duration (116–17). Martha Crenshaw’s three-year study of international terrorism between 1985 and 1987 reached a similar conclusion: “[I]n reality there is no monolithic terror- ist entity. Instead, terrorism appears highly eclectic and pluralistic” (10–11). At the time the administration shifted to its new narrative, a globally net- worked group of state-sponsored terrorists did not exist. Despite the empirical evidence to the contrary, the administration’s revised narrative held to the notion that state sponsors of terrorism functioned as an internationally orchestrated syndicate of criminals. Reagan insisted, “Most of the terrorists who are kidnapping and murdering American citizens and attacking American installations are being trained, financed and directly or indirectly controlled by a core group of radical and totalitarian govern- ments—a new, international version of Murder, Incorporated” (Public Papers, 1985 2:897). By focusing on the parallel to organized crime, the new nar- rative helped prepare the audience for stronger measures in response to the threat. Another difficulty for the administration was establishing that the state sponsors in its revised narrative were not only colluding, but were harboring a shared goal of global domination consistent with the conventional charac- terization of the Cold War enemy. For Reagan, all state sponsors were bent on the destruction of the United States. He proclaimed, “[A]ll of these states are united by one simple criminal phenomenon—their fanatical hatred of the United States, our people, our way of life, our international stature” (Public Papers, 1985 2:897). For Reagan, the threat posed by state sponsors of terror- ism simply could not be tolerated. 86 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 94. Once again, statements from other administration officials weakened the credibility of Reagan’s public shift. Reagan’s task force report belied the con- clusion that terrorists harbored a goal of world conquest. It pronounced, “The motivations of those who engage in terrorism are many and varied” (Public Report of VP Task Force). It acknowledged that the actual motiva- tions behind terrorism included serving as a strong-arm, low-budget means of conducting foreign policy or as the means to pursue national insurgency movements (ibid.). The totality of public positions taken by executive branch speakers made it more difficult to conclude that terrorists were at the same level of global threat as their communist counterparts. A undated memo entitled, The Middle East and Terrorism, identified the causes of terrorism in that region of the world to be as follows: Frustrations of traditional societies confronting rapid modernization, including maldistribu- tion of income, oil wealth, and unfilled expectations; Intractable political problems such as Arab-Israeli question, East-West competition, strategic oil resources and strategic location; Deep-seated political animosities: Arab- Israeli, intra-Arab (e.g. Syria and Iraq, Persian-Arab, Islamic fundamental- ist-secularist, and anti- and pro-communist divisions; A sense of hopelessness and a profound lack of faith in the peaceful means of attaining one’s political and personal goals, peaceful or otherwise; Exploitation of disaffected by charismatic leaders with no respect for human life or dignity, (e. g. Qadhafi and Khomeini). In short, the causes for terrorism spawned in the Middle East were multi-faceted. The new narrative deflected attention away from alternative public explanations of why various state sponsors of terrorism were colluding to per- petrate such violent acts. Reagan insisted in his 1986 address to the United Nations General Assembly: “No cause, no grievance, can justify [terrorism]” (Public Papers, 1986 2:1231). In press background briefings, administration officials reiterated, “Nothing can justify terrorism. No political causes or ends can explain or rationalize the brutal murder of civilians” (Platt, Memo to Poindexter 1/6/86). Foreclosing discussion of the terrorists’ specific motives not only reduced the possibility that the administration’s stance would become muddled, but it positioned the Reagan camp to depict themselves as an innocent party sub- jected to unwarranted attacks. Accordingly, the narrative invited the public not to consider the Palestine Liberation Front’s contention that the hijacking of the Achille Lauro was a justified response to the Israeli air raid on the Palestinian headquarters in Tunis. Likewise, the public was not to concern themselves about the Guardian of the Islamic Revolution’s claim that the bombing of Pan American Flight 103 was justified retaliation for the USS Vincennes downing of an Iranian airliner in July 1988 (Situation Room Note). Finally, citizens were to ignore Lebanese accusations that CIA Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 87
  • 95. involvement in a Beirut car bombing warranted the continued confinement of American hostages in Lebanon and the hijacking of TWA 847. The administration’s revised narrative continued the conventional char- acterization of the hero’s role in response to the threat in the Cold War nar- rative. The United States was critical for an effective response to the global threat of terrorism. The characterization of the US motivations remained the same: restoring peace, freedom, and civilized values around the globe. The stated mission preserved its religious quality. Reagan told the International Forum of the Chamber of Commerce, “I’ll remind our allies of the truth of what Edmund Burke said long ago: ‘When bad men combine, the good must associate; else they will fall, one by one.’ Well, together the free people of this world will ensure that liberty not only survives but triumphs and that our sons and daughters, too, will know the blessings of the winds of freedom” (Public Papers, 1986 1:512). By again placing his appeal to unity within the context of the divine, Reagan underscored the Cold War theme of needing all members of the community to have faith for the mission to succeed. While the goals remained the same, the means for accomplishing the mission did change. Reagan announced a series of strategies that his admin- istration would need to increase intelligence cooperation with friendly nations regarding terrorists and their state supporters, improve readiness to strike back against states that offered refuge to terrorists, implement preven- tive security measures around the globe, make murder of US citizens abroad a federal crime, and expand the number of extradition treaties available to bring terrorists to justice. Concurrently, the administration publicly touted that its improved intelligence had already helped abort 126 terrorist incidents during 1985 alone (Public Papers, 1986 1:20). In the ABA speech announcing his new narrative, Reagan evoked a his- torical analogy to cast the future direction of his approach to terrorism. Recalling the nation’s experience with the Barbary pirates, he insisted, “We can act together as free peoples who wish not to see our citizens kidnapped or shot or blown out of the skies – just as we acted together to rid the seas of piracy at the turn of the last century” (Public Papers, 1985 2:899). During the previous week, the Reagan administration had received internal polling results designed to assess public sentiment regarding twelve potential courses of action that the United States could take against terrorism. Ninety-one percent had responded favorably to an option that reflected virtually word for word Reagan’s reference to the Barbary pirates in his ABA speech: “Just as civilized nations united against piracy a century ago, today the democratic world must act in concert if we are to eliminate terrorism” (“Libya, July 1985 [ 2 of 3]”). While the parallel wording of the two statements suggests that public support was a desire of the administration, it did not explain how the historical analogy would drive U.S. terrorism policy. 88 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 96. More revealing was a memorandum by Don Gregg and Doug Menarchik congratulating Bush on the administration’s decision to liken modern international terrorism to nineteenth-century piracy. The memo recalled the history of the Barbary pirates as follows: “The Founding Fathers were torn between paying tribute as a pragmatic ‘economical’ way of dealing with the pirates versus a more noble military response. Young America had neither the resources (an American Navy was virtually non-existent), experi- ence nor political will to take a bold unilateral approach against the scourge of piracy. Humiliation and a war declared by the pirates finally forced the US into action.” Gregg and Menarchik extracted five lessons from the Barbary pirates that received written praise in the memo’s margins by the vice presi- dent. They included: • Bold unilateral leadership and military action were necessary by the US to end pirate attacks against US interests. • The United States needs to find the “address” for the power domi- nating the region used by the terrorists and use a variety of means to get that power to exercise its authority to police terrorist actions. • Piracy and terrorism are “profitable” and will continue so long as these forms of violence have no consequences. Bilateral, govern- ment-to-government pressure proved the most efficacious diplo- matic way to achieve results. Private initiatives tended to undermine official policy and should be discouraged. • Bilateral approaches which emphasized common concerns and maximized mutual interests proved more effective than multilat- eral approaches such as forming a league against piracy. • Americans were enslaved up to ten years by pirates. Modern ter- rorists hold US citizens captive for years. The US should consider establishing a trauma center for victims and their families. The lessons addressed the public call for more forceful measures against ter- rorism. Their implementation would, in part, be quick, as the bombing of Libya was only months away. Reagan’s move to dub five foreign states as the core responsible for ter- rorism around the globe did not go unnoticed. The leadership could now label any foreign nation a state sponsor of terrorism, with the consequence that all nations could potentially be held accountable for terrorist acts occur- ring anywhere around the globe. Diplomatic, economic, and military pres- sure could all be brought to bear should the U.S. consider a foreign nation insufficiently motivated to stamp out the terrorist threat. Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 89
  • 97. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the shift in the narrative received a skeptical response within the international arena. The United States Information Agency tracked the foreign media’s reaction to the public presentation of the new approach. The agency concluded, “Media reaction was critical of the President’s American Bar Association speech Monday. Commentators saw his ‘furious’ remarks as a ‘hollow threat,’ saying Mr. Reagan had taken the ‘most extreme rhetorical position’” (as qtd. in USIA, Morning Digest Foreign Media Reaction). The conservative press in Britain argued, “Mr. Reagan’s hollow threats are destroying his most valuable foreign policy asset: his credibility” (ibid.). The most influential newspaper in France, Le Monde, argued, “Reagan’s imprecations against terrorists and those who help them [...] reveal his powerlessness” (ibid.). Some media outlets even questioned Reagan’s veracity. Mexico’s Unomasuno argued the address was “a laughable distortion of reality aimed mainly at destroying the Nicaraguan revolution” (ibid.). In large measure the international community considered Reagan’s new public stance not to be credible. As the final section of this chapter will argue, however, terrorism’s emergence as a term that carried ideological force rendered the factual accuracy of administration’s claims far less of a concern for the American public. TERRORISM AND IDEOLOGY Reagan’s recharacterization of terrorism as a continuing, ever-present threat against democracies around the globe received a positive reaction from his domestic audience. The term garnered such persuasive force that it functioned as an ideological marker of American culture. Unlike during the Vietnam War, where Communism dominated terrorism as a justification for US mili- tary involvement for the American public, terrorism now served as an ideo- graph on its own. Terrorism had become a shorthand term of political allegiance that defined the in-groups and out-groups of American culture. Consistent with the defining characteristics of the ideograph, terrorism served as an ordinary term of political discourse. The term became the focus of hundreds of presidential speeches, hundreds of scholarly books, thousands of media articles, and several popular movies during the Reagan presidency. After analyzing presidential rhetoric and broadcast media coverage during the Reagan years, Bethami Dobkin concluded that terrorism functioned as an umbrella term used to portray a wide range of political violence and to represent an archetypal enemy in opposition to American identity (40). The Middle East scholar Edward Said agreed, arguing terrorism had acquired “an extraordinary status in American public discourse,” replacing Communism as “public enemy number one” (149). During the Reagan era, terrorism became 90 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 98. a term of political discourse used repeatedly by the nation’s leaders and citi- zens alike. Terrorism also functioned as a higher-order abstraction that repre- sented collective commitment to a particular but equivocal and ill-defined goal. Administration officials concluded the public wanted Reagan to do something about terrorism; they just were not sure what it should be. Reagan’s national security advisors argued in 1985, “[T]he public’s prefer- ence for a ‘major effort’ by the Government to counter terrorism has risen to the level of top public concerns during the past year” (Holloway, Memo to Fuller, Gregg and Menerchik). They cited a June 1985 Roper poll that found seventy percent of Americans favored a major effort to take steps to combat terrorism, up from fifty-four percent in 1984. They concluded, “Concern about controlling terrorism now matches the level of concern reached by only a few domestic issues during the last decade: nuclear weapons, crime, inflation and unemployment.” While the poll underscored a united commitment by the public to fight against terrorism, its vague ref- erence to “a major effort” to counter the threat was revealing about the abstract nature of the public’s commitment. The administration confirmed through internal polling that the public did not have firm expectations about the specifics of the nation’s terrorism policy. Executive Secretary Rodney B. McDaniel of the National Security Council’s Executive Secretariat underscored the potential flexibility the administration had when responding to terrorism. Based on his assessment of the totality of the administration’s internal national security polling, he told John M. Poindexter, the deputy assistant of the National Security Agency, that “Americans will give the President a limited, but not insignifi- cant time frame to resolve a terrorist incident. The President will have policy latitude, with the public only likely to disapprove of ‘extreme’ actions such as military operations that jeopardize or harm hostages or innocent people, or on the other hand, capitulating to terrorist demands. As time passes without a resolution, however, the President will receive greater criticism no matter what he does” (Memo to Poindexter). With terrorism now an assault on the American way of life, the public would allow the president to do what he determined was necessary, as long as he did it quickly. Besides functioning as an ordinary term of political discourse that united the public, terrorism also warranted the use of power in ways the community would not ordinarily accept or consider laudatory. A good example was the administration’s decision to intercept the Egyptian 737 during the Achille Lauro crisis, an act viewed by many in South Asia and the Middle East as a case of American-sponsored skyjacking. The consequences of the act abroad were substantial. Demonstrations of three thousand to four thousand stu- dents broke out at the University of Cairo. US diplomatic assessments of the Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 91
  • 99. reaction of the Egyptian populace concluded, “[T]he sense of outrage and grievance is widespread” (Am. Emb. Cairo), and “[T]he aftermath of the Achille Lauro hijacking is not only reinforcing anti-U.S./Israel feeling on campus, but also appears to be turning student activists against the Government of Egypt” (ibid.). Headlines in the Middle East read, “American Ambush Hijacks the Hijackers” and “America Crowns Herself Leader of Terrorism.” Members of the foreign press interpreted the intercep- tion as evidence that the United States had “lost its mind completely,” that “America is determined to wreck all peace efforts,” that the United States “presides over the mafia of terrorism,” and that the United States was begin- ning “the real American war against the Arabs” (as qtd. in USIA, Special Report). Taken as a whole, Reagan’s decision to intercept the aircraft risked the long-term relationship the United States had with its closest and most pivotal ally in the Middle East. It simultaneously undermined American credibility in many quarters of the international community. Despite the consequences to US foreign relations, the American public supported Reagan’s handling of the crisis. An ABC News/Washington Post poll conducted late in October 1985 showed eighty percent approved of Reagan’s handling of the Achille Lauro hijacking and the events that followed, while only seventeen percent disapproved (Public Opinion Online, #0005872). A late October 1985 Harris poll added that ninety-one percent of the public believed Reagan was right “not to apologize for the takeover of the Egyptian plane, since it was about time that the U.S. did something to tell hijackers that we weren’t going to let them get away with it in the future, where American lives were involved” (Public Opinion Online, #0062595). The vir- tual unanimity of the public response may, at first glance, appear surprising. Taken out of its ideological context, the act of seizing a foreign aircraft might reasonably be predicted to engender some outrage. Instead, the bulk of the American public appeared to view the action as a necessary step to pre- serve the safety of citizens traveling abroad. Besides warranting the use of international skyjacking, terrorism became a justification for encroaching on the sovereignty rights of foreign nations. The administration knew that despite a long-standing public commitment to see the perpetrators of terrorist acts “brought to justice” (Public Papers, 1986 1:575), the United States actually had a dismal record of prosecuting and punishing international terrorists. A study conducted in the late 1980s, for example, revealed that since 1968, international terrorists involved in kidnap- ping had an eighty percent chance of escaping capture or death and an even chance of having some or all of their demands met. Of the individuals involved in all forms of terrorist activity, few got caught and tried, and of those who did, the average sentence was less than eighteen months (C. Johnson 281). 92 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 100. By the mid-1980s, the administration vowed to remedy the problem. It sponsored the Terrorist Protection Act of 1985, which made the murder or assault of American citizens abroad a federal crime under US law. The effect of the law was to create joint jurisdiction over crimes previously seen as sov- ereign matters of foreign states. In 1986, the Congress authorized the FBI to abduct terrorists located outside of US borders (Kash 141). The new law, when implemented, produced havoc abroad. During the Achille Lauro affair, the Italian media reported that Italy’s failure to meet the Reagan administra- tion’s demand to arrest Abu Abbas had fractured the relationship between the United States and Italy (USIS Rome). When several members of the Italian cabinet threatened to resign over Italy’s handling of the incident, the US Department of State’s Operation Center warned, “The dissatisfaction of three of the five Italian coalition partners with the government’s actions may provoke a cabinet crisis.” By insisting on extradition, the United States jeop- ardized the internal affairs of its allies abroad. Perhaps even more devastating was the result in Colombia. In response to a US demand for extradition of Colombian drug lords, the guerilla group M-19 seized Colombia’s Judicial Palace on November 6, 1985, and took hundreds of hostages. The final death toll from the resulting shootout was more than one hundred, including several members of the Supreme Court who had been in the process of hearing arguments on the extradition ques- tion (Executive Intelligence Review). As a final example, the need to respond to terrorism became the admin- istration’s rationale for preemptive uses of military force around the globe. On April 3, 1984, Reagan signed NSDD 138, which authorized the use of active defense measures in response to state-sponsored terrorism. While the directive and much of its implementation remains classified, publicly avail- able documents revealed administration officials interpreted active defense measures to include preemptive military strikes against groups or individuals planning strikes against US interests “when the host country is unable or unwilling to take effective action” (Hill). The directive authorized sabotage, killing of suspected guerillas and lower-level state officials, preemptory and retaliatory raids, deception, and expanded intelligence against suspected radi- cals and people regarded as their sympathizers, particularly in Iran, Libya, Syria, Cuba, Nicaragua, North Korea, and the USSR (Simpson 365–66). At the time of the directive’s implementation, administration officials were aware it would have adverse consequences for individual American citi- zens. Previously classified documents reveal that as early as 1984, administra- tion officials at the highest levels of government said that “Active defense measures by the United States are expected to prompt retaliation and at least in the short run to increase [the] level of terrorist activity against us, including within the United States” (McFarlane). Given that the Reagan era experienced Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 93
  • 101. the highest level of terrorist activity and the most deadly terrorist acts of any modern president, the pessimistic projections appear to have been prophetic. The public, which was never briefed on the potential consequences of the directive, supported the administration’s strategy of using preemptive attacks. By November 1985, John Poindexter, Reagan’s national security advisor, had received internal polling results that concluded: (1) the public favored taking military action against known terrorist facilities to discourage future acts of terrorism; (2) the public recognized the president must some- times carry out an antiterrorist policy without prior consultation with the Congress or American allies; (3) the public would more likely support mili- tary action against known terrorist bases in Iran or Lebanon than against similar bases in Syria, Nicaragua, or Cuba; and (4) the best time to carry out a military response was after an embassy or military bombing, when fears for the hostages’ lives might complicate the issue (McDaniel, Memo to Poindexter). The public was willing to grant wide latitude to the Reagan administration in its handling of the terrorism threat. When Reagan decided to use military force against Libya, his adminis- tration justified the bombing according to the preemptive standards estab- lished in NSDD 138. In addition to a more traditional claim of self-defense related to the intercepts, he insisted that the United States had evidence the Libyans had been involved with dangerous terrorists groups in the past and that they were planning future incidents against American citizens. The White House’s talking points recalled Qadhafi’s declaration that Libya would train, arm, and protect Arab guerillas for “suicide and terrorist mis- sions,” his vow that Libyan forces would not give up their “brave confronta- tion” against the United States, and his urging for “all Arab peoples” to attack anything American, “be it an interest, goods, a ship, a plane or a person” (White House Talking Points). Official spokespersons expressed concerns about Qadhafi’s “money, training, and technical support to revolu- tionary and terrorist groups as disparate as the Sandinistas, Colombian M-19 guerillas, Caribbean leftist movements, the Irish Revolutionary Army, rebel movements throughout Africa and muslim [sic] insurgents in Thailand and the Philippines” (ibid.). The public overwhelmingly supported the approach, with seventy-one percent supporting the air raid, even though thirty-nine percent believed the act would increase the amount of terrorism (Falk 873). While supported at home, Reagan’s preemptive approach was highly controversial on the international scene. Many foreign countries interpreted the air strikes on Libya to be an act of war. In varying degrees, Iran, Jordan, Syria, China, India, Pakistan, North Yemen, South Yemen, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, the UAE, France, the Netherlands, Spain, Sweden, the USSR, Germany, Poland, Romania, Czechoslovakia, and Nicaragua all condemned the attack (International Reaction). 94 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 102. Debates over terrorism versus freedom-fighting, warranted interception versus international skyjacking, extradition versus international kidnapping, and preemptive measures versus acts of war all demonstrated the cultural variability of the term’s meaning throughout the Reagan era. Who qualified as terrorist, what acts constituted terrorism, and who deserved condemnation were all open questions that prompted culturally specific answers. Following on the heels of two American tragedies (the Vietnam War and the Iranian hostage crisis), Reagan was the first contemporary US leader to both elevate and capitalize on terrorism as a negative ideograph within American society. He did so conscious of the costs of failing to achieve the status of a strong leader against terrorism. In 1987 his own vice president articulated the possible political consequences associated with the terrorist enemy: Except in the case of a catastrophe resulting from biological, chem- ical or nuclear terrorism, the gravest threat [from terrorism] is the potential political impact: a short term crisis, reduced American credibility in the eyes of others, and an upsurge in activity by ter- rorists who believe they have succeeded. We can minimize the political effects of a successful act of terrorism against the United States so that it will not upset or cast doubt on our process of gov- ernment or our leadership. To do this we must emphasize at all levels of government that adherence to our policy, our program, and our procedure is most important. Only in this way, by demon- strating resolve and consistency in dealing with the threat, can the political impact be blunted. By the time Reagan exited his office, the ideological stature of the terrorist label had become firmly established and was a linguistic resource available for all who would follow. The implications were far-reaching. Individual actors committing terrorist atrocities were no longer just the responsibility of law enforcement; heads of all states now had an obligation to respond and pre- vent such acts within their spheres of influence. American presidents could use the full range of state powers, including preemptive military strikes and violations of historically recognized boundaries of state sovereignty, in their pursuit of terrorists. While Reagan limited his application of the ideograph to a small group of state sponsors, his successor would go further and apply the powerful term to a foreign head of state that took aggressive actions against a neighbor. Origins of Terrorism as an American Ideograph 95
  • 103. 5 The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991: The Cold War Narrative in the Post–Cold War Era On August 2, 1990, Iraqi military forces invaded Kuwait, a small Persian Gulf nation that controlled ten percent of the world’s oil supply. Two hours and twenty minutes later, George Bush publicly condemned the attack as a naked act of aggression. Working with foreign nations around the globe, the United States assumed a leadership role in securing twelve related United Nations Security Council resolutions. One resolution called for Iraqi forces to immediately withdraw from Kuwait. Others condemned Iraqi actions, including its invasion and annexation of Kuwait, its holding of foreign nationals, its attempts to change Kuwait’s demographic composition, and its violence against foreign embassies and diplomatic personnel in Kuwait. The remaining resolutions specified how the international community would respond to the act of Iraqi aggression: imposing economic and trade sanc- tions, governing restrictions on humanitarian aid, assigning financial respon- sibility for losses resulting from the invasion, and authorizing the use of all necessary means to enforce the UN resolutions.1 By the beginning of 1991, the Bush administration maintained it had exhausted diplomatic channels for resolving the crisis. On January 16, the United States, along with its coalition partners, initiated Operation Desert Storm, a military action that began with a massive air bombardment of Iraq designed to gain air supremacy and disrupt Iraqi communications and power systems. Before the end of the five-week air campaign, the US Air Force expended more than half of its total arsenal of non-nuclear missiles (Yetiv 32). The air campaign neutralized Iraqi air defenses, destroyed artillery, dis- rupted transportation routes, and limited Iraqi maneuverability on the battle- field. Spokespersons for the US Air Force originally hailed the move as having crippled the Iraqi war-fighting capability, but later assessments dra- matically deflated earlier estimates of success (Gordon and Trainor 465). During the air campaign, allied forces lost thirty-seven combat aircraft, a figure that included twenty-eight American planes. 97
  • 104. On February 24, 1991, allied ground forces entered the conflict. The maneuvers included a decoy amphibious assault off the coast of Kuwait, a flanking initiative three hundred miles west of the Iraqi-Kuwaiti border, and a raid across the Kuwaiti-Saudi border designed to recapture Kuwait City. The ground war lasted approximately one hundred hours. By February 27, Iraq conceded and announced its decision to comply with the UN resolutions. The casualities on the two sides of the conflict were widely disparate. From the day Iraqi forces moved into Kuwait until the day they withdrew, the allied forces lost 698 soldiers. Included in that figure were 207 Americans who died in noncombat related accidents. Early calculations made at the time of the conflict estimated Iraqi deaths, during the same period, to be between 30,000 and 115,000, with an additional 111,000 Iraqis dying after- ward from the health effects of the war (Yetiv 118; Warner and Winkler 180; Dapointe 186). Such casualty figures for Iraqi deaths have been difficult to verify, given access issues. More recent estimates place the number of Iraqi casualties suffered during the military operations at 10,000 (Yetiv 118). As this chapter will demonstrate, the Bush administration struggled ini- tially with whether to call Iraq’s move on Kuwait an act of terrorism. At the time of the incursion, the US government considered Iraq a potential ally in the Middle East that might further American interests in the region. Not wanting to irreparably harm bilateral relations between the United States and Iraq, the Bush administration gradually escalated its rhetoric against the Iraqi leader. Eventually, the administration decided to depict the events in the Gulf as terrorist acts and borrowed the Reagan strategy of reconstituting the Cold War narrative. Unlike the previous administration, however, the Bush camp remained cautious about invoking the full ideological potential of the terrorist label. LABELING THE CRISIS Initially, the Bush administration did not label the Iraqi move on Kuwait as an act of terrorism. The first administration statements on the crisis referred to the action as “aggression,” “an unwarranted attack,” “a reckless action,” “an irrational action,” “naked aggression,” “intolerable behavior,” “unprovoked aggression,” “ a miscalculation,” “an invasion,” and “a contravention of inter- national law” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1107–09; 1130–37). The administration exercised restraint, even after receiving intelligence that the Iraqi government was refusing exit privileges to more than six hundred foreign nationals in Kuwait and that Iraqi troops were moving US citizens from Kuwait to Iraq. Bush told reporters he was concerned about the foreign nationals, but main- tained he was “not going to invite further harassment by elevating the value 98 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 105. of any citizen” (1120). Faced with an opportunity to arouse public concern by evoking terrorism, Bush initially demurred, choosing instead to work behind the scenes to resolve the conflict. The administration publicly offered reasoning for why it avoided the use of the terrorist frame. Secretary of State James Baker gave the following explanation early in the crisis: “[N]othing has been demanded or asked in connection with permitting them to leave the country [...] we think it would be a mistake to characterize it as a hostage situation and to use a word like that since we are in discussion with respect to the matter. And as far as we know, no American citizens have as yet been mistreated” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1126). In his memoirs, Bush made clear the actual motivation behind his restraint had more to do with public reactions both at home and abroad than it did with a failure of Iraqi behavior to qualify as terrorism. He revealed he “had been reluctant to use the word ‘hostage’ in public statements because [he] did not want to invite comparison to Tehran and lose the international focus on Kuwait, the real issue” (Bush and Scowcroft 350). Unwilling to risk framing the Iraq-Kuwaiti conflict as another American tragedy, Bush was circumspect about his word choice. By late August 1990, the administration changed its mind and began arguing Iraq had left it no choice but to use the hostage label. Bush described the rationale for his rhetorical shift to the annual conference of the Veterans of Foreign Wars: “We’ve been reluctant to use the term ‘hostage.’ But when Saddam Hussein specifically offers to trade the freedom of those citizens of many nations he holds against their will in return for concessions, there can be little doubt that whatever these innocent people are called, they are, in fact, hostages” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1148). By late September, public threats of terrorism from Iraqi officials and Palestinian terrorist groups, as well as evidence of Iraqi operatives planning a major worldwide terrorist campaign, prompted Bush to declare, “We hold Saddam Hussein responsible if there is any terrorist act against us” (1265). Bush’s personal use of the ter- rorist label left little doubt that he now considered the conflict to be one of high stakes. Despite intermittent use of the hostage label to describe those held in Kuwait and Iraq in the early months of the crisis, the administration initially rejected the use of terrorism as an overarching theme for Saddam Hussein’s behavior during the Gulf conflict. Drafts of Bush’s speeches throughout August and September 1990 reveal the administration considered, but even- tually discarded, terrorism as an encompassing rational for American involve- ment. Bush’s September 11, 1990 address to a joint session of Congress demonstrated that the administration was still cautious about branding Iraqi actions as terrorist atrocities. A draft of the speech’s introduction, cast aside prior to final delivery, spun the entire situation as terrorist aggression: “We The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 99
  • 106. gather as an Iraqi aggressor suppresses peaceful Arab neighbors whose coun- try he has ruthlessly invaded—an Iraqi President who, in violation of law and decency, holds innocent people from many nations hostage; an Iraqi dictator who, if left unchecked, would hold the global economy hostage to his expanding control of oil; and who, if not restrained, might extend his reign of terror with chemical weapons, as he has done before” (Speech with Draft Notes, “Iraq and the Economy.”). A proposed applause line for the speech reinforced the theme: “But we cannot allow ourselves—or the world—to be terrorized.” Abandoning terrorism as an organizing principle for the speech, the final manuscript relegated “freedom from terror” to one of several goals Bush grouped under his fifth objective for the contest (i.e., creating a New World Order). The term “hostages” similarly received a mention, but as only one of five UN resolutions related to the Iraqi situation. The applause line was omitted altogether. A comparison of the two drafts reveals that the Bush administration decided not to embrace, but still chose to preserve, the option of casting the crisis as terrorism. The decision not to inflame the public with the discourse of terrorism was also evident in how the administration chose to describe Saddam Hussein prior to and during the crisis. Immediately following Iraq’s move on Kuwait, the Bush administration adopted a public strategy of downplaying terrorist portrayals of the leader that would evoke negative stereotypes. Early drafts of Bush’s remarks at the Pentagon courtyard on August 15, for exam- ple, included the following, subsequently omitted, linkage of the Iraqi leader to infamous terrorists: “Today, Saddam Hussein’s Iraq stands as an interna- tional outlaw, a haven for mercenaries and terrorists like the notorious Abu Abbas, whose jackals gunned down an American retiree on the Achille Lauro, tossing him and his wheelchair into the sea” (Haass, Speech with Draft Notes to Winston). Only once throughout August and September 1990 did Bush refer to Hussein’s previous use of chemical weapons on the battlefield, and then, only in response to a reporter’s direct question about the Iraqi’s potential for using chemical weapons (Public Papers, 1990 2:1110). By down- playing Hussein’s past acts of terrorism, the Bush administration reserved the future ability of the United States to restore its alliance with the Iraqi leader in the event that he withdrew from Kuwait. Having discarded the overarching theme of terrorism early in the crisis, the Bush administration relied instead on a lengthy list of justifications for American involvement in the Persian Gulf conflict. In the three months after the Iraqi attack, administration spokespersons offered the following public rationales for engagement of US military forces: (1) stemming Iraqi aggres- sion, (2) maintaining stability and security in the Middle East, (3) preventing a dictator from strangling the global economic order through control of the oil supplies, (4) restoring Kuwait’s legitimate government, (5) protecting the 100 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 107. lives of American citizens held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait, (6) protecting the lives of foreign nationals held hostage in Iraq and Kuwait, (7) creating a New World Order, (8) defending Saudi Arabia, (9) getting Iraq out of Kuwait, (10) deterring future proliferation of chemical, biological, ballistic missile, and nuclear technologies, (11) protecting jobs, and (12) destroying Iraq’s military capability. Public diplomacy themes distributed to White House spokespersons added even more justifications for military involvement: the protection of US embassies, the enhancement of America’s image as a reli- able ally, and the protection of interests considered vital by every president since Harry Truman (Public Diplomacy Themes, n.d.). By listing so many rationales for US involvement, the administration risked the perception it wanted to intervene militarily regardless of the reason. Despite the myriad of public rationales for a military presence, private memoranda from the American Embassy in Riyadh demonstrated that the Bush administration had even more goals that it never shared with either the American public or with the full complement of its coalition partners. Examples of such objectives included the elimination of Iraqi nuclear, bio- logical, and chemical capabilities, the military downsizing of Iraq’s offensive war-fighting capability, a restored balance of power in the region between Iran, Syria, and a rehabilitated Iraq, and stronger US. economic, political, and military cooperation with members of the Gulf Cooperation Council. Embassy personnel lobbied the White House not to abandon these US objectives because they lacked the full support of the international coalition; they argued, instead, that the administration should consider these additional aims as falling within the coalition’s broad consensus goal of “restoring secu- rity and stability to the region” (US and Coalition War Aims). The internal correspondence revealed that a primary justification for US involvement was a reduction of Iraqi influence in the Middle East, a cause not palpable to the broader international audience. In his memoir, coauthored with George Bush, Brent Scowcroft discloses that during the first months after the Iraqi invasion, the administration expe- rienced widespread frustration at its apparent inability to communicate the war aims of the Gulf crisis to the American public. When faced with criti- cism, Scowcroft maintained the administration “tended to react to com- plaints by expanding the list of U.S. interests, leading to charges that each of the principals had his own reasons and we really didn’t have our act together” (Bush and Scowcroft 399). Assuming Scowcroft was correct in his analysis, the administration compounded its lack of focus even as it tried to communi- cate more persuasively with the American public. By late October 1990, the national polls reaching the administration’s Persian Gulf Working Group demonstrated waning support for Bush’s leader- ship during the Gulf crisis. A USA Today survey showed a thirty-one percent The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 101
