The events of the 11th of September in 2001 significantly changed how the United States and the Western world perceived the threat posed by non-state terrorist organisations. The 9/11 attacks undermined the illusion of America’s invulnerability in the post-Cold War era. It was the first time they had been attacked since Pearl Harbor and the first time by a non-state actor. In response, President George W. Bush launched the ‘War on Terror’, a global military, political, legal, and ideological fight against both terrorist organisations and the regimes that supported them. A major component of the rationale behind the ‘War on Terror’ centred around preventing a possible “nuclear 9/11”. If not prevented, the consequences of a WMD-terrorist attack upon the U.S would be beyond catastrophic. According to the United States, these non-state actors would actively seek, acquire and use these weapons against the West with no hesitation.
In discussing the American perception of threat since 2001, this thesis will use the ‘Threat Perception Equation’ developed by J. David Singer in 1958 as a foundation. Singer’s equation for threat perception is formed by the combination of ‘Estimated Capability against Estimated Intent’. As Richard Betts of Harvard University argued “A threat consists of capabilities multiplied by intentions; if either is zero, the threat is zero”. However, when examining their representations it is clear that the U.S focused more on capability over intent when conceptualising the WMD-terror threat. In failing to properly assess intent, the War on Terror has outspent the expenditure and resources of the entire Cold War, creating a perpetual struggle for a preventive strategy.
There are many scholars and schools of thought that are deeply critical of the American response post-9/11. This thesis will analyse and review literature in the tradition of Critical Terrorism Studies (CTS). With a foundation in critical theories, CTS theorists maintain that the intention of terrorist organisations since 2001 has been drastically under-researched. The writings of critical theorists like Richard Jackson, Susan Moeller and Noam Chomsky will serve as a basis for this thesis’ argument. This dissertation will also assess the representation of key figures within the United States government in their analysis of the WMD-terror threat. Labelled as ‘Traditional or Orthodox’ terrorism studies by CTS, government, intelligence agencies and the media helped to emphasised the severity and urgency of the threat posed by non-state actors with a weapon of mass destruction.
Therefore, the question that this thesis will answer is as follows:
To what extent has the United States favoured capability over estimated intent when representing the threat posed by WMD-terrorism?
In answering this question this dissertation will employ discourse analysis as its methodology. In framing the War on Terror to the media and public, the United States government developed its own counterterror language. This discourse incorporates a series of assumptions, beliefs and knowledge about the nature and intent of terrorist groups. Terrorists are labelled as ‘inherently evil’ that need to be ‘eradicated without negotiation’. Through examining the development of the War on Terror from 2001 to today, this thesis will note that language and action are inextricably linked. Thus, understanding the language of counterterrorism is central for the construction of the WMD terrorism threat and the responses that followed as part of the War on Terror.
This thesis will analyse significant events and progressions since 2001 relevant to combatting the WMD-terror threat. Chapter 1 will examine the literature surrounding the construction of security and threat perception, noting how the latter changed following the end of the Cold War and 9/11 attacks. These two events signified that non-state actors had overtaken nation-states as the greatest threat against the United States. This chapter will also examine the literature concerning weapons of mass destruction and their relationship with terrorism. It will then conclude with an examination of the CTS interpretation, and an outline of discourse analysis as this dissertation’s methodology.
Chapter 2 will examine the impact of the 9/11 attacks in 2001 and the initial representations of WMD-terrorism by the United States. This chapter will analyse the how the U.S framed the War on Terror after Bush’s declaration in September 2001. Within their rhetoric they claimed that al-Qaeda were pursuing a WMD to use against the United States. This dissertation will examine that claim and the criticisms offered by CTS theorists.
The third chapter will examine the Bush administration’s extension of the ‘War on Terror’ to incorporate nation states under the guise of sponsoring and harbouring terrorist organisations. This chapter will show how the United States government branded all ‘enemies of America’ as a part of one monolithic threat against the United States. This will be done through examining the 2003 invasion of Iraq, and its aftermath.
Finally, chapter 4 will examine the change of rhetoric following the election of Barack Obama in 2008. It will explain how Obama sought to withdraw from Iraq and eventually Afghanistan and incorporate a more multilateral and diplomatic approach in countering the WMD-threat. As noted by CTS scholars however, rather than reducing the War on Terror, Obama expanded it. This chapter will analyse how the U.S informed the public that the WMD-terror threat had increased since 2008. It will also examine the rise of ISIL and its pursuit of WMDs; concluding with a brief examination of what we can expect under President Donald Trump regarding the WMD-terrorism threat.
Chapter 1: Threat Perception and the Challenge of WMD-Terrorism: Traditional and Critical Terrorism Studies
The issue of threat perception was first detailed by American academic J. David Singer in his 1958 piece, ‘Threat-Perception and the Armament-Tension Dilemma.’ In this Singer described the notion of perceived threat as being the multiplication of ‘Estimated Capability’ and ‘Estimated Intent’. This model has been remarkably consistent and unchanged since its perception, effective at analysing the intent of other state actors in assessing threat. However, with the terror attacks upon the United States in September 2001, the threat faced by non-state actors accelerated past any state the U.S considered a threat. The debate surrounding the perceived threat of non-state actors and the use of terrorism dominated all forms of national security and international relations study. Often state-funded, the new discipline of terrorism studies became prominent in the political sciences.
Together in examining the relationship between threat perception and terrorism, this chapter will analyse the linkage between weapons of mass destruction and terrorism. Due to the significant damage and loss of life caused by 9/11, terrorist experts and intelligence agencies also began examining the capabilities of a non-state actor employing a WMD. However, according to Critical Terrorism Studies theorists, counter-terrorism strategies and research have largely ignored the intent side of Singer’s threat equation, favouring assumption instead. This thesis will illustrate this in the case of American depictions of the WMD terror threat, with this chapter providing a foundation for examining the construction of security and threat. In the process, the chapter will draw upon CTS literature, focusing on how scholars working in this tradition regard the WMD-terror issue. This chapter will conclude with a discussion concerning discourse analysis and how it will be used to answer the research question of this dissertation.
Singer’s Model of Threat Perception
Within the field of intelligence studies, there is a curiously consistent notion of threat perception. This notion was described and defined in J. David Singer’s 1958 seminal paper ‘Threat Perception and the Armament-Tensions Dilemma’, which provides a definition of threat perception as consisting of the two components of ‘capability’ and ‘intent’. Singer presents the relationship as a ‘quasi-mathematical’ model, that being: Threat Perception = Estimated Capability x Estimated Intent.
Singer was the first to display this concept as an equation for assessing threat, largely introducing this model of threat assessment. Singer’s threat perception equation helped to support a bi-polar, state-based security context in the Cold War. This intentions-capability approach to threat described by Singer has undergone limited modification over the last fifty years, remaining recognisable in its numerous appearances in both declassified intelligence assessment as well as the academic literature on intelligence and security. The end of the Cold War brought the end of a “relatively stable bi-polar world order;” while the post-Cold War security paradigm became increasingly more complex and diffuse in the following decades. However, despite this change, Singer’s model of threat remained. The threat perception equation was consistently used by governments within a Cold War context to assess threats from clearly-defined nation-states, has remained as the only method used in assessing these new threats from non-state actors.
Non-State Terrorism – The Post-Cold War Threat
Prior to the 9/11 attacks in September 2001, the concept of strategic threats to the United States had principally been applied to states and their militaries. Following the attacks on New York and Washington D.C. in 2001, terrorism and non-state actors became the main focus of strategic threat perception. Strategic terrorism has been on the intelligence watch list throughout the 20th century, and the threat of terrorism against a nation state was nothing new. However, Osama bin Laden’s al-Qaeda was the first to use strategic terrorism in a successful large scale strike against a superpower on their soil – to a devastating effect. 9/11 remains the deadliest terrorist attack ever to date, with 2,996 people killed and many more injured. Thus, practically all major political figures globally asserted following 9/11 that terrorism posed a threat to individual safety, social stability, national security and civilisation itself. As U.S President George W. Bush stated on the 20th of September 2001, “There are thousands of these terrorists in more than 60 countries… Terrorism is a threat to our way of life”.
The beginning of the 21st century represents a sizeable shift in the dynamics of global security concerns. It became evident that the capabilities of state and non-state actors have become increasingly similar in regards to weapons, lethality and technological sophistication. In addition, globalisation and the increasingly rapid movement of people, ideas and technology has empowered non-state actors to enact monumental physical and psychological destruction upon nation states. Non-state terrorism is thus unlimited in its power and scope according to most major global political figures and scholars. Marc Sageman noted in 2004,
“A new type of terrorism threatens the world, driven by networks of fanatics determined to inflict maximum civilian and economic damages… Armed with modern technology, they are capable of devastating destruction worldwide”.