  • 108. drop in the number of respondents who approved of Bush’s handling of the crisis from August 20 to November 13 (Press Clips). An ABC News–Washington Post poll showed a similar twenty-six percent drop from August through October 1990 (Press Clips, Natl. Journal 12/15/90). Accompanying the general drop in support for the Bush’s handling of the Gulf crisis was growing uncertainty about why US military forces were nec- essary. A National Journal poll conducted in August and again in November showed a nineteen percent drop in the number of Americans who believed “Bush has explained the Middle East situation well enough so that you feel you understand why the United States is sending troops to Saudi Arabia” (ibid.). The public appeared to be reacting to the growing list of justifications for US involvement by becoming more confused. In an effort to understand why public support was dwindling, several polling organizations probed further. The results indicated that some of the administration’s rationales for engaging US forces simply did not resonate with the American public. Again in a poll reviewed by the administration’s Persian Gulf Working Group, the Los Angeles Times reported on November 14, 1990, nationwide “Just 1 in 6 of those polled said the United States should go to war to protect oil supplies, and only about 1 in 8 said restoring the Kuwaiti government—another of the President’s core objectives—would be worth bloodshed” (Press Clips). The administration’s primary justifica- tions for the use of military force were simply not persuasive with the bulk of the American populace. By October, members of the administration began lobbying the presi- dent to regain focus in his public justification for going to war. Robert Teeter, Bush’s chief pollster, implored him to recognize that the administra- tion simply had too many public rationales for military involvement in the Persian Gulf Crisis. He encouraged Bush to limit the administration’s public statements to two main justifications: Iraqi aggression and protecting the lives of Americans held in Kuwait and Iraq (Woodward, Commanders 315). James Baker argued similarly that the administration should emphasize the plight of the hostages in Iraq and Kuwait, given that the public was not accepting the value of oil supplies or the dismantling of Kuwait as sufficient rationales for war (Hybel 72). Making the hostages the focus of the public justification for war had a number of advantages for the Bush administration. Perhaps foremost among them was that the hostages provided a legal justification for Bush’s assump- tion of commander-in-chief powers. As Steven Rademaker, the deputy legal adviser to the National Security Council, opined, “The President’s authority to commit U.S. forces to combat in self-defense exists not only with respect to attacks on U.S. territory and U.S. forces, but also with respect to attacks on U.S. citizens and property abroad. Therefore, so long as Iraq continues to 102 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 109. hold U.S. citizens hostage, and U.S. military actions against Iraq are in any way calculated to obtain their release, those actions can be defended as legit- imate exercises of the President’s authority as Commander in Chief.” By focusing on the hostages, rather than on acquiring oil access or the protec- tion of the Kuwaiti government, the administration could justify US involve- ment on defensive grounds more acceptable to the public. Emphasizing the hostages also positioned the administration to advo- cate the primary concern of the American public. A USA Today poll, con- ducted nationwide in mid-November 1990 and then reviewed by central administration officials, found, “50% still say saving the 1,000 U.S. hostages in Iraq and Kuwait is the top priority” (Press Clips). A tracking poll con- ducted by NBC News–The Wall Street Journal in August, September, and December 1990 revealed that a majority of the public considered terrorism a hair trigger issue justifying US military action. Asked whether the United States should take military action in response to a hypothetical scenario where “Iraq imprisons or mistreats Americans left in Kuwait,” fifty-five to seventy percent of the respondents indicated that it should (Press Clips, Natl. Journal 1/12/91). The terrorism label, having already achieved the status of an ideograph during the Reagan administration, again demonstrated its abil- ity to mobilize the public. A third way that focus on the hostages benefited the administration involved avoiding controversy with his domestic audience. Bush himself was vulnerable to charges that his desire to maintain Kuwaiti sovereignty stemmed from self-interest, given that his was the first US oil company to drill wells in Kuwait (Wayne 47). During the administration’s campaign to garner support for the war effort, Bush’s general connections to oil interests had been a topic of public discussion, but his specific association to Kuwait had yet to attract concerted media attention. The strategy of highlighting the plight of the hostages, however, was not without risk. Bush’s immediate two predecessors—Jimmy Carter and Ronald Reagan—each suffered sharp twenty point drops in their presidential approval ratings in the face of lingering hostage crises (“Presidential Popularity” 7). For many observers both at home and abroad, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Iran-Contra scandal demonstrated the weakness, rather than the strength, of American power in the international arena. Bush was particularly vulnerable to such criticism, given his role as Reagan’s chief counterterrorism official during the Iran-Contra affair and his decision as president to pardon members of the Reagan administration found guilty of involvement in the scandal. Focusing on the hostages to justify US military intervention also carried the risk of elevating Saddam Hussein’s leverage within the conflict. Bush advisors warned Hussein might decide to release the hostages and continue The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 103
  • 110. to occupy Kuwait, an eventuality the Iraqi leader exercised by December 1990 (US and Coalition War Aims). As Stephen Rademaker forecast, “If the hostages are freed, the individual self-defense rationale for U.S. military operations against Iraq will become more attenuated. The argument then becomes that we are acting in collective self-defense of Kuwait and related U.S. interests rather than U.S. lives and property.” While perhaps sufficient to sustain a legal justification for going to war, the stance, if accepted, realigned the administration with rationales for war that had failed to garner public support. Despite the risks involved, the administration began emphasizing the hostages held in Iraq and Kuwait as a primary justification for going to war. By late October 1990, the government’s public statements began detailing the plight of the hostages, including their shortages of food, their inadequate housing, and the terrorizing impact of being forced to act as human shields (see Baker, “Why America Is in the Gulf” 237). The Bush administration proceeded to employ an overarching frame of terrorism to characterize the conflict. In Bush’s rhetoric, Saddam Hussein became an “international ter- rorist” (Public Papers, 1991 1:26). Iraq’s occupation of Kuwait became “a sys- tematic campaign of terror on the people of Kuwait—unspeakable atrocities against men and women and among the maimed and murdered, even inno- cent children” (12). Iraq’s capture of Kuwaiti oil reserves became a means to “finance further aggression, terror and blackmail” (11). Iraq’s Scud missile attack on Israel was “purely an act of terror” (48). Iraq’s torching of Kuwaiti oil wells was an act of “tragic and despicable environmental terrorism” (79). By November 1990, the administration depicted every action by the Iraqi leader as an act of terrorism. In brief, the administration was initially reluctant to frame the Persian Gulf crisis as terrorism. When other justifications for US involvement in the crisis failed to garner public support, the administrations shifted to a coordi- nated public campaign of denouncing the Iraqi leader as a terrorist. By doing so the Bush administration transformed the crisis in the Persian Gulf from a conventional war scenario between two foreign nation-states into an interna- tional battle against the scourge of terrorism. The framing encouraged the public to evaluate the administration’s handling of the crisis, not from the position of a distant ally of an attacked nation, but in accordance with its status as the leader of the free world in a fight to protect the civilized world. The Bush administration’s framing of Saddam Hussein as a terrorist built upon the Reagan administration’s conception of states providing logis- tical and financial support for terrorism. The key difference between the two approaches was that terrorism in Bush administration discourse not only encompassed foreign states connected in some way with the terrorist acts of others; it also included nations with leaders who committed bad acts in the 104 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 111. conduct of their own foreign policy. The Bush administration used the shift in strategy to reconstitute the Cold War narrative into a fitting story for the post-Cold War era. THE NARRATIVE OF THE 1991 PERSIAN GULF CRISIS The Bush administration faced a significant rhetorical challenge in its attempt to tell the story of the Persian Gulf situation. The typical public terrorism strategy of modern Republican presidents, the Cold War narra- tive, appeared outmoded in the post-Cold War period. Bush’s Persian Gulf Working Group reviewed an analysis comparing two previous Cold War conflicts with the situation in Kuwait. The report concluded, “The present situation in the Persian Gulf does not feature the same compelling cold war motivations as earlier conflicts. The need to destroy Iraq’s nuclear and chemical capabilities, the need to protect U.S. hostages, and the removal of Saddam Hussein from power are all factors that may be able to fill the gap left by the absence of cold war labels, but not one of these justifications is as deeply rooted in American culture as the cold war psychology was in early conflicts” (Historical Overview). With the collapse of the Soviet Union, conventional modes of public persuasion in foreign policy became more attenuated. In the end, Bush chose to follow the lead of his predecessor. He adopted Reagan’s approach of reasserting central themes and character traits of the Cold War narrative, while reconstituting certain plot elements consistent with his new vision of the post-Cold War era. Such a strategy provided rhetorical continuity to appeal to his political base; simultaneously, it pre- sented a new foreign policy approach that administration officials hoped would attract the popular support of the general electorate. The Bush narrative borrowed the theme of a fragile scene from the his- toric Cold War narrative. The Kuwaiti monarchy, however, neither func- tioned as an emerging democracy (the conventional backdrop of traditional Cold War discourse) nor as a preexisting democracy vulnerable due to its open form of government (Reagan’s reconstituted scene). The Bush adminis- tration resolved the problem by ascribing the characteristic of fragility to the New World Order. Bush explained, “Today that new world is struggling to be born, a world quite different from the one we’ve known. A world where the rule of law supplants the rule of the jungle. A world in which nations rec- ognize the shared responsibility for freedom and justice. A world where the strong respect the rights of the weak” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1219). From the perspective articulated by Bush, order was an option for all nations: the strong and the weak, the large and the small, the democratic and the not-so- The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 105
  • 112. democratic. The New World Order constituted a frail international context that held the promise to yield a more peaceful, a more just, and a more liber- ated world. The Bush administration recalled the traditional Cold War scene by claiming that emerging democracies around the globe were vulnerable to Hussein’s actions. The fact that Iraq had not yet invaded a democratic nation did not prevent the administration from arguing that such countries were suffering. In Bush’s public statements, the emerging democracies shouldered the bulk of the economic consequences of the conflict between Iraq and Kuwait. He explained, “The fledgling democracies in Eastern Europe are being severely damaged by the economic effects of Saddam’s actions. The developing countries in Africa and in our hemisphere are being victimized by this dictator’s rape of his neighbor Kuwait” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1719). Behind the scenes, the Bush administration was concerned about the eco- nomic impact of the Iraqi move on the United States. Aides articulated fears of a recession, a potential $300 billion deficit, and even worse long-term eco- nomic problems (For Discussion). While the New World Order became the label for the new scene in the reconstituted Cold War narrative, it was broad enough to include both established and new democracies worldwide. The Bush administration’s depiction of the scene functioned to rebut a charge embedded in the competing Iraqi narrative about the conflict. In the months leading up to the takeover, Iraq had blamed Kuwait for the eco- nomic distress that prompted its move on Kuwait. Saddam Hussein charged that Kuwait had moved its border northward seventy kilometers and was engaging in slant drilling to pump oil from Iraqi oil fields during the Iran- Iraq War. As compensation, he demanded $2.4 billion from the Kuwaitis. At the Arab Summit in Baghdad at the end of May, Hussein accused Kuwait of acting again to hurt Iraqi interests by flooding the world oil market and driving prices down to a low of $7 per barrel. On July 16, 1990, Hussein argued that Kuwait’s oil policy had cost Iraq $14 billion (Am. Emb. Baghdad). Privately after the summit, Saddam Hussein told the Saudi oil minister, “I will never agree to let Iraqis starve, and Iraqi women go naked because of need” (Aziz, as qtd. in Baram 16). Kuwait, not Iraq, became the aggressor in the public stance of the Iraqi leader. In response, the Bush narrative presented Kuwait not as an actor self- ishly out for its own self-interest, but as one of many nations that made up the frail scene of the New World Order. Bush insisted Kuwait was “a peace- ful neighbor” (Public Papers, 1991 1:74), “a much smaller neighbor” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1107), and “a small and defenseless neighbor” (Public Papers, 1991 1:78). It was not the aggressor. Bush reinforced the innocence and rel- ative powerlessness of Kuwait by feminizing its victim status in light of the Iraqi crimes committed against it. Bush portrayed the Iraq’s invasion as “a 106 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 113. ruthless systematic rape of a peaceful neighbor” (74). The metaphor of rape highlighted the action’s indiscriminate nature (Griffin 35), the intimidation involved in the act (Brownmuller 15), and the perpetrator’s use of force (Muehlenhard, Danoff-Burg, and Powch 129). It also chastised those who would blame the victim as callous and unsympathetic. As a small, defenseless state in the New World Order, Kuwait qualified for the support of larger nations striving for peace and stability around the globe. As the guilty party in the Bush administration’s public strategy, Iraq assumed many of the negative characteristics ascribed to the Communists in the Cold War narrative. Iraq, like the Communist menace before it, har- bored the goals of worldwide conquest. Only, this time, the purpose of the expansion was control over the world’s economic resources, rather than the spread of an ideological perspective. Bush held that Saddam Hussein was “bent on regional domination” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1580), and wanted to establish “a chokehold on the world’s economic lifeline” (ibid.). Bush insisted the reason Hussein sought dominance over Kuwaiti oil supplies involved his “desires to control one of the world’s key resources” (1719). In the Bush nar- rative, greed and economic power replaced ideological dominance as the pri- mary motivations behind Hussein’s conduct. Credibly presenting Saddam Hussein as a worldwide economic threat, however, posed a rhetorical challenge for the administration. Bush himself had been involved in a number of executive branch decisions that presumed Iraq to be a potential ally of the United States. Most dramatic was the case of Iraq shooting on the USS Stark, an incident that occurred during Bush’s term as Reagan’s vice president. When the US government asked the Iraqi regime to explain the incident, the foreign government argued it had mistak- enly fired two missiles on a warship escorting American-flagged Kuwaiti oil tankers out of the Persian Gulf. The Reagan team, denied an interview with the pilot, publicly accepted Iraq’s explanation that the killing of the thirty- seven American sailors and the wounding of twenty-one others had been an accident. Efforts to improve relations between the two countries ensued. Formally, the Reagan administration had taken steps to strengthen the ties between the two nations. Working to block an Iranian move to assume control of Iraq, the United States removed Iraq from the State Department’s list of official state sponsors of terrorism in 1982. Even more embarrassing for Bush, the administration had provided critical battle planning assistance to Iraq “at a time when American intelligence agencies knew that Iraqi com- manders would employ chemical weapons in waging the decisive battles in the Iran-Iraq war, according to senior military officials with direct knowl- edge of the program” (“Officers Say” 1). In a variety of contexts, Bush was connected with US moves to establish closer relations with Hussein and the Iraqi government. The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 107
  • 114. Once Bush assumed the presidency, he continued the pattern of work- ing to strengthen the alliance. His secretary of state refused to place Iraq on the official list of state sponsors of terrorism, even after Hussein used chemi- cal weapons against his own people. In October 1989, Bush signed National Security Directive 26, the official policy of cooperative engagement with Iraq. The government’s rationale for its new conciliatory policy with Iraq read, “Normal relations between the United States and Iraq would serve our longer-term interests and promote stability in both the Gulf and the Middle East” (G. [H. W.] Bush, Memo of NSD 26). The directive authorized the government to pursue opportunities for US firms to participate in the recon- struction of the Iraqi economy in the aftermath of the Iran-Iraq war and to consider the sale of nonlethal forms of military assistance to Iraq. Subsequently, the administration supported the extension of $3 billion in US agricultural credits to Iraq between February 1988 and July 1989. A congres- sional delegation visiting Baghdad on April 12, 1990, reassured Saddam Hussein privately of continued US support, a message that Glaspie reiterated to the Iraqi leader two weeks later.2 In light of the administration’s policy of cooperative engagement, transforming Saddam Hussein into an evil menace bent on control over a key world resource would not come easily. To counter the claim that the government had misjudged Iraq’s poten- tial as an ally, the Bush administration recalled a theme from conventional Cold War discourse. In short, the narrative held that like the Communists before, the Iraqi dictator was a liar. Bush told reporters that Iraq had lied about its plans to invade Kuwait and its promise to withdraw a few days into the conflict. Bush publicly declared that Saddam Hussein’s “promises mean nothing” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1108). The United States was no longer in denial about Saddam Hussein’s true intentions. When a reporter asked “why it is that not all that long ago it was Saddam Hussein that the U.S. was dealing with in the Middle East,” Bush responded, “[H]e hadn’t invaded Kuwait. He hadn’t raped, pillaged, and plundered the people in Kuwait and the city of Kuwait itself. He hadn’t violated this fundamental norm of inter- national behavior” (1679). Within the Bush narrative, Iraq’s assault on Kuwait removed all doubt about the nation’s trustworthiness on the interna- tional stage. The charge of misjudging Iraqi intentions gained strength from the Bush administration’s failure to prevent the Iraq’s military buildup on the Kuwaiti border in late July 1990. Internal intelligence briefings at the time confirmed that US military analysts had suspected that an Iraqi invasion might be imminent. A briefing memo sent from Sandra Charles through Richard N. Haass to Scowcroft on July 27, 1990 summarized the day’s intel- ligence: “Saddam apparently has increased his military force strength by one division along the border. [. . .] Analysts believe that a shallow incursion into 108 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 115. the northern oilfield, Rumaylah, cannot be ruled out, while drastic military action is also possible if less likely.” Convinced by counterarguments that Iraq would not risk the invasion, Bush and his top aides sent a message to Saddam Hussein later the same day reiterating the conciliatory posture of the United States. The communication assured the Iraqi leader that the United States was trying to find a way to work with him and insisted Iraq recipro- cate (Woodward, Commanders 215). On the morning of the Iraqi move into Kuwait, Bush further contributed to the controversy by telling reporters he considered the Iraqi takeover a fait accompli (Greenstein 166). Whether too conciliatory or too fatalistic, the Bush administration’s failure to prevent the events in the Gulf raised lingering questions about the evil characterization of a foreign leader recently courted by the US government. The Bush administration narrative, however, supplied an explanation of why the government had failed to prevent Iraqi forces from invading Kuwait. When the six-month buildup of Iraqi forces had begun, the United States had considered Hussein the leader of a nation with the potential to become a valued member of the international community; now, he was a terrorist who no longer employed a rational decision-making calculus. The Bush adminis- tration relied on the stereotype of the irrational terrorist to transform the character of Saddam Hussein. Bush insisted Saddam’s actions were “sense- less,” “irrational,” and “reckless,” and offered “no military advantage to him whatsoever” (Public Papers, 1991 1:69). Bush admitted he “[couldn’t] figure out what he’s thinking” (107). James Baker added that Saddam Hussein had “an inflated sense of Iraq’s leverage and a very high pain threshold” (“Statement before Senate Foreign Relations Comm.” 308). Facing an irra- tional opponent, the Bush administration could not reasonably have been expected to anticipate the ill-conceived Iraqi attack. The administration returned to the Cold War narrative to frame the means the Iraqi leader used in the Persian Gulf conflict. Bush argued that Hussein relied on barbaric acts to accomplish his objectives. The most horri- fying and vivid story of the war involved Iraqi soldiers throwing premature babies out of incubators before stealing the machines to take home to Iraq. On October 10, the Congressional Human Rights Caucus heard what they thought was firsthand testimony from a fifteen-year-old girl known only as Nayirah. Nayirah told the committee that she only wished to use her first name in order to protect her friends and relatives in Kuwait. Not under oath, the girl testified that Iraqi soldiers had come into the al-Addan Hospital in Kuwait where she was volunteering, removed fifteen premature babies from their incubators, and left them to die on the floor. Once told, the story received substantial attention both at home and abroad. In late October 1990, Bush repeated the essence of Nayirah’s story, this time attributing it to the emir of Kuwait. He stated, “[D]ay after day, The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 109
  • 116. shocking new horrors reveal the true nature of the reign of terror in Kuwait. In one hospital, dialysis patients were ripped from their machines and the machines shipped from Kuwait to Baghdad. Iraq soldiers pulled the plug on incubators supporting 22 premature babies. All 22 died. The hospital employees were shot and the plundered machines were shipped off to Baghdad” (Public Papers, 1990 1:1482). Bush repeated the story in various venues and the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton presented it before the United Nations Security Council. In December 1990, Amnesty International confirmed in a press release the looting of the incubators, but raised the number of deaths of premature babies to 300. The story, told repeatedly in multiple forums, became the representative anecdote of Iraqi barbarity. Six pro-war senators mentioned the incubator account in speeches explaining their votes to support the Senate resolution to authorize the war. In the end their number was significant. The resolution passed by only a five-vote majority.3 The incubator incident was false. By April 1991, Amnesty International retracted the story after its fact-finding team found “no reliable evidence that Iraqi forces have caused the deaths of babies by removing them or ordering their removal from incubators” (Koch). Some earlier witnesses recanted par- ticular details of the story, while others discounted it altogether. Revelations that Nayirah was the daughter of the Kuwaiti ambassador to the United States, that she had never been in the hospital, and that she had been coached for her testimony by the public relations firm of Hill and Knowlton further undermined the story’s credibility (K. Phillips 309). To further dramatize the barbaric nature of the Iraqi enemy, the administration emphasized the plight of Americans held hostage in Kuwait and Iraq. By late October 1990, James Baker expounded on the unaccept- able conditions the hostages faced in captivity. He announced, “Americans are being forced to sleep on vermin-ridden concrete floors. They are kept in the dark during the day and moved only at night. They have had their meals cut to two a day. And many are becoming sick as they endure a terri- ble ordeal. The very idea of Americans being used as human shields is simply unconscionable” (“Why America is in the Gulf” 237). On November 1, 1990, the administration highlighted the conditions of the hostage’s confinement in its briefing to fifteen congressional leaders on the status of the Persian Gulf conflict. Bush began the meeting by explaining that the United States was receiving more reports of maltreatment of American and British hostages. The members of the delegation were skep- tical. They questioned whether any escalation of maltreatment had occurred. They suggested the administration might simply be using the plight of the hostages to justify going to war. Senator William Cohen, the vice chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, offered that officials 110 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 117. of the CIA and DIA, when testifying before his committee the preceding week, had indicated there was no new evidence of mistreatment (Woodward, Commanders 17). Throughout November and December, the administration nevertheless reminded the public that Iraq was starving the embassy personnel in Kuwait. By January 1991, administration officials had recounted repeated instances of Iraqi disrespect for fundamental tenets of international law and order. The Bush administration reinforced the idea of Iraqi barbarity by renouncing the initial reluctance by US officials to discuss the Iraqi leader- ship’s prior bad acts. After Hussein had used chemical weapons to kill more than eight thousand Kurdish civilians in Iraq in 1988, the Bush administra- tion had worked initially to downplay the incident and weaken a bill in Congress to impose economic sanctions in response to the atrocity.4 Members of the Bush administration did so knowing that the United States had supplied Iraq with six strains of botulinum toxin, three strains of anthrax, and three strains of gas gangrene bacteria, West Nile fever virus, and dengue fever virus since 1983 (Niman 20–22). During the buildup of US forces in the Gulf, the administration abandoned its earlier public restraint. Bush denounced Hussein’s callous use of weapons of mass destruction against “innocent villagers, his own people” (Public Papers, 1991 1:11). Based on lessons learned from past experience with Iraq, Bush insisted that Saddam Hussein’s current pursuit of a chemical and biological weapons arsenal would become a precursor to future acts of barbarism. In Bush’s reconstituted Cold War narrative, Iraq shared the characteris- tic barbarity of the Communist threat, but shifted the object of its conquest ambitions to the economic arena and its chosen method of achieving domi- nation to weapons of mass destruction. To successfully respond to the revised threat, the hero character in the Bush narrative also needed to be recast. The new hero became the broader international community, with the United States assuming a leadership role. Even while shifting the hero’s identity, the administration’s new narra- tive did not abandon the prior persona of the United States in conventional Cold War discourse. Bush grounded the nation’s motivations in those rehearsed many times for his domestic audience. He laid out his administra- tion’s goals as, “You know how America remains the hope of ‘liberty-loving people everywhere’” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1150). On a mission to defend the freedom and self-determination of all members of the international commu- nity, the United States retained its earlier objectives. The administration justified the means necessary for responding to the Iraqi threat by drawing from the lessons of the nation’s war history. As a recent and resonant public memory of US success against terrorism, World War II became the resurrected standard for how America should respond. The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 111
  • 118. The Vietnam War, as a compelling recent episode of a US failure against ter- rorism, became a cautionary tale for how not to engage the enemy. The Bush administration capitalized on the collective public memory of World War II to draw a number of public lessons about how the United States should react to the takeover of Kuwait. The first of these was that the United States should shed its unilateral posture in times of international crisis and, instead, assume a leadership role within the broader global com- munity. Accordingly, Bush framed the crisis as one facing the entire civilized international community: “[W]e’re not in this alone. [...] It is the United Nations against Saddam Hussein. It is not Iraq against the United States” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1169). He touted the rewards of global cooperation for ultimate success in the conflict when he stated, “[T]ogether, we can success- fully oppose tyranny and help those nations who look to us for leadership and vision” (ibid.). While the United States still played a vital role in the nar- rative’s battle against terrorism, it no longer assumed sole responsibility for overcoming the threat. The folly of appeasement was a second lesson the Bush administration borrowed from World War II. Bush warned the public of the consequences of appeasement by historical references to Adolf Hitler. In one warning, he remembered that “Half a century ago, the world had the chance to stop a ruthless aggressor and missed it” (Public Papers, 1990 2:1150). When Bush sent James Baker to meet with Iraqi foreign minister Tariq Aziz in early January, he assured the public he would not repeat the mistakes of World War II. In his January 9 news conference, Bush declared that he “sent Jim Baker to Geneva not to negotiate, but to communicate” (Public Papers, 1991 2:18). In accordance with the new framework, the government did not fail if it was incapable of securing a negotiated settlement; instead, it failed if it made even a minor concession to a recognized terrorist. The Soviet Union experienced the transposed standard firsthand when it offered concessions to Iraq in exchange for an agreement to withdraw from Kuwait immediately prior to the ground war. The proposal was along the lines of domestic US opinion polls conducted from November 9 to November 13, 2000, which showed that sixty-nine percent of the respon- dents favored “Agreeing to a negotiated settlement, under which in return for getting out of Kuwait, Saddam Hussein is allowed to have access to the Persian Gulf through the northern part of Kuwait, as a face-saving device for him to get out” (L. Harris, “Public Wants” 2). Nevertheless, Bush remained consistent with the no-negotiation pledge of the revised narrative and rejected the proposal immediately. He announced that the Soviet proposal fell “well short of what would be required” (as qtd. in Rosenthal A1). The World War II standard of unconditional surrender became the Bush admin- istration’s only standard for an acceptable outcome in the conflict. 112 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 119. Despite the public stance, officials in the Bush administration perceived that a substantial portion of the public actually favored making concessions to avoid war in the Gulf. After the United States moved offensive force strength into Saudi Arabia in November 1990, for example, advisors warned the Persian Gulf Working Group, “Americans are not convinced that the President has taken all the relevant diplomatic steps” (Troops in the Gulf). The Opinion Analysis Staff of the Bureau of Public Affairs in the State Department identified particular concessions that had the potential to under- mine public support for US military involvement in the region. Their report to the Working Group in early January 1991 stated, “Partial Iraqi withdrawal produced a 5–10 point decline in support for using military force to free Kuwait completely. A total withdrawal produced about a 25-point decline in support for using force (‘to destroy Iraqi’s military threat’), plus increased support for removing US troops” (US Dept. St., PA/Opinion Analysis 1/14/90). Members of the administration concluded that specific diplomatic outcomes had majority public support. Nonetheless, the Bush administration chose not to work toward the concessions the public appeared to favor. Instead, they used certain linguistic codes that recalled the Hitler analogy, thereby softening the public’s call for diplomatic concessions to Iraq. The strategic replacement of the term “appeasement” for “diplomacy” was particularly powerful, given the memo- ries it evoked regarding Great Britain’s unsuccessful concessions to Germany during World War II. Bush’s chief of staff, John Sununu, received a confi- dential memorandum in late December 1990 that specifically addressed the power of the appeasement label. The memo, originally sent from Tony Fabrizio of the polling firm Fabrizio, McLaughlin and Associates to Sam Zakhem, chairman of the Freedom Task Force, reported the results of a commissioned national survey of voter attitudes regarding US policy toward the Middle East. The poll assessed the impact of the appeasement label with the public by drawing a simple comparison. First, the survey employed the term “diplo- macy,” by asking the question, “As you may have heard, the U.N. recently passed a resolution demanding Iraqi withdrawal from Kuwait by January 15th. At that time, President Bush has three options. Which option would you personally favor?” Of the respondents, 45% chose “continue diplomatic relations,” 37.8% chose “act militarily,” and 11% chose “withdraw from the region completely” (Fabrizio). With diplomacy as a survey option, far less than half the public favored a military engagement in the Gulf. A second polling question asked the public what actions they would support if, instead of diplomacy, the term “appeasement” appeared in the wording of the survey. Fabrizio highlighted the swing such phrasing would prompt in public support for the war effort in the report’s conclusion. It read, The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 113
  • 120. “[W]hen asked whether we should ‘appease’ Saddam Hussein or Force him out of Kuwait even in the face of war, a commanding majority (65.0%) favor forcing Hussein from Kuwait even if it leads to war” (Fabrizio.). By recasting diplomacy as appeasement, the Bush administration recognized that it could push public support for military engagement by as much as twenty percent- age points. A third theme that the Bush administration borrowed from World War II was the need for an urgent response. Bush echoed the words of Franklin D. Roosevelt when he argued that the consequences of waiting were simply too high. Repeating the phrase “while the world waited” (Public Papers, 1991 1:42–45), Bush argued Iraq had raped, pillaged, and plundered Kuwait, added to its chemical weapons arsenal, fortified its military forces, and undermined the economies of nations throughout the world. As a terrorist state, Iraq could only be expected to take maximum advantage of any delay. The decision to stress the urgency of an early military engagement was a strategic one. The Bush administration believed the costs of waiting for sanctions to work far outweighed its benefits. An October 29, 1990 telegram from the American Embassy in Riyadh to the secretary of state identified a number of potential consequences that worried administration officials about waiting to use military force. These included: “incidents between Israelis and Palestinians which divide Arabs and Muslims from [the] US and our European Allies; incidents between religious activists in Saudi Arabia and the non-Muslim forces deployed here which could make our presence unten- able for the Saudi monarchy; the crumbling of the coalition at the UN as a consequence of one or more major actors going their own way, e.g. the French or the Soviets’ erosion of sanctions’ enforcement before sanctions can work their will in Iraq; and a collapse of American public support for the U.S. force presence in the gulf or—more likely—a rise in domestic U.S. opposition to offensive action to liberate Kuwait and punish Iraq” (Amer. Emb. in Riyadh). The same telegram also warned that weather conditions for exercising an offensive military operation would be unfavorable between February and September. For a multitude of reasons, the administration con- cluded that waiting to engage military forces posed substantial risks for the coalition forces. By contrast, the administration concluded that Saddam Hussein’s costs of waiting for sanctions to work were inconsequential. On January 10, 1991, William Webster, the director of the CIA, reported in a letter to Les Aspin, the chairman of the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, “We have seen little hard evidence to suggest that Saddam is politically threatened by cur- rent hardships endured by the populace. Moreover, Saddam has taken few actions that would indicate he is concerned about the stability of his regime. Assessing the populace’s flash point is difficult, but we believe it is high 114 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 121. because Iraqis have borne considerable hardship in the past. During its eight- year war with Iran, for example, Iraq endured a combination of economic difficulties, very high casualties, and repeated missile and air attacks on major cities without any serious public disturbances.” Comparatively, the adminis- tration’s internal analyses concluded that waiting for sanctions to work would disadvantage the United States more than Saddam Hussein. Despite the strategic benefits of attacking Iraq sooner, many in the administration believed the majority of the public did not support early inter- vention. In December 1990, State Department analysts reported that public attitudes about going to war in the Gulf were not favorable. They argued that public reaction broke down into four groups: the hawks, the hawkish, the dovish, and the doves (US Dept. of St., PA/Opinion Analysis 12/11/90). The analysts’ summary assessment of attitudes of the four groups revealed “The hawks and hawkish together comprise about 40% of the public. They are prepared to go to war in order to liberate Kuwait, either now or after January 15. The doves and dovish comprise about 55% of the public. Doves oppose the deployment of U.S. forces. The dovish, who support the original deployment, sub-divide into those prepared to fight if sanctions don’t work after an extended period (about a half-year or more) and those who would eventually settle for a compromise.” In short, Bush’s conservative base was clearly in favor of moving forward, but the majority of the public remained opposed to early intervention. Bush’s problem of uniting the electorate behind a military engagement was compounded in November and December 1990 when members of Congress went public with their concerns regarding whether the government had given economic sanctions on Iraq sufficient time to work. The Senate Armed Forces Committee opened hearings on the Persian Gulf conflict in late November. Sam Nunn, chairman of the Armed Services Committee, introduced the hearings by criticizing the administration for changing the originally stated goals in the Persian Gulf conflict and for failing to give sanctions enough time to work (Lampley). Given the State Department’s assessment of dove and dovish attitudes, the administration knew the approach had the potential to resonate with the majority of the public. Members of the Bush administration worried about the impact that statements by Nunn and other Democratic leaders would have upon the American public. The Working Group received an internal analysis that argued, “In the current situation, Democratic party leaders as of late October 1990 had not outlined an alternative Persian Gulf strategy, and Republican and Democratic partisans at that time differed very little in their attitudes toward attack vs. defense vs. withdrawal. The predominant Democratic theme today, restraint/give the sanctions more time, will bear watching, however. Since the time of the last RNC study, Senator Nunn, Senator The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 115
  • 122. Mitchell, and others have become more vocal in their opposition to the attack option. [. . .] Now that Democratic leaders have enunciated an alter- native position, it is possible that partisanship will prompt Democrats to shift some of their support away from that option” (Historical Overview). With an alternative strategy competing with the administration’s view, public attitudes in support of the Bush team’s perspective had further potential to erode. Evoking the public memory of World War II highlighted the costs of waiting for sanctions to impact Iraq. Just as Adolf Hitler continued to usurp territories while the allies debated whether to enter into the conflict, Saddam Hussein could be aggressive before the United States responded. Further, the World War II analogy invited the conclusion that giving the enemy time to strengthen its own position carried the consequence of raising the costs of future engagement. The narrative theme was unequivocal: neither the American public nor the international community could afford to wait and see if Saddam Hussein changed his mind; Iraq’s intention to develop weapons of mass destruction made inaction simply too risky. Even if the administration could have garnered public concurrence with its need to act, members of the executive branch worried that the nation’s history in Vietnam raised doubts about the citizenry’s support for a long- term military engagement involving American casualties. Bush’s Working Group considered John Mueller’s historical assessment of the Vietnam and the Korean conflicts to help gauge the impact of likely American casualties on public opinion: “[P]ublic support in both conflicts fell in direct relation to casualties suffered (killed, hospitalized, wounded, missing)—‘every time American casualties increased by a factor of 10, support for the war dropped by about 15 percentage points.’[. . .] Both conflicts lost clear majority support at about the 60,000 casualties level (60,000 casualties today would probably include 15,000 troops killed in action)” (Historical Overview). Translated into the realities of the Persian Gulf context, Mueller’s conclusions offered the administration a sobering perspective on its ability to retain public sup- port for a military engagement. Internal polling conducted in the months following Iraq’s move into Kuwait offered the administration little hope of sustained public support. A Wirthlin Group poll conducted for the administration in November reported that seven in ten Americans agreed with the statement, “[T]he death of American soldiers in a fight with Iraq is too high a price to pay in this Middle East conflict.” In the same month, poll numbers from Lou Harris confirmed a lack of support for the use of ground forces when casu- alty figures were included in survey questions. Harris reported, “[B]y 61–35 percent, a majority now would oppose ‘sending U.S. troops and those of our allies in Saudi Arabia across the border into Kuwait against the 425,000 116 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 123. Iraqi troops to liberate that country from Iraqi control, even if that would mean as many as 30,000 American casualties from the fighting’” (Public Wants to Give Sanctions) Harris’s ominous conclusion for the administra- tion was: “Clearly, the public does not want a massive assault of U.S. ground force to liberate Kuwait today.” By December, Harris saw little change, noting, “The underlying attitude about the Gulf is distinctly against the expenditure of many American lives” (Bush Rating 59% Positive). Fearful of committing to another Vietnam, the majority of the public was reticent to send troops into Kuwait. The public’s intolerance for high casualty figures was particularly trou- bling for the administration, given its own internal, worst-case scenario pro- jections. A private briefing of Secretary of Defense Dick Cheney and General Colin Powell in December estimated up to twenty thousand American casualties during a military confrontation in the Gulf (Woodward, Commanders 349). That number, only several thousand below the figure included in the Harris poll, was dangerously close to the trigger point for public opposition to the war effort. The Bush narrative responded to the public’s concern about high casual- ties by contending the best hope for preserving American life was a strong commitment to confronting terrorism before it spread throughout the civi- lized world. Bush recalled the concessions logic employed in the global response to Palestinian terrorists holding Israeli athletes hostage during the 1972 Olympic Games. By not giving into a terrorist’s demands, he reasoned, “We will succeed in the Gulf and when we do, the world community will have sent an enduring warning to any dictator or despot, present or future, who contemplates outlaw aggression” (Public Papers, 1991 1:79). By provid- ing an alternative cost-benefit analysis for determining the acceptable number of casualties during wartime, the Bush narrative invited the public to change its standard of evaluating US success in a military conflict. Besides encouraging the public to reconsider how it weighed the costs of a war effort, the Bush administration promised to minimize the costs of war. The Bush camp, claiming to have learned the lessons of the Vietnam War, reiterated that it would not repeat those mistakes. By late November 1990, the public diplomacy themes of the administration stressed five key differ- ences that all official spokespersons should emphasize between the two con- flicts: “US interests/stakes critical and clear in Gulf; US has support of almost entire international community; US position has strong UN backing; unlike North Vietnam, Iraq is not receiving massive outside assistance; and if we must use force, it will be decisive from the outset. We are here to suc- ceed” (Haass, Memo to Sununu et al.). In the Bush administration’s narra- tive, the Persian Gulf conflict and the Vietnam War were not the same; this time, the United States would prevail. The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 117
  • 124. State Department polling analysts concluded that the majority of the public did draw distinctions between the Vietnam War and the Persian Gulf conflict. On February 1, 1991, they reported, “At present, most Americans believe the war against Iraq will be won in a matter of ‘months’ (62%) and the cost of lives of fewer than 5,000 U.S. troops (55%). Of those holding these views, about two-thirds support the war” (U.S. Dept. of St., PA/Opinion Analysis 2/1/91). Only a minority (26%) believed the war would cost more than five thousand lives, the key benchmark where support for the war drops to less than half of the public (ibid.). Optimism that the United States would prevail in the conflict was high as the nation prepared to begin its ground offensive. Taken as a whole, the Bush narrative placed the terrorism label within the conventional framework of presidential war rhetoric. Saddam Hussein’s terrorist acts were not crimes; they were acts of war on Kuwait and on all nations committed to stability and order around the globe. Bush, as com- mander in chief of the only remaining military superpower, was obligated to respond. The administration’s ability to capitalize on the full ideological potential of the terrorist label, however, was circumscribed by the nondemo- cratic government under attack and the ideological diversity of US allies in the conflict. Constrained from presenting the conflict as a threat against democracy, the Bush camp depicted the military action as a pragmatic neces- sity in the goal of sustaining the New World Order. IDEOLOGY AND PERSIAN GULF TERRORISM The leadership of Iraq and of the United States disagreed on the role of ide- ology within the public discourse of the Persian Gulf conflict. While both sought to form alliances with Muslim nations to strengthen their position in the war effort, they split on how to accomplish that objective. The Iraqis magnified the ideological divisions between the West and Muslim commu- nities, enough so that the US National Security Council concluded, “[Iraq’s communications] support Saddam’s efforts to define and describe the conflict in terms most likely to gain Arab/Muslim support” (Arab Public Opinion #14). The United States, by contrast, preferred to downplay distinctions between the two cultures in hopes of encouraging other Muslim nations in the region to join the coalition effort to repel the Iraqi move on Kuwait. The Iraqis portrayed the confrontation in Kuwait to be yet another battle in the ongoing war between Muslims and the Western colonialist forces with their Zionist allies. Saddam Hussein, along with the Iraqi Revolution Command Council, argued the Iraqi annexation of Kuwait was a necessary step to reverse artificial, nationalistic divisions imposed on the 118 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 125. Arab world by Western imperialist forces in the aftermath of the Arab states gaining their independence.5 The blame for the region’s economic woes rested with the West, as Hussein explained: “The malicious Westerners, while partitioning the Arab homeland, intentionally multiplied the number of countries with the result that the Arab nation could not achieve the inte- gration needed to realize its full capability. In this way, they also fragmented capabilities. While fragmenting the Arab homeland, they intentionally dis- tanced the majority of the population density and areas of cultural depth from riches and their sources[. . .]” (as qtd. in Bengio 113). For Hussein, the annexation of Kuwait became a restorative act that strengthened and inspired the Arab population to meet to its full, united potential. To bolster his case, Saddam Hussein argued that the West was exploit- ing the Persian Gulf conflict in an effort to eliminate the Arab culture. He accused the United States and its coalition partners of attacking the sacred places of the Muslim faith. Hussein insisted the Iraqis were fighting to pro- tect from defilement by American military forces Muslim holy places, namely, Mecca, the birthplace of Mohammed, and Medina, his burial site. Recalling the ongoing conflict between Muslims and Christians since the seventh century,6 Hussein summoned all Muslims to meet their obligations: “[W]e are duty-bound to engage in holy jihad so that we can liberate the two holy mosques from captivity and occupation. [...] Your brothers in Iraq will know no peace of mind until the last soldier of occupation departs by choice or is expelled from the land of Arabism in Najd and Hejaz (Saudi Arabia)” (as qtd. in Bengio 140). The Iraqi leader also accused allied forces of bomb- ing holy shrines in Karbala and Najaf (P. M. Taylor 120). By cataloging multiple examples of where coalition forces were defiling sacred grounds, Hussein built the case that the underlying purpose of the allied campaign was to dominate all those who worshipped within the Muslim faith. The Bush administration took seriously Hussein’s allegations of allied attacks on Muslim sacred places. It understood that Hussein’s message would resonate with some in the Middle East. A contemporaneous National Security Council assessment stated, “Shia Muslims in Bahrain and Eastern Saudi Arabia are potentially susceptible to disinformation on the bombing of shrines in Karbala and Najaf, as are their counterparts in Iran and South Asia” (Arab Public Opinion #14). While not persuasive with the broader global community, the Iraqi charge carried the possibility of uniting key Muslim populations within the region. To reinforce the claim that the US military campaign constituted an attack on the Muslim faith, the Iraqi leadership raised the specter of Israeli involvement in the Persian Gulf conflict. The Middle East scholar Bernard Lewis has argued that Hussein’s mention of Israel was particularly persuasive with audiences in the region because it recalled the humiliation of five Arab The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 119
  • 126. states fighting and failing to prevent a half of million Jews from establishing a state in 1948 (Lewis 154). Evoking the Jewish stereotype of cunning and deceit, Hussein blamed the allied air campaign on “the hostile policy that is being made in the corridors influenced by criminal Zionism” (as qtd. in Bengio 188). Radio Baghdad fueled the controversy by broadcasting a story claiming that scores of Israeli planes had joined the coalition air forces in the aftermath of Iraqi Scud missile attacks on Israel. The report concluded that the Israeli move had only heightened “the determination of the struggling men of the armed forces and Iraq’s people to continue Jihad” (P. M. Taylor 98). Hussein, bolstered by the Iraqi media, attempted to incite the entire Muslim community to rise up and defeat the Zionist threat. The Bush administration tracked Middle Eastern media sources to ascertain the extent and nature of the claims related to Israeli involvement. Among the stories it recorded were: Israel was receiving funds from Saudi Arabia via the United States; the CIA was asking the Israeli intelligence agency to launch an assassination operation against Saddam Hussein that used Iraqi Jews posing as foreign journalists; Israel was moving 65 (later raised to 142) attack planes to bases in Saudi Arabia and another 44 attack planes to a base in Turkey; Israeli pilots, disguised as Americans, were flying bombing raids as part of the multinational force; and Israeli planes disguised with Iraqi markings were planning to attack Turkey, Syria, and Egypt (Iraqi Disinformation). The director of the USIA, William Rugh, evaluated the probable impact of such stories as devastating for US interests in the conflict. He concluded, “Israeli military involvement looms as potentially the most inflammatory and destructive of these stories. Both Syria and Yemen have indicated that Israeli attacks against Iraq may cause a shift in their position. Public opinion in other Muslim countries would probably react violently to Israel’s entry into the war” (Rugh, Memo to Seaquist and Hullender). The poignancy of Israeli involvement potentially threatened the continued exis- tence of Bush’s international coalition. The Iraqis fueled anti-Western sentiment by charging that American attacks on the Muslim religion extended to the moral teachings of the faith. One circulated story accused the Pentagon of sending thousands of Egyptian women to the Gulf to serve as prostitutes for US forces. Another maintained that AIDS was rampant among US forces in the region. Another charged Saudi leaders with drinking alcohol at US military bases. The stress on the immoral conduct of the coalition forces underscored a common preconcep- tion amongst certain Islamic factions, namely, that acquiescence and adop- tion of Western morals would lead to societal decay (Rush, Memo to Seaquist and Hollonder). Finally, the Iraqis accused the United States and its coalition partners of directly attacking the Arab people. The Iraqis reiterated that allied forces 120 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 127. were intentionally targeting the civilian population of Iraq. When speaking to the UN Secretary General, for example, Tariq Aziz complained of the “horrendous and deliberate crimes against Iraqi citizens” (as qtd. in P. M. Taylor 184). Baghdad Radio reinforced the point, calling for Iraq to deal with its captured coalition pilots “on the basis of their being killers of defenseless women, children and old people, not as soldiers waging a war against other soldiers” (ibid., 111). Allied bombings of the Amiriya suburb of Baghdad and a purported baby milk factory dramatized Iraqi claims of civil- ian damage. The Iraqis, initially reluctant to admit the existence of civilian casualties for fear of showing weakness to the global community, eventually encouraged and exploited public discussions of the collateral damage of the conflict (85–86). Refugee accounts from those fleeing across the border from Iraq sup- ported the leadership’s claims that civilian casualties were widespread. Some of the refugees claimed to have seen coffins on car roofs and city buses hit by bombs. Despite the fact that Arab correspondents admitted refugees lacked reliable details of civilian casualties (P. M. Taylor 174), the Bush administra- tion remained fearful of the public relations value of the personal statements. The director of the USIA warned, “[E]ye witness accounts of casualties have a strong emotional appeal” (Rugh, Memo to Hullender). The powerful testi- monials reinforced the perception that allied forces were attacking innocent Muslim civilians in communities sympathetic with the Iraqi perspective. Taken as a whole, Iraq’s ideological framing of the crisis was a major concern of the Bush administration. Assessing the potential impact of the entire Iraqi public campaign, the administration concluded, “Iraqi propa- ganda finds a ready reception in pro-Saddam publics in North Africa, Jordan, Yemen, and—to a controlled degree—in Syria. [...] Iraqi propa- ganda has so far failed to make much impression on pro-coalition publics. But it hammers away at themes close to Arab preconceptions. Their contin- ued repetition and replay in Arab and Western media could begin to impact on opinion which has so far been resistant” (Arab Public Opinion #14). Given rank-and-file opposition to America’s aims in a number of allied Middle Eastern countries, the administration feared Hussein’s ideological framing would result in the breakup of the coalition, a reality far more likely if the war went on beyond several days (see Arab Public Opinion #12, #13, and #14). In response, the Bush administration engaged in a public diplomacy campaign designed to downplay the ideological nature of the conflict. The campaign involved twenty-nine million leaflets, extensive psychological operations broadcast on the Voice of the Gulf from Saudi Arabia and Turkey, and thirteen hours a day of Arabic programming over Voice of America Radio. The campaign’s officially stated goal was “to reach Iraqis, other The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 121
  • 128. Arabs, and other Muslims with facts and themes in the U.S. interest” (Dyke and Charles). A substantial portion of US public diplomacy involved timely and unequivocal denials of Iraqi charges of cultural attacks. Within one day of Iraq’s annexation of Kuwait, the United States led a UN Security Council effort to pass Resolution 662, declaring the annexation null and void. The administration’s public rebuttal highlighted the fallacious reasoning of the Iraqi claim to Kuwaiti land. It insisted, “Kuwait as an ‘eternal’ part of Iraq surfaced after August 8 and Iraq’s initial claims that it had invaded at the request of a new government in Kuwait. No countries accepted this canard on August 2 any more than they do now. Before its invasion Iraq recognized Kuwait as a sovereign, independent state, and a full member of the Arab League and the UN. In addition, the two countries maintained full diplo- matic relations” (Iraqi Public Affairs). The US message rejected the historical claim made by the Iraqi government; instead, it held that Kuwait had modern status as a sovereign nation. The administration was equally emphatic in its denial of Iraqi accusa- tions that US troops were defiling Muslim holy places. The administration’s public affairs rebuttal read, “The multinational forces are not in Mecca or Medina. These forces are primarily in northern and eastern Saudi Arabia” (Iraqi Public Affairs). To lend credibility to the denial, the Saudi govern- ment invited Moslem journalists to the holy sites in late October 1990. Ambassador Glaspie argued that the United Sates could reinforce the credi- bility of its denial if the conflict continued until the Moslem religious obser- vances of Raj and Ramadan. As she reasoned, Islamic pilgrims could then see for themselves that US troops were not present.7 The administration adopted a similar strategy of denial in response to Iraqi charges that Israel was participating in coalition military activities. Both Saudi Arabian officials and the Israeli ambassador to the United States issued announcements stating that Israel had not bombed Iraq. US spokes- persons reinforced the message, publicly applauding the restraint and respon- sibility that the Israeli government had exercised in its decision to allow coalition forces to respond to Iraqi attacks on its homeland (see Baker, “Opportunities” 82). Denial was also a critical element of the public strategy to respond to charges of coalition-inflicted civilian casualties. The administration ordered the Judge Advocate General Corp. to review all targets to ensure that civil- ians and antiquities were not on the lists. On January 17, Powell offered that twenty percent of the aircraft attacking Iraq returned without dropping their ordinance. A primary reason for the return rate, according to Powell, was “the very tight control we had over the aircraft. They did not make the kind of positive identification of the target that we required before going in and 122 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 129. launching under the rules of engagement to minimize collateral damage” (Iraqi Disinformation). The next day Lt. Gen. Charles Horner, Commander of the US Central Command Air Forces, added, “[O]ne of the strongest guidances [sic] we had from the very start was to avoid any damage to civilian targets and to the holy shrines located in Iraq” (ibid.). By drawing on the authority of the nation’s military commanders, the administration hoped to position more credibly its claims that the allied forces did not target Iraqi civilians. Besides denying Iraqi accusations, the administration emphasized the role of its Arab partners in the coalition to dispel the ideological frame of the conflict. The Bush administration spent months prior to the onset of the military campaign ensuring that the coalition included active participation by the Arab states. When discussing the story about the US defiling shrines in Medina and Mecca, administration public affairs guidelines stressed that one hundred thousand Muslim troops were participating in the coalition force that occupied Saudi Arabia (Iraqi Public Affairs). In response to claims of intentional civilian casualties, the guidelines described the air force involved in the initial air campaign to be a joint force of pilots from Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, France, the United Kingdom, and the United States (ibid.). Framing the conflict as Iraq against the rest of the world, the Bush administration argued that the true enemy of the Muslim faith was Saddam Hussein. As early as September 10, 1990, the former Iranian ambassador to the United Nations, Fereydoun Hoveida, had informed US officials that Saddam Hussein’s use of foreigners as human shields violated the norms of both the Arab world and Islam (Memo of Conversation). The US govern- ment picked up the theme, stressing again and again that Iraqi actions were in opposition to the Islamic faith. The message received extensive media attention when it became one of three main focal points in a UN program entitled “the Rape of Kuwait” presented before the Security Council on November 26–27, 1990 (Haass, Memo of Conversation to Gates). The official rebuttals developed in response to Iraqi accusations rou- tinely highlighted the threat Saddam Hussein posed to the Muslim faith. In response to the accusation that imperialist forces were attacking Muslims and Arabs, the administration’s official statement read, “On August 2nd Iraq began this war when it attacked Kuwait, an Arab, Muslim nation. [...] It is Iraq that has launched two massive wars against Muslim nations—Iran and Kuwait—that have resulted in the deaths of hundreds of thousands of Arabs and Muslims, and the displacement of many more” (Iraqi Public Affairs). In response to the alleged attacks on Muslim holy places by the United States, administration guidelines placed the blame for the risk to the shrines on Iraq. One US rebuttal proclaimed, “Once Iraq has withdrawn from Kuwait, a for- eign force presence will no longer be required to defend Saudi Arabia from The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 123
  • 130. further Iraqi aggression” (ibid.). As for the claim that the coalition forces were intentionally targeting civilians, the US rebuttal reiterated that it had been Iraq that had intentionally ordered missiles into civilian areas of Saudi Arabia. Regardless of the accusation lodged against coalition forces, the Bush administration attempted to shift the responsibility for the problems of the Muslim people to the Iraqi leader. In public diplomacy themes developed specifically for consumption by the Iraqi population, the administration underscored that Saddam Hussein, not the United States, was the true enemy of the Arab people. USIA media outlets distributed two themes directly to Iraqi citizens that stressed Hussein’s transgressions against Muslims. The first was “Saddam Hussein is wrong in his invasion and plunder of Kuwait and its people. He is not defending Arabs, he is attacking them” (Public Diplomacy Themes to Target on Iraqis). The second was “Iraq’s policies are a scandal (fadhiha), bringing humiliation and disgrace to Iraqis: Invasion of a brother Arab state, the set- tlement with Iran, the taking of innocent hostages, the thievery in Kuwait” (ibid.). Coupled with persistent denials of Iraqi charges, the administration hoped that repetition of these themes would counter the strategic framing of the Persian Gulf conflict as an ideological battle between the United States and Muslims. In short, the Bush administration’s faced a public relations battle in the Persian Gulf conflict potentially more serious than the one it faced on the battlefield. Iraq’s depictions of the allied forces as being anti-Arab and anti- Muslim embodied the potential to ideologically divide the United States from its coalition partners. Through denial of Iraqi claims and public associ- ation with Arab partners, the Bush administration attempted to counter growing negative sentiment within the Middle East regarding US involve- ment in the Gulf. Vilifying Hussein as the true enemy of the Arab people offered a competing explanation for who was to blame for the suffering of Iraqi people. A quick victory, coupled with an extensive public relations effort in the Middle East, worked to hold the coalition together throughout the air and ground campaigns. The Bush camp rhetorically presented the Persian Gulf conflict as a battle between the old and the new. Saddam Hussein’s ideological call for all Muslims to join his cause remembered centuries of historical injustice against those who practiced Islam and promised a return to the days of a united Arab empire. Bush’s urgings for those same members of the Muslim faith to join his coalition offered a vision of a new international community, tolerant of difference and ripe with advantages for all who participated. The Bush appeal was not as ideological as his predecessor’s; it depended on members of the international community seeing far-reaching, pragmatic benefits for order and security in the post–Cold War environment. The next president 124 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 131. would also promise global benefits and resist the ideological potential of the terrorism label. In the process, however, he would return to publicly empha- sizing terrorism as crime, not war. The Persian Gulf Conflict of 1991 125
  • 132. 6 Terrorism and the Clinton Era: A Prophetic Moment The number of international terrorism incidents dropped precipitously during the Clinton presidency. The yearly average of terrorist attacks targeting Americans was 351, as compared with 435 during the Bush admin- istration and 569 during the Reagan years (US Dept. of State, Patterns: 1989 100). Despite the overall decline in terrorist episodes, the amount of presi- dential discourse devoted to the topic of terrorism expanded significantly. Clinton gave more than a thousand speeches that discussed acts of terrorism happening both at home and abroad. Three of the attacks that Clinton referenced most frequently occurred within the borders of the United States. The first happened on February 26, 1993, when a yellow Ford Econoline van, rigged with a timing device, exploded in the parking garage under the World Trade Center. The bomb- ing killed six people and injured more than a thousand others. One of the defendants, a possible Iraqi operative named Ramzi Yousef, reported that the terrorists had planned to topple one of the World Trade Center towers into the other, with the goal of causing as many as 250,000 casualties. Judge Kevin Duffy, speaking at the first World Trade Center trial, claimed the bombing caused more injuries and hospital casualties than any other event in domestic American history apart from the Civil War (as rptd. in Reeve 15). Three New York juries found the defendants Yousef, Mohammad Salameh, Mahmud Abouhalima, Nidal Ayyad, Ahmad Ajaj, and Eyad Ismoil guilty for their roles in the bombings. Each received 240 years in prison, but Yousef (the supposed mastermind of the operation) was sentenced to carry out his term in solitary confinement. Clinton’s next featured terrorist attack on US soil occurred April 19, 1995. A Ryder rental truck exploded outside the Alfred P. Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, Oklahoma. One hundred and sixty-eight people died in the bombing, including nineteen children under the age of six. Initial accounts by witnesses and media organizations mistakenly claimed that the 127
  • 133. bombing was the work of Middle Eastern terrorists (Hamm 54–55). After investigating the crime, the government charged two Americans, Timothy McVeigh and Terry Nichols, with both the planning and implementation of the attack. At the trial the prosecution argued that McVeigh and Nichols had acted alone in retaliation for the government’s intervention at Ruby Ridge and Waco. Defense attorney Stephen Jones adamantly defended the position that McVeigh and Nichols were not sole actors, offering an unidentified left leg as proof that someone else had to have been present at the bombing. Jones argued that McVeigh had been caught up in an international conspiracy, involving Afghan Arabs, Osama bin Laden, Iraqi operatives, and/or white supremacist groups. He accused Judge Richard Matsch of unfairly excluding the evidence of conspiracy prior to trial (Jones and Israel 284). After Colorado juries found the two guilty of murder of federal employees, Nichols received a life sentence. The jury gave McVeigh the death penalty, a sentence the government carried out on June 11, 2001. Later, another judge sentenced Nichols to another life sentence after an Oklahoma jury found him guilty of 161 counts of murder, arson, and conspiracy. The third domestic terrorist incident prominent in Clinton’s discourse occurred July 27, 1996. This time, a bomb exploded during an open-air rock concert at Centennial Olympic Park during the 1996 Olympic Games in Atlanta, Georgia. Two people died and another 111 were injured. The sub- sequent FBI investigation initially focused on Richard Jewell, a park security guard, who sued and settled a case against the Atlanta Journal and Consti- tution for libelous claims about his involvement in the park bombing. The FBI censured two agents and suspended another without pay for asking Jewell to waive his right to an attorney during initial questioning. More than five years after the park bombing, and more than a $25 million FBI man- hunt, police eventually captured and arrested Eric Robert Rudolph while he was searching for food in a trash bin in Murphy, North Carolina. Rudolph, a Christian fundamentalist, later explained that he had planned a sequence of bombings during the 1996 Olympic Games in protest over the federal gov- ernment’s support of legalized abortion. In exchange for information about the location of about 250 lbs. of hidden explosives, Rudolph received a life sentence without parole for his role in the Centennial Park bombing. While attacks on American soil dominated much of the public discourse of the Clinton era, three terrorist events abroad were also featured in presi- dential discourse. On the morning of March 20, 1995, five members of the Aum Shinrikyo religious cult punctured eleven plastic bags of sarin they had previously placed under the seats or on the baggage racks of five trains headed toward the Kasumigaseki Station of the Tokyo subway system. The attack resulted in twelve deaths and more than five thousand injuries. 128 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 134. According to 1997 courtroom testimony in Tokyo, Aum Shinrikyo had also planned to release sarin in the United States (Kristoff A1). Nine Aum mem- bers received sentences of between twenty-two months and seventeen years in prison; one was acquitted. A second international incident highlighted in Clinton’s discourse hap- pened the morning of August 7, 1998. Two bombs exploded almost simulta- neously outside the US embassies in Nairobi, Kenya, and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Combined, the two attacks killed twelve Americans and nearly three hundred Africans. The bombings were part of a broader campaign against US embassies and military installations designed to drive the United States out of the Middle East (“Ex-U.S. Sergeant”). With evidence that Osama bin Laden had orchestrated the attack, the United States responded with retaliatory bombing raids on terrorist training camps in Afghanistan and on a pharmaceutical plant allegedly involved in chemical weapons pro- duction in the Sudan. The US government tried codefendants and alleged al Qaeda members Mohamed Rashed Daoud Al-Owhali, Mohamed Sadeek Odeh, Wadih El-Hage, and Mamdouh Mahmud Salim for their role in the bombing conspiracy. Ali Mohamed, another defendant in the case, pleaded guilty to conspiracy charges and agreed to testify for the prosecution regard- ing the inner workings of the bin Laden organization. Al-Owhali was found guilty and received a life sentence. Tanzania and Great Britain subsequently arrested nine other alleged al Qaeda members in relation to the bombings. More than four months after the embassy attacks, bin Laden was asked in an interview whether he had masterminded the bombings. He responded, “[T]he World Islamic Front for jihad against ‘Jews and Crusaders’ had issued a ‘crystal clear’ fatwa. If the instigation for jihad against the Jews and the Americans to liberate the holy places ‘is considered a crime,’ he said, ‘let his- tory be a witness that I am a criminal’” (as qtd. in National Commission, Final Report 70). The final international incident to receive Clinton’s sustained public attention occurred October 12, 2000. A small boat loaded with two suicide bombers, TNT, and C-4 exploded next to the USS Cole in Aden, Yemen. The explosion blew a 40Ј by 60Ј hole in the naval destroyer, killing seventeen US sailors and injuring thirty-nine others. CIA analysts initially suspected Osama bin Laden in the bombing, a charge he publicly denied. Yemeni offi- cials claimed to lack evidence against bin Laden, but FBI investigators were not convinced of his innocence (“Bin Laden Denies Link;” “No Proof;” and Page “Why Clinton Failed to Stop Bin Laden.”). After detaining more than eighty potential suspects, the government of Yemen planned to try six people who had allegedly participated in the bombing (“Cole Attack”). In April 2003, ten men accused of being key planners in the attack escaped from jail while in Aden, Yemen. Over the next month, Saudi Arabia extradited four Terrorism and the Clinton Era 129
  • 135. other Yemeni members of al Qaeda as suspects in the attack. The 9/11 Commission Report argued that Khalid Sheikh Mohammed had orchestrated the attack from Afghanistan, Jamal al Badawi and Fahd al Quso had been the local al Qaeda coordinators, and Hassan al Khamri and Ibrahim al Thawar had been the two suicide bombers in the attack (National Commission, Final Report 190–91). The Clinton administration did not initiate a military response against al Qaeda, because the United States could not confirm bin Laden’s personal involvement in the attacks until captured operatives revealed the information in 2002 and 2003 (ibid., 193). Armed with evidence of bin Laden’s connection to the Cole attack, the Bush administration also chose not to act, because too much time had passed, the event was stale, and they did not want a counterproductive tit-for-tat interchange with al Qaeda (202). Taken together, these six incidents received the most frequent mention in Clinton’s corpus of presidential discourse related to terrorism. By his selection of examples, Clinton invited public discussion about terrorism to shift from state to nonstate actors. Individuals or the groups operating across state boundaries became the focus of whom the US should hold accountable for acts of international terrorism. At first glance, the approach might seem reminiscent of the late 1960s and early 1970s, when small bands of extrem- ists served as stereotypical terrorists. As the next section will reveal, however, Clinton presented a different sort of threat. LABELING THE THREAT Within Clinton’s public rhetoric, the terrorists that threatened America did not conform to old stereotypes. Clinton insisted that the United States was experiencing a “modern terrorist threat” (Public Papers 1995 1:722), one that had “assumed new and quite dangerous dimensions” (Public Papers 1995 2:1547). He maintained that the terrorist challenge was something “the statesmen of 50 years ago simply did not imagine” (Public Papers 1995 1:255). Having stressed the need for new thinking, Clinton proceeded to define the nature of the emerging threat. Clinton insisted that one key change in modern terrorists was their tac- tics. A reader of his statements on terrorism, denied other historical informa- tion, might conclude that terrorists operating in the Clinton era no longer used hostage-taking as a method of pressuring governmental actors to meet their political objectives. In Clinton’s first term, he offered one hundred and fourteen examples that specified the terrorists’ methods. Fifty-nine of the examples referred to bombings, forty-eight to attacks (including gas), and seven to assassinations, killings, or murders. Publicly, he did not offer a single example of hostage-taking, despite the chronicle by his own State 130 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 136. Department of fifty-three international incidents of kidnapping, hijacking, or other forms of hostage-taking during the same time period (US Dept. of State, Patterns: 1993–1997). Clinton did not raise the subject of hostage- taking even when he made public mention of Colombia, the worldwide leader in daily kidnappings (Schweitzer and Dorsch 177). His focus on bombings, attacks, and assassinations invited the public to disassociate the threat he faced from the politically difficult ones of his predecessors, namely, the Iranian hostage crisis and the Iran-Contra scandal. When Clinton explicitly defined terrorism in public, he reinforced the exclusion of hostage-taking from his conceptualization of the threat. He defined terrorism as an act of killing, not an ongoing act of extortion to achieve political gain. He told members of the Arab news media, “There are clear definitions of terrorism, and one of them is the willful killing of inno- cent civilians who themselves are not in any way involved in military combat” (Public Papers 1993 2:1480). When speaking after the Oklahoma bombings, he reinforced the more narrow interpretation: “Terror is when someone, allegedly for some philosophical or political reason, believes they have the right to take innocent lives [. . .]” (Public Papers 1996 1:550). In Clinton’s public frame, terrorism was not a drawn-out saga; it was series of quick, unpredictable attacks. He told members of the US Air Force Academy, “Terrorists do not go slow, my fellow Americans. Their agenda is death and destruction on their own timetable” (Public Papers 1995 1:768). Clinton directed public attention to acts of violence that had apparent closure. Having de-emphasized the taking of hostages, Clinton argued that terrorists were now planning to use weapons of mass destruction as their method of choice. Repeatedly, he warned audiences that the use of chemi- cal weapons by terrorists was no longer just a theoretical possibility. He recalled the dramatic empirical example of the sarin gas attack on the Tokyo subway in more than fifty of his public remarks in the three years immediately following that attack. Clinton also maintained that biological weapons were the emerging tools of international terrorists. Speaking to the members of the United Nations, he cautioned, “Recent discoveries in laboratories working to produce biological weapons for terrorists demon- strate the dangerous link between terrorism and the weapons of mass destruction” (Public Papers 1995 2:950). Finally, Clinton displayed concern regarding terrorists’ use of nuclear weapons. He stressed, “One of my high- est national security priorities has been to ensure that the breakup of the former Soviet Union did not lead to the creation of new nuclear states. Such a development would increase the risks of nuclear accidents, diver- sion, and terrorism” (Public Papers 1994 1:248–49). Clinton insisted that access to chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons made the new terrorists a more dangerous threat to the nation. Terrorism and the Clinton Era 131
  • 137. Mounting empirical evidence substantiated Clinton’s claim that terror- ists were becoming increasingly involved with weapons of mass destruction. Particularly worrisome was the widespread availability of such weapons in the international arena. During the 1990s alone, governmental sources revealed that more than seventy countries had built approximately ten thou- sand underground military facilities; of those, more than fourteen hundred housed weapons of mass destruction, ballistic missiles, or military commands (Tyson 1). The diffusion of weapons of mass destruction around the world heightened the likelihood terrorists would acquire the means to inflict mas- sive fatalities. During the Clinton era, more than twenty nations produced or used chemical weapons. Iraq, North Korea, and Libya did so under the guise of growing pesticide industries. Insecure storage sites for chemical agents in Russia compounded the problem. In 1996, the administration threatened Libya with nuclear retaliation if it continued to build a large chemical weapons plant inside a mountain located south of Tripoli (Tyson 1). By 1999, the Clinton team had information that bin Laden was conducting chemical weapons training and development at its Derunta camp (National Commission, Final Report 141). Inside the boundaries of the United States, federal agents recovered thirty-five gallon drums of cyanide from the home of a white supremacist who purportedly was planning to dump the contents into either the New York City or Washington, DC water supply.1 Terrorists were also turning to biological weapons. Terrorists had threatened the use of such weapons against the Arab world, Germany, British Columbia, Australia, Great Britain, and the United States. UN reports revealed that Iraq had planned to use biological weapons during the 1991 Persian Gulf War in the event America opted to launch a nuclear attack on Baghdad. The US government had many reasons for taking the threats of the terrorists seriously. During the Cold War, a school in Berlin had trained Iraqis on the use of biological weapons. Mustard gas had been stolen from US installations in Germany. Stockpiles of biological toxins had been discovered in safe houses in Paris and Germany. Even within the bor- ders of the United States, members of a religious cult had used a biological toxin to poison 750 patrons of an Oregon salad bar (Laqueur, New Terrorism 61–63; Schweitzer and Dorsch 109–28). Like chemical and biological weapons, nuclear weapons were posing a new and heightened challenge. Terrorists had attempted to sabotage nuclear power plants in South Africa, Canada, Belgium, Holland, Italy, and the Philippines. CIA Director John Deutsch announced that Chechen leaders had threatened to turn Moscow into a desert by using radioactive waste against the city. The Chechen rebels demonstrated the credibility of their threat by placing a small container of cesium 137 in a Moscow park 132 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 138. (Laqueur, New Terrorism 73). A defector, Jamal Ahmed al-Fadl, told American officials that al Qaeda had also been trying to buy a nuclear bomb (J. Miller A1). Conventional restraints on weapons of mass destruction (e.g., not wanting to provoke a massive retaliatory US response and not wanting to undermine sympathy for one’s cause) were no longer containing certain ter- rorist groups. Besides the focus on weapons of mass destruction, Clinton insisted that terrorists were turning to the Internet to wreak havoc on the social order. Clinton introduced the term “cyber attack” (Public Papers 1998 1:1826) into presidential terrorism discourse. Officials at his Justice Department added “cybercrime,” “cyberpiracy,” “cyberstalking,” “cyberterrorism” and “cybersecu- rity” to the national lexicon (Reno, “Remarks;” Reno, “Symposium;” Podesta). Clinton explained that the Internet could aid the enemy in tradi- tional terrorist functions, such as moving around quickly and finding infor- mation related to bomb making. The potential dangers involved in cyber terrorism, however, did not stop with the strengthening of conventional ter- rorist methods. Clinton warned that new modes of attack were available to terrorists who used the Internet. He reasoned, “Hackers break into govern- ment and business computers. They can raid banks, run up credit card charges, extort money by threats to unleash computer viruses. If we fail to take strong action, the terrorists, criminals and hostile regimes could invade and paralyze these vital systems, disrupting commerce, threatening health, [and] weakening our capacity to function in a crisis. [...]” (Public Papers 1998 1:826). For Clinton, the Internet enabled the terrorist to achieve wide- spread societal disruption. Public announcements by the U.S. Justice Department established the magnitude of the cyberterrorism problem. Janet Reno referred to an FBI/Computer Security Institute survey of Fortune 500 companies that found financial losses stemming from cybercrime (such as hacking, viruses, and crashing networks) exceeded $360 million from 1997 through 1999 (“Remarks”). Deputy Attorney General Eric Holder cited a Business Software Alliance estimate that the cost of software piracy amounted to more than $11 billion in 1998 alone (“Remarks to High-Tech Crime Summit”). The Justice Department’s Web site cataloged media reports of cyberterror- ism. Targets from 1999 and 2000 included the US Postal Service, the State of Texas, the Canadian Department of Defense, the NASA Jet Propulsion Lab, Stanford University, the US Department of Defense, AT&T, MCI, Sprint, the US Army, the White House, Ameritech, US Cellular, the US District Court for the Eastern District of New York, USIA, NATO, and a FAA control tower. In 1995 alone the Defense Department experienced more than two hundred and fifty thousand attempts at intrusion, theft, alter- ation, or destruction of data from its computers (Schweitzer and Dorsch 45). Terrorism and the Clinton Era 133