This destruction, especially from the 9/11 attacks disrupted political, economic and global stability. This post-Cold War threat of state and non-state security concerns has become increasingly more complex and dangerous for threat perception analysists. This has only become more concerning when the conversation surrounding weapons of mass destruction extends to their use by terrorist organisations.
Weapons of Mass Destruction (WMD)
The destructive nature of weapons of mass destruction or WMDs is a key concern to intelligence agencies, as they consider the potential use of one of these weapons by a terrorist organisation to be of significant threat to the security of the United States. According to Title 18 U.S. Code § 2332b, “”the term ‘weapon of mass destruction’ means:
- any destructive device, (bomb, missile, rocket);
- any weapon that is designed or intended to cause death or serious bodily injury through the release, dissemination, or impact of toxic or poisonous chemicals, or their precursors;
- any weapon involving a biological agent, toxin, or vector;
- any weapon that is designed to release radiation or radioactivity at a level dangerous to human life”.
For this thesis, a WMD will be defined as any weapon aiming to cause maximum destruction with a chemical, biological, radiological or nuclear weapon.
Even prior to the 9/11 attacks in 2001, many governments, intelligence agencies and scholars had anticipated a terrorist attack with an WMD upon the United States as a concerning threat. Gavin Cameron of the Center for Non-proliferation stated in 2000 that due to the public interest in, and fear of the WMD phenomena, “The United States government has spent billions of dollars in an effort to counter the perceived danger”. Since the 9/11 attacks however, concerns surrounding WMD terrorism have consistently increased.  Of the various academics and intelligence agencies committed in countering this threat, they note the 1995 Tokyo Sarin gas attacks by the apocalyptic cult Aum Shinrikyo, the 9/11 attacks, and the 2001 anthrax attacks as evidence of a growing determination by terrorists to use a WMD on American soil to enact maximum civilian casualties. The chemical attack by Aum Shinrikyo for example had vast ramifications globally. National security scholars within the United States were significantly concerned. National-security advisor to President Bush Richard A. Falkenrath wrote of the nation’s vulnerability to an Aum Shinrikyo style attack stating that “…several thousand could perish in a chemical terrorist attack and tens of thousands could meet a similar fate if terrorists used even “unsophisticated” biological weapons”. These of course were only worsened following 2001 anthrax attacks, or Amerithrax. These were a series of attacks upon several news media offices and two Democratic U.S. Senators over several weeks that killed 5 people and injured 17 others. Each sets of letters contained notes with anti-American, anti-Israeli and Islamic extremist rhetoric. The concern shown by the American media, intelligence agencies and government was significant, as it was only a week since the devastating 9/11 attacks. In the following years, as the War on Terror progressed, there remained no one charged with the attacks. Instead, the American media and government routinely blamed al-Qaeda and the Iraqi government for attacking the United States with a chemical weapon. As former Senior Counterterrorism Advisor James Gordon Meek noted, “On October 15, 2001, President Bush said, “There may be some possible link” to Bin Laden, adding, “I wouldn’t put it past him”. Vice President Cheney also said Bin Laden’s henchmen were trained “how to deploy and use these kinds of substances, so you start to piece it all together.”
Constructing the Threat – Securitisation Theory
In approaching the WMD-terrorism threat after 9/11, some theorists argue that the manner in which the United States constructed this threat was consistent with securitisation. The main argument of securitisation theory is that security is a speech act, meaning that by labelling something a security issue it potentially becomes one (if this is supported by a relevant constituency). A key claim of advocates of this approach is that securitised issues do not necessarily represent issues that are essential a state’s survival. Instead, they represent instances whereby a government successfully framed an issue as an existential threat to a relevant audience. The securitised threat therefore becomes an “extreme version of politicization”, as the threat will receive significant coverage and resources after being securitised, potentially enabling emergency or extraordinary responses to that threat. These securitised issues can then be approached swiftly and without the normal democratic rules and regulations of policy-making. Security has no given (pre-existing) meaning but that it can be anything a securitising actor says it is. Security is therefore a social and intersubjective construction. After 9/11, through its representations the United States constructed terrorism as the key existential security threat facing the U.S, in the process focusing on the particular danger of WMD terrorism. To present an issue as an existential threat is to say that: “If we do not tackle this problem, everything else will be irrelevant (because we will not be here or will not be free to deal with it in our own way”. By regarding capability over intent in constructing the WMD-terror threat, the United States could securitise the issue and be unrestricted in their global campaign against the threat.
The anthrax attacks coupled with the September 11 attacks fuelled immense concern within the U.S government, media and general public. Within days of the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror. Within this was a major effort to pre-emptively refute any form of terrorism with a WMD against the United States. Amerithrax caused the government to significantly increase funding for WMD-terrorism research and prevention. It seemed after these two events in 2001, together with Tokyo sarin attack in 1995, that WMD-attacks by terrorist non-state actors were to become more frequent and more deadly. Prime Minister of the United Kingdom Tony Blair perhaps stated one of the more alarming warnings for a WMD-terrorist attack.
“…the possibility, of the two coming together – of terrorist groups in possession of WMD… in my judgement, a real and present danger. And let us recall: what was most shocking about September 11 was… the knowledge that had the terrorist been able to, there would have been not 3,000 innocent dead, but 30,000 or 300,000”.
However, it has become evident in the following years since 2001 that the perception of this threat by the American government and intelligence agencies is flawed. In recent years, an increasing number of academics and scholars have come to question the widespread fear surrounding the WMD-terror threat. The main instance being that since 2001 we have seen the United States regard capability over intent in perceiving the WMD-terror threat. As Washington Post journalist Mark Leibovitch argued: “The nation is being trained to consider terrorism only in its most apocalyptic forms”. Traditional terrorism scholars, focused almost exclusively on the capability component, and have chosen to assume that the intent is to use these weapons no matter the consequences. In addition, questions have been asked concerning whether governments have simply exploited the public fear by emphasising the WMD-threat and its consequences in order to further their own geopolitical interests.
Critical Terrorism Studies
Critical terrorism studies, or (CTS) is a sub-field of terrorism studies. It applies a critical theory approach to the study of terrorism. In addition, CTS seeks to critique the more dominant, traditional forms of counter-terrorism. CTS theorists take issue with the way that the traditional study of terrorism and counter-terror actions by governments have been undertaken in recent history. According to CTS theorist Jeroen Gunning,
“…core epistemological, methodological and political-normative problems persist, ranging from lack of conceptual clarity and theoretical sterility to political bias and a continuing dearth of primary research data”.
Since 9/11, almost all research into terrorism has been sponsored and conducted by state-actors, with many standing to gain politically from the conclusions drawn from such research. CTS aims to address this absence.
According to CTS theorists, this bias stems from the overwhelming state-centricity and ethnocentricity that exists in traditional terrorism studies. Theorists like Richard Jackson argue that since most research on terrorism is undertaken by state-sponsored scholars and experts, there is a disproportionate amount of research articulating those states’ perspectives and experiences on terrorist-related events, especially western-state actors. Together with this, CTS theorists relay the concern that since 2001, the United States and other Western governments have failed to properly consider the nature of intent in perceiving the threat of a WMD terror attack. Rather, they assume that there is a clear intent to use these weapons, and use that as justification in acting upon that perceived threat. In addition, according to the traditional school of terrorism studies, the War on Terror is completely justified if it prevents the horrific consequences that WMD-inspired terrorism might inflict. As President Bush noted in his infamous ‘Mission Accomplished’ speech on-board the USS-Lincoln on the 1st of May 2003, “With the liberation of Iraq and Afghanistan, we have removed allies of al-Qaeda, cut off sources of terrorist funding and made certain that no terrorist network will gain weapons of mass destruction from Saddam Hussein’s regime”. Of course, this was not the case, as the War on Terror has continued to this day.
Methodology – Discourse Analysis
In exploring how the United States constructed the WMD-terror threat and the implications of this construction, this dissertation will employ a discourse analytical methodology. Discourse analysis is a method in sociolinguistic studies that analyses language and rhetoric in political science. Using the power of language was essential to the United States in framing the threat of WMD-terrorism to its people and the world. Thus, a discourse analysis will serve well in understanding how the U.S represented capability over intent since 2001, and in examining the implications of this conceptualisation in policy.
CTS theorist Richard Jackson notes that the entire American counterterror strategy post-2001 is its own political discourse. In the three administrations since 9/11 there has been a deliberate move to compile the complexities terrorism into one simple perception of threat. In addition, through an effective use of language and representation, the United States can deliberately manipulate the public’s anxiety concerning terrorist threats, especially with a WMD. Through harnessing the public’s fear, the United States could justify any pre-emptive strike against a terrorist group it claims will attack the U.S with a WMD. A discourse analysis can help dissect the claims made by American officials, and explain how the WMD-threat was represented by the United States.
This thesis will conduct an analysis of language consistent with post-structuralism, as outlined by theorist Lene Hansen in 2013. Hansen writes that language is relationally structured and ontologically productive and is coupled with a discursive epistemology. This approach can provide an analytical focus on the relational construction of identity. The construction of identity within national security studies has become significantly important post-9/11. The goal of foreign policy discourse is to “create a stable link between representations of identity and the proposed public policy”. In framing the WMD-terror threat, the United States created this link between the identity of terrorist groups and their capabilities and their proposed public policy of the global War on Terror.
This thesis will examine primary sources from key government figures and agencies within the United States. This includes major speeches by President George W. Bush between September 11 2001 and the invasion of Iraq in March 2003. Other works considered will be speeches and addresses from President Barack Obama, President Donald Trump, and laws and regulations released by intelligence and government agencies relating to the WMD-terrorism issue since 2001. Through this examination this dissertation will assess the extent to which the U.S emphasised capability over intent in representing the WMD-terror threat. This thesis will also discuss the analytical work of various CTS theorists in how they perceive the U.S understanding of the issue. The work of Richard Jackson, Susan D. Moeller, Lawrence Freedman and others will provide support to this dissertation’s argument.
The idea of threat perception was popularised within the political science discipline by J. David Singer in 1958. Since then, his calculation of ‘Estimated Capability x Estimated Intent’ has been enclosed throughout the 20th century as a reliable way to calculate perceived threat from state actors. However, with the 9/11 attacks in 2001 debate surrounding terrorism quickly dominated all forms of national security and international relations study. Governments, intelligence agencies, the media and the public became focused on the potential consequences terrorist organisations could inflict upon the Western world. These concerns were amplified when the use of weapons of mass destruction by a terrorist organisation was considered. Since 2001, counter-terrorism literature and government action has been justified on the basis of the potential capabilities of terrorists with a WMD. Aside from its role in enabling a suite of counter-terrorist policy and even international military intervention, this presents many issues in accurately assessing the WMD threat. This is the key claim of those belonging to the Critical Terrorism Studies field: that capability has been considered almost exclusively over intent in perceiving the WMD-terrorist threat. This thesis will examine, through a political discourse analysis, the extent to which the United States has emphasised capability over estimated intent when assessing the threat posed by a WMD-terrorist attack.
Chapter 2: 9/11, the War on Terror and al-Qaeda: Preventing the worst
On the morning of Tuesday, the 11th of September 2001, four passenger airliners operated by United Airlines and American Airlines within the United States were hijacked by 19 al-Qaeda terrorists. Two of the planes were deliberately crashed into the North and South towers of the World Trade Center complex in New York City. Within two hours, both buildings collapsed, destroying all buildings within the World Trade Center complex. At the same time a third plane crashed into the Pentagon in Arlington County, Virginia, leading to a partial collapse of the building’s western side. The fourth plane, initially steered toward Washington, D.C., crashed into a field near Shanksville, Pennsylvania, after its passengers tried to overcome the hijackers. The attacks killed 2,996 people, injured over 6,000 others, and caused at least $10 billion in property and infrastructure damage. This was and is still the deadliest terrorist attack in human history. The attacks generated immense shock and trepidation within the United States and around the world.
This chapter will analyse the initial response by the United States government following the 9/11 attacks. From the beginning and into the first stages of the War on Terror, it became evident that when observing through Singer’s threat perception model, that the U.S was focusing on the capability of a terrorist organisation with a WMD rather than properly considering their intent. This chapter will explore this through examining the initial reactions by the government and the media following the 9/11 attacks and the declaration by President Bush of a ‘War on Terror’. With the shock of the 9/11 attacks as a foundation, the U.S government responded quickly to the attacks by launching an invasion of Afghanistan in October 2001. This was achieved in part by discussing the potentially devastating consequences that a terrorist attack with a WMD would bring upon the United States. This was especially echoed in the media, further helping to justify a retaliation against those deemed responsible. In representing this threat, the intent of the terrorist organisation al-Qaeda to gain weapons of mass destruction was largely assumed in order to enact a swift response in combatting the WMD-terrorism threat.
Initial Reactions to the 9/11 attacks
Media coverage was extensive during the attacks and aftermath, beginning moments after the first plane crashed into the World Trade Center. Footage of the second plane striking the South Tower especially, appeared live across the world through the established rolling news coverage. Reactions to the attacks included condemnation from world leaders, religious representatives and the international media. There was even condemnation from various governments deemed hostile towards the United States, including: North Korea, Iran and Cuba. Worldwide military, spiritual and economic support was offered towards the United States in responding to this attack on its own soil.
The attacks transformed the first term of U.S President George W. Bush, with his approval rating shooting to 90% a week after the attacks. He declared in his address to a joint session of Congress and the nation on the 20th of September 2001 that, “On September the 11th, enemies of freedom committed an act of war against our country…Americans have known surprise attacks, but never before on thousands of civilians. All of this was brought upon us in a single day, and night fell on a different world, a world where freedom itself is under attack”. In this speech, President Bush also declared a ‘War on Terror’.
Declaring the War on Terror – Aims and Objectives
The Bush administration and the West have since used the term ‘War on Terror’ to justify a global military, political, legal, and ideological fight against both terrorist organisations and the regimes that supposedly support them. Although, President Barack Obama stopped officially using the term in 2013, the ‘War on Terror’ has been ongoing since 2001. The ‘War on Terror’ has been fought globally, but with a significant focus on the Greater Middle East, and typically against Islamic extremist terrorist organisations like Al-Qaeda, the Taliban and ISIL. The Authorization For Use Of Military Force in Response to the 9/11 Attacks was signed into law on the 14th of September 2001. This allowed the President of the United States to “use all necessary and appropriate force against those nations, organizations, or persons he determines planned, authorized, committed, or aided the terrorist attacks that occurred on September 11, 2001, or harbored such organizations or persons, to prevent any future acts of international terrorism against the United States by such nations, organizations or individuals…” With this also came to be what was called a ‘War on Terror’. The Bush Administration stated in 2003 their objectives in the ‘War on Terror’ were to:
- Defeat terrorists such as Osama bin Laden, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi and demolish their organizations.
- Identify, locate and demolish terrorists along with their organizations.
- Deny sponsorship, support and sanctuary to terrorists.
- Diminish the underlying conditions that terrorists seek to exploit.
- Defend U.S. citizens and interests at home and abroad.
Noting these objectives, the focus on the capability component of J. David Singer’s model is particularly evident. Each criterion pertains to that side of the threat perception equation. The complex issue of non-state terrorism, even without the consideration of weapons of mass destruction, had been simplified to five core objectives for the United States and allies to achieve in the War on Terror. This oversimplification is a major concern to those critical of orthodox terrorism studies, especially the term ‘War on Terror’ itself. For instance, the term ‘terrorism’ is not a physical enemy that you can engage on the battlefield, but a military and psychological tactic. Linguistics and language analysists have argued that the term is nonsensical, with George Lakoff of the Rockridge Institute arguing that there cannot be a ‘War on Terror’, as the word ‘terror’ is an abstract noun. In this regard, a ‘War on Terror’ is perpetual, “Terror cannot be destroyed by weapons or signing a peace treaty. A war on terror has no end”. Despite the ambiguity surrounding the term itself, the American media and public initially supported the ‘War on Terror’, seeing it as a necessity. As the 9/11 attacks were so devastating and with the fear of another attack perhaps with a WMD at the forefront, the United States sought to quickly react to the terrorist threat. This meant that within the initial stages of the War on Terror, only the potential capabilities of terrorist groups were considered. Through assessing capabilities alone, the United States could compel its people into enacting swift justice against those deemed responsible, that being al-Qaeda stationed in Taliban-controlled Afghanistan. This was achieved through an effective use of political discourse.
Political discourse – How the War on Terror was portrayed
As previously mentioned, the term ‘War on Terror’ is vast and diffuse. CTS theorist Richard Jackson has argued that the term has two corresponding features.
- A set of actual practices, such as: wars, alliances, covert operations, and institutions.
- A series of assumptions, justifications, rhetoric, narratives and beliefs.