  • 139. Behind the scenes, the administration had even more startling data sup- porting the threat of cyberterrorism. Richard Clarke, the administration’s counterterrorism czar, made the decision to find out just how vulnerable the United States was to a cyberterrorism attack. In 1998, he paid a group of hackers to break into the Pentagon’s most secure computer systems. Not only did the hackers gain access to Pentagon data, they controlled the military command center, the command-and-control apparatus used by the leader- ship during an attack on the nation (“Clinton’s Secret War”). The distinctiveness of modern-day terrorists in Clinton’s public dis- course went beyond tactics; terrorists had also changed the location of their attacks. Clinton announced that contemporary terrorists would now strike anywhere, including within the boundaries of the United States. He labeled the new terrorist “an equal opportunity destroyer, with no respect for bor- ders” (Public Papers 1996 2:1257). Publicly, Clinton focused on attacks that occurred primarily against the world’s economic superpowers. In the speeches he delivered between 1993 and 1998, fifty-seven percent of the incidents he mentioned happened in either Japan or the United States. Data from the State Department belied the notion that terrorists targeted Japan and the United States more than they did other regions of the world. Less than one percent of the international terrorist attacks occurred in the United States, and less than nine percent occurred in all of the countries in Asia.2 Despite the patterns of terrorists in the past, however, Clinton had intelli- gence that indicated that the United States was at risk. One National Security Council memo (undated) warned that, “Foreign terrorist sleeper cells are present in the US and attacks in the US are likely” (as qtd. in National Commission, Final Report “italics in original” 179). In line with the NSC intelligence, Clinton emphasized the potential impact terrorist assaults could have on the world’s economic centers by reiterating a handful of dramatic past occurrences. The final change in Clinton’s characterization of terrorists focused on the groups’ organizational structures. No longer isolated bands of extremists, modern terrorists were dangerous members of a threatening international syndicate of criminals. Increasingly, Clinton portrayed them as colluding with drug traffickers and organized criminals. Reminiscent of Reagan’s refer- ences to the twin threats of terrorists and drug traffickers, Clinton’s approach merged multiple causes of public concern into a new, conglomerate threat. He reasoned, “In the world we’re living in, with computer technology, with open borders, one of the biggest challenges is seeing the people who are ter- rorists, the people who are drug runners, the people who are organized crim- inals, and the people who smuggle weapons of mass destruction, including chemical and biological weapons, coming together and working together” (Public Papers 1996 1:506). 134 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 140. Empirical evidence supported Clinton’s contention that terrorists, orga- nized criminals and drug traffickers were becoming more interconnected. Reno reported that by 1989, the expansion of domestic organized crime stemmed from its linkages with drug-trafficking groups, such as the Colombian cartels, the Asian Triads, Mexican foreign nationals, and Jamaican posses (as cited in Martin and Romano 83). The Southern Poverty Law Center established that there was a domestic link between other crimi- nal groups and terrorists. Its report concluded that drugs were increasingly funding terrorist acts of the extreme right (as cited in Snow 106). Abroad, the joint efforts of the terrorism, organized crime, and drug trafficking were even more substantial. Terrorism and drug trafficking had particularly strong ties in Colombia, Peru, Sri Lanka, and Southeast Asia (Schweitzer and Dorsch 165–70). The PKK, a Kurdish terrorist organiza- tion, controlled one hundred percent of Europe’s drug trafficking (Tezcan, as rptd. in Mourad 174). In a 1997 Cairo Terrorism Seminar attended by thirty nations, the Turkish participant reasoned that terrorists and orga- nized criminals made an effective alliance, because their needs were comple- mentary. Organized crime provided organizational cover, logistical support, and necessary country contacts; terrorists bought arms, used their state con- tacts to aid transport of individuals involved in illegal activity, and laundered money (Mourad 178). The final declaration of the Cairo Terrorism Seminar assessed the yearly proceeds from the international alliance of terrorism, drug trafficking, and organized crime to be approximately eight hundred billion dollars, with total profits at least two hundred times that figure (Mourad 247–48). Before leaving office the Clinton administration institutionalized terror- ists as nonstate, criminal actors. Caught between the desire to officially declare Afghanistan a terrorist state for providing safe haven to bin Laden and an unwillingness to recognize the legitimacy of the Taliban government, the administration initially demurred on a decision to place Afghanistan on the secretary of state’s list of state sponsors. Instead, Clinton signed an exec- utive order in July 1999 that designated al Qaeda as a foreign terrorist orga- nization subject to the same sanctions traditionally reserved for state sponsors of terrorism (National Commission, Final Report 125). The new designation resulted in the freezing of the group’s assets within the United States, the denial of visas for group members, and the elevation of supporting the group into a federal crime. Overall then, Clinton argued that terrorists posed a new threat because of shifts in the weapons they used, the nations they targeted, and the alliances they built to improve their organizational abilities. From the presi- dent’s public viewpoint, such new and dangerous challenges demanded extra- ordinary leadership that, if unavailable, would place the entire international Terrorism and the Clinton Era 135
  • 141. community at risk. Clinton’s terrorist narrative asserted that he possessed the inspired type of leadership required for global survival. CLINTON’S TERRORIST NARRATIVE On multiple occasions Clinton received criticism that he lacked a coherent, publicly articulated vision of leadership. Early in his first term, Treasury Secretary Lloyd Bentson warned Clinton that his presentation of so many issues to the American public was diverting attention away from what he was trying to accomplish (as rptd. in Drew 166). Early scholarly assessments of the Clinton presidency replayed a similar theme. Phillip Henderson argues, “Often devoid of ordered argument or reasoned analysis, the [...] Clinton- era speeches are heavily weighted in the direction of ‘laundry lists’ rather than conveying an underlying sense of conviction or direction” (227). Fred Greenstein offers a more charitable interpretation, but nevertheless agrees that Clinton’s public stance was problematic. He notes, “No American presi- dent has exceeded Clinton in his grasp of policy specifics, especially in the domestic sphere, but his was a mastery that did not translate into a clearly defined point of view” (187). For many, Clinton lacked an encompassing theme that provided coherence to his policy agenda. While even a cursory reading of Clinton’s speeches confirms that he publicly advocated many different policies, the conclusion that he lacked an overarching rhetorical perspective is incorrect. From the day Clinton accepted the Democratic Party’s nomination for president in 1992, he adopted the prophetic tradition to frame his rhetorical vision for America’s future. Grounded in a religious heritage familiar to many Americans, the approach presented a moral framework for the conduct of society. The rhetorical frame presented terrorism as a crime against God, the community’s rejection of it as a test of the faithful, and the government’s response as a divine calling. Traditionally, the scene common to prophetic discourse involves periods of societal upheaval. Prophetic figures, while emerging as historical staples during the last two centuries, appear more frequently during times of crisis (Witherington 404). Gerhard von Rad, having analyzed the common charac- teristics shared by prophets across the centuries, explains why: “The place at which [prophets] raise their voices is a place of supreme crisis, indeed almost a place of death, in so far as the men of this period of crisis were no longer reached by the saving force of the old appointments, and were promised life only as they turned to what was to come. All the prophets shared a common conviction that they stood exactly at that turning point of history which was crucial for the existence of God’s people” (265). At such moments of crisis, 136 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 142. the people are numb and in a state of denial about the transition that lies ahead. Much of the prophet’s task is to encourage people to acknowledge the loss of the old order and the structures that have been created to support it. In contrast to the people who are reluctant to move forward, the prophet experiences no ambiguity about future political events and strongly advocates acceptance of the new order (Rad 265; Brueggemann 69). Clinton’s terrorist narrative depicted the international scene at the end of the twentieth century to be such a critical turning point in American his- tory. It portrayed the Cold War as the old order that was no longer relevant for America’s future. Clinton warned of the risks attendant to the dissolution of the Soviet Union, a threat that had functioned as the unifying rationale for foreign policy priorities for half a century. He insisted the nation had to resist complacency and isolationism and immediately confront the new emergent threats of the twenty-first century. Speaking to the United Nations, Clinton surmised, “For as we all know now so painfully, the end of the Cold War did not bring us to the millennium of peace. And, indeed it simply removed the lid from many cauldrons of ethnic, religious, and territo- rial animosity” (Public Papers 1993 2:1616). Clinton portrayed inaction as a mistake the US could not afford. In his public discourse, Clinton replaced the superpower competition of the old order with a new era of globalization. For him, the move toward globalization fundamentally altered the rules of international engagement. Clinton explained that previously accepted distinctions were no longer applicable in the conduct of international affairs. He explained, “Interdependence among nations has grown so deep that literally it is now meaningless to speak of a sharp dividing line between foreign and domestic policy” (Public Papers 1995 2:1568). He reasoned that pointed divisions between economic and national security were equally outmoded, with the result that “The true measure of our security includes not only physical safety, but economic well-being as well” (US Dept. of State Dispatch 1996: 402). Clinton portrayed globalization as a time when old divisions had to give way to new opportunities for coming together. While committed to the acceptance of the new order, Clinton warned that globalization was also fraught with danger. Kenneth Burke recognizes that implicit in any notion of order is motive, which, when recast as a scenic element, contains the possibility of bad acts (Rhetoric of Religion 192). For Clinton, the positive attributes of the new global scene were precisely the elements that made society vulnerable. He explained, “[T]he very forces that have unlocked so much potential for progress—new technologies, borders more open to ideas and services and goods and money and travelers, instant global communications, and instant access to unlimited amounts of impor- tant information all across the world—these very forces have also made it Terrorism and the Clinton Era 137
  • 143. easier for forces of destruction to endanger the lives in all countries” (Public Papers 1996 1:602). Clinton warned of the dangers of failing to embrace the world’s changes in his acceptance of the 1992 Democratic Party presidential nomination: “Where there is no vision, the people will perish” (Vital Speeches 1992: 644). For Clinton, the future of both the nation and the members of the international community depended on confronting the new and more dangerous threats spawned by the end of the Cold War. Danger in the conventional prophetic tradition is not a simple concept; it emerges in two forms. The first kind of danger is a temporary fall from grace, as in the case of an individual who fails to faithfully obey the dictates of the prophet’s covenant. With proper atonement those that fall out of weakness can be re-created in God’s image. The second kind of danger is for one’s fall to involve a deliberate commitment to a countercovenant. These individuals disobey God’s will by enrolling “in the ranks of a rival force” (Burke, Rhetoric of Religion 195). In Burke’s words, “It would be a difference between being ‘weak in virtue,’ and being ‘strong in sin’” (194). For Clinton, the terrorists and their supportive rogue states were members of the countercovenant. Coupled with organized criminals and drug traffickers, terrorists formed an “unholy axis” (Public Papers 1997 2:1206) that threatened the future of humanity. Clinton’s alliance of threats functioned in direct opposition to the Holy Trinity. Rather than strive for the Trinity’s perfect communion through love, terrorists and their counterparts functioned as the “enemies of peace” (Public Papers 1994 2:1311) and “forces of hatred and intolerance” (Public Papers 1995 2:1596). Their violence was “rooted in people’s desire to hurt other people because they’re different from them” (Public Papers 1996 2:1750). Their actions were fueled by a “curse of hatred based on race and religion and ethnicity that is sweeping the world” (1107). Antithetical to the creative power of the divine, terrorists acted as “forces of destruction” (Public Papers 1996 1:603), “the dark underside of disintegration” (641), and “21st century predators” (Public Papers 1997 2:1206). Terrorists’ unyielding commitment to the countercovenant rendered their redemptive potential negligible in Clinton’s public approach. Reminiscent of Dante’s three-headed dog, the devil figure in Clinton’s narrative was a composite of three separate, but interrelated, threats to the sacred order. The unholy trinity was not a simple composite of the evils within the alliance; the merger was generative of a more threatening, more perfect devil figure. Clinton illuminated the interactive, dangerous impact of the alliance when he stated, “Groups that once operated in one country or region or engaged in one kind of criminal activity have become global and diversified: drug traffickers barter machine guns, terrorists sell counterfeit bills, organized criminals smuggle nuclear materials” (US Dept. of State 138 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 144. Dispatch 1997: 177). The result was an ultimate devil figure that merged the evil of various hostile forces to the nation. Clinton maintained that the asso- ciation elevated terrorism into “the most significant security challenge of the 21st century to the people of the United States and to civilized people every- where” (Public Papers 1996 2:1211). The new existence of a more dangerous threat established the need for the international community to come together in the interests of global survival. Bin Laden functioned as a prototype of Clinton’s trilogy of evil, because he personally embodied the threat possible when terrorists, organized crimi- nals, and drug traffickers worked in tandem. Clinton labeled bin Laden “the preeminent organizer and financier of international terrorism in the world today” (1996 II, 1460). Administration sources notified members of the press that bin Laden used narcotics trafficking to pay the Taliban for sanctuary (Risen A6).3 Bin Laden’s alleged coconspirators provided the links to orga- nized crime by claiming that he had attempted to pay $1.5 million on the black market for uranium to build a nuclear bomb (as rptd. in Weiser A1). Administration sources also maintained that bin Laden personified the destructive and emerging potential of cyberterrorists, given his access to a $3 trillion-a-year telecommunication industry that far exceeded the communica- tion technological capabilities of the United States (Hayden). In short, bin Laden relied on all the new methods that Clinton outlined in his depiction of the new terrorists of the twenty-first century. Privately, the administration suspected that bin Laden and his al Qaeda organization were responsible for the embassy bombings in Tanzania and Kenya, the bombing of the USS Cole, the World Trade Center bombing, the attack on Khobar Towers, the bombing of Aden hotels designed to kill troops headed to Somalia, the downing of Blackhawk helicopters carrying military personnel to the humanitarian mission in Somalia, the bombing in Riyadh, an assassination attempt on George H. W. Bush, and bombing plots for Manila and the Philippines (Clarke, Memo to Rice 3). Publicly, CIA Director George J. Tenet labeled bin Laden “the most immediate and seri- ous” terrorist threat to the United States (as rptd. in Pincus and Loeb A16). Accordingly, bin Laden’s name appeared on the FBI’s Most Wanted list with a reward of $5 million for evidence leading to his capture. Within the conventions of the prophetic tradition, the hope of defeating evil rests with God’s chosen servants. Such individuals function as agents of the divine, and are obligated to reassert the divine principles to the people (Zulick 137). The covenant functions as a treaty between God and the people that commits its followers to a certain set of standard behaviors (A. Phillips 219). It reasserts the virtuous path for the fallen and serves as a ready reminder of God’s presence (Darsey 18). The covenant reaffirms knowledge already known to the audience (20). Terrorism and the Clinton Era 139
  • 145. In the administration’s narrative, Clinton complied with the obligation to rearticulate God’s principles for the public. He called for the public to embrace a “new covenant” (Vital Speeches 1992: 644), one that required citi- zens to “renew our faith in ourselves and each other, and restore our sense of unity and community” (645). Transcending the historically recurrent use of religion in presidential inaugural addresses (Fairbanks 230), Clinton never relinquished his prophetic role throughout his presidency. During his farewell address, he predicted that he would “never hold a position higher or a covenant more sacred than that of President of the United States” (Vital Speeches 2001: 229). Clinton presented rejection of terrorism as a sacred principle that all peoples and nations must recognize. He elevated opposition to terrorism into a moral imperative. He pronounced, “It is also true that we believe that ter- rorism everywhere is wrong, that terrorism in the Middle East is wrong, that people blowing up our Federal building in Oklahoma City is wrong, and people taking over a hospital [. . .] and killing innocent civilians is wrong, and has to be resisted strongly” (Public Papers 1995 2:903). He publicly conceived of state sponsors of terrorism in equally moralistic and unequivocal terms: “You cannot do business with countries that practice commerce with you by day while funding or protecting the terrorists who kill you and your innocent civilians by night. That is wrong. I hope and expect that before long our allies will come around to accepting this fundamental truth” (Public Papers 1996 2:1258). For Clinton, violent actions qualified both terrorists and their supporters as embodiments of evil. Clinton positioned those who vowed to oppose terrorists within the same moral framework. He maintained, “It is right for us to continue to reach out to other countries. It is right for us to support peace and freedom and to try to expand our own prosperity by expanding that of others. It is right for us to be partners with other countries, even when we’re tired and we want to lay our burdens down, because it’s the only way to fight terrorism, the only way to fight drug dealing, the only way to fight organized crime; it is right to do that. So you get to decide about that, which road will you walk in the future” (Public Papers 1996 1:705). Clinton presented many of his nar- rative’s central themes as commandments for the faithful within the interna- tional community. His call to never bargain or negotiate with terrorists was uncompromising. His demand that all nations have zero tolerance for terror- ists was unyielding. His plea for nations not to be intimidated by terrorist tactics was essential for those who embraced the covenant. His directive that all nations refuse sanctuary to terrorists was a return to when sanctuaries were gathering places for prophets and pilgrims, not for the fallen (Rad 31). A common scholarly complaint about Clinton’s presidential rhetoric has been that it was uncompromising. One author criticizes Clinton’s public 140 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 146. strategy, for example, by claiming that it was “often carefully crafted to pre- empt dialogue, negotiation and compromise” (Henderson 235). When con- sidered through the lens of the prophetic tradition, such certitude about God’s word is expected. As a manifestation of God’s will, the covenant is not debatable; it is absolute truth (Darsey 21). Evil is condemned and permitted no exoneration (Cragg 110). James Darsey reminds us, “[T]he prophet announces both the charges and the verdict of God or nature against the transgressors of the law” (24). For those who fail to live by the sacred tenets of the covenant, punishment is a necessary precursor to any hope of redemp- tion. For those who adhere steadfastly to a countercovenant, punishment is necessary to reveal the wrath of God’s will (118). As the prophetic persona in the narrative, Clinton assumed the role of accuser and judge in the battle against terrorism. Publicly, he recognized the necessity of punishing both the terrorists and those who supported them. He claimed his administration had captured and convicted more terrorists than any of his predecessors had. He imposed more economic sanctions than any previous president. He demonstrated his willingness to attack foreign states that failed to abide the covenant by employing both covert and overt military force. Covertly, he spent more than $120 million in aborted CIA efforts to overthrow Saddam Hussein (Hyland 173). Overtly, he ordered twenty cruise missiles fired at Iraqi intelligence headquarters in Baghdad in response to Iraq’s planned assassination of George Bush during his trip to Kuwait in April 1993. In a joint military initiative with Britain, he ordered four hun- dred other cruise missiles dropped in Iraq to destroy its chemical, biological, and nuclear lab sites (Clinton, My Life 833). He sent sixty-six cruise missiles into Afghanistan and the Sudan in response to the US Embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania. Clinton insisted he would punish terrorism without regard to his own personal or political cost; the duty to avenge God’s will had to take precedence. Clinton did not engage in a public debate about his decision to punish the transgressors of the covenant. His decision to bomb the Sudan and Afghanistan was illustrative. He insisted he had “compelling evidence” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1461) and he invited public acceptance of that assess- ment on faith. He pronounced the guilt of the two foreign nations, even in the face of privately expressed doubts by his attorney general, members of the CIA, and members of the Justice Department (Henderson 243; Hersh,“Missiles of August” 37). He proclaimed Afghanistan “contained key elements of the bin Laden network’s infrastructure and [had] served as a training camp for literally thousands of terrorists from around the globe” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1461). He announced that the Sudanese factory “was involved in the production of chemical weapons” (ibid.). Sudanese officials subsequently protested that the Shifa Pharmaceutical Industries had only Terrorism and the Clinton Era 141
  • 147. been engaged in a benign commercial venture and demanded a UN investi- gation. Despite taking what a senior fellow at the Center for Strategic and International Studies described as a “shellacking for the attack on al-Shifa” (Benjamin), Clinton officials refused to publicly debate the issue, to describe their evidence in detail, or to explain how it was obtained (Myers A1, A6). While the 9/11 Commission determined in 2004 that “No independent evi- dence has emerged to corroborate the CIA’s assessment” (National Commission, Final Report 118), Clinton defended his decision to bomb Sudan in his memoirs by pointing to the testimony of a witness in a terrorist trial held in NYC who had said that “bin Laden had a chemical weapons operation in Khartoum” (My Life 805). By periodically punishing those committed to the countercovenant, Clinton fulfilled his prophetic obligation, even if terrorism remained an ongo- ing problem. Elimination of the threat in prophetic discourse is not necessary for society to be redeemed. Kenneth Burke explains, “When we read of one broken covenant after another, and see the sacrificial principle forever reaf- firmed anew, narratively this succession may be interpreted as movement towards a fulfillment, though from the standpoint of the tautological cycle they ‘go on endlessly’ implicating one another” (Rhetoric of Religion 217). Clinton did not insist that as God’s messenger, he could eliminate the threat to the sacred order. Instead, he forecasted, “This will be a long, ongoing struggle between freedom and fanaticism, between the rule of law and terror- ism” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1461). For Clinton, the fight against terrorism would be unending, but the commitment to fight against the evil whenever and wherever it occurred was redemptive for God’s followers. Within the conventions of the prophetic tradition, the Almighty suffers when the people fail to accept God’s message and, instead, embrace a coun- tercovenant. Convention holds that as God’s agent, the prophet must demonstrate God’s suffering to his people through self-sacrifice. Overpowered by God’s will, the prophet accepts the role reluctantly (Darsey 80). The nature of the prophet’s sacrifice must be substantial in order to demonstrate the magnitude of the people’s breach of faith. Prophets fre- quently assume the roles of martyrs within their societies as they enact their radical self-sacrifice (32). As a result, themes of duty, sacrifice, and martyr- dom pervade prophetic discourse. As God’s vehicle within the narrative, Clinton endured self-sacrifice. In the first moments after he received the Democratic presidential nomination, Clinton revealed his personal history of experiencing and accepting self-sac- rifice. He remembered meeting John F. Kennedy, who taught him the importance of responding to calls for sacrifice. Clinton maintained that the lesson had been a familiar one for him because of his childhood. He had never known his father. He had accepted the need for his mother to leave 142 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 148. him with grandparents when he was only three years old so she could find work. Clinton’s emphasis on his personal history should not be surprising, for as Kenneth Cragg reminds us, “[W]here prophets originate bears strongly on what they become. Their antecedents are significant for their destiny” (21). For Clinton, the call to sacrifice had been internalized from early child- hood; it prepared him for what he would later endure as God’s messenger to the people. Clinton’s publicly described sacrifice in relation to terrorists transcended the personal. It extended to his role as the head of the body politic. As the leader of the United States and the free world, Clinton embodied the world’s suffering in the fight against terrorism. Such suffering, he argued, was the cost of standing up against the threats to the sacred order. As Clinton explained, “America is and will remain a target of terrorists precisely because we are leaders; because we act to advance peace, democracy, and basic human values; because we’re the most open society on Earth; and because, as we have shown yet again, we take an uncompromising stand against terrorism” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1461). Clinton identified himself explicitly with American martyrs (i.e., the family members of Americans slain by terrorists and the survivors of terrorism) at the signing of the Antiterrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. As the bill became law, he announced, “I sign my name to this bill in your names” (Public Papers, 1996 1:630). Consistent with the expectations of prophetic discourse, he assumed the burden of the sacrifice for all Americans who had encountered the evil of ter- rorism. Clinton encouraged the public to share in and accept the required sacri- fice. Like him, the public was to remain steadfast in their commitment to carry out their sacred duty. Clinton acknowledged that in the fight against terrorism, the “responsibility is great, and I know it weighs heavily on many Americans. But we should embrace this responsibility because at this point in time no one else can do what we can do to advance peace and freedom and democracy. [. ..]” (Public Papers, 1996 2:1258). He insisted the nation must honor its martyrs by continuing the struggle against terrorism. Speaking after the Oklahoma City bombing, he encouraged the people to remain resolute in their opposition to terrorism: “So let us honor those who lost their lives by resolving to hold fast against the forces of violence and division, by never allowing them to shake our resolve or break our spirit, to frighten us into sac- rificing our sacred freedoms or surrendering a drop of precious American lib- erty. Rather we must guard against them, speak against them, and fight against them” (Public Papers, 1996 1:629). Sacrifice was the nation’s duty if the sacred order was to prevail. Conventionally, prophets are always cognizant of the distance that exists between God and the people, a situation they synecdochically represent Terrorism and the Clinton Era 143
  • 149. through their own separateness. Kenneth Cragg reminds us that such dis- tance leaves the prophet vulnerable to derision: “A hostile society impales its righteous mentors, holds its seers up to scorn, imprisons them in its long contempt, makes them the butt of its impenitent glee. It frustrates their lib- erties and maligns their ministry, recruiting public clamour to their tribula- tion and contriving ridicule to their discredit” (103). Prophets accept isolation and scorn as part of the sacrifice they must endure when assuming the responsibility of spreading God’s word. In the terrorism arena, separateness between presidents and the people is an institutional phenomenon. From the day presidents assume the office, inevitible distance emerges between the leader and the people. One is charged with protecting the people; the other to be the recipient of that pro- tection. The leader directs the nation; the people follow. When presidential action turns to terrorism specifically, the leader faces enhanced seclusion. Presidents are distant in matters of foreign policy because of what they know, paralleling in some ways the distance between an omnipotent God and his followers. The nation’s leaders limit what they share with the public in hopes of responding to the terrorist threat most effectively. At times, presidents undergo ridicule because they are unwilling to share what they know with the public. Willing to accept derision and mockery, Clinton reserved the right to act alone, if necessary, in the battle against terrorism. Acknowledging his own isolation, Clinton insisted that should terrorists need to be punished, he would act alone if necessary to meet his obligation. He stated, “Even though we’re working more closely with our allies than ever and there is more agree- ment on what needs to be done than ever, we do not always agree. Where we don’t agree, the U.S. cannot and will not refuse to do what we believe is right” (Public Papers, 1996 2:1258). Accordingly, Clinton authorized five separate intelligence orders for covert operations to destroy al Qaeda (Woodward, Plan of Attack 12). One of his Presidential Decision Directives (PDD-39) authorized both offensive and defensive actions to “reduce terror- ist capabilities” and to “reduce vulnerabilities at home and abroad” (as rptd. in Clarke, Against All Enemies 92). A Clinton Memorandum of Notification gave sanction to the CIA and members of Afghani tribes working with the United States to kill or capture bin Laden (National Commission, Final Report 132).4 Those unwilling to accept the true nature of the emerging order would not deter Clinton even in the face of domestic or international dissent. Clinton not only isolated himself from the American public and the members of the international community; he also distanced himself from the US Congress. Clinton publicly berated Congress for failing to respond immediately and forcefully to his call for a strong stand against terrorism. He accused them of acting too slow (Public Papers, 1995 1:1745), of listen- 144 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 150. ing to “a few people with extreme views” (Public Papers, 1996 2:1909), and of using “the old politics of diversion and delay” (Public Papers, 1995 1:689). After the House of Representatives failed to adopt his 1996 antiterrorism legislation in full, Clinton went so far as to portray the chamber’s members as the servants of terrorism. Insisting the House had abrogated its responsi- bilities, he argued, The House also voted to let terrorists like Hamas continue to raise money in America by stripping the Justice Department’s authority to designate organizations as terrorists and thereby stop them from raising funds in the United States. The House voted against allow- ing us to deport foreigners who support terrorist activities more quickly, and it voted to cripple our ability to use high-tech surveil- lance to keep up with stealthy and fast-moving terrorists. At the same time the bill went easy on terrorists, it got tough on law enforcement officials. The House stripped a provision that would have helped protect police officers from cop-killer bullets. And it ordered a commission to study not the terrorists but the Federal law enforcement officials who put their lives on the line to fight terrorism. (Public Papers, 1996 1:463–64) Clinton portrayed the conflict with terrorists as a battle between good and evil. Congress could either help him acquire the tools he needed to defeat terrorists or they could become the pawns, if not the co-conspirators, of those who have rejected the covenant. Through the process of sacrifice, the prophet conventionally offers hope for salvation. Society gains the opportunity to reconsider itself and its evil actions by observing the suffering of the prophet. Those who become self- aware and recognize the error of their ways find redemption. Prophets ulti- mately maintain that God is merciful and offers hope of salvation for those who vindicate the covenant (Cragg 110). The potential for hope and salvation was a recurrent theme in Clinton’s public statements. The Clinton camp first highlighted the message in the campaign film it presented at the 1992 Democratic National Convention. The film’s theme was Clinton as the Man from Hope, a reference to his birthplace in Arkansas. In his acceptance speech at the 1992 convention, Clinton reinforced the message by pledging that his new covenant offered the prospect of an optimistic future. Borrowing directly from the scriptures, he predicted, “[O]ur eyes have not yet seen, nor our ears heard nor our minds imagined what we can build” (Vital Speeches 1992: 645). Drawing from the his Southern Baptist upbringing, Clinton offered to lead the nation to a better future. He encouraged his followers through a reference to the biblical story of Moses: “Guided by the ancient vision of a promised land, let us set Terrorism and the Clinton Era 145
  • 151. our sights upon a land of new promise” (Public Papers, 1997 1:43). The future need not be bleak if the people sought redemption. A common prophetic strategy for instilling hope in the people is the use of the rebirth archetype (Darsey 29). For Christians, such archetypes recall the optimistic story of Christ’s resurrection. For all members of the public regardless of religious affiliation, the archetype links to the natural progres- sion of the seasons. As James Hoban Jr. explains, “The hope engendered in the coming of the new momentarily quiets fears of obliteration; thus human- ity responds to the season of birth—the spring—that gives promise of growth even as it foreshadows winter” (281). As the people prepare to leave the comfort and security of the established order, the birth of the new is filled with promise. Publicly remembering his own experience, Clinton evoked the archetype of rebirth to demonstrate the redemptive possibilities available to the people. He recalled that, the “future entered my life the night our daughter Chelsea was born. As I stood in the delivery room, I was overcome with the thought that God had given me a blessing my own father never knew: the chance to hold my child in my arms” (Vital Speeches 1992: 645). From the example of his past, Clinton demonstrated his acceptance of the sacrifices necessary to properly raise his child, a responsibility his own father had abandoned. Clinton acknowledged his own duty, thereby redeeming the sins of his father and instilling a sense of hope for the future. Transforming the personal into the public, Clinton then encouraged the American people to accept the sac- rifices that would be necessary to ensure the future of all of the nation’s chil- dren. He explicitly called on the audience to accept his new covenant in order that every child could achieve according to his or her God-given abilities (ibid.). Like Clinton, the American people had the opportunity for an opti- mistic future if they accepted the principles of the covenant. In the Clinton narrative, God’s potential followers included the member states of the international community, the US Congress, and the American public. During the process of purification, Clinton called upon each of these groups to abandon their prior compromises between good and evil and become obedient servants of God’s will. He insisted that each had to sacrifice in the name of the new covenant and each had to give itself over completely to the prophet’s guidance. The sacrifices required of members of the international community were multifaceted. Clinton called on all foreign nations to condemn terrorism wherever it occurred and to deny safe havens to those who had committed acts of terrorism, even when such actions increased their own short-term vul- nerability to terrorism. He also demanded that foreign nations risk their own economic futures by blocking oil exports and denying computer technology to the state sponsors of terrorism. Finally, he insisted they overcome worries 146 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 152. about state sovereignty and join him in bringing banks and financial systems into conformity with international statutes against money laundering, in reducing or outlawing chemical, biological, and nuclear arsenals, in commit- ting to the Extradition and Mutual Legal Assistance Treaties, and in joining the International Clearinghouse of Evidence on Terrorism (Public Papers, 1996 2:1258; Public Papers, 1995 2:1654–57). Offering assurances of salva- tion to those nations that complied, he announced, “We will help people of all faiths, in all parts of the world, who want to live free of fear and violence. We will persist, and we will prevail” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1462). Clinton was equally, if not more, demanding on the members of the US Congress. He insisted Congress act to help prevent terrorist acts by prohibit- ing fund-raising for terrorist groups within the United States, by funding high-tech inspection machines at airports, and by funding the implementa- tion of the national plan to protect the nation’s infrastructure. He called on Congress to enhance the investigative tools available to law enforcement by making terrorism a federal crime, by legalizing the use of chemical markers, by using multipoint wiretaps to investigate terrorists, and by increasing the budgets of the FBI and CIA. He demanded they strengthen the prosecutor- ial means available in the fight against terrorism by cutting back the number and time delay of appeals of individuals found guilty of terrorism, by passing sanctions against state sponsors of terrorism, and by allowing the deportation of foreigners suspected of engaging in terrorist activity. Finally, he insisted Congress improve the safety of those potential victims of terrorism (i.e., by upgrading the public health systems, by stockpiling medicines necessary to respond to a biological or chemical attack, by investing in the research and development of biotechnology, by banning the use of cop-killer bullets, and by permitting the limited use of the military in the civilian sector). Viewed through a nonprophetic lens, such a lengthy set of recommendations might be rightly labeled a laundry list; seen as divine guidance, however, such pro- posals were simply the burdensome sacrifices required for salvation. For the American public, Clinton’s call to sacrifice was not calculated in monetary or political costs; it came at the expense of certain freedoms and cherished liberties. Clinton reminded the public, “[W]e accepted a minor infringement on our freedom, I guess, when the airport metal detectors were put up, but they went a long way to stop airplane hijackings and the explo- sion of planes and the murdering of innocent people” (Public Papers, 1995 1:575). He asked the public to accept an expansion of the federal wiretap authority, to allow the use of military forces within the domestic borders of the United States, and to accept restrictions on their second amendment rights such as forgoing certain types of weapons and tracing others belonging to terrorists (Public Papers, 1996 1:630–32). He encouraged the public to accept sacrifices of liberty in the name of ensuring the very survival of the Terrorism and the Clinton Era 147
  • 153. emerging order. As Clinton offered, “We will prevail again if, and only if, our people support the mission” (Public Papers, 1995 2:1798). To be an effective spokesperson of God’s message and be able to con- vince the people sacrifices are necessary for salvation, a prophet must be charismatic. The prophet must be able to attract a substantial following to offer a realistic hope for the people. Weber defines charisma in the context of the prophetic tradition as “a certain quality of an individual personality by virtue of which he is set apart from ordinary men and treated as endowed with supernatural, superhuman, or at least specifically exceptional powers or qualities. These as such are not accessible to the ordinary person, but are regarded as of divine origin or as exemplary, and on the basis of them the individual is treated as a leader” (as qtd. in Eldridge 229). Without a charis- matic persona, the prophet cannot credibly carry out the sacred duties, whether the role of punishing those who adhere to a countercovenant or call- ing for sacrifices from the faithful. A body of evidence suggests that members of the international commu- nity, the US Congress, and the American public did regard Clinton as a leader in the fight against terrorism at the time of his presidency. In the international arena, Clinton made demonstrable progress in creating struc- tures for battling terrorism during his tenure. He enlisted a record number of foreign nations to enter into mutual legal assistance treaties with the United States (twenty-one in force and another nineteen signed). During the Clinton years, mutual legal assistance treaties were signed or put into force with Argentina, Morocco, Spain, Panama, Jamaica, the Philippines, the United Kingdom, Hungary, South Korea, Antigua and Barbuba, Australia, Austria, Barbados, Dominica, Grenada, Hong Kong, St. Lucia, Luxembourg, Poland, the Organization of American States, Trinidad, Greece, Cyprus, Egypt, France, Nigeria, Romania, Russian Federation of States, South Africa, Ukraine, and Bermuda. Executive agreements serving as precursors to mutual legal assistance treaties were signed with the Cayman Islands, the British Virgin Islands, Montserrat, Anguilla, Turks and Caicos, Haiti, and Nigeria. Extradition treaties were also signed with Belize, Paraguay, South Africa, and Sri Lanka (J. P. Rubin, “US and Greece”). The resulting international cooperation helped identify terrorist perpetrators in the bombings of Pan Am 103, the World Trade Center, the US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and the USS Cole. The US Congress also complied with many of Clinton’s moves to strengthen the nation’s ability to fight terrorism. Members of Congress passed Clinton’s FY 2000 request for $10 billion to combat terrorism, a threefold increase in the resources previously allocated to the problem (Mann 63–64). They also passed significant legislation that made it easier for law enforcement officials to investigate and prosecute terrorists. Prominent 148 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 154. among these was the passage of the Counter-terrorism and Effective Death Penalty Act of 1996. The act restricted federal habeas reconsideration of legal and factual issues ruled by state courts in most instances, expanded the restitution available to victims of terrorism, and regulated the fund-raising for organizations associated with terrorist actions. It barred alien terrorists from entering the United States and expedited the deportation of those already in the United States. Finally, it increased restrictions on the posses- sion and use of materials with the potential to cause catastrophic damage and limited the purchase of plastic explosives to those with implanted, preexplo- sion detection devices. A second significant congressional action against terrorism was the Senate’s ratification of the Chemical Weapons Convention in the spring of 1997. The convention banned the production, acquisition, stockpiling, trans- fer, and use of chemical weapons. A scholarly assessment of the agreement called it “one of the most ambitious treaties in the history of arms control” (Schweitzer and Dorsch 99). Passing over opposition of some in the chemi- cal industry, the convention identified a lengthy list of chemicals routinely used in commerce as having military applications. It subjected the manufac- turers of these chemicals to international accounting requirements and inter- national inspections. Nonsignatories were banned from importing the chemicals on the control lists from any nations that signed the treaty. As Clinton left office, the majority of the American public considered him to be a strong leader. The last public approval ratings of his handling of the presidency distinguished him among former presidents in modern times. As the Gallup News Service reported, “Clinton’s average approval rating for his last quarter in office is almost 61%— the highest final quarter rating any president has received in the past half century” (D. W. Moore). By more than a two-to-one margin, Americans expected Clinton to go down in history as an outstanding or above average president (ibid.). In the foreign policy arena, Clinton’s approval ratings surged during the course of his presidency. Entering office with low expectations for his ability to handle foreign affairs, Clinton emerged as a distinguished leader on the international scene. In a 1994 Gallup poll, “Americans rated Clinton a poor leader on foreign policy, trailing President[s] Kennedy, Nixon, Truman, Eisenhower, Reagan, George Bush, and Carter. But by 1998, the quadrennial survey rank[ed] Clinton as the best foreign policy president since World War II” (Wright A1). Despite the public’s support for his leadership, Clinton rocked his popu- lar legacy by his involvement in the repeated scandals involving women (Jennifer Flowers, Monica Lewinsky, and Katherine Wiley) and money (Whitewater land deals, presidential library expenses, White House gifts, and the presidential pardon of Louis Rich). An early January 2001 Gallup poll, for example, found just forty-one percent of Americans approved of Terrorism and the Clinton Era 149