The actions and statements of the West made under the guise of a ‘War on Terror’, is its own discourse. President Bush and the American media were quick to announce that the 9/11 attacks was fundamental strike against America’s key values. As Bush stated in an address to the nation the night of September 11,
“These acts shatter steel, but they cannot dent the steel of American resolve. America was targeted for attack because we’re the brightest beacon for freedom and opportunity in the world. And no one will keep that light from shining”.
Patriotic rhetoric dominated the air waves and television screens of the Western world. The Attorney General in the Bush administration John Ashcroft noted the rhetoric used by the government in responding to the attacks. He noted that “…the attacks of September 11 drew a bright line of demarcation between the civil and the savage”. Hence, with the shock and devastation of the attack as a base, the government employed powerful patriotic rhetoric in getting the public on their side regarding the upcoming ‘War on Terror’. Jackson noted the clear characterisations of the two factions, the ‘good American’ and the ‘Evil Islamic terrorist’. In the first few years after 9/11, terrorist groups were often labelled by the government with terms like, barbarians, sick, mad, hateful, inhuman, and, most generally, evil. While the American people and the U.S armed forces were portrayed as, heroic, generous, freedom-loving, and respectful of human rights. The War on Terror was framed as ‘us’ vs. ‘them’. Terrorist organisations were portrayed as irrational and uncompromising. This was essential in justifying the actions taken against these non-state actors, and the nations that supposedly supported them.
Together with patriotic rhetoric, the American government and media especially talked emphasised the fears invoked by terrorism, especially concerning weapons of mass destruction, a representation echoed in the media. It has often been noted that there is a symbiotic relationship between policymakers and the press. This has evidently been the case when discussions over WMD and terrorism are considered. CTS theorist Susan D. Moeller wrote in 2005 concerning the media coverage of the WMD threat. She noted now the government and media worked together to accentuate the capabilities of terrorist groups with a weapon of mass destruction. As she wrote, “Media reporting on the President amplified the administration’s voice: when Bush said to the country that Americans are vulnerable to WMD in the hands of terrorists, the media effectively magnified those fears”. The media helped the government position WMDs and terrorism as an imminent, ‘monolithic’ threat against the United States. They achieved this through effective use of language and rhetoric, and by simplifying the complex characteristics of both terrorism and WMDs. Policy decisions surrounding weapons of mass destruction are often complicated, crossing various military, political and ethical lines both domestically and abroad. However, the administration was able to simplify the issue of WMDs by portraying them as vessels of doom and destruction by those who hate America. Sensationalising the threat of WMD-terrorism was done by heavily focusing on the potential risks of an attack. If the media was not already prone to exaggerating any potential consequences, the government certainly helped in embellishing the fears of a WMD-terrorist attack. Throughout his tenure as President, Bush set the tone for an apocalyptic approach to the WMD issue. He maintained that weapons of mass destruction made up an integral part of the global terrorism matrix, especially in regard to the 2003 War in Iraq.
“The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfil their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other”.
This ‘apocalyptic’ rhetoric by President Bush urged the media and the public to back any action by the government to destroy the capabilities of these groups.
In focusing on the capabilities of WMD-terrorism, there was little room for discussion about other government polices being passed at the time. As Susan Moeller states, WMDs within the government and media became a ‘Trojan Horse’, “The public is so apprehensive of the big horse in its midst, that it doesn’t notice all the policies that slip through, unawares, while attention is focused on the spectacular issue”. The Bush administration following 9/11 sought to enact legalisation and action as quickly as possible. The way to accomplish this was by focusing on the potential consequences of a WMD attack, of which the media overwhelmingly broadcasted to the greater public. This was successful as the memory of the 9/11 attacks were so fresh, and that there was an immense urgency to take revenge on who committed that devastating crime. The easiest and most efficient way to react against these non-state actors was to amplify the issue by focusing on capability, and assuming that they would use these weapons upon the West if only given the opportunity.
Al-Qaeda and WMDs – An Impending Disaster
It was quickly asserted that al-Qaeda was the group responsible for the attacks in September 2001. Through securitisation theory, al-Qaeda and its leadership became the most dangerous and serious threat against the United States. Retaliation against them was required immediately, especially if they came to possession of a weapon of mass destruction.
Al-Qaeda is a militant Sunni Islamist multi-national organisation founded in 1988 from the Sunni mujahedeen fighting against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan. Their ideology is based on the Islamic revival teachings of Islamic author and thinker Sayyid Qutb, called Qutbism. During the 1950s, Qutb preached that due to the growing influence of the West over the Islamic nations of the Middle East, and a lack of ‘sharia law’ within these nations, the Muslim world had reverted to a ‘pre-Islamic ignorance’. He stated that Muslim nations should become, “”…true Islamic states”, implement sharia, and rid the Muslim world of any non-Muslim influences, such as concepts like socialism and nationalism”. They saw the West and the United States as corrupting Islam, and that there is a Christian-Jewish conspiracy to destroy the Islamic world.
Despite initially denying involvement, al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden acknowledged in a taped declaration that al-Qaeda had orchestrated the attacks upon the United States. He stated,
“I say to you, Allah knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers. But after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American/Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon, it came to my mind”.
Al-Qaeda had been a national security concern for the United States throughout the 1990s, especially following the bombing of the World Trade Center in 1993 and the 1998 attacks on the American embassies in Nairobi, Kenya and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Of course, following September 11, Osama bin Laden and al-Qaeda became the most wanted group in the world. With this, they also became the most dangerous, as allegations quickly surfaced detailing their desire to gain weapons of mass destruction.
Many traditional terrorist scholars have argued that it was always al-Qaeda’s intention to gain weapons of mass destruction to use in an attack. American political scientist Rolf Mowatt-Larssen argued that Osama bin-Laden in 1998 stated that it was his “Islamic duty” to acquire weapons of mass destruction. These assertions by bin-Laden, together with the devastation brought about by the 9/11 attacks, were used as evidence by the United States that an al-Qaeda attack with WMD was not only to be feared, but to be expected. That this was their intent. Lawrence Freedman discussed the American perception of the threat following 9/11, “If al-Qaeda acquired the capability it would use it, and so the United States had to be ready to act before such a tragedy could be inflicted upon it”. Al-Qaeda would actively acquire and use weapons of mass destruction with no fear of the consequences. This lack of the fear of reprisal stems from the adoption of suicide attacks in enacting a strike against a target. The concept of suicide terrorism is that the attacker feels no restraint in preserving their own life, thus for the terrorist organisation there is essentially no reason to show restraint in the perpetration of violence. Following 9/11, al-Qaeda took the weapon of suicide and made it its trademark, as bin-Laden said himself, “I do not fear death. On the contrary, I desire the death of a martyr. My martyrdom would lead to the birth of thousands of Osamas”. The notion that the attacker loves death more than the targets enjoy live is a terrifying weapon of psychological warfare, and is even more concerning if said attacker was to use a weapon of mass destruction.
Due to the devastating consequences a WMD could have upon a target, many traditional terrorist theorists have stated that these weapons could be used by terrorists to bring about the ‘apocalypse’. Israeli terrorism expert Reuven Paz noted that bringing about the apocalypse is a key component of the ‘Jihadi-Salafi discourse’, and that it one of the “discursive innovations that followed the September 11 attacks”. This notion was upheld by orthodox terrorisms studies as the motive of groups like al-Qaeda in gaining WMDs for an attack. Hence, no matter the cost, al-Qaeda terrorists were willing to give their lives in a WMD-style attack, in order to bring about an apocalypse against the ‘non-believers’. This was their intent according to the head counter-terror theorists within the United States.
Misinterpreting Intent – The Critical Terrorism Studies Perspective
Critical Terrorism Studies argue that despite their radical discourse, terrorist organisations are actually more rational than given credit for. Richard Jackson argues that these groups think carefully about the consequences of their actions, especially in regards to the weapons that they choose. Despite being a terrorist organisation, these groups also understand like a nation-state, that WMDs are taboo weapons that carry significant risks of retaliation if not used carefully. They also recognise that by actively pursuing or using these weapons that they may undermine the political support and sympathy that these groups often depend on. So it can be argued that al-Qaeda may not be as keen in pursuing weapons of mass destruction as the United States stated that they were.