  • 155. Clinton “as a person,” and only thirty-nine percent considered him “honest and trustworthy” (D. W. Moore). Clinton’s reckless personal behavior, however, did not disqualify him as a charismatic leader of the people. Within the prophetic tradition, prophets conventionally do not calculate the means of their own self-preservation. As Darsey explains, “Failure of the person of the prophet is, almost by defini- tion, necessary to his success as God’s servant. Personal success is self-serving and vitiates the purity of the divine motive” (32). Willing to forgo concerns for personal well-being, prophets attend to their more important obligation of leading God’s followers in the ways of the covenant. The prophetic tradition, with its emphasis on public obligation and per- sonal failure, helps explain the seeming paradox of the Clinton legacy. Media editorials in the months following the Clinton presidency opined, “Clinton is unprecedented in the way respect for the public man has deflected disdain for the private one” (Schulman M1), “He’s a larger than life figure [...] but he’s also got some very real flaws” (Miga 5), and “Clinton steps off center stage [...] as one of the most controversial yet most popular figures in modern U.S. history” (“Clinton Exit”). The seeming discord between Clinton’s public success and his private failure are characteristic for one whose narra- tive calling is to the divine. Clinton’s standing as an effective leader in the foreign policy arena has been scrutinized in the aftermath of the 2001 attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon. Various media outlets reported that Clinton passed on three opportunities to seize bin Laden. Others have criticized him for not striking Kandahar when he had information bin Laden was located there (“Clinton Defends Decision Not to Strike”; J. F. Harris A15). Denouncing such claims as “fables” and “urban legends,” Clarke concluded that Clinton “approved every snatch that he was asked to review” (Against All Enemies 142–49). The 9/11 Commission’s Report details the administration’s internal deci- sion-making calculus of each of its opportunities for capturing or killing bin Laden according to US intelligence. Reasons identified for failing to capital- ize included risks of operational expense, collateral damage, mission failure, possible mosque damage, deaths to tribal allies, public opposition to a per- ceived assassination attempt, a possible coup in Pakistan, and the low proba- bility of public support for a use of military ground forces in Afghanistan (National Commission, Final Report 114, 131, 136–37). The report ulti- mately concludes, “Since we believe that both President Clinton and President Bush were genuinely concerned about the danger posed by al Qaeda, approaches involving more direct intervention against the sanctuary in Afghanistan apparently must have seemed—it they were considered at all—to be disproportionate to the threat” (349). Given that al Qaeda had 150 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 156. killed fewer than fifty Americans prior to the attacks of 9/11 (340), the chances of garnering public support for a military intervention were slim. In the end, Clinton’s pronouncements about the terrorists of the twenty- first century turned out in many ways to be prophetic. Bin Laden and his associates did use weapons of mass destruction as their method of choice, they did choose the United States as the location of their attack, and they worked within an internationally connected organizational structure to orchestrate their acts of violence. While aware of the new risk posed by ter- rorism, Clinton never implemented a response strategy to bin Laden that would produce lasting security for the United States. By October 2001, a USA Today/CNN/Gallup poll reported that three of four Americans responded that Clinton had not done enough as president to capture or kill bin Laden (Page, “Why Clinton Failed to Stop Bin Laden”). While the prophetic vision had been telling, the continuation of bin Laden’s activities would be devastating for America. TERRORISM AND IDEOLOGY During Clinton’s tenure as president, the persuasive power of the prophetic tradition was not reserved for Clinton himself. Bin Laden also employed prophetic conventions in his public communication strategy to reach Muslim audiences. The 9/11 Commission Report concluded, “Bin Ladin saw himself as called ‘to follow in the footsteps of the Messenger and to communicate his message to all nations’” (National Commission, Final Report 48). In February 1998, bin Laden, on behalf of al Qaeda, issued a joint fatwa with Ayman al Zawahiri, leader of the Egyptian Islamic Jihad, under the united name of World Islamic Front. The fatwa included the following statements which outlined the principles of bin Laden’s covenant: The ruling to kill the Americans and their allies—civilian and mil- itary—is an individual duty for every Muslim who can do it in any country in which it is possible to do it, in order to liberate the al- Aqsa Mosque [in Jerusalem] and the Holy Mosque [in Mecca] from their grip, and in order for their armies to move out of all the lands of Islam, defeated and unable to threaten any Muslim. [...] We—with God’s help—call on every Muslim who believes in God and wishes to be rewarded to comply with God’s order to kill the Americans and plunder their money whenever and wherever they find it. We also call on Muslim ulema, leaders, youths, and soldiers to launch the raid on Satan’s US troops and the devil’s supporters allying with them, and to displace those who are behind them so that they may learn a lesson. (Bodansky 226–27) Terrorism and the Clinton Era 151
  • 157. The fatwa not only established the religious foundation for violent acts against the United States, but also contributed to the clash of Muslim and Western civilizations by confining those who would receive God’s rewards to members of the Muslim culture. A recent book by a retired twenty-year veteran of the CIA, Michael Scheuer, under the author name “Anonymous,” explains that with the fatwa and other statements vilifying the United States, bin Laden had the goal of inciting all Muslims to join in an insurgent war against America and its allies (Imperial Hubris 216). According to Scheuer, bin Laden was and continues to be an effective leader of the movement because of attributes consistant with the previously discussed prophetic tradition. They included the credibil- ity he had gained from his willingness to forfeit his personal wealth to the cause, his unique communication skills within the Muslim community, and his insistence that his followers join the defensive fatwa “not because he ordered them to, but because God has ordered them to do so in what He revealed in the Koran” (7). The former CIA operative details a myriad of ways that US actions around the world positioned bin Laden to make effec- tive religious appeals to the Muslim community (11–13). Scholars in the Middle East have supported bin Laden’s rationale for a united Muslim response including the use of weapons of mass destruction, given estimates that US actions have resulted in more than ten million Muslim deaths worldwide (156). Clinton’s public response to bin Laden’s prophetic appeals was multifac- eted. In large measure, he chose to avoid mentioning his adversary’s name. Clinton explained his strategy to the 9/11 Commission when he stated he “intended to avoid enhancing Bin Ladin’s stature by giving him unnecessary publicity” (National Commission, Final Report 174). Instead, Clinton focused on the broader collective of threats to the nation. He pronounced, “We’re vulnerable to the organized forces of intolerance and destruction; ter- rorism; ethnic, religious and regional rivalries; the spread of organized crime and weapons of mass destruction and drug trafficking. Just as surely as fas- cism and communism, these forces also threaten freedom and democracy, peace and prosperity” (Public Papers, 1995 2:1784). Evoking Reagan’s ideo- logical strategy of depicting terrorism, Clinton maintained that the new enemy alliance threatened the American culture. When he did mention bin Laden, Clinton characterized him as a false prophet in both word and deed. Clinton dismissed bin Laden’s call for jihad against the United States as divinely inspired. Instead, he insisted, “[N]o religion condones the murder of innocent men, women, and children” (Public Papers, 1998 2:1461). Clinton maintained that terrorists, like bin Laden, used a “twisting of their religious teachings into justifications of inhumane, indeed ungodly acts” (1465). The administration’s narrative 152 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 158. depicted the members of bin Laden’s organization as “fanatics and killers who wrap murder in the cloak of righteousness; and in so doing, profane the great religion in whose name they claim to act” (1461). Bin Laden came to represent all those who would intentionally break from the ranks of the divine to embrace a countercovenant. For Clinton, the path to the divine was not reserved exclusively for members of American culture. He held out the potential for salvation to all peoples regardless of their national, cultural, or religious origins. The test for the faithful involved the abandonment of any linkage between terrorism and American ideology per se as a relic of past, outmoded thinking. If the promise of a global community was to emerge, old divisions simply had to give way. Nevertheless, Clinton insisted that the historical lessons contained in past cultural conflicts should not be forgotten. He encouraged members of the public and the international community to recall the past correlations between particular ideological predilections and the use of terrorism to reap rewards. He argued, “History teaches us that democracies are less likely to go to war, less likely to traffic in terrorism and more likely to stand against the forces of hatred and destruction, more likely to become good partners in diplomacy and trade. So promoting democracy and defending human rights is good for the world and good for America” (Public Papers, 1995 2:1598). For Clinton, Communists and Fascists presumptively embraced terrorism, while peoples committed to democratic principles did not. Ideological con- flict did not have to constantly repeat itself for society to know and recall those tendencies. Having acknowledged the lessons of the past, Clinton maintained that modern-day international terrorism had become a nonideological topic. Countering his earlier echoing of Reagan’s rhetorical approach to terrorists, Clinton became emphatic in his dismissal of ideological interpretations of terrorist violence. He said that “Terrorism is not a political issue; this is not a partisan issue, this is not an ideological issue” (Public Papers, 1996 1:552). Having framed terrorism as an evil that threatens the sacred order, he attempted to transcend narrow interpretations of the term that might impli- cate a particular culture as the sole source of terrorism. In Clinton’s evolving worldview, terrorism was not limited to a specific state, ethnic group, or tribe. It was a countercovenant that threatened all of God’s people, regardless of their cultural affiliation. Clinton maintained that it would be a mistake to tag a particular cul- ture as terrorist without providing the opportunity for redemption. In par- ticular, he cautioned against conflating terrorism with Islam. He predicted, “[I]f we could bring peace to the Middle East, it might revolutionize the range of options we have with the Muslims all over the world and give us Terrorism and the Clinton Era 153
  • 159. the opportunity to beat back the forces of radicalism and terrorism that unfairly have been identified with Islam by so many people” (Public Papers, 1996 2:1796). Offering a similar message domestically, Clinton attempted to forestall public condemnation of all domestic militia members after the Oklahoma City bombing. Clinton admonished the public: “Just as I cau- tioned the American people earlier not to stereotype any people from other countries of different ethnic groups as being potentially responsible for this, I don’t want to castigate or categorize any groups here in America and accuse them of doing something that we don’t have any evidence that they have done (Public Papers, 1995 1:577). Clinton rejected the use of the terrorism label as a term of denigration for particular cultures. Clinton advocated evaluating cultures according to whether they sup- ported or condemned terrorism. Drawing on the example of the Muslim faith, he argued, “[W]hat the United States wants to do is to stand up against terrorism and against destructive fundamentalism, and to stand with the people of Islam who wish to be full members of the world community, according to the rules that all civilized people should follow” (Public Papers, 1994 2:1056). Regardless of an individual’s culture of origin or livelihood, people who acted in accordance with the new covenant could look forward to the hope promised through salvation. Actions, rather than membership in particular cultures, became the operative principle for judging the faithful. By adopting the prophetic tradition, Clinton elevated terrorism into a crime against God’s will. As unrepentant sinners, terrorists bore the full responsibility for the suffering of society. Their guilt was to be accepted on faith and as an absolute truth. Their punishment, no matter how severe, was necessary to demonstrate the strength of God’s wrath. By elevating the fight against terrorism to the status of a divinely inspired act whether or not the nation was at war, Clinton prepared the American audience for his successor to employ an expansive set of prerogatives in response to terrorism. 154 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 160. 7 America under Attack: George W. Bush and Noncitizen Actors On September 11, 2001, nineteen suicide bombers wielding box cutters and knives hijacked four transcontinental flights. The result was the most tragic episode of terrorism in American history. Two of the planes rammed into the World Trade Center in New York City. The first hit at 8:48 a.m.; the second struck twenty minutes later. The attacks caused the two towers to collapse and a third building to fall ten hours later. The third plane, en route from Washington, DC to Los Angeles, hit the Pentagon at 9:40 a.m. The final plane, a flight hijacked en route from Newark to San Francisco, crashed outside Pittsburgh. The resulting death toll exceeded three thousand. Within a few days of the attacks, the US government blamed Osama bin Laden and his al Qaeda associates for the events of September 11. The exec- utive branch had been privy to a substantial body of intelligence during the spring and summer months of 2001 that warned al Qaeda was planning to attack US interests (National Commission, Final Report 254–77). To help build the public case against al Qaeda, CIA officials leaked the existence of year-old intercepts that recorded bin Laden boasting about his plans to commit Hiroshima against the United States (Risen and Engelberg A1). The Defense Department released a videotape, purportedly filmed November 9, 2002, showing bin Laden laughing about how the planes that flew into the World Trade Center had done far more damage than he had imagined they would (Bumiller A1; “Osama bin Laden Videotape”). Bin Laden publicly took responsibility for the attacks in a videotape shown on Al-Jazeera four days prior to the 2004 US elections. The Justice Department indicted the nineteen hijackers and Zacarias Moussaoui for conspiring with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda to carry out the September 11 attacks. Moussaoui eventually pled guilty to conspiring with the 9/11 hijackers. He publicly declared that bin Laden had chosen him to fly an airliner into the White House in a planned second wave of attacks. 155
  • 161. In response, the Bush administration adopted a multipronged strategy. The first phase sought to eliminate the threat from al Qaeda and its support- ers. The United States led a worldwide effort to freeze the financial assets of more than sixty organizations with alleged links to al Qaeda. It pressured Saudi Arabia, Pakistan, and the UAE (the only three countries to have rec- ognized the Taliban as the official government of Afghanistan) into breaking off diplomatic relations. It supported members of the Northern Alliance with US ground and air forces in a military operation designed to capture or kill bin Laden and the al Qaeda leadership. When the Taliban refused to uncon- ditionally surrender bin Laden and his terrorist collaborators operating on Afghan soil, the Bush administration added the removal of the Taliban gov- ernment to its objectives for the first phase. US and British forces began a military campaign designed to topple the Taliban regime and eliminate al Qaeda’s sanctuary on October 8, 2001. Two months later the remaining members of the Taliban surrendered their last stronghold, Kandahar, and fled into the desert. More than three years after the fall of the Taliban, many members of al Qaeda have been captured or killed; bin Laden and key mem- bers of al Qaeda, however, do remain at large. Phase two of the administration’s approach involved the prevention of terrorists and their supporters from threatening the United States and the global community with weapons of mass destruction. Bush identified Iran, Iraq, and North Korea as states poised to use weapons of mass destruction to threaten peace and security around the globe. US diplomatic initiatives tar- geted Iran and North Korea in an effort to contain their nuclear weapons development. The administration placed its primary focus on Iraq, citing the failure of Saddam Hussein to account for all of his chemical and biological agents in accordance with UN resolution 1441. Internally, Deputy Secretary of Defense Paul Wolfowitz built the case against Iraq by focusing on Saddam’s praise for the 9/11 attacks, his historical record of supporting ter- rorists, and the possibility that Iraq had been involved in the first World Trade Center bombing (National Commission, Final Report 336). Having begun the planning for the military operation in Iraq on September 13, 2001 (Fallows 3), Bush initiated the military campaign to remove Saddam Hussein and his regime on March 20, 2003. Six weeks later Bush publicly declared victory with the phrase, “Major combat operations in Iraq have ended” (White House 1 May 2003: 1).1 At the time of Bush’s announcement, US forces had suffered 138 casual- ties. Since that time, more than 1600 servicemen and women have lost their lives as the US occupation of Iraq continues. Accurate assessments of Iraqi casualties are more difficult to determine. On the one year anniversary of Bush’s victory announcement, estimates of Iraqi casualties based on media stories placed the figure at between nine and eleven thousand (Ewens 2). 156 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 162. Preliminary reports from hospitals, morgues, mosques, and homes during the same time period approximated the figure to be between five and ten thousand (Ford, “Surveys Pointing to High Civilian Death Toll” 1). A household survey estimate designed and conducted by researchers at Johns Hopkins University, Columbia University, and the Al-Mustansiriya University in Baghdad reported that in the eighteen months after the start of combat operations in Iraq, one hundred thousand Iraqis (mainly women and children) had died (E. Ross 1). More certain is the fact that US forces have captured Saddam Hussein, as well as many other prominent figures in the Baathist regime. Whether the Bush team’s strategy for countering international terrorism has been effective remains an open question. For the most part, early assess- ments have indicated that both the quantity and the deadliness of terrorist attacks have increased since the attacks of September 11. The Congressional Research Service, responding to a request by a member of the House Committee for Governmental Reform, concluded that al Qaeda had com- mitted only one attack in the thirty months prior to September 11, 2001, but had promulgated ten acts in the subsequent thirty months (Cronin 4). In May 2004, the International Institute of Strategic Studies announced that while the coalition efforts had resulted in the killing or capture of two thou- sand al Qaeda members and half of its leadership, the war on terror had aided al Qaeda recruitment efforts to the point that eighteen thousand mili- tants were prepared to attack the United States and its closest European allies (Majendie 1). An article written for the Spectator concluded, “The trou- ble is that every time a seemingly ‘essential’ al Qaeda leader has been arrested, he has been replaced with no effect at all on the organization” (Anand 16). After tallying the effectiveness of the Bush administration’s global war on terror, Michael Scherer has written, “At a minimum, it is true that the U.S.-led coalition has failed to eliminate al Qaeda’s presence from even one country where it was established on 11 September 2001” (Imperial Hubris 71). The most positive account of the administration’s success emerged in the State Department’s annual study of international terrorism. The first release of the Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 report touted a drop in inter- national terrorism attacks to “the lowest annual total [...] since 1969” (US Dept. of State 2004, as cited in Waxman 1). The ranking minority member of the Committee on Government Reform, Henry Waxman, did not accept the authenticity of the figures. In a May 17, 2004 letter to Secretary of State Colin Powell, he argued that manipulating the data “may serve the Administration’s political interests, but [...] calls into serious doubt the integrity of the report.” He emphasized the thirty-five percent increase in significant terrorist attacks in 2003, a figure bringing incidents that resulted America under Attack 157
  • 163. (or potentially resulted) in the loss of life or serious injury to persons or prop- erty to a twenty-year high. Members of the State Department subsequently admitted that their first tally of the 2003 incidents had omitted terrorist inci- dents occurring after November 11. They also explained that other data management problems encountered by the newly formed Terrorist Threat Integration Center had compounded the mistaken figures (Perl 7). The revised Patterns of Global Terrorism 2003 acknowledged that acts of interna- tional terrorism had shown an increase from 198 in 2002 to 208 in 2003. The number of people killed from acts of terrorism dropped by 100 from 2002, while the total wounded worldwide grew by 1,633 from the previous year (as rptd. in Schweid 1). One week after the September 11, 2001 attacks, the United States underwent a second wave of terrorist violence. Letters, postmarked September 18 and mailed from Trenton, New Jersey, carried deadly anthrax spores to New York, Florida, and Washington, DC. The sender addressed the letters to Senate Majority Leader Tom Daschle, Senator Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Tom Brokaw of the National Broadcasting Corporation, and a reporter from a Florida tabloid. While none of the targets developed anthrax poisoning, the letters did infect fourteen other people. Five of those infected died by the end of 2001. The party or parties responsible for sending the letters remain elusive. Despite the government’s assignment of as many as one-quarter of its FBI agents to the case, official spokespersons have insisted they cannot determine whether the anthrax spores were of domestic or foreign origin (Verrengia). Administration officials have acknowledged that the anthrax in the letters was derived from a domestically produced Ames strain “used in American biological weapons research and in vaccine testing” (ibid.). However, the dis- tribution of similar strains of anthrax around the globe heightened the diffi- culty of discovering the identity of those responsible. Government officials have publicly speculated that terrorists in Afghanistan, as well as the former Soviet Union and Iraq, may have been to blame. Japanese war veterans have testified in courts overseas that they produced large quantities of anthrax at a unit base in Hubin in the early 1940s, a claim officially denied by the Japanese government. More recently, US officials have publicly named Dr. Steven Hatfill a suspect because of his work on a secret project involving the detection and disarmament of biological weapons by Special Operations units. Hatfill maintains his innocence and has sued several of those who have accused him of wrongdoing. The investigation continues (Broad, Johnston, and Miller A1). Since September 11, the leadership’s public campaign against terrorism has focused primarily on those associated with the World Trade Center and Pentagon attacks, with less emphasis on the cases of bioterrorism. As the 158 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 164. next section will argue, executive branch officials have characterized the attacks of 9/11 as a matter of public sphere deliberation, while designating the anthrax attacks as more appropriately the concern of technical experts.2 LABELING THE CRISIS Within hours of the attacks of September 11, George W. Bush repeatedly employed the terrorist label to depict the events in New York and Washington, DC. Even before his aides briefed him on the attack on the Pentagon, Bush called the two airplanes crashing into the World Trade Center “an apparent terrorist attack on our country” (FDCH Transcripts 11 Sept. 2001: 2). Later that same day, he dropped the hedge. In a nationally televised address, he labeled the attacks “a series of deliberate and deadly ter- rorist acts” (1). Dismissing any notion that the incidents were airline acci- dents, Bush held that the events of 9/11 were an unprecedented, catastrophic act of terrorism that constituted an act of war against the United States. Borrowing a terrorism labeling strategy prominent in the Clinton years, the Bush administration maintained that the terrorism threat it faced posed a unique challenge in the nation’s history. On the face of it, such an approach resonated. Since the birth of the nation, terrorists had never achieved a mag- nitude of success comparable to that of the 9/11 hijackers. They had never hit the headquarters of the world’s military superpower. They had never accomplished the murder of thousands of US civilians on America’s home soil. They had never been so threatening that they prevented the commander in chief from returning to the White House over a sustained period. The Bush administration offered four rationales to support the threat’s distinctive nature in its public campaign. First, it stressed the tendency of the current terrorists to hide. Powell explained, “This is different. [. . .] This enemy is not looking to be found. The enemy is hidden” (FDCH Transcripts 14 Sept. 2001: 4). Bush agreed, arguing, “The American people are used to a conflict where there was a beachhead or a desert to cross or known mili- tary targets. That may occur. But right now, we’re facing people who hit and run. They hide in caves” (FDCH Transcripts 16 Sept. 2001: 4). On the international scene, Bush presented the same perspective, urging world leaders to understand that “unlike previous wars, this enemy likes to hide” (FDCH Transcripts 13 Sept 2001: 4). The difficulty in locating the enemy prompted the expectation that a US victory in the war on terrorism would not come quickly. The choice of hiding as a strategic calculation of US enemies, however, was far from new. American Indians were the first to hide and ambush unsuspecting US soldiers (Drinnon 53). John Underhill, the only surviving America under Attack 159
  • 165. eyewitness to the Pequot War, remembered that the settlers burned many houses and much corn, but failed to kill most of the Indians because of their obscurity (ibid., 36). A more recent example involves the Viet Cong during the Vietnam War. The Viet Cong conducted campaigns of terrorism against the citizenry in secret. They participated in campaigns of kidnapping and murder by night. They hid those who were directing, supplying, and sup- porting their efforts. Two decades later during Reagan’s tenure, Islamic fun- damentalists hid throughout Lebanon and other countries in the Middle East as they held American hostages captive for years. In sum, the decision to hide from superior US military forces has been a recurrent posture of the nation’s enemies, and one (given the examples presented here) that has pro- duced a chilling record of success. The second reason offered by administration officials for why the enemy was new involved their use of unconventional weapons. Director of Homeland Security Tom Ridge claimed, “We’re under attack from a differ- ent kind of enemy who is using different kinds of weapons. Any weapons designed to fear, and weapons designed to panic and disrupt” (FDCH Transcripts 26 Oct. 2001: 5). He elaborated on the types of new weapons when he stated, “We never thought a 747 could be turned into a missile, but someone who took an instrument that’s part of who we are and what we do everyday—an airplane—turned it into a weapon. Somebody took an enve- lope and turned it into a weapon” (FDCH Transcripts 25 Oct. 2001: 9). The Bush camp’s rhetoric featured the perverted use of conveniences in the global economy to distinguish its new threat. The administration’s claim notwithstanding, weapons designed to instill fear have been a mainstay in the history of terrorism. French revolutionaries during the Reign of Terror used the guillotine; Hitler used the gas chamber. The Aum Schrinko cult used sarin gas, and US white supremacists planned to introduce cyanide into the New York and District of Columbia water sup- plies. The exploitation of modes of transportation has also been a common tactic of terrorists. The hijacking of airplanes was so common during the Nixon administration that the federal government enacted the Sky Marshall program. Suicide truck bombers attacked the Marine barracks in Lebanon, and terrorists in small boats blew a hole in the side of the USS Cole. Finally, mail bombs were certainly not new, as abortion clinics throughout the nation can readily attest. The 9/11 Commission explored the question of whether the nation’s leadership should have known that airliners could have been transformed into lethal missiles. Citing numerous incidents occurring during the Clinton years, they were critical of the possibility that members of the administration did not imagine the 9/11 scenario. The report recalled the numerous instances of related intelligence available to the nation’s leadership, 160 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 166. Threat reports also mentioned the possibility of using an aircraft filled with explosives. The most prominent of these mentioned a possible plot to fly the explosives-laden aircraft into a U.S. city. This report, circulated in September 1998, originated from a source who had walked into an American consulate in East Asia. In August of that same year, the intelligence community had received information that a group of Libyans hoped to crash a plane into the World Trade Center. In neither case could the information be corroborated. In addition, an Algerian group hijacked an airliner in 1994, most likely intended to blow it up over Paris, but possibly to crash it into the Eiffel Tower. In 1994, a pri- vate airplane had crashed onto the south lawn of the White House. In early 1995, Abdul Hakim Murad—Ramzi Youself’s accomplice in the Manila airlines bombing plot—told Philippine authorities that he and Yousef had discussed flying a plane into CIA head- quarters. (National Commission, Final Report 345) Given that the Bush administration retained key terrorism personnel from the Clinton years who were aware of these warnings, the failure to conceive of a suicide hijacking operation is suspect. Further undermining the administration’s claim that it could not have anticipated the use of an airliner as a missile were 52 intelligence reports received by the Federal Aviation Administration. These reports contained warnings about Osama bin Laden, al Qaeda, and the potential use of domes- tic airliners for suicide bombings. On February 10, 2005, Representatives Henry A. Waxman and Carolyn B. Maloney wrote to the Chair of the House Committee on Government Reform, Tom Davis, to request congres- sional hearings into “whether the administration had misused the classifica- tion process to withhold, for political reasons, official 9/11 staff findings detailing how federal aviation officials received multiple intelligence reports warning of airline hijackings and suicide attacks before September 11” (1). The use of commercial airlines by terrorists to attack highly valued, symbolic targets was a known risk for key figures in the nation’s leadership. The third reason posited for the new threat was that the enemy was now a group of nonstate actors. Bush announced the shift in the terrorists’ iden- tity when he explained, “ [W]e’re adjusting our thinking to the new type of enemy. These are terrorists that have no borders” (FDCH Transcripts 17 Sept. 2001: 3). Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld maintained that the new role of nonstate actors required a rethinking of war strategy. He noted, “The United States is, as the president said, in a war. It is, however, a very different type of war; it is not a war of cruise missiles. It’s not a war where the enemy has armies, navies, air forces, capitals,—high value targets” America under Attack 161
  • 167. (Federal News Service 16 Nov. 2001: 1). The Bush camp insisted that a non- state nature of the enemy necessitated a shift from the nation’s conventional strategies of deterrence and containment. Like the other rationales, the administration’s claim that nonstate actors were something new was also suspect. Frequently, terrorists have been indi- viduals acting on their own (i.e., Eric Rudolph and Theodore Kosczynski), groups functioning outside state apparatuses (i.e., Black September Organi- zation, Red Brigades, Islamic Jihad), or foreign entities lacking official recog- nition of their state status (i.e., Communist China when it kidnapped Angus Ward prior to recognition as the People’s Republic of China). With Clinton having claimed nonstate actor status as a new characteristic of the terrorist threat in the early 1990s, Bush’s repetition of the same point during his administration lacked authenticity. The Bush team’s final explanation of why terrorists constituted a new threat related to the level of barbarity the enemy would use in carrying out its attacks. Bush encapsulated the sentiment of those appalled by the horror of 9/11: “We’re facing a new kind of enemy—somebody so barbaric that they would fly airplanes into [a] building full of innocent people” (FDCH Transcripts 16 Sept. 2001: 3). The intentional attacks on such a large number of civilian men, women, and children were unprecedented, according to the Bush administration’s public campaign. The magnitude of the 9/11 terrorists’ success within the borders of the United States was indeed unmatched in the nation’s history. Nevertheless, barbarism in terrorist warfare was not new. The American Indian, the first group to be labeled terrorist by a US administration, not only slit throats, but scalped men, women, and children to instill terror in the remaining colonial- ists. Timothy McVeigh knowingly attacked a day care center populated with small children. Hitler and his “Nazi terrorists”3 were perhaps the standard bearer of the barbaric category, with their calculated murder of more than six million Jews, as well as Soviets, Poles, the sick and mentally ill, priests and nuns, Jehovah’s Witnesses, homosexuals, artists, intellectuals, and major political figures. Barbarity has been the mainstay of terrorism, due to its abil- ity to produce fear in a larger audience. Despite the questionable credibility of the Bush administration’s claims that terrorism was new, the labeling strategy served an important function. Like the claims of his presidential predecessors, Bush’s insistence that the nation confronted a new enemy provided the needed rationale for altering the nation’s response options. The 9/11 Commission Report detailed the prob- lem the Bush administration faced: “As presently configured, the national security institutions of the U.S. government are still the institutions con- structed to win the Cold War. The United States confronts a very different world today. Instead of facing a few very dangerous adversaries, the United 162 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 168. States confronts a number of less visible challenges that surpass the bound- aries of traditional nation-states and call for quick, imaginative and agile responses” (National Commission, Final Report 399). Stopping short of con- cluding that such factors were new under the Bush administration, the com- mission nevertheless made the case that the nation needed to change to respond to threats more effectively. The enemy’s characteristics (i.e., being barbaric, unconventional, and difficult to locate) were not new, but they nevertheless posed a challenge for the administration. Vice President Dick Cheney, convinced of the compara- tive ease of confronting states rather than nonstate actors, argued behind the scenes that the goals of US policy should be broadened to include state spon- sors of terrorism (Woodward, Bush at War 43). Publicly, Bush agreed, main- taining he would “make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them” (FDCH Transcripts 11 Sept. 2001: 2). Public statements from the administration’s key national security spokesper- sons from September to December 2001 expounded on the new standard for qualifying as a terrorist actor. The new definition now encompassed any nation, group, entity, or individual that harbored, housed, supported, facili- tated, financed, succored, tolerated, or conducted business with terrorists.4 The administration’s revised interpretation of what constituted an offending state did not require the nation to participate in an act of terrorism directly. In the early aftermath of September 11, Cheney introduced the phrase “terrorist-supported state” (Federal News Service 15 Nov. 2001: 4) to depict states that had a symbiotic relationship with terrorists operating within their borders. At hearings before the House International Relations Committee, Powell used the example of Afghanistan to explicate how the government would judge the behavior of foreign regimes: “The president made it clear from the very beginning that if the Taliban regime did not turn over Osama bin Laden and the al-Qaeda organization resident in Afghanistan, that they had essentially designated themselves a terrorist regime. They did not. And so they have to pay the consequences, and the Taliban government must now go, because they are part and parcel to al- Qaeda” (Federal News Service 24 Oct. 2001: 7). Failure to abide by the expressed demands of the United States with respect to suspected terrorists became a sufficient condition for foreign regimes to find themselves tagged as terrorists. Bush demonstrated the approach’s expansive possibilities in his 2002 State of the Union address. Without offering any current linkage with terror- ists, Bush used the existence of North Korea’s nuclear program, its attempts to seek concessions from the United States, and the oppressive nature of its regime to justify its inclusion in the “axis of evil” (Suskind 187). By the end of major combat operations in Iraq, the standard for what qualified as a terrorist America under Attack 163
  • 169. state expanded farther. States no longer had to actually possess weapons of mass destruction to fall within the parameters of the terrorist coalition. Bush announced, “Any outlaw regime that has ties to terrorist groups and seeks or possesses weapons of mass destruction is a great danger to the civilized world—and will be confronted” (White House 1 May 2003: 3, emphasis mine). The evidentiary standard for qualifying as a terrorist state became less rigorous as the United States had difficulty proving that Iraq met a more stringent benchmark. The dilution of the standard was troubling for members of Congress charged with the oversight of many of the administration’s actions in Iraq and Afghanistan. Bob Graham, the ranking member of the Senate Intelligence Committee, became dismayed that the administration had elevated Iraq into a critical front in the war on terror despite its lack of connection to the events of 9/11, its lack of involvement in harboring the terrorists who were, and its inability to have militarily usable weapons of mass destruction for five years (Woodward, Plan of Attack 193–94). Graham concluded, “Now, we’re defin- ing a terrorist state as those states which might have the ability to provide weapons of mass destruction, even it they themselves are not engaged in ter- rorist activities or providing sanctuary” (qtd. in ibid., 194). The relaxed benchmarks for terrorist states, coupled with ready application of the terrorist label to a variety of nonstate actors, made the Bush administration’s approach the most expansive terrorist labeling strategy in the history of the nation. Publicly, the Bush administration handled the case of the anthrax letters in a dramatically different way. Officials were far more reluctant to label the anthrax letters acts of terrorism, as the example of Robert Stevens, the first victim of the anthrax poisoning in 2001, demonstrates. His doctors con- cluded that in all likelihood, Stevens became infected with inhalation anthrax on September 19 (Parker and Sternberg). For the remainder of September and into the middle of October, administration spokespersons avoided using the terrorism label to depict the cause of Steven’s death. Instead, Acting US Attorney Guy Lewis cautiously reported, “We have not made any premature conclusions” (qtd. in “Third Person Shows Exposure”). After a second Florida resident tested positive for inhalation anthrax, Attorney General John Ashcroft encouraged the public to wait for the conclusions of the med- ical experts before giving in to concerns about bioterrorism. Ashcroft announced, “We are relying on the Centers for Disease Control and health authorities to provide expertise which we do not have. And, very frankly, we are unable to make a conclusive statement about the nature of this as either an attack or an occurrence, absent more definitive laboratory and other inves- tigative returns” (Federal News Service 8 Oct. 2001: 2). Experts, not the gov- ernment or the public at large, would make the determination of whether the anthrax letters constituted acts of terrorism. 164 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 170. Not until the week of October 16, when Barbara Rosenberg of the Federation of American Scientists, the biowarfare convention specialist Jan van Aken, and the ex-UN inspector Richard Spertzel concluded that the strain of anthrax was homegrown, did the administration shift its public strategy. Bush, Ashcroft, and FBI Director Robert Mueller each dubbed anyone (past or present) sending anthrax through the mail a terrorist (Ashcroft, Federal News Service 16 Oct. 2001: 1; Mueller, FDCH Transcripts 18 Oct. 2001: 5; G. W. Bush, FDCH Transcripts 20 Oct. 2001: 1). Gone were broader concerns about those who might aid, abet, finance, or other- wise tolerate terrorists in their midst. The government immediately limited the scope of responsibility for the letters to a single person. Ashcroft announced, “[T]he FBI has determined that they believe all four of the anthrax letters have come from a single individual [...] it’s an individual accustomed to working with toxic and dangerous chemistry. It’s an individual who has certain technical skills and capabilities, and a variety of other things” (Federal News Service 26 Nov. 2001: 4). By treating the anthrax terrorist as a loner unconnected to a broader international network of terrorist actors, the administration deflected fears of an international bioterrorism assault. While the administration limited those responsible for the anthrax let- ters, it was expansive in its approach to those allegedly engaged in anthrax hoaxes. Mueller dramatically illustrated the widespread nature of the prob- lem by placing his agency’s workload in a historical perspective: “Now, in an average year the FBI handles approximately 250 assessments and responses involving chemical or biological agents or other weapons of mass destruction. Over the past 18 days alone, we’ve handled more than 3,300, including 2,500 involving suspected anthrax threats alone” (FDCH Transcripts 18 Oct. 2001: 5). Bush officials justified severe punishment for any perpetrator of such hoaxes as a necessary step to stop substantial waste of the government’s finite resources for fighting bioterrorism. Diverting attention away from the unsolved cases of the actual anthrax letters, the administration’s strategy refo- cused public attention on a problem it could more readily solve (i.e., hoaxes). Taken as a whole, the administration employed a two-pronged strategy for handling the terrorist threats of September 2001. In the case of the attacks of September 11, officials reflected and even fueled public fears by employing the terrorist label without hesitation and by broadening the label’s usage to all individuals, groups, or states associated with anyone who perpe- trated acts of terrorism. In the case of the anthrax letters, officials attempted to contain the public’s reaction by initially refusing to confirm the terrorist nature of the act and then by diverting public attention to more solvable problems. Consistently, the administration framed the attacks of September 11 as the dominant issue of public deliberation, while allowing the anthrax attacks to recede into the technical sphere of medical expertise. Within such America under Attack 165