Following the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush declared a War on Terror that sought to destroy terrorist organisations and their support networks. In the initial months following the September 11 attacks, the Bush Administration constructed the terror threat and framed it with an effective political discourse. They argued that terrorist organisations like al-Qaeda were irrational, evil actors that sought to undermine America’s core values. They also argued that groups like al-Qaeda had the capabilities to seek, acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in an attack, making it a top national security priority. Through emphasising the capabilities and consequences of WMD-terrorism so soon after 9/11, the Bush administration were able to quickly depose the anti-American Taliban in Afghanistan, and pass numerous bills and laws that would have been difficult to achieve without the fears of WMD-terrorism present in the general public. In favouring estimated capability over intent in their initial analysis, the United States failed to consider that terrorist organisations may be rational actors that think carefully of the consequences of their actions. This trend of regarding capability over intent in perceiving the WMD-terrorism threat only increased in the years following 2001.
Chapter 3: ‘Enemies of America’ – Combating state sponsorship of WMD-terrorism.
During the War on Terror, the United States and traditional terrorism studies academics also sought to prevent the state-sponsorship of non-state terrorist actors. This was an essential component in preventing groups like al-Qaeda gaining access to weapons of mass destruction. If these groups could not ascertain these weapons themselves, it was presumed that they would seek to acquire these weapons from a nation-state. Once again, in analysing this threat of a state supplying a WMD to a terrorist group, the United States chose to focus on the capabilities of these actors rather than properly investigating the intent. This chapter will determine how through a detailed examination of the rationale for the Invasion of Iraq in March 2003. The rationale came down to two main points:
- That Saddam Hussein was harbouring and aiding terrorist organisations, namely al-Qaeda.
- That Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction, and that they would supply these weapons to non-state actors to use in an attack against the West.
Through examining the discourse offered by the Bush administration, this chapter will explain to what extent the United States favoured capability over estimated intent in perceiving the WMD-terror threat. This chapter will also examine the critical terrorism studies approach to the issue and the criticism they offer regarding Bush’s reasoning behind Operation Iraqi Freedom.
Saddam’s Iraq – WMDs and Supposed Links to Terrorist groups
Immediately after the 9/11 attacks, links were drawn by the U.S that President Saddam Hussein assisted al-Qaeda in conducting the attacks. Vice President Dick Cheney told ‘Meet the Press’ on the 9th of December 2001 that, “…the evidence is pretty conclusive that the Iraqis have indeed harbored terrorists; and that Hussein was harbouring Abdul Rahman Yasin, a suspect in the 1993 World Trade Center bombing”. These accusations represent a long-lasting disdain for Saddam Hussein’s Iraq by the United States, one that had lasted over 20 years. The United States officially broke off ties with Iraq following the Persian Gulf War in 1991. Economic sanctions were also placed on Iraq by the United Nations Security Council following the conflict, these sanctions lasted until Hussein was deposed in 2003. These sanctions were placed on Iraq as a response to its illegal invasion of Kuwait, to pay reparations, and to disclose and eliminate any weapons of mass destruction that Iraq possessed. After the Gulf War, the United Nations discovered and destroyed vast quantities of WMDs and WMD facilities within Iraq, by 1999, UN Weapons Inspector Scott Ritter had stated that, “Iraq today (1999) possesses no meaningful weapons of mass destruction capability”. However, after the 9/11 attacks, this fact came under scrutiny by the United States, who claimed that Hussein had restarted his WMD-development program.
The rationale for a future invasion of Iraq was detailed in a declaration by a Joint Session of U.S Congress in October 2002 named the ‘Iraq Resolution’. The U.S government within this declaration illustrated the reasons why Saddam Hussein’s government needed to be removed.
“This is a regime that developed and used weapons of mass destruction, that harbored and supported terrorists, committed outrageous human rights abuses, and defied the just demands of the United Nations and the world”.
Thus, state support and sponsorship of terrorism was a major concern to the United States, especially if they thought these states were supplying WMDs or knowledge to non-state actors. In the build-up to the war in Iraq, the White House tasked intelligence services, scholars and the media to reveal all links between Saddam Hussein’s government and al-Qaeda, especially if Hussein had or had planned to provide al-Qaeda with WMDs. The Bush administration believed that a WMD-armed Iraq with a partnership or link with al-Qaeda represented a monumental threat to the security of the United States and the world. Again, as will be explained further in this chapter, the United States chose to focus on the capabilities of a state-sponsored terrorist group with a WMD, rather than properly investigating whether Saddam’s Iraq would supply a WMD to a terrorist organisation. Bush’s rhetoric within his address to the nation concerning the U.S invasion of Iraq in March 2003 reaffirms this notion.
“The regime has a history of reckless aggression in the Middle East. It has a deep hatred of America and our friends. And it has aided, trained and harbored terrorists, including operatives of al Qaeda.
The danger is clear: using chemical, biological or, one day, nuclear weapons, obtained with the help of Iraq, the terrorists could fulfil their stated ambitions and kill thousands or hundreds of thousands of innocent people in our country, or any other”.
As seen in Chapter 2, there was strong use of patriotic rhetoric. This was used heavily by the administration in order to argue to the American public that the War in Iraq was justified. In “Selling the Threat” the U.S government has not needed to rely on advice from intelligence services, instead favouring capability over intent through political discourse. Through this the U.S government could argue that the invasion is warranted as a preventative measure. The connection between Saddam’s Ba’athist Iraq, weapons of mass destruction and al-Qaeda was framed as a supreme concern that needed to be eliminated urgently. President Bush and his Secretary of Defence Donald Rumsfeld engrained the three concerns into one ‘triple threat’, that was extended to the public by the media. It was not that the media were oblivious to the sales job sold by the White House, it was more that journalists rarely challenged the claims made by politicians as they were caught up in securing the ‘breaking news story’ and covering the horse-race politics.
In the lead up to the invasion, Bush demonstrated to the public the immense urgency needed by the U.S in dealing with Iraq. The danger posed to the United States was classified as an immediate threat. As he was quoted in the ‘New York Times’, “President Bush declared tonight that Saddam Hussein could attack the United States or its allies “on any given day” with chemical or biological weapons… “we have an urgent duty to prevent the worst from occurring”. Bush also used the technique of comparison in convincing the public that the threat was as serious as he claimed. Within the same ‘New York Times’ article, President Bush compared the threat posed by Iraq with the threat posed by Cuba during the 1962 Cuban Missile Crisis. As the Cuban crisis was 40 years previous the date of his declaration, Bush’s comparison was deliberate. This was done in order to give the situation a sense of urgency and to explain why the United States had to act immediately. The capabilities of these groups were too great to ignore.
Framing the Case Against Iraq – Language Use and Definitions.
Together with the concern surrounding WMDs, the U.S government compiled the anti-American Iraqi regime together with al-Qaeda under the one threat. The Bush-appointed Republican senator from South Dakota John Thune demonstrated how the government summed up the complex nature of these issues in one simple statement, “Al Qaeda terrorists. Saddam Hussein. Enemies of America… are working to obtain nuclear weapons… Now more than ever”. Painting both the state of Iraq and al-Qaeda under the same “Enemies of America” brushstroke was an effective tactic used by the government. With this, as “Enemies of America”, these groups are all referred to by the government and media as ‘terrorists’. As President Bush controversially remarked in November 2001, “You’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists”. The three complex issues of Iraq, WMDs and al-Qaeda had been compressed into one simple ‘us versus them’ predicament. This made accusing the Iraqi government of harbouring or aiding al-Qaeda terrorists easier, especially without any definitive proof.
Bush’s language use in the various speeches he made up to the invasion of Iraq was done in order to shape the public’s perspectives regarding the ‘triple-threat’ issue. As political scientist Donald Kinder stated, “Frames seek to capture the essence of an issue. They define what the problem is and how to think about it; often they suggest what, if anything, should be done to remedy it”. By framing the issues under the one banner of ‘terrorism’, the Bush administration was able to convey a powerful and convincing argument against Iraq in a country still scarred by the impact of September 11.
Following 2001, being accused as a ‘terrorist’ made any group or government guilty by default. Such was the power of the word. The term ‘terrorism’ itself is incredibly subjective, with not one single definition, as the famous aphorism stated, “One man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter”. However, within Western scholarly circles, and especially since 9/11, terrorism has become a pejorative term with one definition, as “evil” and “criminal”. As Canadian academic Martin Rudner regarded the famous saying mentioned above, “…It assesses the validity of the cause when terrorism is an act. One can have a perfectly beautiful cause and yet if one commits terrorist acts, it is terrorism regardless”. In this case, the labelling of one’s group as ‘terrorist’ compared to a ‘freedom fighter’ has to do with the United States’ international interests. For example, when the Afghan mujahedeen where fighting the Soviet Union in Afghanistan, President Ronald Reagan regarded them as “freedom fighters against Communism” and funded their efforts. However, when that same group began to fight what they saw was American interference in their lands, they were branded as “terrorists”. In this regard, it does not matter what a terrorist organisation’s actual intentions might be, if they are an enemy of the United States, their intent is inherently evil. In addition, they will partner with any like minded state to realise their aims. Saddam Hussein’s Iraq and al-Qaeda had both expressed anti-American rhetoric and action, thus, as ‘enemies of America’ they were inherently indistinguishable. Furthermore, “terrorists” and “terrorist states” have the same aspirations to use WMDs and therefore must be dealt with in the same manner.