  • 171. a context, it is perhaps unsurprising that the attacks of September 11 became the focus of the administration’s terrorist narrative. THE TERRORIST NARRATIVE Like his Republican predecessors, Bush employed the rubric of the Cold War narrative as the basic framework for the story his administration told about terrorism. Once again, spokespersons in the executive branch retrofit- ted the narrative to accommodate the exigencies of terrorists’ newfound effectiveness. Despite the reinvention of the public strategy, the fundamental tenets of the conventional Cold War narrative reemerged and provided rhetorical continuity for members of Bush’s political base. Bush officials described the scene they encountered upon assuming office to be that of a fragile place grown complacent with previous victories. Since the demise of the Soviet Union, Bush’s top aides lamented that America and the world community had let their guards down against emerg- ing threats. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld insisted, “Since the end of the Cold War, there’s been a relaxation of tension [...]—it’s had a lot of effects. It’s led to proliferation. It’s led to the movement towards asymmetri- cal threats, as opposed to more conventional threats. One of the other effects has been it has had an effect on how people handle classified information” (Federal News Service 12 Sept. 2001: 1). Official spokespersons portrayed weapons of mass destruction, terrorism, and breached security as the unfor- tunate byproducts of a world overly satisfied with its former victories. They pointed to the United Nations as a representative example of complacency, citing the organization’s failure to force Iraq’s compliance with its security mandates for twelve years. Richard Clarke, Bush’s head of counterterrorism, argued that it was the Bush camp, not its predecessors, who were complacent in the face of the ter- rorist threat. Clarke maintained that during the Clinton/Bush transition, “the Bush appointees distrusted anything invented by the Clinton adminis- tration and anything of a multilateral nature. [...] The new Bush focus in early 2001 was on confronting China, withdrawing from multilateral obliga- tions, and spending much more money on an antimissile defense system— not on looking into al Qaeda’s financial network” (Against All Enemies 196). In Clarke’s view the administration’s misplaced priorities removed the focused attention needed to prevent the looming terrorist attacks planned against the United States.5 The Bush narrative held that the 9/11 scene jolted America out of its misguided comfort garnered from the Cold War victory. Ashcroft announced that the nation was now “awakened to danger” (Federal News 166 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 172. Service 8 Nov. 2001: 1). For Bush, 9/11 was a key historical moment that changed the nation’s defense strategy. On the one-year anniversary of 9/11 events, he reasoned, “There is a line in our time, and in every time, between those who believe all men are created equal, and those who believe that some men and women and children are expendable in the pursuit of power. There is a line in our time, and in every time, between the defenders of human lib- erty and those who seek to master the minds and souls of others. Our gener- ation has now heard history’s call, and we will answer it” (G. W. Bush, White House 11 Sept. 2002: 1). The attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon emerged as the starting point for the Bush narrative. The choice of 9/11 as the beginning point for the terrorism story had several advantages for the Bush administration. First, the strategy allowed the administration to claim that all of its subsequent actions were defensive, rather than offensive. Bush explained why in a speech to the FBI Academy: “As we wage this war abroad, we must remember where it began, here on our homeland. In this new kind of war, the enemy’s objective is to strike us on our own territory and make our people live in fear. This danger places all of you, every person here and the people you work with, on the frontlines of the war on terror” (FDCH Transcripts 15 Sept. 2003: 3). Lacking public consen- sus on the strategy of preemptive war, the administration’s resurrected a claim of self-defense grounded in the 9/11 attacks on the homeland. The administration broadly applied the self-defense doctrine by includ- ing the entire international community in its depiction of the scene. According to the Bush narrative, the attacks on the Pentagon and the World Trade Center had demonstrated that all countries around the globe were fragile due to their potential vulnerability to terrorism. Oceans could no longer protect nations from terrorist violence. Bush presented the precarious state of the global community in repeated statements like the one he made before the Australian parliament: “No country can live peacefully in a world that the terrorists would make for us. And no people are immune from the sudden violence that can come to an office building or an airplane or a night- club or a city bus” (White House 27 Oct. 2003: 1–2). While some nations had not yet experienced the devastation of a terrorist attack, the possibility that terrorists could strike anywhere rendered every nation qualified to assert a legitimate claim of self-defense. A second benefit of the narrative’s starting point was its refocus of public attention away from the government’s handling of threat assessment prior to the 9/11 attacks. Not until 2004, when the 9/11 Commission began public hearings, did the American electorate concentrate in a focused way on why the FBI, CIA, and White House had failed to prevent the catastrophic results. Even when damaging revelations did become public (i.e., the FBI field memo warning of improper conduct by enrollees in the nation’s flight America under Attack 167
  • 173. schools, the Justice Department’s choice not to increase counterterrorism funding in the high threat period, and the reports of al Qaeda sleeper cells within US borders), the various congressional committees and bipartisan commissions discussed such breakdowns within the context of post-Cold War complacency under both the Bush and Clinton administrations. Finally, using 9/11 as the beginning point of the narrative bolstered the case for the American public to accept expanded powers for the commander in chief. Bush compared the events of 9/11 to two key historical moments when the United States had been under attack: the War of 1812 and Pearl Harbor (FDCH Transcripts 15 Nov. 2001: 2). In these earlier wars, the com- mander in chief had assumed broadened powers to defend the nation. By treating 9/11 as a similarly crucial historical moment, rather than as a cul- mination of a multiyear war with al Qaeda, the Bush administration pre- pared the public to accept an immediate expansion of presidential powers and prerogatives. Reinforcing the need for broadened powers, the administration used 9/11 to demonstrate that terrorists were both willing and able to use weapons of mass destruction. As Cheney declared before the Veterans of Foreign Wars, “Nine-eleven and its aftermath awakened this nation to danger, to the true ambitions of the global terror network, and to the reality that weapons of mass destruction are being sought by determined enemies who would not hesitate to use them against us” (“Full Text” 2). The administration’s use of 9/11 reconfigured conventional understandings of weapons of mass destruc- tion (i.e., chemical, biological, nuclear, and radiological weapons) into any act of violence that could potentially result in a high loss of life. Protecting the nation’s security in the context of a more broadly defined notion of WMD justified less restrained thinking about response options. Having emphasized a fragile setting, the Bush administration presented an enemy poised to capitalize on that vulnerability. Remaining consistent with the constraints of the Cold War narrative while doing so, however, posed a challenge. How could the administration make a convincing case that the world’s terrorists in 2001, like their Communist predecessors, had a goal of worldwide conquest? While few would dispute that al Qaeda had demonstrated its destructive power by committing spectacular acts within American borders, the conclusion that such acts were designed to accomplish a world takeover were more tenuous. The Bush narrative implied the terrorists’ ambitions by emphasizing the global dispersal of the al Qaeda network. US spokespersons reiterated that al Qaeda members moved frequently through more than sixty countries world- wide and that they lacked any stable homeland. According to top administra- tion officials, terrorists had “no borders” (G. W. Bush, FDCH Transcripts 17 Sept. 2001: 3) and had “no geography” (Powell, FDCH Transcripts 27 Sept. 168 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 174. 2001: 2). To emphasize the wide-ranging reach of terrorist organizations, the administration catalogued attacks occurring around the globe. When speaking to the American Legion, for example, Bush mentioned attacks in Bali, Mombasa, Riyadh, Baghdad, and Jerusalem (FDCH Transcripts 1 Sept. 2003: 2). Before the United Nations, he repeated his earlier list but added Casablanca and Jakarta (FDCH Transcripts 29 Sept. 2003: 1). Terrorists’ lack of focus in any one region or state created the impression that their objectives were broader than those of conflicts between traditional nation-states. The administration emphasized the terrorists’ previous seizure of sover- eign governments to underscore their ambitious global objectives. Spokespersons focused on the experience of the Taliban government as a warning, announcing that bin Laden and al Qaeda had come “for one single purpose; to invade that country, be a foreign presence, a hostile presence in Afghanistan so they could conduct terrorist activities around the world” (Powell, FDCH Transcripts 18 Oct. 2001: 4). In the administration’s public account, however, terrorists wanted more than Afghanistan. Terrorism, for Bush, was more generally “a threat to established governments” (FDCH Transcripts 19 Oct. 2001: 2) and “an enemy of all law, all liberty, all morality, all religion” (FDCH Transcripts 11 Oct. 2001: 3-4). Free nations were partic- ularly vulnerable. Bush pronounced, “[Terrorists] hate freedom. They hate free nations” (FDCH Transcripts 24 Nov. 2003: 2). The Bush narrative main- tained that terrorists intended to destroy any nation that valued freedom or supported the existing world order. While Bush’s approach generally evoked the conventions of the Cold War enemy characterization, a key distinction emerged. In the Bush por- trayal, the goal of the terrorists was realizing global destruction, rather than achieving world conquest. While the administration built the public case that al Qaeda had designs on replacing democratic governments with Islamic regimes, such reasoning was not readily applicable to its other front in the war on terror, namely, Iraq. Saddam Hussein’s secular leadership, when con- sidered within the context of the international collective of terrorist regimes, undercut the claim that all terrorists had a united enemy goal of expanding Islamic regimes. By highlighting the cooperative terrorist ventures between al Qaeda and Iraq, the Bush team had a public strategy that could resolve the disparate intentions of those encompassed under the terrorist label. Senior officials made public statements touting the linkage between Saddam Hussein and al Qaeda after receiving a briefing by an unofficial Pentagon intelligence cell on September 16, 2002 (Coman 2). Spokespersons emphasized the centralized training of the terrorist operatives in both Iraq and Afghanistan. Rumsfeld characterized the Afghani training camps as an environment that nurtured multiple acts of global violence when he noted, “[W]hile the Afghani people America under Attack 169
  • 175. live in poverty the terrorist oppressors spend millions of dollars training people and sending them all over the globe to kill people (Federal New Service 13 Nov. 2001: 2). Bush claimed the Iraqi government was similarly engaging in the training and harboring of the world’s most dangerous terrorists: “Iraq is a part of the war on terror. Iraq is a country that has got terrorist ties. It’s a country with wealth. It’s a country that trains terrorists, a country that could arm terrorists” (Federal News Service 6 Mar. 2003: 3). As the United States prepared for war against Iraq, the public apparently accepted that terrorists in Afghanistan and Iraq constituted an integrated international collective. A majority responded to pollsters stating they believed that Saddam Hussein was “personally involved in the September 11 terror attacks” (as rptd. in K. Phillips 311). The characterization of a united global terrorist effort with designs to destroy all free nations exaggerated the conclusions available from US intelli- gence. Particularly questionable was the claim that members of al Qaeda and Iraq were working in tandem to defeat the United States and its allies. After examining intelligence relevant to the issue, the Staff Report of the 9/11 Commission concluded, “Bin Ladin is said to have requested space to estab- lish training camps, as well as assistance in procuring weapons, but Iraq apparently never responded. There have been reports that contacts between Iraq and al Qaeda also occurred after Bin Ladin had returned to Afghanistan, but they do not appear to have resulted in a collaborative rela- tionship. Two senior Bin Ladin associates have adamantly denied that any ties existed between al Qaeda and Iraq. We have no credible evidence that Iraq and al Qaeda cooperated on attacks against the United States” (National Commission, “9/11 Commission Staff Statement No. 15” 6). After Bush himself publicly critiqued the conclusion of the staff report as mistaken, the commission requested and examined additional intelligence the administra- tion believed supported the linkage. In its final report, the commission did not waiver from the staff’s earlier finding. They found no “collaborative oper- ational relationship” (66) and no evidence indicating “that Iraq cooperated with al Qaeda in developing or carrying out any attacks against the United States” (ibid.). The administration’s case for Saddam Hussein’s global ambitions, how- ever, was not limited to his ties to a broader international terrorist network. Reverting to the public claims of the first Bush administration, the current Bush team reiterated that the Iraqi leader had goals of usurping control over key oil reserves in the Middle East. Cheney laid out Hussein’s global inten- tions: “What [Saddam] wants is time and more time to husband his resources, to invest in the ongoing chemical and biological weapons program, and to gain possession of nuclear arms. [...] Armed with an arsenal of these weapons of terror, and seated atop ten percent of the world’s oil reserves, 170 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 176. Saddam Hussein could then be expected to seek domination of the entire Middle East, take control of a great portion of the world’s energy supplies, directly threaten America’s friends throughout the region, and subject the United States or any other nation to nuclear blackmail” (“Full Text” 4). In the administration’s narrative, Saddam Hussein would only be satisfied when he became a dominant player in world politics. Recall of the 1990 invasion of Kuwait helped underscore the Iraqi leader’s aggressive ambitions. Establishing that Cold War Communists and modern-day terrorists used comparable means to achieve their objectives was more straight forward. The September 11 attacks dramatically illustrated the barbarism of al Qaeda. While the Pentagon was arguably a military target, the inhabitants of the World Trade Center and the passengers of the four airplanes were civilians. Bush called the terrorists who committed the 9/11 attacks “evil-doers” (FDCH Transcripts 17 Sept. 2001: 2) and “barbaric people” (3). He labeled the Taliban in Afghanistan “one of the most repressive regimes in the history of mankind” (Federal News Service 13 Nov. 2001: 4) and referred to Saddam Hussein as a “homicidal dictator” (White House 7 Oct. 2002: 2). In the Bush narrative, the terrorist enemy was an unimaginable evil dispersed throughout the international community. Spokespersons dramatized the barbarism by recalling specific atrocities committed by the Afghan and Iraqi governments. Bush, in particular, focused on the horrors experienced by women and children. He revealed that in Afghanistan, “Women are executed in Kabul’s soccer stadium. They can be beaten for wearing socks that are too thin” (Federal News Service 10 Oct. 2001: 3). In Iraq, the depicted depravity of the foreign leader was even more extreme. Bush cataloged that on Saddam Hussein’s orders, “opponents have been decapitated, wives and mothers of political opponents have been sys- tematically raped as a method of intimidation, and political prisoners have been forced to watch their own children being tortured” (White House 7 Oct. 2002: 5). Repeated mentions of Saddam’s prior uses of chemical weapons in Iraq and Iran further reinforced the claim that the Iraqi leader lacked regard for innocent civilians. Like the Communists before them, the terrorists in the Bush narrative subjugated the people residing in their communities. Spokespersons claimed that both Iraq and Afghanistan had denied rights of self-determination to their citizens. Focusing on the dictatorial nature of the Taliban regime and the tyrannical leadership of Saddam Hussein, the narrative maintained that the citizens of those two nations had no hope for free elections without out- side intervention. Bush defined the general nature of the enemy in the war on terror when he noted, “The terrorists rely on the death of innocent people to create the conditions of fear that, therefore, will cause people to lose their will” (FDCH Transcripts 3 Nov. 2003: 8). The characterization recalled a America under Attack 171
  • 177. theme prominent in Vietnam War era: the absence of individual liberty led to a loss of hope that, in turn, produced more terrorists. Bush echoed the final enemy characteristic in the Cold War narrative by depicting all terrorists as untrustworthy. Bush was most blunt and unequivo- cal about the Iraqi regime’s willingness to lie. In the buildup to the US-Iraq military operations, he declared, “These are not the actions of a regime that is disarming. These are the actions of a regime engaged in a willful charade. These are the actions of a regime that systematically and deliberately is defy- ing the world” (FDCH Transcripts Nov. 2003:1). Claiming to have no incli- nation to trust the leaderships of either Iraq or Afghanistan, Bush dismissed claims by both governments that they had taken the necessary actions to rejoin the civilized international community. Ultimately, the Bush administration’s own trustworthiness fell into question with regard to Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction. Despite a year- long search by US weapons inspectors in the aftermath of major combat operations, no biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons were found.6 The Senate Select Committee on Intelligence determined that the administra- tion’s intelligence assessments regarding Iraqi WMD were flawed. In July 2004, the committee determined that the CIA had misled members of the administration by exaggerating the Iraqi threat. The committee’s report con- cluded, “The major key judgments in the National Intelligence Estimate, particularly that Iraq ‘is reconstituting its nuclear program,’ ‘has chemical and biological weapons,’ was developing an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) ‘probably intended to deliver biological warfare agents,’ and that ‘all key aspects—research & development (R&D), production, and weaponization— of Iraq’s offensive biological weapons (BW) program are active and that most elements are larger and more advanced than they were before the Gulf War,’ either overstated, or were not supported by, the underlying intelligence reporting provided to the Committee” (Select Committee 32). The commit- tee cited the CIA’s failure to communicate its own uncertainty to policy makers, a culture of group-think, a tendency to base assessments on prior judgments without appropriate acknowledgment of their own uncertainties, inadequate supervision, weaknesses in human intelligence, and the agency’s abuse of its position relative to other US intelligence agencies as the reasons for the flawed results (34–44). Over time, evidence began to accumulate suggesting that Bush and his primary spokespersons on Iraq may have known that their public statements about the WMD program were exaggerated. Bush’s former head of counter- terrorism revealed that the administration knew its evidence of Iraq’s chemi- cal and biological capability was dated as it built the case for military intervention (Clarke, Against All Enemies 266–67). Bush’s former treasury secretary unveiled that the administration had knowingly employed startling 172 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 178. public exaggerations of intelligence to relate the story of Iraq’s weapons of mass destruction program in late August 2002 (as rept. in Suskind 324–25). The secret notes of a British prime minister’s meeting held July 23, 2002 reported on recent talks between the United States and a senior British intel- ligence official related to Iraq. The notes read, “There was a perceptive shift in attitude. Military action was now seen as inevitible. Bush wanted Saddam, through military action, justified by the conjunction of terrorism and WMD. But the intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy.” (Rycroft, as qtd. in Manning 1) Evidence from key figures in the administration and those working for key US allies confirmed that the US leadership was manipulating intelligence to build the case that war with Iraq was justified. Recent information related to the inner workings of the Bush adminis- tration raises more questions about the veracity of public statements made by official spokespersons. Internal debates regarding the credibility of infor- mants charging the existence of mobile biology labs, the expressed doubts of CIA and Air Force intelligence related to the biologically armed unmanned aerial vehicles, and the call by the staff of the National Security Council for new intelligence to bolster the claim that Hussein had chemical, biological, and nuclear weapons only days before Bush’s State of the Union address reinforced charges that the administration was misinforming the public (Pincus 1–3). Facing public charges from the International Atomic Energy Association that the administration had knowingly used falsified intelli- gence information in the public case for Iraq’s WMD program, the Bush administration retracted the following statement from Bush’s State of the Union address: “The British government has learned that Saddam Hussein recently sought significant quantities of uranium from Africa” (Federal News Service 28 Jan. 2003). A report compiled by the Minority Staff of the US House of Representatives Committee on Government Reform attempted to summa- rize the totality of misinformation espoused by Bush official spokespersons. It concluded, “In 125 separate appearances, [President Bush, Vice President Cheney, Secretary Rumsfeld, Secretary Powell, and National Security Advisor Rice] made 11 misleading statements about the urgency of Iraq’s threat, 81 misleading statements about Iraq’s nuclear activities, 84 misleading statements about Iraq’s chemical and biological capabilities, and 61 mislead- ing statements about Iraq’s relationship with al Qaeda” (Special Investigations Division 30). With substantial media attention devoted to the credibility of the statements, the Bush administration’s questionable accuracy blurred the conventional distinctions between the enemy and hero character of the Cold War narrative. Returning once again to the foundations of the Cold War narrative, the Bush approach featured the US as the hero character needed to repel the America under Attack 173
  • 179. dangerous enemy. As before, America had a responsibility to defend freedom and liberty around the globe. Bush defined his war on terrorism by saying, “This is a fight for freedom” (FDCH Transcripts 17 Sept. 2001: 4). He evoked the long-standing role of America in encouraging and preserving lib- erty in the international community, calling the United States the “defender of liberty all over the world” (Federal News Service 15 Oct. 2001: 1). In line with America’s historic mission, governmental spokespersons repeatedly promised rights of self-determination for the peoples of both Afghanistan and Iraq. The administration’s strategy for achieving the spread of freedom, how- ever, was at odds with conventional portrayals of the Cold War narrative. Bush’s publicly announced plan of regime change arguably did not constitute a right of self-determination for the citizens of Iraq or Afghanistan. Instead, the approach was vulnerable to the charge it was simply external interference by the United States into the internal affairs of two foreign states. The Bush approach expanded the conventional mission of the Cold War narrative to a proactive mode of spreading, rather than defending, freedom and liberty around the globe. Bush’s strategy hearkened back to the campaign for the promotion of worldwide democracy that Woodrow Wilson had undertaken after World War I. Bush explicated why such extremes were needed in the cause of global freedom and liberty. In remarks delivered before the National Endowment of Democracy, he insisted, There are, however, essential principles common to every success- ful society in every culture. Successful societies limit the power of the state and the power of the military, so that governments respond to the will of the people and not the will of the elite. Successful societies protect freedom with the consistent and impar- tial rule of law, instead of selectively applying the law to punish political opponents. Successful societies allow room for healthy civic institutions, for political parties and labor unions and inde- pendent newspapers and broadcast media. Successful societies guarantee religious liberty, the right to serve and honor God with- out fear of persecution. Successful societies privatize their economies and secure the rights of property. They prohibit and punish official corruption and invest in the health and education of their people. They recognize the rights of women. And instead of directing hatred and resentment against others, successful societies appeal to the hopes of their own people. (FDCH Transcripts 6 Nov. 2003: 6) Since neither the Taliban nor the regime of Saddam Hussein met Bush’s standards for a successful society, they had to be removed. 174 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 180. Like his Cold War predecessors, Bush depicted America’s mission to be a divine calling. Maintaining that the events of 9/11 had prompted reexami- nation by the entire American citizenry, Bush concluded, “Our deepest national conviction is that every life is precious, because every life is the gift of a Creator who intended us to live in liberty and equality” (White House 11 Sept. 2002: 1). Bush reserved the religious sanction for only those that fought on the side of the United States in the war on terror. He announced, “The course of this conflict is not known, yet its outcome certain. Freedom and fear, justice and cruelty, have always been at war, and we know that God is not neutral between them” (FDCH Transcripts 20 Sept 2001: 9). Bush bor- rowed from the teachings of Book of Revelation, Isaiah, Job, Jeremiah, and Matthew to announce the US attack on Afghanistan (Lincoln 30–32). At the end of major combat operations in Iraq, he quoted the prophet Isaiah: “To the captives, ‘come out,’—and to those in the darkness, ‘be free’” (White House 1 May 2003: 3). Devoted to the side of the divine, Bush remained publicly confident the coalition would prevail. The Bush administration’s implementation of the hero’s divine mission reengaged the long-standing debate over whether crime or war constituted the most appropriate metaphor for the nation’s terrorism strategy. War, rather that criminal prosecution, became the chief means the Bush camp publicly espoused as the appropriate response to terrorism. Speaking before a joint inquiry of the Senate and House intelligence committees, Deputy National Security Advisor Steve Hadley announced that the administration had made sweeping changes in US terrorism policy that diminished an emphasis on crime. The shift occurred on September 10, 2001, after the administration had completed a senior-level review of the nation’s approach to al Qaeda (National Commission, Final Report 214). Hadley announced that the nation had to “move beyond the policy of containment, criminal prosecution, and limited retaliation for specific attacks, toward attempting to ‘roll back’ Al Qaeda” (Pincus and Milbank 1). The new goal was to eliminate groups with a global reach that had the ability to conduct terrorist attacks against the United States. The shrinking weight of the crime metaphor in the nation’s terrorism response had implications for both law enforcement and the nation’s security apparatuses. In the legal arena, the new stance weakened many long-standing rights of alleged terrorists. At home, security concerns trumped conventional due process rights of defendants, as institutionalized in the Patriot Act. The gov- ernment held captive those suspected of being in collusion with terrorists, of having information about terrorists, and of contemplating future terrorist acts. Within the mantra of “get terrorists off the street before they can harm more Americans” (Ashcroft, Federal News Service 8 Nov. 2001: 2), the US government detained hundreds of potential suspects for months without America under Attack 175
  • 181. affording them the right to a preliminary judicial hearing and without notifi- cation of the charges to be lodged against them. The Bush administration was more stringent when prioritizing security concerns over traditional legal safeguards for suspected foreign terrorists. Bush established military tribunals for foreigners suspected of terrorism that fell well short of the legal protections afforded by civilian courts. John Ashcroft explained the rationale for the shift: “[F]oreign terrorists do not deserve the protections of the American Constitution, particularly when there could be very serious and important reasons related to not bringing them back to the United States for justice” (Federal New Service 14 Nov. 2001: 6). Foreign captives held at Guantanamo Bay were imprisoned for more than three years with no charges filed against them. Each faced the prospect of a US military jury with the power to impose punishments, up to and including the death penalty. The administration classified alleged al Qaeda members captured in Afghanistan as “unlawful combatants” or “battlefield detainees” to highlight their non-prisoner of war status in a different type of war. The move gar- nered the public wrath of the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) because it opened the possibility that the government would not extend legal and human rights protections normally afforded to prisoners of war (Ford, “Fate of ‘Detainees’” 1). A March 2003 report by Pentagon lawyers assessing the interrogation rules employed at Guantanamo Bay demonstrated that the ICRC’s concerns were warranted. It concluded, “It is the position of the U.S. Government that none of the provisions of the Geneva Convention Relative to the Treatment of Prisoners of War of August 12, 1949 [. ..] apply to al Qaida detainees because, inter alia, al Qaida is not a High Contracting Party to the Convention” (Working Group Report 4). The same report concluded, “[T]he Torture Statute does not apply to the conduct of U.S. personnel at GTMO” (7). The Pentagon report, as well as other documents released by the US government, left no doubt that conventional interpretations of the rules of warfare had changed. A major challenge to the administration’s approach presented itself with the capture of the American Taliban fighter John Walker Lindh. Northern Alliance forces holding Lindh discovered his nationality in the aftermath of a prison riot in Mazar-e-Sharif, an action that resulted in the first combat- related American death in Afghanistan military maneuvers. After the US government received notification of the capture, Cheney floated a public interpretation that would have denied Lindh his domestic status, rendering him nothing more than a foreign terrorist. He told NBC’s Meet the Press, “I certainly consider him to have been a traitor to our country” (as qtd. in “Walker Talking”). Perhaps cognizant of the political fallout likely to accom- pany the stripping of an American citizen’s civil rights, Cheney was quick to 176 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 182. add, “But you know that’s not a decision, with respect to the legal act that will be taken, that I’m going to be making” (ibid.). The Lindh case tested the persuasive limits of the administration’s new legal standards. While many members of the American public were willing to accept forfeiture of the rights of foreign terrorists, application of the con- cept to American citizens was more controversial. A Newsweek poll taken shortly after Lindh’s capture reported forty-one percent of Americans believed he should be charged with treason and put on trial for fighting with the enemy. Another forty-two percent said he should be tried only if there was specific evidence of him fighting against Americans (Soloway et al. 30). With the country divided on the proper approach to take, the administration proceeded cautiously. The administration was noticeably reluctant to label Lindh a terrorist. Initially, Bush called him a “poor fellow” who “has been misled.” (as qtd. in Soloway et al. 36). Over time, the administration drew a sharp public dis- tinction between the rights afforded to Lindh and those reserved for other captured foreigners alleged to be terrorists. Wolfowitz insisted, “One thing for sure is we want to make sure as an American citizen that he is treated fairly and in proper judicial manner” (ibid.). Behind the scenes the adminis- tration implemented a somewhat different approach. Lindh was tied naked to a stretcher during questioning, he was not advised of his rights, and his request for access to a lawyer and to immediate medical attention went unheeded for a lengthy period of time. A US Army intelligence officer reported that he had received advice from the secretary of defense’s counsel to “take the gloves off” (Buncombe and Penketh 1) when questioning Lindh. The results of the interrogation were cabled back to Washington every hour (ibid.). Lindh eventually pled guilty to reduced charges in exchange for a sentence of twenty years and an agreement to drop claims that US personnel had tortured him. The administration’s new efforts to prioritize security needs over detainees’ rights became public in an even more negative way in early 2003. On January 13, 2003, Joseph Darby, a military policeman at Abu Ghraib, turned over a CD of photographs to support his allegations of wrongdoing to the US Army’s Investigation Division. The photos, as well as subsequent investigations, revealed that military police and interrogators had used stress and duress techniques, acts of sexual humiliation, induced anxiety from threatening attack dogs, sleep deprivation, isolation for more than thirty days, exposure to temperature extremes, death threats, and deadly physical blows in various prisons and other CIA-monitored security locations. An army investigation headed by General Paul J. Kern announced that from Sepember 20 to December 13, 2003, fifty-four military intelligence, military police, medical soldiers, and contractors “had some degree of culpability in America under Attack 177
  • 183. the abuse” (Garamone 1). By 2005, at least 28 foreign detainees had died while being held in US custody. The subsequent international firestorm resulted in the ICRC concluding that the actions were “tantamount to torture” (as rptd. in Barry, Hirsh, and Isikoff 3). US military lawyers known as JAGs at Guantanamo objected to the interrogation techniques, but Pentagon officials ignored their requests for a changed policy (Meek 1). The Bush administration maintained that the government had never supported the use of torture either in Iraq or Guantanamo Bay. Members of the press, various human rights organiza- tions, and investigating congressional committees disagreed, positing that the administration’s new rendering of interrogation techniques constituted a violation of the Geneva Conventions, as well as other laws related to torture and inhumane treatment where the United States was a signatory. The administration’s legal memoranda released during the related con- gressional investigations reveal that the elevation of the war frame for fight- ing terrorism redefined interpretations of how traditional war crimes should be handled. The Pentagon’s legal opinion, for example, narrowed the stan- dard for torture to cases where the person suffered prolonged mental harm (such as PTSD or chronic depression), where the person was subject to a threat of imminent death (not a vague reference to what might happen remote in time), or when the use of drugs penetrated “to the core of an indi- vidual’s ability to perceive the world around him, substantially interfering with his cognitive abilities or fundamentally alter his personality” (Working Group Report 15). Besides redefining conventional, international under- standings of torture, the legal opinion authorized the commander in chief to use torture when necessary to protect the nation’s security (20–24). Spokespersons for the Bush administration have insisted that they nar- rowly applied their reinterpretation of the Geneva Conventions to members of al Qaeda and other nonstate actors in the war on terrorism. Nevertheless, members of the military accused of conducting torture in Iraq’s Abu Ghraib prison have defended their actions as being in accordance with the new administration guidelines. Paul Bergrin, the defense lawyer for Staff Sgt. Javal S. Davis, told his military court, “One of the last words my client heard before being deployed was the president of the United States saying this is a war on terrorism and the Geneva Conventions do not apply” (as qtd. in Kaplow A3). The Kern investigation confirmed that abuse occurred because of confusion about the law and policy of the United States, but concluded that no direct complicity in the abuse happened above the level of the brigade (as rptd. in Garamone 1). The administration publicly retracted much of its new latitude for interrogation procedures in the week prior to the confirmation hearings of Anthony Gonzalez to become US Attorney General. As the author of the memos justifying more extreme interrogation 178 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 184. practices, Gonzalez nevertheless underwent intense public scrutiny of his willingness to condone the torture of terror suspects. While the Bush narrative narrowed conventional interpretations of the rights of the accused, it substantially broadened the president’s war-fighting prerogatives. Federal spending for defense, homeland security, and interna- tional affairs rose by more than fifty percent from FY 2001 to FY 2004 (National Commission, Final Report 361). More dramatic, however, was a public shift in how the nation would engage the terrorist enemy. The admin- istration defended the need for preemptive war against alleged terrorist actors. Donald Rumsfeld explained the reasoning behind the shift from defensive to offensive war fighting: “The reality is that a terrorist can attack at any time in any place using any technique, and it is physically impossible for a free people to defend in every place at every time against every technique. Now what does that mean? It means [...] that we have to take this battle, this war to the ter- rorists, where they are. And the best defense is an effective offense in this case, and that means they have to be rooted out” (FDCH Transcripts 16 Sept. 2001: 3). The administration’s use of preemptive war in Iraq constituted an incremental, but important, step from the nation’s previous covert preemptive military actions against terrorists. Now the public doctrine of preemptive war placed all state and nonstate actors on alert that the United States would be the aggressor in its quest to quell all potential terrorist activities. As the administration engaged in an unprecedented expansion of com- mander-in-chief powers, it relied on the America’s historical narratives to publicly justify its response to terrorism. In particular, the Bush administra- tion resurrected strategies of the nation’s founders struggling to defeat the American Indians (Winkler 85–105). In the early years of the new republic, the nation’s leadership considered the conquest of barbaric savages a neces- sary step toward a superior, civilized culture (Onuf 23–33). To achieve the goal, Thomas Jefferson initially demanded assimilation or expulsion of the tribal residents. Jefferson, writing to William Henry Harrison in 1803, made the strategy explicit: “[The Indians] will in time either incorporate with us as citizens of the United States, or remove beyond the Mississippi. [...] Should any tribe be foolhardy enough to take up the hatchet at any time, the seizing the whole country of that tribe, and driving them across the Mississippi, as the only condition of peace, would be an example to others, and a further- ance of our final consolidation” (as qtd. in Prucha 23). Jefferson’s forced choice of assimilation or removal became insufficient over time for achieving the nation’s objectives. As the US secretary of the interior argued in 1851, “The policy of removal [. ..] must necessarily be abandoned; and the only alternatives left are to civilize or exterminate them” (as qtd. in Wilson 289). The combination of assimilation, removal, and extermination emerged as the means for handling the nation’s Indians. America under Attack 179
  • 185. The Bush administration’s public approach to the war on terrorism bor- rowed from each of these three strategies. Initially, the administration offered the option of assimilation. Foreign governments previously associated with terrorist groups received the chance to change their behavior and join the other members of civilized society. Powell spoke of the benefits foreign states would receive for accepting the US offer of amnesty when he stated, “We have designated those [who harbor and aid terrorism] as sponsors of terrorism [.. .] it is not in their interest to continue acting in this way, because they will risk further isolation and increasing pressure if they partici- pate in such activities. And hopefully the message will get through and they’ll start to change past patterns of behavior” (Federal News Service 21 Sept 2001: 3). Bush used multiple public forums to present the Taliban with the choice of assimilation, an option he conceptualized as turning over bin Laden and the other top lieutenants of al Qaeda. He similarly offered Saddam Hussein the opportunity to fully comply with the UN resolutions imposed after the 1991 Persian Gulf War. The choice was straightforward: either for or against the US war on terrorism. For those who failed to recognize the value of assimilation, the option of removal awaited them. The task of the United States, as Rumsfeld defined it, was “to root out the global terrorist networks—not just in Afghanistan but wherever they are—and to ensure that they cannot threaten the American people or our way of life” (Federal News Service 1 Nov. 2001: 2). Administration officials relied on a number of euphemisms to demonstrate their commitment to removing the terrorists. Among the oft-repeated phrases reminiscent of the colonial period were “rooting them out,” “draining the swamp,” “smoking them out,” and “getting them running.” Governments who chose to support terrorists faced a similar fate of removal. American interests, according to Rumsfeld, were “to help the people of [Afghanistan] get rid of the foreign invaders who have come in and taken over a major chunk of their country” (Federal News Service 12 Oct. 2001: 6). The same strategy appeared in the president’s justification for the war with Iraq. Bush offered Saddam Hussein the opportunity to leave Iraq in exile as he announced, “[R]egime change in Iraq is the only certain means of removing a great danger to our nation” (White House 7 Oct 2002: 4). Rendered illegiti- mate by their support for terrorism in the administration’s narrative, the gov- ernments of Iraq and Afghanistan had to yield the lands they occupied to others willing to assimilate into the civilized world community. As before in the nation’s history, removal alone did not qualify as a suf- ficient strategy for the defeat of terrorism. When asked by a reporter “Do you want bin Laden dead?” Bush’s recalled an old poster from the American West: “Wanted, Dead or Alive” (FDCH Transcripts 17 Nov. 2001: 2). While 180 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 186. the single remark does not constitute proof by itself that the administration considered extermination, the inference was far from isolated in official dis- course. Consider Rumsfeld’s insistence that the United States would have a “long and sustained campaign to liquidate terrorist networks [...]” (Federal News Service 18 Oct. 2001: 1; emphasis mine), or Bush’s stated belief that “the only way to defeat terrorism as a threat to our way of life is to stop it, eliminate it and destroy it where it grows” (FDCH Transcripts 20 Sept. 2001: 6; emphasis mine). US allies in the region, most notably the Afghani minis- ter for frontier and tribal affairs, announced that Eastern Afghanistan would undergo an “Al-Qaeda cleansing” campaign (Smucker 1). Even Bush’s infa- mous antithesis that the United States should bring justice to the terrorists or bring the terrorists to justice suggested a form of vigilantism that threatened the continued existence of the American nemesis. The Bush administration publicly denied that their use of the early republic’s rhetorical strategy meant that they intended to reinvent America’s manifest destiny doctrine. In Afghanistan, Rumsfeld insisted, “The United States covets no one else’s land—certainly not Afghanistan. We’re there to do a job. We’re there to root out the terrorists and the terrorist networks and to see that the Taliban government who invited them in and has been har- boring terrorists is gone. And that is our interest, period” (Federal News Service 27 Nov. 2001). After the capture of Saddam Hussein, Bush offered a similar message to the Iraqi people: “The goals of our coalition are the same as your goals: Sovereignty for your country; dignity for your great culture; and for every Iraqi citizen, the opportunity for a better life” (FDCH Transcripts 22 Dec. 2003: 1). By June 30, 2004, the administration trans- ferred sovereignty of Iraq back to its people and garnered support for a UN resolution recognizing the new Iraqi government. While the transfer strengthened the case that America did not plan to maintain autonomy over the Middle Eastern nation, public criticism at home and abroad continued to highlight the role of the ongoing military occupation of Iraq, the substantial US influence on Iraq’s new constitution, and America’s corporate involve- ment in the reconstruction of Iraq’s economy. In sum, the Bush administration’s public communication strategy in the war on terrorism reconstituted the Cold War narrative to recall the approach of the early republic’s leaders. Just as Thomas Jefferson publicly advocated the eventual assimilation, removal, and extermination of the American Indians from their lands, so the Bush narrative promised a similar fate for individuals, groups, or states that attempted to thwart American interests by using terrorism at home or abroad. Rhetorically relieved of the responsibility of bad acts through the promise of a superior civilization, the leadership acted ideologically in the name of what is right, good, and moral. America under Attack 181
  • 187. TERRORISM AND IDEOLOGY Having aroused pain and danger, the most powerful of human passions, the events of September 11 readied American audiences for expanded interpreta- tions of threats to their cultural existence. In response, Bush displayed no reluctance in framing the conflict between terrorists and the United States as ideological warfare. He insisted, “Terrorists [...do] have a common ideol- ogy, and that is, they hate freedom and they hate freedom-loving people. And they particularly hate America at this moment” (FDCH Transcripts 19 Sept. 2001: 3). For Bush, terrorists did not oppose particular US foreign policy initiatives that he could change to eliminate the threat; they contested the fundamental defining characteristics of American culture. The Bush administration’s ideological depiction of terrorism was not limited to actual perpetrators of such acts. Ashcroft grouped terrorists with the nations that supported them into a monolithic ideological opponent. He surmised, “[Terrorist] organizations operate across borders to advance their ideological agendas. They benefit from the shelter and the protection of like-minded regimes” (FDCH Transcripts 24 Sept. 2001: 2). Within such a framework, any individual, group, or entity the government dubbed a “ter- rorist” functioned as a cultural threat to the United States. The 9/11 Commission agreed that the terrorist threat the United States faced had become an ideologically driven enemy. Quoting from Mehdi Mozaffari in its final report, the commission explained the nature of the new threat: “Islamic terrorism is an immediate derivative of Islamism. This term distinguishes itself from Islamic by the fact that the latter refers to a religion and culture in existence over a millennium, whereas the first is a political/religious phenomenon linked to the great events of the 20th cen- tury. Furthermore, Islamists define themselves as ‘Islamiyyoun/Islamists’ pre- cisely to differentiate themselves from ‘Muslimun/Muslims.’ [...] Islamism is defined as an Islamic military, anti-democratic movement, bearing a holistic vision of Islam whose final aim is the caliphate’” (National Commission, Final Report 562). As a minority strain in the Muslim community, Islamism posed a threat to all non-Islamic nations. The Bush administration, like the 9/11 Commission, downplayed criti- cisms that the ideological approach constituted a clash of civilizations. Bush reminded his audiences of US words and actions in support of moderate Muslims around the world. Recalling “the American tradition of tolerance and religious liberty” (FDCH Transcripts 24 Nov. 2001: 1), Bush maintained that the United States was not attacking the Muslim faith or the Afghani people. Offering a story he claimed demonstrated the “true nature of America” (FDCH Transcripts 11 Oct. 2001: 2), Bush spoke of Christian and Jewish women going shopping with Muslim women afraid to go outside 182 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 188. alone (3). Spokespersons recalled prior conflicts, such as Bosnia or the 1979 Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, to demonstrate the historical willingness of the United States to come to the aid of its Muslim neighbors. They also repeatedly referenced airdrops of food to the Afghani refugees and the American commitment to rebuilding Afghanistan and Iraq. From the Bush administration’s perspective, the alliance with America, not the Muslim fun- damentalists, held the best hope for the future of moderate Arabs. Similar to the claim by the 9/11 Commission Report that the United States was caught up in a “clash within a civilization” (National Commission, Final Report 363), Bush maintained that the actual conflict prompting acts of terrorism was being fought between the various elements of Muslim societies. The Bush administration’s related public diplomacy strategy in the Middle East, however, suffered setbacks due to various official statements that reinforced the clash of civilizations hypothesis. Bush himself was the first to contribute to the fray when on September 16, 2001, he announced, “This crusade, this war on terrorism is going to take a while” (as qtd. in Ford, “Europe Cringes” 1). His reference to crusades hearkened back to the reli- gious wars between Muslims and Christians that erupted during the Middle Ages. Seeking to contain the damage from his public remarks, Bush appeared the next day in an Islamic Center and praised the shared humani- tarian values of all faiths. Public comments by Major General William Boykin before Christian fundamentalist churches bolstered the case that the war on terror was a clash of civilizations. The Los Angeles Times initially reported one incident where Boykin, a top intelligence official at the Defense Department involved in the decisions related to detainee interrogations at Iraqi prisons, was speaking to Baptists in Florida in 2003. In his address Boykin relayed an account where in victory he had faced a Muslim warlord in Somalia who announced that Allah would protect him. Boykin responded by boasting, “I knew my God was bigger than his” (as qtd. in Cooper 1). In June 2003, he spoke again, this time at the Good Shepherd Community Church in Oregon. Boykin told the congregation, “Islamic terrorists hate the U.S. because we’re a Christian nation, because our foundation and our roots are Judeo-Christian [...] and the enemy is a guy named Satan” (as qtd. in “General Says” 1). Boykin’s decision to dress in his US military uniform while making such comments fueled speculation that his views represented those of the administration. The Bush camp moved quickly to disassociate itself publicly from Boykin’s incendiary statements. Bush announced that Boykin’s view “doesn’t reflect my point of view or the point of view of my administration” (as qtd. in G. Taylor). Despite the efforts at disassociation, the American Muslim Association (AMA) denounced Bush for not rebuking others who had pub- licly reinforced the conflict between the two religions (i.e., Franklin Graham, America under Attack 183
  • 189. Pat Robertson, Jerry Falwell, John Ashcroft, and Daniel Pipes). Imperial Hubris presents a litany of such statements made by the other speakers denounced by the AMA: “When Pat Robertson says ‘Adolph Hitler is bad, but what the Muslims do to the Jews is worse’; the Reverend Jerry Falwell refers to the Prophet as a ‘terrorist’; Jimmy Swaggart prays that ‘God blesses those who bless Israel and damns those who damn it’; and the Reverend Franklin Graham calls Islam a ‘wicked religion’ and says Christianity and Islam are ‘different as lightness and darkness,’ Muslims believe that ‘[n]ever has Islam faced such a frantic campaign of insult for centuries’” (3). Recent polls conducted in the Middle East reveal widespread sentiment consistent with the concerns of the AMA. Consolidating the results of available public opinion data, Anderson and Stansfield conclude, “[T]he vast majority of Arabs still prefer to believe that 9/11 was a self-inflicted wound designed to justify a ‘crusade’ against the Muslim world” (189). Compounding the administration’s clash with the Muslim world were the public words of Osama bin Laden. Capitalizing on media coverage in the Arab world on Al Jazeera, bin Laden borrowed heavily from the administration’s own narrative frame for the conflict. Specifically, he evoked the settings, characterizations, and themes of the ideologically based Cold War narrative to call Muslims to war against the United States. He echoed the American rendition by depicting a scene grown fragile from complacency. After US and British air strikes began in Afghanistan, Al Jazeera aired a video that featured bin Laden saying, “Our nation (the Islamic world) has been tasting this humiliation and degradation for more than 80 years. Its sons are killed, its blood is shed, its sanctuaries are attacked, and no-one hears and no-one heeds” (Associated Press, “Text of Osama bin Ladin’s Statement”). The ref- erence in bin Laden’s words was to the suffering of the Palestinians caused as a result of the establishment of Israel by Allied Forces at the end of World War II. In the same speech, he cataloged the ongoing suffering of the Japanese after the dropping of the A-bomb, of the Iraqis after the Persian Gulf War, and of the Afghanis after the Clinton administration air strikes. In earlier statements bin Laden raised the Qana massacre in Lebanon and the withholding of arms to the Muslims of Bosnia-Herzegovina as examples of where the United States and its allies had caused the suffering of Muslims with no meaningful response (bin Laden, “Osama bin Ladin v. Edicts”). The enemy in the bin Laden narrative was the United States. Consistent with the Cold War narrative, the goal of the enemy character was world con- quest, only this time the reference was to the defeat of the Islamic world. Bin Laden emphasized the imperial intention of the United States, describing America’s goals as “to annihilate Islam above anything else, because they are fully convinced that their plan in our country, on its various axes particularly the economic, intellectual and military, cannot be implemented as long as 184 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 190. Islam exists and controls the region, because the Muslims indeed possess the faith, the will and the capability to fight against their plans and to repulse their oppression eye for an eye” (bin Laden, “Prepared Text” 2). Bin Laden cast US envoy Paul Bremer’s decision not to accept Islam as the religion of Iraq in the post-Saddam period as proof of America’s ultimate objectives. He reasoned, “[I]t shows the extent of their hidden hatred for the religion. It also shows that the struggle is a religious and an ideological one, and that the clash is one of civilizations. They are keen to destroy the Islamic identity in the entire Islamic world—and this is their real stand regarding us” (ibid.). For bin Laden, America’s imperial motives placed Muslims around the world at risk. The enemy’s methods as depicted in bin Laden’s narrative were also consistent with those of the Cold War narrative. He emphasized the enslave- ment of the Muslim people as America’s first step toward realizing its ulti- mate goal of conquest. Bin Laden claimed that the intention of the United States was to strip Muslims of their rights of self-determination: “[Americans] have come out in force with their men and have turned even the countries that belong to Islam to this treachery, and they want to wag their tail at God, to fight Islam, to suppress people in the name of terrorism” (Associated Press, “Text of Osama bin Laden’s Statement”). Further, he denounced America’s claim to accept all religions as a means “to suck the treasures of the peoples, to enslave them and to Americanize them into the axes the way they wish” (bin Laden, “Prepared Text” 2). Bin Laden insisted that US designs were to strip the Islamic people of their religious choice, and by extension, their choice of government. Bin Laden used the US transfer of sovereignty to the Iraqi people to bolster his case that the enemy sought to enslave Muslims. He encouraged the Iraqi people not to be fooled by the hypocrisy of the United States. He argued, “[T]he so-called transfer of power to the Iraqis is an obvious ploy intended to sedate the people and to aborting [sic] the armed resistance” (bin Laden, “Prepared Text” 3). Bin Laden’s word choice not only reinforced the characterization of the enemy as dictatorial, but also recalled the Cold War’s characterization of the enemy as untrustworthy. In bin Laden’s narrative, America had a historical record of barbaric behavior as it pursued its quest to achieve dominance over the Islamic world. He remembered Japanese civilians who had died or suffered because of the US decision to drop the atomic bomb, Iraqi children that were starving and killed because of US policies, and his “the brothers and sisters” who suffered in Palestine and Lebanon, to name but a few (bin Laden, “Remarks via Videotape” 1). He even justified the attacks on the World Trade Center and the Pentagon by recalling acts of US barbarity. Bin Laden pronounced that the people in those buildings had “supported the murder against the victims. America under Attack 185
  • 191. So God has given them back what they deserve” (ibid.). Whether directly involved in the implementation of US foreign policy or indirectly supportive of the governments involved, all US citizens qualified for bin Laden’s charac- terization as members of a barbaric regime. Bin Laden claimed the role of hero character for Muslims within his rendition of the narrative. Like the hero who conquered Communism during the Cold War, he cast his own behavior and that of his colleagues as constituting a religious mission. As early as August 23, 1996, bin Laden issued “The Declaration of Jihad on the Americans Occupying the Country of the Two Sacred Places,” a call for all Muslims as part of their religious duty to attack US military targets. In the aftermath of the September 11 attacks, Bin Laden renewed his earlier call for jihad. He insisted, “Every Muslim has to rush to make his religion victorious” (Associated Press, “Text of Osama bin Laden’s Statement”). An al Qaeda lieutenant appear- ing by the side of bin Laden on a videotaped statement reiterated the same theme: “[J]ihad for the sake of God today is an obligation on every Muslim in this land if he has no excuse” (Associated Press, “Text of al Qaida Statement”). Bin Laden indicated that jihad would continue until America abandoned its presence in Saudi Arabia, the homeland to the holy places of Mecca and Medina. Confident in his pursuit of Allah’s goals, bin Laden predicted ultimate victory for the Muslim forces. He again relied on history to bolster his case that the divine cause of the Muslims would prevail. He remembered, “The killing of the Russians was after their invasion of Afghanistan and Chechnya; the killing of Europeans was after their invasion of Iraq and Afghanistan; and the killing of Americans on the day of New York was after their support of the Jews in Palestine and their invasion of the Arabian Peninsula. Also, killing them in Somalia was after their invasion of it in Operation Rescue Hope. We made them leave without hope, praise be to God” (bin Laden, “Remarks Addressing European Nations” 3). Bin Laden promised that with the faith and perseverance of all Muslims in the cause of jihad, there would be an optimistic outcome for the believers of Allah. The Bush administration responded to bin Laden’s narrative by refusing to yield the moral high ground, including divine providence, to Islamic fun- damentalists. Borrowing a rhetorical strategy from the Clinton administra- tion, the Bush camp depicted bin Laden and his followers as false prophets that were blaspheming the Muslim religion. Rumsfeld argued that terrorists are believers “not in the theology of God, but the theology of the self and in the whispered words of temptation, ‘ye shall be as gods’” (FDCH Transcripts 11 Oct. 2001: 2). Powell added that terrorists, by nature, were antithetical to religious faith. He surmised, “It is terrorism that is directed against people. It represents no faith, no religion. It is evil. It is murderous [...] and that’s why 186 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 192. the word terrorist is the right noun to apply to people like Osama bin Laden” (FDCH Transcripts 26 Oct. 2001: 5). To gain credibility on the issue, the administration pointed to the statement by fifty-six Islamic nations denounc- ing the September 11th attacks and declaring that the incidents had violated the principles of Islam (Bush, FDCH Transcripts 11 Oct. 2001: 2). In the administration’s public stance, Osama bin Laden served as the very antithesis of the fundamental tenets of all religious faiths. The administration offered various examples of how Islamic fundamen- talists, represented by bin Laden and the Taliban, had distorted the teach- ings of religion. Bush decried the lack of religious freedom in Afghanistan, maintaining, “They destroy great monuments of human culture and religious faith. They execute people who convert to other religions. They steal food from starving people” (Federal New Service 9 Nov. 2001: 1). Rumsfeld stressed the Taliban’s lack of humanitarian, if not Christian, values by reminding his audiences that they had killed hundreds of Afghanis when they took over the country initially, that they were cruel to the Afghanis during their reign, and that they had executed Afghani citizens who were trying to leave the country (Federal News Service 13 Nov. 2001: 2; Federal News Service 19 Nov. 2001: 2). The Taliban emerged as the Bush adminis- tration’s representative anecdote for what various states could expect should they be duped by the Muslim fundamentalists’ claim that they acted in the name of Allah. In sum, the Bush administration simultaneously denounced bin Laden’s ideological framing of the conflict, while defending its own. Not wanting to go to war with the Muslim community as a whole, the administration framed its opponents as Islamic fundamentalists bent on the destruction of the United States and its way of life. Denying religious authority to the enemy while simultaneously assuming it for the American cause, the govern- ment’s spokespersons strived to build the case for civilized and free cultures around the globe. America under Attack 187
  • 193. 8 Terrorism and American Culture Acts of terrorist violence are communication phenomena. Terrorist attacks symbolically represent far more than the actual bombing, kidnapping, or other form of brutal assault. Terrorism is designed both to instill alarm in its victims and to create broader anxiety in those that fear they will be next. In a global era of instantaneous media communications, even a small-scale act of terrorist violence can have a dramatic, far-reaching impact on the public. To simply view terrorism as an instance of verbal or nonverbal symbol- ism, however, ignores a primary communicative function of the term. Terrorism functions as a linguistic marker of American culture. The term’s meaning guides appropriate beliefs and behaviors of those belonging to the collective. Terrorism demarcates the unacceptable, as it embodies the evil, barbaric, unholy, and destructive impulses of society. Central to the commu- nity’s shared sense of belonging is the need to cleanse society of those who have gone astray. Terrorism’s potency as a resilient term of cultural definition helps explain why many consider it the most pejorative term in the English lan- guage. Presidents have applied the term to many of the nation’s most signifi- cant challenges (i.e., the birth of the republic, World War II, Vietnam, and September 11th, to name but a few). The meaning of terrorism has both shaped and been shaped by those experiences. The terrorism label, thus, functions today as a deeply rooted term of enmity that carries associations with key foundational moments of American culture. Like all terms of political allegiance, terrorism’s meaning is amorphous. The term’s adaptability has allowed it to encompass a wide range of threats emerging both at home and abroad. When Thomas Jefferson called on the early republic to respond forcefully to acts of terror by the American Indians, he could not have conceived that the label would someday apply to the use of biological, chemical or nuclear weapons against civilian populations. Given the past expansions of the term’s meaning and its future potential for even broader interpretations, few acts of enmity against US interests are immune from possible inclusion in the war on terror. 189
  • 194. With the potential to encompass a diverse set of threats, the terror- ist label emerges as a unifying term of cultural discourse. Terrorism’s flexible meaning allows it to have resonance with a wide range of indi- viduals who otherwise hold diverse perspectives in the political arena. Those who denounce acts of violence by Palestinians against the state of Israel, those who worry about the growing power of domestic militia groups, those concerned about drugs flowing into America, and those who oppose the hacking of business information systems can all unite in the fight against terrorism. Recognizing the power of the terrorism label, recent presidents have substantially increased the amount of their public discourse on the topic. While the nation’s leaders in the first half of the twentieth century rarely mentioned terrorism, some contemporary leaders have discussed it in upward of a thousand public statements during their tenures in office. The leader- ship’s increased focus on terrorism has elevated the importance of the term of enmity both at home and on the world stage. Within the growing corpus of political speeches about terrorism, presi- dents have repeatedly insisted they faced new terrorist threats. Carter, Reagan, Clinton, and George W. Bush each announced that the terrorists operating during their administrations were somehow unique and unprece- dented. By publicly reinventing the terrorist threat, presidents have presented a renewed framework for designating appropriate beliefs and behaviors for those desiring in-group status or alliance with American culture. Foreign leaders wishing to avoid their own inclusion within the US parameters of the terrorist label have altered their behavior in line with the new expectations (e.g., by policing their spheres of influence, accepting anti–money laundering statutes, and establishing dual jurisdiction over individuals committing ter- rorist acts against US citizens abroad.). Some college students who once con- sidered computer hacking nothing more than an intriguing way to pass their time now restrict their hobby to avoid the label of cyberterrorist. In hind- sight, even members of the national media have criticized their own reluc- tance to question the existence of the administrations’ new terrorist threats, as the recent self-analyses of reporting in the run-up to the war with Iraq has illustrated (Steinberg A14). As presidents and their administrations have redefined the nation’s ene- mies, they have also created opportunities for the development of new public expectations regarding appropriate leadership. New enemies call for new response strategies, if not new leadership altogether. The current Bush administration has justified the largest increase in defense spending since World War II and the largest reorganization of the federal government since Harry Truman, all in the name of a necessary response to a new terrorist threat. In short, terrorism not only defines American identity; it provides 190 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 195. opportunities for reconstituting the role of the executive branch in the gover- nance of the nation. Tracing the expansion and contractions of terrorism’s meaning becomes a critical first step in determining how presidents have reconstituted expecta- tions for America’s identity and governance. The nation’s leadership could not possibly concentrate public attention on every incident of international terrorism. With between two and seven hundred attacks occurring each year from 1970 to 2003 (see figure 8.1), the chief executives have necessarily focused on subsets of the entire terrorism problem in their public dialog. Their choices are revealing both in the aspects of the total problem they have chosen to feature and in the portions they have de-emphasized. Specifically, presidents have been selective in their descriptions of the agents, acts, agen- cies, scenes, and purposes of terrorism. Close examination of how the administrations have highlighted partic- ular terrorist agents exposes a dramatic difference between domestic and foreign terrorists. When speaking about domestic terrorists who carry out violent acts within the borders of the United States, presidents and their surrogates have presented those responsible as individuals acting alone, not as members of more dangerous collectives. Official spokespersons have highlighted the individual identity of domestic terrorists by releasing the names of even those suspected of being responsible for the attacks. According to the public statements of the Clinton and current Bush admin- istrations, Timothy McVeigh, Eric Rudolph, and the sender of the 2001 anthrax letters acted alone or with one other person as they planned and carried out their violent activities. Terrorism and American Culture 191 Source: U.S. Dept of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1968–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1980–1990;” U.S. Dept of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1990–1999; and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2003. 600 500 400 300 200 100 0 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000–2003 543 405 382 299 Figure 8.1. Annual Average Number of International Terrorist Incidents by Decade
  • 196. The decision to present domestic terrorists as sole actors becomes more evident in light of governmental actions taken to protect such a framing of the enemy. Government prosecutors in the McVeigh trial argued vigorously against defense counsel motions to allow their client to present evidence of his connections to white supremacist groups, bin Laden and the al Qaeda network, or Saddam Hussein and Iraq. FBI discussions of the Centennial Park bomber shifted from early public mention of one sole actor (Richard Jewell) to another (Eric Rudolph) as the manhunt continued. Justice Department officials, despite their inability to arrest the sender of the 2001 anthrax letters for more than three years, have announced “their certainty” that the perpetrator is a single individual (see chapter 6). Echoing the public approach used to depict the Centennial Park bomber, executive branch spokespersons in the anthrax case have adopted the stance of mentioning one sole actor after another as their primary suspect. Considered from the perspective that terrorism demarcates the bound- aries of the culture, the leadership’s labeling strategy for domestic terrorism is not surprising. Members of American society can agree that US citizens who carry out terrorist acts are criminals who, after they have been tried and con- victed of unacceptable conduct, deserve punishment. Domestic groups, how- ever, function quite differently. Focusing on a particular collection of Americans as culpable for terrorist act(s) has the potential to divide, rather than unite, the culture. Richard Nixon’s off-the-cuff decision to label antiwar protesters “terrorists” illustrates the tension such a perspective has with con- stitutionally protected rights of free association. If Americans who speak out against the government’s decision to go to war (or any of its other decisions) qualify as terrorists, the ability to broker a harmonious community with agreed-upon standards of appropriate belief and conduct is less certain. By contrast, presidents routinely present foreign terrorists as members of dangerous collectives that have ties to or the backing of foreign states. In the Vietnam War, Johnson argued that the Viet Cong were collaborating with the North Vietnamese and the Communist Chinese. In the final months of the Iranian hostage crisis, Carter’s team maintained that the student perpe- trators had the support of the Iranian government. Reagan focused on the Soviet-backed insurgents in Central America, the Iran-backed terrorists in Hezbollah, the Palestinian-backed Palestinian Liberation Front, and Libya- backed terrorist acts in Europe. The current Bush administration held that both the Taliban and the Iraqi government had a supporting, collaborative relationship with al Qaeda. Presidents have rarely mentioned the names of the individuals who carry out foreign acts of terrorism, with bin Laden and some of his key associates in the post-9/11 period a notable exception. When the leadership does disclose the identity of the perpetrators, it generally releases the name of the group (e.g., al Qaeda, Hezbollah, and Hamas). 192 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 197. Over time, presidents have shifted their depictions of how foreign states have participated in acts of international terrorism. In some cases the leader- ship has insisted that foreign states have served as sponsors of terrorism, by their provision of safe havens, logistical support, or financial means to the perpetrators of the violent acts. In others, the leaders of foreign nations themselves have qualified as terrorists due to their previous actions against their own people or against US allies abroad. The latter portrayal has partic- ularly salient international ramifications due to its recent use as a public justi- fication for removal of foreign governments by US forces. The decision to publicly link international terrorists to foreign states has clear-cut implications for the response options available to presidents. Foreign state collaboration with terrorism adds diplomatic, economic, and military approaches to the response arsenal. Absent such a linkage, the potential for controversy arises. International outrage over Bill Clinton’s decision to bomb the Shifa Pharmaceutical Plant and the Taliban training camps exemplifies the shortcomings of exercising military responses to ter- rorism without labeling the targeted foreign state as part of the terrorist attack. While a sitting president would undoubtedly insist such attacks tar- geted the terrorists and not the state, foreign governments could easily inter- pret the measures as acts of war. The communal, international nature of the threat also helps define the actors who should respond. A fight against internationally orchestrated ter- rorist groups invites a nonisolationist response strategy. With few exceptions, active engagement and partnership within the new global community has become the preferred method of eradicating terrorism. America joined with South Vietnam to defeat the alliance of Communist China, North Vietnam, and the Viet Cong; with the Contras to defeat the alliance of the Soviet Union, Cuba, and the Sandinistas; with a broad coalition of both Arab and non-Arab states against Iraq in the Persian Gulf War; and with the coalition of the willing to defeat the al Qaeda network. As a previously discussed Reagan era memo revealed (see chapter 5), a collective response in the inter- national community makes US global intervention against terrorists easier and absolves the nation of the burdensome responsibility if counterterrorism actions fail. Finally, the focus on foreign states as primary actors in international ter- rorism serves to help unify the public in the fight against the enemy. Attacks from foreign states pit state against state, with the assumption that all citi- zens of those nations are under assault. Borrowing from the conventional expectations of war rhetoric, presidents insist that a unified public is neces- sary for the nation to prevail in the conflict. Beyond a selective approach toward terrorist actors, presidents have also been discerning about which terrorist acts they emphasize to promulgate their America under Attack 193
  • 198. views of proper conduct and belief within American culture. Prior to the end of Reagan’s terms in office, a primary focus of executive branch discourse was on hostage taking and kidnapping. Presidents in office from the Vietnam War up until the mid-1980s warned the public repeatedly that terrorists used extortion, kidnapping, coercion, and intimidation to achieve their ends. The leadership’s focus corresponded with official State Department statistics showing an annual average of thirty-five Americans held hostage in the 1970s and forty-two in the 1980s (see figure 8.2). The back-to-back Iranian hostage crisis and Iran-Contra scandal, how- ever, gave subsequent presidents pause. Despite the fact that the annual aver- age of Americans held hostage still hovered at forty in the 1990s (see figure 8.2), George H. W. Bush was reticent to use the hostage label in any public context, even after international media coverage revealed that Iraq was hold- ing US citizens in Kuwait. Clinton went further, publicly redefining terror- ism to exclude lingering crises and virtually omitting all public mention of citizens kidnapped and held abroad. George W. Bush publicly mentioned Americans held hostage, but normally reserved his comments for incidents resulting in quick, heinous deaths (e.g., the 2004 spate of beheadings in Iraq). Taken as a whole, the most recent presidents have chosen to focus their public attention on terrorist methods that strike quickly, hold the potential of mass casualties, and have obvious closure. The change in how presidents have described terrorists’ acts has implica- tions for American governance. Presidents’ depiction of the relative speed of the terrorists in the 1990s functioned as a justification for a quickening of the nation’s responses. The George H. W. Bush administration fought a ground 194 In the Name of Terrorism 50 40 30 20 10 0 1970s 1980s 1990s Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents 1968–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents 1980–1990;” and U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents 1990–1999.” The chart does not include data from 2000–2003 due to the decision of the gov- ernment to only report attacks against U.S. facilities and attacks in which the U.S. suffered casu- alties. Figure 8.2. Annual Average Number of Kidnappings by Decade
  • 199. war in the 1991 Persian Gulf conflict in one hundred hours. The Clinton administration signed laws that reduced the delay in appeals for convicted terrorists and sped up the departure of foreigners suspected of terrorism. The George W. Bush administration displayed limited patience with interna- tional WMD inspectors and supported a preemptive war. As the nation’s leadership has had to cope in a dangerous world filled with quick decisions and rapid consequences, it has become less willing to entertain extended diplomatic overtures or sustained economic sanctions. The Presidents’ focus on speed has also had implications for interpreting the separation of powers doctrine. A number of official spokespersons for various administrations have argued they could respond to the nation’s threats faster (and better) if the congress and the courts did not interfere. They have maintained that assaults on US interests, whether against citizens or property, happen in the moment, with the result that the nation can ill afford the time of consultation characteristic of previous eras. The enemy’s speed has affected not only decisions as to the branch of government that should respond, but in what manner it should proceed. Having narrowed public discussion of the agents and acts of terrorism, the nation’s leadership has also been selective about agency (i.e., the means used by terrorists to achieve their objectives). A key feature of terrorism is that its perpetrators are selective in their choice of victims to maximize the public impact of their acts. The various administrations have primarily por- trayed the victims of terrorism to be civilians. The leadership’s examples of the targets have included men, women, and children traveling aboard ships (Achille Lauro), airplanes (Pan Am 103, TWA 847, KAL 007, and the 9/11 airliners), or trains (Tokyo subway station). Others have been at work at gov- ernmental service positions within the civilian sector, such as at foreign embassies (Iran, Lebanon, Tanzania, and Kenya) or in federal buildings located within the borders of the United States (Alfred Murrah Building in Oklahoma City). From time to time, the nation’s leadership has singled out various targeted occupations such as village and hamlet officials, nuns and clergymen, journalists, and academic professors and administrators. Taken together, the civilians mentioned by presidents have been those critical to the infrastructure of American society. While the administrations in this study have generally emphasized civil- ians as the terrorists’ victims, they have also presented military personnel as a repeated category of injured party. The Johnson and Nixon administrations recounted incidents where terrorists bombed American servicemen in the- aters and restaurants. The Reagan administration recalled the deaths of mili- tary servicemen visiting a Berlin discothèque and sleeping in their barracks in Lebanon. The Clinton administration spoke of the bombing of military per- sonnel aboard the USS Cole, as they docked to restock in Yemen. Finally, the Terrorism and American Culture 195
  • 200. current Bush administration remembered members of the military who died or were injured in the attack on the Pentagon. By stressing off-duty military personnel or civilians working within the defense establishment, presidents have underscored both the innocence of the victims and the necessary involvement of the commander in chief in responding to terrorism. A review of the victim categories used by the State Department’s Patterns of Global Terrorism reveals that the choices of presidents were also telling in what types of victims the leadership omitted. The State Department breaks down its official statistics of targeted facilities into five subcategories: diplomat, government, military, business, and other. Presidents’ public discussion of the victims of terrorist attacks has incorpo- rated each of the subdivisions with one exception: business. The omission has distorted the actual targets of terrorism for the public. In every decade covered in this study, businesses experienced a greater number of attacks than the other types of officially cataloged facilities (see figure 8.3). Further, the percentage of international terrorism incidents targeting business facili- ties has grown rapidly with each passing decade (see figure 8.4). Despite the rise in attacks against businesses, each of the presidents since the Vietnam War has avoided repeated references to a spectacular or sustained terrorist campaign against any American business overseas. Presidents have heightened their opportunities for unifying the public in the war on terrorism by deflecting attention away from businesses as targets. Businesses operating overseas have historically prompted a number of public controversies, such as substandard worker conditions, environmental con- cerns, and tax revenue losses. The mention of terrorist attacks against partic- ular businesses, consequently, has the potential to elicit a sympathetic 196 In the Name of Terrorism 300 250 200 150 100 50 0 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000–2003 Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “International Terrorism Incidents by Victim/Facility, 1969–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “International Terrorism Incidents by Victim/Facility, 1980-1990;” U.S. Dept. of State, “International Terrorism Incidents by Victim/Facility, 1990–1999;” and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2002–2003. The official category of “other” is not presented in this figure. Figure 8.3. Annual Average Number of Facilities Struck by International Terrorist Incidents Business Diplomat Govt. Military
  • 201. response from some Americans, to further galvanize the global environmen- tal protection movement, or to heighten public concerns about growing deficits. By treating terrorism as a random assault on innocents both at home and abroad, the leadership has emphasized that it is protecting all Ameri- cans— not the profit margins of a select few. The scene mentioned in presidents’ featured terrorist attacks also dif- fers substantially from actual events. Most frequently, presidents have highlighted terrorism attacks happening in the Middle East (e.g., the US Embassy in Tehran in 1979–80, the US Embassy and military barracks in Lebanon in 1983, TWA 847, Achille Lauro, American hostages held throughout the 1980s, Kuwait, and the USS Cole) or those perpetrated by Middle Eastern agents outside of the region (the Berlin discothèque, Pan Am 103, the World Trade Center in 1993, US embassies in Tanzania and Kenya, and 9/11). Since the 1970s the bulk of actual terrorist incidents involving the United States, however, have happened outside of the Middle East; they have occurred in Latin America. From 1970 to 2003, a rank ordering of the regions with the highest percentage of terrorist attacks involving the United States reveals that the Middle East had fewer incidents than Latin America, Europe, and Asia (see figure 8.5). The focus on the Middle East in administration discourse has demonstrated that strategic calculations are involved in the selection of particular acts of terrorism for public focus. The nation’s need to secure competitive oil supplies from the Middle East has rendered the region a focal point for Terrorism and American Culture 197 70% 60% 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% 1970s 1980s 1990s 2000–2003 Figure 8.4. Percentage of International Terrorist Incidents Targeting Business Facilities Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1968–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1980–1990;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1990–1999;” and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2000–2003.