By using the term ‘terrorism’ as a blanket term, the Bush administration successfully framed the War in Iraq as a justifiable extension of its response to September 11 and the War on Terror. Despite there not being any solid proof that al-Qaeda and the state of Iraq were collaborating, President Bush consistently spoke of al-Qaeda, terrorism and Iraq many times within the same speech, allowing the media and public to make their own assessments. Scholars Amy Gershkoff and Shana Kushner analysed Bush’s speeches from September 12, 2002 to May 2003, and noticed that,
“Of the 13 speeches given in this period, 12 referenced terror and Iraq in the same paragraph and 10 placed them within the same sentence. In 4 speeches, a discussion of terrorism preceded the first mention of Iraq, giving the impression that Iraq was a logical extension of the terrorism discussion”.
This process by President Bush was highly effective, as the media reflected the administration’s message. The mainstream media favoured a pro-war stance in the majority of its reporting. In 2003, a study released by ‘Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting’ stated that up to “64% of total sources were in favor of the Iraq War while total anti-war sources made up 10% of the media (with only 3% of those sources being U.S based).” Scholars from the University of Maryland analysed American public opinion concerning the invasion of Iraq, its prelude and its aftermath. They found that:
- In February 2003, 58% of Americans that approved of the war believed that Iraq was directly involved or had assisted al-Qaeda in the September 11 attacks. Post invasion this figure declined to 48%.
- From May to September 2003, 73% of those surveyed believed that the United States had indeed found weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. While 64% believed that Iraq had actually used chemical weapons up to that point in the war.
- Prior to the war, 81% believed that the world agreed with the American decision to go to war, with this figure declining to 77% in the months following the invasion.
These figures indicate how effective the rhetoric of the media and government was in convincing the American public that the war in Iraq was necessary in safeguarding American national security. The government and media, “led with the risks” in describing the capabilities and consequences of an Iraqi-backed al-Qaeda attack with a WMD. Any arguments concerning the estimated intent of Iraq or al-Qaeda in working together or using WMDs was limited to assumptions. It was the belief of the government, and then projected through the media to the public, that these groups were aspiring to inflict a 9/11 style attack with a weapon of mass destruction. As Bush regarded, “The attacks of September 11, 2001 showed what the enemies of America did with four airplanes. We will not wait to see what terrorists or terror states could do with weapons of mass destruction”. As the Iraqi conflict carried on over the next few years however, it became evident that there were several misconceptions and misappropriations of the evidence that justified the war. Critical Terrorism Studies theorists assert that by not properly assessing intent within the threat perception equation, the U.S embarked on this pre-emptive war not to stop an impending disaster as it claimed, but for its own geopolitical interests.
Opposition to the War – Challenging the Rationale.
The American preference of capability over intent in their perception of the WMD threat is evident in the response by critics. Many scholars disputed the legitimacy of the Bush administration’s claims for going to war. President of the Council of Foreign Relations Richard N. Haass argued that the ‘triple threat’ posed against the United States was at best a “gathering threat rather than an imminent threat” as they described. He wrote, “The decision to attack Iraq in March 2003 was discretionary: it was a war of choice”. However, the United States government maintained throughout the first years of the war that the threat was indeed imminent. The two points that were used as the rationale for the United States was the link between Ba’athist Iraq and al-Qaeda; and the concern that Iraq possessed weapons of mass destruction. This caused the United States to base their decision primarily to prevent any potential consequences from this ‘triple threat’. Critical terrorism studies theorists argue that the war against Iraq was illegal and unjustified, and that their information gathered as evidence for their war was misconstrued or simply fabricated. This would have all been avoided if the United States studied the actual intent of those it deemed ‘enemies of America’. Critics of the Iraqi War argue that Iraq had nothing to do with the September 11 attacks, and that there were no links between the state and al-Qaeda due primarily to ideological differences. In addition, it became clear that there were no weapons of mass destruction present within Iraq in the months following the invasion. Together with this is the argument that anti-American regimes like Saddam’s Iraq are not as willing to produce or provide WMDs to non-state actors as claimed; as the risks of them losing control of the situation is too great. The Bush administration took advantage of the fear incited by the potential capability of this ‘triple threat’ in order to securitise the issue and increase U.S hegemony in the region. Thus, in analysing the criticism of Bush’s rationale in invading Iraq, it can be asserted that they emphasised capability over intent to a significant extent.
Scepticism of the Link – Did Saddam and bin Laden really work together?
As noted previously in this chapter, it was strongly believed by the American public that Saddam Hussein was working closely with al-Qaeda in a WMD plot against the United States. However, evidence provided by CTS theorists indicate that this was never the case. The primary reasoning behind this argument is that Saddam’s Ba’athist Iraq and Osama’s Sunni extremist al-Qaeda had significantly differing ideologies. This made the two groups adversaries rather than allies, despite both groups being anti-American/Western. This fact was overlooked by the Bush administration in favour of presenting the two as part of this monolithic threat against the West, justifying the invasion of Iraq.
The ruling party in Iraq from 1986 to 2003 was the Ba’ath Party. It was based on the ideology of Ba’athism; which contained the principles of Arab nationalism, Arab socialism and secularism. Ba’athists believed in pan-Arabism, whereby all Arab nations would combine into one Arab state. This was reflected by the Iraqi Ba’ath Party’s key slogans, which were “A single Arab nation with an eternal message” and “Unity, freedom, socialism”. In addition, Ba’athism is a secular movement, therefore putting it at odds with the Sunni extremist ideology of al-Qaeda. Following the Gulf War and during the Ba’ath’s party’s ‘Return to Faith Campaign’, whereby Saddam sought to re-introduce an ‘Islamic identity’ to the people of Iraq; al-Qaeda leader Osama bin Laden continued to heavily criticise the Ba’athist movement and Saddam Hussein. As he stated to his biographer Hamid Mir in 1997, “The land of the Arab world, the land is like a mother, and Saddam Hussein is fucking his mother”. He also explained that, “Saddam Hussein is against us, and he discourages Iraqi boys to come to Afghanistan to fight with us”.
It was also quickly refuted that Saddam Hussein had anything to do with the September 11 attacks and that Iraq was not the main state sponsor of terrorist organisations. CTS theorist Robert Pape asserted this point,
“al-Qaeda’s transnational suicide terrorists have come overwhelmingly from America’s closest allies in the Muslim world and not at all from the Muslim regimes that the U.S. State Department considers ‘state sponsors of terrorism’”.
Al-Qaeda in 2001 was based in Afghanistan, with the 9/11 attackers being based from a cell in Hamburg, Germany. Of the 19 hijackers: 15 were citizens of Saudi Arabia; two from the United Arab Emirates; and one each from Egypt and Lebanon. None came from any nation deemed a sponsor of terrorism by President Bush in his ‘Axis of Evil’ declaration in January 2002, those nations being Iraq, Iran and North Korea. Further discrediting Bush’s claim were the conclusions made by various intelligence agencies into the link. The National Security Council, CIA, FBI, and 9/11 Commission itself, all concluded that there was no collaboration in any way between Saddam Hussein and al-Qaeda. The limited intelligence the Bush government used was a series of conversations noted by U.S intelligence between members of Saddam’s government and al-Qaeda throughout the previous two decades. However, as noted by former counterterrorism czar Richard A. Clarke, who wrote,
“…the simple fact is that lots of people, particularly in the Middle East, pass along many rumors and they end up being recorded and filed by U.S. intelligence agencies in raw reports. That does not make them ‘intelligence’. Intelligence involves analysis of raw reports, not merely their enumeration or weighing them by the pound”.
Therefore, it seems highly unlikely that Saddam Hussein and Osama bin Laden collaborated against the United States, because their ideologies ultimately disagreed with each other. This means that the government’s claim that justified the war against Iraq was based on false pretences. It became clear that Iraq had nothing to do with the rise of al-Qaeda or the September 11 attacks. Those critical of the United States’ approach to the ‘War on Terror’ argue that Bush manipulated the public’s opinion regarding Iraq through a style of ‘apocalyptic discourse’. The use of language was successful in framing the issue of consequence and capability over any consideration of intent. As noted by CTS theorists, the United States argued the language of capability to compel the public that the war was justified, when in fact it was the direct opposite. Hence, the language of consequence regarding the false Iraq-al-Qaeda connection was emphasised in order to eliminate Saddam and secure Iraq for the United States.
Faulty Intelligence, or a False Claim? WMDs Not Found in Iraq.
A heavily disputed claim in Bush’s rationale is that Saddam possessed weapons of mass destruction in Iraq. This was judged as being a justifiable reason to go to war as these weapons represented an imminent threat against the United States. However, it became clear after the invasion that the WMD threat Iraq posed was exaggerated, as no weapons of mass destruction were found. In fact, not only were no weapons found, the multinational Iraq Survey Group (ISG) found after extensive research in 2004 that:
“While a small number of old, abandoned chemical munitions have been discovered, ISG judges that Iraq unilaterally destroyed its undeclared chemical weapons stockpile in 1991. There are no credible indications that Baghdad resumed production of chemical munitions thereafter…”.
President George W. Bush conceded on the 18th of December 2005 that “much of the intelligence turned out to be wrong”.
The media was quick to turn on the government when it became clear post-invasion that the WMD claim was false. Even acknowledging their failure to question the government’s claims, as the ‘New York Times’ regarded in 2004, “we wish we had been more aggressive in re-examining the claims as new evidence emerged — or failed to emerge”. Intelligence agencies were quickly blamed for providing faulty intelligence, and thus misleading the media and their audience. However, as was noted in Susan D. Moeller’s text in 2005, the media did not examine whether “the White House deliberately misrepresented the intelligence collected”. Moeller notes ‘New York Times’ columnist Paul Krugman concerning this point. He wrote, “The failure to find WMDs has been described as an ‘intelligence failure,’ but this ignores the fact that intense pressure was placed on intelligence agencies to tell the Bush and Blair administrations what they wanted to hear”. This argument was confirmed within a series of leaked documents known as the ‘Downing Street Memo’, which was a summary of meetings between British defence and intelligence officials. The ‘Downing Street Memo’ detailed the head of the Secret Intelligence Service (MI6) retelling President Bush’s intention to invade Iraq through the pretexts of terrorism-links and WMDs, and how the administration planned to “fix intelligence and facts around the policy to suit it”. This evidence suggests that the Bush administration exaggerated the WMD threat in Iraq in order to justify an invasion as intelligence agencies could not acquire sufficient evidence to support their claim. This was because Saddam Hussein obliged the demands of the United Nations following the Gulf War by dismantling his WMD program.
Iraq’s disposal of its WMD program during the 1990s supports the notion put forward by CTS theorists regarding state actors providing WMDs to terrorist groups. Richard Jackson argued in 2011 that nation states do not have the intent to provide these weapons to terrorist organisations for several reasons. He states, “…rogue states are very unlikely to provide WMD to terrorist groups because the risks of losing control of the situation is too high”. This makes sense when the relationship between bin Laden and Saddam Hussein is considered. Their respective organisations did not agree with each other as stated earlier in this chapter. Hence, as Jackson continued in saying, “The risk… that the weapons might be used against the contributing state itself, are simply too great for the leaders of such states to contemplate”. CTS argues that the ‘triple threat’ as described by the Bush administration does not exist at all when intent is considered in the calculation of this threat. As is consistent with American foreign policy under Bush, intent is assumed, while capability and consequence dominates the political rhetoric.
In framing the case against Iraq, the United States government and media collaborated to create this idea of a ‘triple threat’. This ‘triple threat’ combined the concerns surrounding al-Qaeda, Saddam’s Iraq and weapons of mass destruction into one monolithic danger that needed to be countered immediately. The pre-emptive strike against Iraq in 2003 reaffirms the notion that the United States heavily favoured talking about the capabilities and consequences of state sponsored WMD-terrorism over analysing the intent of the parties involved. Those critical of the War on Terror and President Bush’s foreign policy in general argue that by only assuming the intent of their enemies, the United States failed to properly justify the invasion of Iraq. This point was reinforced when the claims justifying the conflict came out to be faulty and in some cases completely untrue. By primarily focusing on the capabilities of this ‘triple threat’ the United States was able to depose of an anti-American dictator and secure Iraq as a strategic and economic prize for the American global interest.
Chapter 4: Obama’s America, Rise of ISIL and the Future – New Language, Same Objective.
With the election of President Barack Obama on the 4th of November 2008, came the hope for change regarding the very unpopular ‘War on Terror’ and war in Iraq. President Obama promised a different approach to the War on Terror, and to swiftly remove American forces from Iraq, and eventually Afghanistan. However, much criticism has been placed on Obama’s ‘new approach’. Critics state that although he championed an anti-war style of rhetoric and forbade using the term ‘War on Terror’; Obama largely continued the basic objectives of Bush’s counterterror doctrine. This chapter will assess how Obama’s discourse was realised in America’s new War on Terror, and how it also reflected a discourse on capability over intent in perceiving the WMD-terror threat. This chapter will also discuss the rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL) and how they have been represented as a threat by the U.S government. Seeing as this terrorist organisation has reportedly used chemical weapons in attacks, the United States government has been severely concerned about a potential ISIL-inspired attack upon a Western target with a WMD. This chapter will conclude with an examination of what has been seen under President Donald Trump regarding the topic, and what can be expected of his administration in representing the WMD-terror threat.
Overseas Contingency Operation – Obama’s Change of Discourse
Barack Obama won the 2008 election with a series of promises that gave hope to many anxious and frustrated Americans. With the 2008 global economic crisis, and two costly wars in Iraq and Afghanistan as context, Obama gave his campaign slogan ―”change has come” and hoped to rebuild the confidence and beliefs of Americans. Obama voted against American involvement in Iraq in 2002, while his opponent for the Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton voted ‘YES’. While Clinton argued that Bush misled Congress causing her to vote ‘Yes’, Obama was vocal against the war from the outset, stating, “I don’t oppose all wars. What I am opposed to is a dumb war. What I am opposed to is a rash war”. Obama continued his anti-war rhetoric throughout the presidential campaign and the beginning of his presidency.
In addition, towards the end of this campaign, Presidential candidate Obama remarked in a speech his five key foreign policy objectives:
- “ending the war in Iraq responsibly
- finishing the fight against al Qaeda and the Taliban
- securing all nuclear weapons and materials from terrorists and rogue states
- achieving true energy security
- and rebuilding our alliances to meet the challenges of the 21st century.”
Soon after his inauguration on the 20th of January 2009, Obama called upon the White House, military and intelligence agencies to cease using the term ‘War on Terror’ when describing U.S counterterrorism strategies. Instead, he officially changed the term to “Overseas Contingency Operation”. Within this Obama sought to alter how the American struggle against terrorism was seen. For him, terrorist groups like al-Qaeda are lawless organisations that do not operate under any constitution or rule of law. This reflects the ‘Democratic’ understanding of non-state terrorism in American political discourse. Democrats interpret the issue of combatting terrorism in the context of the justice system. Terrorism is a criminal act that is best dealt with police enforcement and the judicial system. This differs to the ‘Republican’ that was experienced under Bush. Republicans depict the fight against terrorism in a Manichean style of logic. This means a battle between ‘good’ versus ‘evil’, with the United States being ‘good’ and terrorism being ‘evil.’ Bush also treated this war as a way to reinforce the global order America has helped to construct over the past seventy-five years. In taking over the precedency in 2009, Obama combined the two rhetorical positions in handling the ‘War on Terror’. He aligned his predecessor’s neo-conservative labelling of terrorists as ‘inherently evil’ with his own interpretation of the ‘rule of law’. This was emphasised in his address to the Group of Eight in July 2009 where he stated, “The main goal of terrorists is not only to spread fear and sow the seeds of instability, but also to undermine the basic values of our societies”. Like his predecessor, President Obama spoke consistency about the ‘fear’ that terrorists invoke in their attacks. In addition, he also used the fear resulting from the consequences of a terror attack with a weapon of mass destruction in his discourse.
“…this matters to people everywhere. One nuclear weapon exploded in one city… it could kill hundreds of thousands of people. And no matter where it happens, there is no end to what the consequences might be for our global safety, our security, our society, our economy, to our ultimate survival”.
Hence, despite his change of approach, President Obama continued the preference of capability over intent in representing the WMD-terror threat. Even though Obama seriously criticised the policies of the Bush administration within the war on terrorism framework, he has not abandoned this vision. To do so would completely go against the United States’ opinion of its role in the world, that being the global leaders. 9/11 shattered the illusion of American hegemony, and under Bush they were desperate to re-establish that. It was within Obama’s vision to continue this. As James L. Lindsay stated, “For all the differences between Bush and Obama… the two shared a common trait: a conviction that other countries both wanted and needed US leadership”.