  • 202. securing US interests, regardless of whether the region has been the true hotbed of terrorism. Finally, presidents since the Vietnam War have been selective about their depictions of the purposes for the enemy’s violence. The nation’s leadership has either refused to publicly discuss the motivations for terrorist violence altogether or they have pronounced that the terrorists’ goals were to attack foundational American values, such as freedom, democracy or liberty. Even presidents publicly seeking to downplay the ideological nature of the terrorist threat have focused on attacks targeting operations fundamental to the global functioning of American society, such as U.S. embassies in Iran, Tanzania, and Kenya. The presidents’ public strategy of deflecting attention away from the ter- rorists’ own stated causes for violence has functioned to unify the American public in a number of ways. First, the approach has minimized questions about how earlier U.S. actions might have contributed to such acts of vio- lence. Carter’s decision to admit the Shah into the U.S. for medical treat- ment, the shooting down of an Iranian airbus by the USS Vincennes during the Reagan administration, and George H. W. Bush’s administration’s con- versations with Saddam Hussein in the days immediately prior to Iraq’s inva- sion of Kuwait have all been examples of when the presidents have been motivated to deflect attention away from the terrorists’ stated causes, and in the process, made a more compelling case for the American public to support the nation’s fight against terrorists. Absent US culpability, the terrorists alone have carried the burden of the nation’s retaliatory response. 198 In the Name of Terrorism 50% 40% 30% 20% 10% 0% Latin America Europe Asia Middle East Figure 8.5. Percentage of International Terrorism Incidents Involving the United States by Region: 1970–2003 Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1968–1979,” U.S. Dept. of State; “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1980–1990;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, 1990–1999;” and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2000–2003. The figures for 2000–2003 used in this calculation include all international terrorism incidents, rather than only the incidents involving the U.S. due to absence of more specific U.S. numbers in the official reports.
  • 203. Second, omitting the enemy’s declared purposes has served to dehuman- ize the terrorists, rendering them more deserving of US punishment. During the Reagan administration’s debriefing of the American passengers on TWA 847, aides discovered that some of the ex-hostages had developed a bond with their captors and gained sympathy for the Shi’ite cause after listening to the hijackers’ appeals over a two-week period (Memo, What the President Is Likely to Hear). Perhaps fearing that a public reiteration of the enemy’s motives might similarly sway public opinion on a wider scale, the presidents have deflected attention from the terrorists’ own explanations for their vio- lence. Instead, the leadership has insisted that all terrorists have been seeking to undercut the fundamental values of America and the world community, thereby making the case for a military response more palpable to the public. Understood purely from the perspective of official US definitions, instances of international terrorism have been motivated by political, not economic objectives. When the State Department has cataloged acts of international terrorism, they have done so according to the definition of ter- rorism contained in Title 22 of the US Code, Section 2656f(d): “The term terrorism means premeditated, politically motivated violence perpetrated against noncombatant targets by subnational groups or clandestine agents, usually intended to influence an audience” [emphasis mine] (U.S. State Dept., Patterns 2002). The State Department has relied upon this definition that features politically motivated violence to track terrorism since 1983. Despite the official classification, however, contemporary presidential discourse has confounded the distinctions between the political and eco- nomic objectives of the terrorists. Early on, the nation’s leadership subtly merged the two. During the Vietnam War, Kennedy and Johnson argued that terrorists attacked the economic infrastructures of South Vietnam to undermine the ability of a fledgling democratic government to succeed. The George H. W. Bush administration similarly maintained that Saddam Hussein sought control over Kuwait’s economic resources to undermine the economies of fledgling democracies around the globe. By the 1990s, how- ever, presidents were more blunt about their conflation of the two goals. Clinton insisted that a distinction between economic and national security no longer existed. George W. Bush repeatedly emphasized the expansive phrase “our way of life” to describe what the terrorists sought to disrupt. In short, presidents functionally merged economic objectives within the context of more conventional political goals, even as they avoided mention of American businesses as the target of terrorism. Gradually moving terrorist’s objectives into the global economic arena contributed to the emerging definition of America’s cultural identity. As the depictions of the goals of terrorism changed over time, so too did the role the presidents envisioned for the United States within the broader international Terrorism and American Culture 199
  • 204. community. When terrorists sought the downfall of emerging democratic governments, presidents argued the United States represented the only meaningful check on Communist aggression worldwide. When the enemy wanted to undermine open societies, presidents maintained that the United States functioned as the only meaningful check on totalitarian leadership around the globe. When terrorists harbored economic objectives, US identity changed once again, this time expanding into the role of protector of the existing world economic order. Having depicted terrorists as threats to the political and economic interests of an increasingly interdependent world, the obligations of American leadership expanded in a corresponding fashion. Engaged in a battle for the world’s economic future, recent presidents have justified an expansion of executive powers into international financial affairs. George H. W. Bush and Jimmy Carter seized the financial assets of foreign nations to provide a reserve for settling claims in the aftermath of hostilities. The Clinton administration pressured international banks to con- form to anti–money laundering statutes and to open the banking records of their international clients for US inspection. The current Bush administra- tion seized the foreign assets of governments, groups, and individuals alleged to have contributed money knowingly or unknowingly in support of terrorist causes. Asserting privilege over new financial assets historically beyond their reach, recent presidents have redefined the role of the United States in the global marketplace. In sum, presidents have generally concentrated their own labeling strate- gies on enemy collectives who, without justifiable cause, have committed vio- lence with great speed in attacking US political and economic values primarily in the Middle East. In the process of defining a discrete subset of the overall terrorism problem, presidents have invited the public, the Congress, the courts, and the international community to respond accord- ingly. Through reinvention of new terrorist threats in virtually each adminis- tration, the nation’s leadership has broadened executive powers and has redefined the identity of American culture both at home and abroad. Presidents do not reconstitute American identity through use of the ter- rorism label alone. They must either appropriate or develop a convincing narrative framework to provide a coherent context for their interpretation of the threat and America’s response. Taken as a whole, presidents have enacted a critical distinction in their public approaches based upon political party affiliation. As this book has illustrated, Democratic presidents (with the early exception of Johnson) have relied upon narratives that feature crime as a principal theme: crimes against humanity in Carter’s tragic drama and crimes against God in Clinton’s prophetic tradition. Republican presidents, by con- trast, have featured war as a prevailing theme, employing the Cold War nar- rative as their fundamental framework. 200 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 205. In practice, leaders elected from both the Republican and Democratic parties have employed the tools of law enforcement and the military to respond to terrorism. Carter presented his case before the International Court of Justice and employed the US military to enact a rescue mission. Reagan sought extradition for those guilty of hijacking the Achille Lauro and used the American military to bomb Libya. Clinton’s Justice Department tried the case of the World Trade Center bombers and used the military to carry out bombing raids on the Sudan, Afghanistan, and Iraq. The current Bush administration brought an unprecedented number of terrorism cases to the court system, while conducting military operations to remove both the Taliban and the Iraqi regimes. Increasingly, the wisdom of employing a terrorism policy that focuses too heavily on crime or war has become a matter of public debate. The 9/11 Commission Report critiqued a heavy emphasis on the crime frame by arguing that the law enforcement process “was meant, by its nature, to mark for the public the events as finished—case solved, justice done. It was not designed to ask if the events might be harbingers of worse to come. Nor did it allow for aggregating and analyzing facts to see if they could provide clues to ter- rorist tactics more generally—methods of entry and finance, and mode of operation inside the United States” (National Commission, Final Report 73). Others, working in the CIA, have argued that the domination of the law enforcement mentality has only led to “strategically inconsequential tactical victories” (Imperial Hubris 87). US Air Force pilots have recounted problems with an alleged overemphasis on crime in the immediate aftermath of September 11. The pilots reported that they had sighted senior al Qaeda and Taliban members on ten occasions, but had been unable to fire due to legal- istic delays caused by the requirements of the local American ambassadors (Hersh, “Gray Zone” 1). Such appraisals have consistently presented a pri- mary emphasis on crime as an insufficient, weak policy against terrorism. Too strong a focus on war as a response to terrorism has also encoun- tered criticism. Concerns about the civil rights of alleged terrorists who remain in captivity without charges filed against them, the expense of the war efforts, the possibility of government-endorsed torture in wartime, and the loss of life by military personnel suffered at the hands of insurgents have all emerged as prevalent arguments in the public debate. The potential for a US war on terror to have subversive goals in resource-rich regions of the world has also raised skepticism around the globe. Too much emphasis on war, the critics have argued, has long-term consequences for the foundational principles of American society and the nation’s credibility worldwide. As the debate over how to fight terrorism raged in the 2004 political campaign season, very little attention was focused on the statistical record of the two parties in their actual handling of terrorist threats. On two key State Terrorism and American Culture 201
  • 206. Department measures of terrorism, the Democratic presidents studied in this book have outperformed their Republican counterparts. The first concerns the number of international terrorist incidents involving the United States. Under presidents elected from the Democratic Party, the annual average of international terrorism attacks involving the United States has been 131, while the annual average for presidents elected from the Republican Party has been 158, a seventeen percent increase (see figures 8.6 and 8.7). The second involves the annual number of deaths of American citizens from ter- rorist acts. Under Democratic presidential leadership, the annual average number of American deaths was 11; under Republican presidential leader- ship, the annual average was 222 (see figure 8.8). Even when the high death totals of 2001 are not considered, the average number of US deaths from ter- rorism was more than four times higher under Republican presidents than under their Democratic presidential counterparts (see figure 8.9).1 The per- formance differential between Republican and Democratic presidents becomes more pronounced with the inclusion of the 2004 figures reported by congressional aides briefed by the State Department and intelligence officials which showed a sharp jump (175 in 2003 to 650 in 2004) in significant international terrorist attacks (as rptd. in Mohammed). The calculation of average annual incidents and American deaths from terrorism ends at 2003, due to the decision by the Bush State Department to stop publishing statistical data in its 2004 Patterns of Global Terrorism. Larry Johnson, a former CIA analyst and state department terrorism expert, dis- closed the administration’s decision and the fact that it came to be after ana- 202 In the Name of Terrorism 250 200 150 100 50 0 Carter Reagan Bush Clinton Bush Figure 8.6. Annual Average Number of International Terrorism Incidents Involving the United States by Presidency 126115 167 197 161 Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents Involving the US, 1968–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, Involving the US, 1980–1990;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, Involving the US, 1990–1999;” U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns: Year in Review 1997–2002; and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2003.
  • 207. lysts in the National Counterterroism Center concluded that more terrorist attacks happened in 2004 than any year previously dating back to 1985. Those figures do not include insurgent attacks on American forces in Iraq, which, if added, would inflate the increase further (as rptd. in Landay A12). In either case, however, Johnson’s 2004 figures would exaggerate the com- parison of the historical records of the leaders from the two political parties, but would not change the conclusion that Democratic presidents have less incidents of international terrorism and less deaths to Americans from ter- rorism than their Republican counterparts. Despite the comparative statistical records in the fight against terrorism, Republican presidents have enjoyed and continue to hold an edge in the public’s perception of which party produces leaders best qualified to respond to terrorism. A January 2004 poll conducted by the Pew Research Center reported, “By 56%–19%, people who volunteer terrorism and homeland defense as the biggest problem facing the country say the Republicans, not the Democrats, are best able to address the issue” (Pew Research Center, “Economy and Anti-Terrorism” 1–2). Such polls echo the findings of the Roper Center for Public Opinion Research report released during the first Bush administration. The report claimed that terrorism “would tend to help Republicans—in the sense that it dominated the agenda and kept focus on something that has been a Republican strength, and that appears to strengthen a Republican president” (Roper Center 18). The public narratives of the two parties help explain the apparent dis- crepancy between the statistical record of presidential performance and the public perceptions of leadership and terrorism. Arguably, the Democratic Terrorism and American Culture 203 250 200 150 100 50 0 Democrats Republicans Figure 8.7. Annual Average Number of International Terrorism Incidents by Presidential Party: 1976–2003 158131 Source: U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents Involving the US, 1968–1979;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents, Involving the US, 1980–1990;” U.S. Dept. of State, “Intl. Terrorism Incidents Involving the US, 1990–1999;” U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns: Year in Review 1997–2002; and U.S. Dept. of State, Patterns 2003.
  • 208. presidents’ public focus on crime has politically undermined their image as effective leaders against terrorism. Unlike in the war frame, in which the ulti- mate decision-making authority rests clearly with the commander in chief, a concentration on crime puts the final judgment within the purview of the Supreme Court. Both Carter and Clinton assumed key roles within their ter- rorist narratives, but neither the tragic hero nor the prophet have the stand- ing of the commander in chief in a conflict with a dangerous external threat. By choosing to publicly de-emphasize their roles as commander in chief, Democratic presidents have left themselves vulnerable to charges they lack the necessary strength to respond to terrorism effectively. 204 In the Name of Terrorism Figure 8.9. Annual Average Number of American Deaths from Terrorism by Presidential Party: 1976–2003 (excluding 2001) 250 200 150 100 50 Democrats Republicans Figure 8.8. Annual Average Number of American Deaths from Terrorism by Presidential Party: 1976–2003 11 222 Source: U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1968–1979;” U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1980–1990;” U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1990–1999;” and U.S. State Dept. Patterns 2001–2003. Source: U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1968–1979;” U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1980–1990;” U.S. State Dept. “Casualties, 1990–1999;” and U.S. State Dept. Patterns 2001–2003. 11 46 0 10 20 30 40 50 60 Democrats Republicans
  • 209. A second challenge of the crime narrative involves religion. Increasingly, religion has become a key factor in presidential politics. The National Survey of Religion and Politics conducted at the University of Akron reported that in the 2000 presidential election, respondents who went to church more than once a week were more than twice as likely to vote for the Republican candi- date (68–32%), while those who never attended were far more likely to vote for the Democratic candidate (65–35%) (as rptd. in Page, “Churchgoing”). A Pew Research Center nationwide survey conducted from August 5 to August 10, 2004, reported similarly, “While neither political party is seen as particu- larly unfriendly to religion, somewhat more say the Republican Party is friendly toward religion (52%) than the Democratic Party (40%)” (Pew Research Center, “GOP the Religion-Friendly Party” 3). Recently, the reli- gion gap topped even the gender gap as predictive in close presidential con- tests (Page, “Churchgoing”). Narratives that feature crime have no necessary, integral relationship with religion. Crime focuses on questions of innocence versus guilt arbitrated by judges; religion emphasizes questions of good versus evil adjudicated by God. Carter and Clinton attempted to bridge the apparent gap by choosing narratives that emphasized both crime and religion as central themes. Both of their public approaches—tragic drama and the prophetic tradition— stressed subjects recurrent in various strains of the Christian religion, namely, guilt, suffering, sacrifice, isolation, and redemption. Nevertheless, clear con- nections between religion, crime, and terrorism are not obvious. The Cold War narrative, by contrast, has religious appeal built into its conventional characterizations of the hero character. The United States, as a divinely inspired entity, is responsible for defending freedom and democracy from the forces of growing evil around the globe. The Cold War narrative’s lack of specificity about the identity of the higher authority has appeal for peoples of all faiths, assuming they are Americans or in sympathy with America’s cause. As Burke has written, “Religion will be monistic in the sense that, no matter how large a pantheon the various tribes imagine, all their gods can be subsumed under the general head of the divine” (Rhetoric of Religion 311). The Cold War narrative’s invocation of a vaguely defined reli- gious mission has the potential for widespread public appeal. Besides not articulating a clear relationship to religion or to the role of commander in chief, crime narratives do not display a lasting coherence for countering the terrorist threat. Both the Carter and Clinton narratives pre- sented short-term time frames for how presidents could handle the terrorism problem. The tragic hero had to experience spiritual (if not political) death for the guilty society to transcend its shortcomings and find reaffirmation. The prophet, while a more lasting figure than the tragic hero, still lacked the Terrorism and American Culture 205
  • 210. ability to pass along his unique relationship with God to future leaders, be they Democratic or Republican. Hence, the Democratic presidents’ uses of crime narratives lacked an ongoing, credible role for their successors. The Cold War narrative, by contrast, provides a rhetorical strategy that permits continuity and coherence across various administrations. Regardless of past successes or failures, the narrative portends that the United States has an ongoing mission to defend freedom and democracy around the globe. Since America has and continues to be the leader of the free world, past, pre- sent and future presidents serve as the focal point for overseeing the success- ful implementation of that mission. Inspired by the divine, the hero character in the Cold War narrative inevitably prevails. While the political advantages of using war narratives have eclipsed those that feature crime, the choice of the Cold War narrative to discuss ter- rorism has not been without consequence. Karlyn Kohrs Campbell and Kathleen Hall Jamieson have studied the generic expectations of presidential war rhetoric. One of the recurrent substantive elements of war discourse they identify is strategic misrepresentation (188–24). After they acknowledge the impossibility of portraying all truth within the limits of public messages more generally, Campbell and Jamieson note, “Presidential war rhetoric evinces an unusual tendency to misrepresent the events described therein in ways strate- gically related to the president’s desire to stifle dissent and unify the nation for immediate and sustained action” (118). Historical attempts to retrofit the Cold War narrative to the threat from terrorism make such misrepresenta- tions somewhat predictable. Members of the executive branch must gloss actual distinctions between Communists and terrorists to remain consistent with the Cold War narrative. The various renderings of the narrative described in this book have unveiled a variety of enemy characteristics that tend toward misrepresentation in presidential discourse focusing on the sub- ject of terrorism. One recurrent misrepresentation concerns the united nature of the ter- rorist threat. Presidents need to depict terrorists as a connected worldwide enemy if they are to be comparable to the Communists of the Cold War era. Gingrich’s 1983 explicit advice that Reagan present terrorism as a single homogenous threat to garner public support appears to have governed vari- ous reconstitutions of the Cold War narrative. Reagan publicly exaggerated both the Soviet’s role in terrorism during the first half of the 1980s and the interconnections between his six state sponsors of terrorism in the second half of the 1980s. The current Bush administration embellished known meetings between Iraq and al Qaeda into evidence of a collaborative relation- ship. The ongoing search for a simple public explanation for the diverse range of violent actors around the globe results in repeated mischaracteriza- tions of the nation’s threats. 206 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 211. A second predictable point of misrepresentation relates to the motiva- tions of terrorist actors. The leadership’s need to establish the terrorists’ ambition of worldwide conquest to parallel the history of the Communist nemesis has led to repeated public distortions. Reagan publicly narrowed the terrorists’ motivational focus to an attack on open democracies worldwide, while his own intelligence showed that nondemocratic regimes in the Middle East were a frequent target of terrorism and the full range of the terrorists’ actual motivations were far more diverse. George H. W. Bush publicly wor- ried about the world’s fledging democratic economies, while Saddam Hussein was attacking one of the wealthiest nations in the Middle East (Kuwait) and had another (Saudi Arabia) in his sights. George W. Bush maintained that al Qaeda had global ambitions against all democratic nations without mentioning that bin Laden’s own statements indicated that he planned to attack any nation, Communist or democratic, that occupied Afghanistan, Saudi Arabia, or other holy lands of the Middle East. A final recurrent element of character misrepresentation relates to the means that terrorists employ to achieve their objectives. To rise to the level previously established by Communists in the US Cold War narratives, ter- rorists have to be barbaric. At times, the presidents in this study mischarac- terized the barbarity of the terrorist threat. Both the incubator story under the George H. W. Bush administration and the recent claims of an active Iraqi chemical, biological, and nuclear program during the George W. Bush administration have been examples of presidents relying on inaccurate accounts of international events to justify the case for America to go to war. While the Iraqi regime has routinely displayed its willingness to use barbaric methods such as murder, rape, and torture against the citizens of both Iraq and Kuwait, both internal and broadly circulated media polls during the 1991 Persian Gulf War showed that the American public was unwilling to engage its military forces to correct foreign humanitarian crises alone. Expanding the scope of the terrorists’ barbarity to American citizens or the nation’s allies swayed public opinion to support a more forceful, military response, even though it was not based in reality. While the characterizations of the enemy in reconstituted Cold War narratives can be particularly revealing about likely public distortions, the other key components of the narrative are also important to examine from an evolutionary perspective. Consider how the presidents’ depiction of the scene of the Cold War narrative has changed since the Vietnam War. In short, presidents have gradually expanded the scene needing American attention. The theme of a fragile environment has remained constant, but presidents have applied that scenic portrayal first to emerging democracies (the Vietnam War), then to democracy as a whole (the Reagan era), then to an ordered world (George H. W. Bush in 1991 Persian Gulf War), and, Terrorism and American Culture 207
  • 212. finally, to any nation on earth (George W. Bush in the post-9/11 period). The justification for US intervention concurrently expanded to anywhere on the globe. Shifts in how the presidents have depicted the mission of the hero char- acter in their reenactments of the Cold War narrative have also been telling. During the Vietnam War, the mission of the United States was to defend one fragile democratic state and to guard other fledgling democracies from being attacked in the future. During the Persian Gulf War, the mission expanded from defense of democracies to defending the self-determination rights of a monarchy that was central to US strategic interests. Finally, the current Bush administration enlarged its missions from the defense of liberty to the spreading of freedom and liberty to those currently living under dicta- torships. Each of the instantiations of the nation’s mission referenced free- dom and liberty as values worth pursuing, but taken together, they reveal an incremental expansion of America’s interventionist role in global affairs. The powerful persuasive force of the Cold War narrative suggests that the public strategy is unlikely to disappear in the near future. Its flexible application to a wide range of global violent conflicts in the post–Cold War era offers a means by which presidents can retain a consistent vision for for- eign policy. As some of the internal documents presented in this book make clear, the nation’s leadership has both been aware of and willing to capitalize upon the persuasive power of the Cold War narrative with domestic audi- ences, even if that strategy entails misrepresenting the terrorist threat to the public. Observing how that narrative changes over time, therefore, becomes an important means for critically assessing presidential terrorism discourse. In cases where future presidents present Communists and terrorists as mirror images, the chance of strategic misrepresentation arises and should prompt close scrutiny. In cases where the portrayal of the scene or the mission of the hero character changes, critical examination of the implications for global governance are warranted. Once labels, like terrorism, become key purpose terms in central societal narratives, the final evolutionary step for terms to become ideological mark- ers of a culture is that they must perform as ideographs. At least since the Vietnam War, US presidents have been aware of the ideological potential of the terrorism label. Johnson discovered that stopping terrorism, not the ide- ology of Communism or democracy, functioned as a unifying appeal for the South Vietnamese citizenry. Having adopted an effective strategy of tagging the North Vietnamese as terrorists to sway the Vietnamese elections in 1966, Johnson demonstrated the potency of using terrorism as a cultural term. The Reagan administration was the first to elevate terrorism into an ideograph for American culture. The Iranian hostage crisis set the stage by rendering terrorism an ordinary term of political discourse that had culturally 208 In the Name of Terrorism
  • 213. specific meanings. As the news media ran nightly counts of the days US hostages remained in confinement, ordinary Americans denounced the abhorrent tactics of terrorists, while many in the Middle East interpreted the embassy seizure, not as an act of terrorism, but as a justified response to US historical support for the shah. The Iranian hostage crisis also began the process of unifying the public around normative, but ill-defined, goals. Internal polling demonstrated that the public wanted the president to do something to resolve the crisis, thereby opening an opportunity for expanded presidential perogatives. However, Carter demurred, choosing instead to adopt a non-ideological framing of the crisis. A number of factors coalesced during the Reagan administration to transform terrorism into an ideological marker of the culture. First, Reagan faced a situation with the demise of the Soviet Union where a conventional ideograph, “Communism,” would soon be losing its dominant appeal as a unifying term for the public. Second, Reagan positioned terrorism as a “replacement” ideograph by juxtaposing the term as a threat to America’s positive ideographs, namely, democracy and freedom. Finally, the adminis- tration was willing to implement response measures heretofore unheard of in the nation’s arsenal against terrorism. Reagan and his aides tested the bound- aries of what an American public fearful of attacks would accept in the fight against terrorism. By the mid-1980s, the American public had coalesced into a broadly uni- fied collective backing Reagan’s responses to terrorism the Middle East. Polls showed seventy percent of the public wanting the administration to give a major effort to fighting terrorism, eighty percent approving the military escort of the plane carrying the Achille Lauro hijackers, and seventy-one percent approving the bombing of Libya (see chapter 4). Not only was the American public united behind the normative goal of responding to terrorism, but they also supported US response options that, in more normal circumstances, would not have qualified as publicly acceptable. Many abroad denounced Reagan’s choices as skyjacking, offensive war fighting, and violations of the state sovereignty rights of members of the international community. The dis- tinctive reactions of domestic and international audiences to Reagan’s rhetoric and actions underscored the culture-bound meaning of the term. Aware of the demonstrated ideological potency of the terrorism label for American audiences, presidents since Reagan have adopted various approaches for handling their public use of the term. Clinton, with his focus on terrorism as a crime of individuals against their God, cast ideological con- tests as relics of the past. The Republican presidents’ war narratives, by con- trast, have generally highlighted an ideological interpretation of terrorism conflicts, due, in part, to the Cold War narrative’s origins in the ideological contest between democracy and Communism. As the two Bush administra- Terrorism and American Culture 209
  • 214. tions have applied revised Cold War narratives to various iterations of the terrorist threat, the meaning of the label has expanded. The current Bush administration has been explicit about the ideological nature of terrorism. Bush recently announced, “We actually misnamed the war on terror; it ought to be the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies, who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the confi- dence of the free world.” (FDCH Transcipts, 6 Aug. 2004: 14). Certain media pundits have likewise begun to suggest that crime, war, and ideology are three different frames for analyzing the nation’s response to terrorism. Relying heavily on the analysis described in the 9/11 Commission Report, the columnist David Brooks has proffered, “We’re not in the middle of a war on terror. [. ..] We’re not facing an axis of evil. Instead, we are in the midst of an ideological conflict” (A13). Such reasoning has juxtaposed ideology and war narratives as two distinct frameworks that invite unique responses by the nation’s leadership. A review of the historical record of pres- idential narratives related to terrorism, however, reveals that the two ideas have been far from separate. Presidents relying on the ideologically-based Cold War narratives since the Reagan administration have each engaged in wars against foreign states utilizing terrorism as justification for military action. Taken in the context of earlier arguments in this study, the attempt to suggest that terrorism as ideology is something new would simply qualify as another attempt to create an opening for a new definition of American identity and governance. The recent emergence of terrorism as an ideograph offers insights into how negative markers of the culture gain their potency. Given that negative ideographs are tags for unacceptable behaviors, such labels can initially func- tion as companion terms for recognized competing ideologies. Repeated presidential referen