Obama and WMD-terrorism – “No Greater Threat to the American People”
Despite inheriting a war that had failed to locate weapons of mass destruction that were being supplied to terrorists by a nation state, President Obama still recognised the emotive power of weapons of mass destruction in the public and political discourse. He named the prevention of WMD-terrorism one of the ‘Five Pillars’ of his approach to U.S foreign policy. Obama remarked in June 2010, “we have to protect ourselves against the full range of threats — from a terrorist network bent on striking our homeland, to nations and violent extremists seeking weapons of mass destruction”. Obama’s concern was reciprocated by the 2010 ‘National Security Strategy’ which declared that, “there is no greater threat to the American people than the proliferation of WMD, particularly by non-state actors”. In 2012, the United States government provided an additional $834.8 million USD towards various government groups all aiming to prevent WMD-terrorism in any forms. Thus, in this regard, Obama increased the focus on combatting WMD-terrorism rather than decreasing it as was alluded to in his campaign promises. This was because, according to traditional terrorism scholars, the threat posed by non-state actors and a potential WMD was significantly more dangerous at the turn of the decade than there was on 9/11. Notable academic Graham T. Allison argued in a piece on September 11th 2008, “I would say there is a greater risk of a nuclear terrorist attack upon the US today than there was on 9/11”… The U.S State Department in its ‘Country Reports on Terrorism in 2009’ listed the pursuit by al-Qaeda for weapons of mass destruction as the central concern. With the increasingly globalising world and the expediential progression of modern technology, the threat had become worryingly urgent.
“The diffusion of scientific and technical information regarding the assembly of nuclear weapons, some of which is now available on the Internet”.
In preventing a WMD-terror attack, the United States under Barack Obama focused heavily on reducing the amount of WMD internationally. Most specifically nuclear weapons. “Indeed, since the end of the Cold War, the risk of a nuclear attack has increased. Excessive Cold War stockpiles remain…Terrorists are determined to buy, build, or steal a nuclear weapon”. In preventing WMDs from falling into the hands of terrorists, the Obama administration sought to reinforce the ‘Nuclear Non-proliferation Treaty’ or NPT, curtail ‘rogue WMD nations’ like North Korea and Iran, and aim to secure all loose nuclear weapons and materials in the next four years. Key to these aims was working with Russia. Many of the ‘loose weapons and materials’ are located in former Soviet Union territories and within Russia itself. It was thought that al-Qaeda could gain a nuclear weapon or materials from these former Soviet weapons that had been lost in the post-Cold War chaos; especially around its base of operations in Central Asia. Here we see a change of discourse and action from Obama compared to his predecessor. President Bush championed a unilateral, confrontational approach, expressed through his infamous line, “You’re either with us or you are with the terrorists”. Obama instead emphasised negotiation and collaboration with other nation states in preventing WMD-terrorism, namely Russia. By being less confrontational than Bush and pursuing more subtle means, Obama has endorsed a style of foreign policy and counterterrorism called ‘shadowboxing’. This is where boxers spar with imaginary opponents in preparation for the real fight. Through this analogy, President Obama has attacked covert threats but rarely responds to visible or viable threats. This forms a major criticism of Obama’s foreign policy and will be further elaborated upon in this chapter.
As continuing with the rhetoric of the Bush administration, counter-terrorism legislatures and scholars argued the issue of consequence as the most pressing concern. Graham Allison continued his projection by issuing a grim warning, “When I think of nuclear terrorism, I think of a nuclear mushroom cloud enveloping an American city or some other great city of the world, devastating its heart”. Apocalyptic rhetoric was always common of the United States when depicting the WMD-threat to its audience. This was another element of Bush’s doctrine that Obama continued under his presidency. However, Obama was not met with nearly as much cynicism from intelligence agencies as Bush was. These groups were also convinced of the accelerating threat; contrasting their opinions regarding Bush’s rationale for the invasion of Iraq. For example, ‘The Report of the Commission on the Prevention of WMD Proliferation and Terrorism’ argued strongly in 2008 that if the international community does not act urgently in curtailing the WMD-threat, “…it is more than likely that a weapon of mass destruction will be used in a terrorist attack somewhere in the world by the end of 2013”.
Same objectives, Different method – Criticisms of Obama’s Foreign Policy
To this date there has not being a WMD terror attack by a non-state actor anywhere in the world. Although it can never be discounted, CTS theorists argue that the United States has embellished the threat to such an extent that it seemed like a strike was imminent. This CTS theorists argue that Obama largely continued the “imperialistic policies of the Bush doctrine,’ just under different means. As Obama was deeply critical of President Bush’s approach to the ‘War on Terror’, it seemed that he was contradicting his election rhetoric by accelerating and expanding the fight against WMD-terrorism. He did this by changing the language and the terms used to describe America’s war against WMD-terrorism. Hence, Obama could further Bush’s wars, and create new ones. Obama fulfilled his campaign promise with the eventual withdrawal of major U.S combat troops from Iraq on the 18th of December 2011. However, this only led to the surge of American attention into Afghanistan. Critics argue that Obama unjustly increased American presence in Afghanistan like how Bush did in Iraq. Richard N. Haass made the distinction in circumstances with the Afghani conflict between 2001 and 2009. He argued that the American invasion in chasing after al-Qaeda following September 11 was a justified war. The Taliban refused to give up Osama bin-Laden and vital interests were at stake. However, Haass argued that the line between a war of necessity and a war of choice was crossed when Obama decided to sharply increase American troop levels and declared that it was U.S. policy to “take the fight to the Taliban in the south and east’ of the country”. Like Bush’s war in Iraq, Obama’s ‘war of choice’ became Afghanistan.
A major issue CTS theorists have with Obama’s change of discourse regarding the ‘War on Terror’ is that this has allowed for more covert military operations in various countries around the world. Obama’s anti-confrontational approach sounded appealing to his supporters, especially those disenfranchised with Bush’s unilateral, ‘boots on the ground’ strategy against Iraq and Afghanistan. However, by being more subtle and careful with his language, the Obama administration has been able to strike against terrorist targets in secret. Mostly through targeted killings, assassinations and most controversially, the use on unmanned drones. Although these operations have had some degree of success, notably the killing of Osama bin Laden by U.S Special forces in a covert raid of a compound in Abbottabad, Pakistan on the 2nd of May 2011; they have sparked a significant amount of controversy. Critics noted that Obama created “a culture of secrecy” in his construction of the terrorist threat. This was done through authorising drone strikes and assassinations within countries United States was not at war with. The killing of bin Laden in Pakistan and the number of strikes against al-Qaeda and ISIL targets in Syria, Libya, and Yemen are proof of this. For all that was said about Bush’s tactics, at least they were transparent to the media and public. However, as Noam Chomsky wrote…”while Bush’s policy was to capture (and torture) suspects, Obama simply assassinates them… This is controversial as it shows that President Obama is clear and deliberate when representing the threat publically, but is deeply secretive when acting against the threat. This facilitates a sense of distrust with the administration how they represented the threat posed by terrorist groups. As Rachel Stohl wrote, “The rhetoric has not matched the reality with regards to the U.S. drone program…At this point, with this many years behind us in the drone program, saying, ‘Just trust us,’ isn’t enough anymore”.
These covert actions are used according to the U.S government in order to disrupt the capabilities of these terrorist groups in launching future attacks. However, since the declaration of the War on Terror, the threat posed by terrorism has increased. Robert Pape stated in 2010 that, “Each month, there are more suicide terrorists trying to kill Americans and their allies in Afghanistan, Iraq, as well as other Muslim countries than in all the years before 2001 combined”. Other CTS theorists state that strategies like targeted killing and drone strikes have backfired and are not proven to work. It had been known for many years that American intervention and covert operations breeds terrorism. Ivan Eland of the CATO Institute wrote in 1998, “…most attention has been focused on combating terrorism by deterring and disrupting it beforehand and retaliating against it after the fact. Less attention has been paid to what motivates terrorists to launch attacks…” By paying less attention to intent and focusing only on preventing the capabilities, the United States has actually increased the risk of terrorism internationally. The United States since 2001, no matter its leader, has championed the cause ‘to defeat those who target American unity, freedom and democracy’. In fact, it has become clear in the 16 years since September 11 that terrorist organisations are not aiming to destroy American values, but are fighting against foreign forces occupying their lands. Noam Chomsky argued that the generation of ‘Islamic terror’ is directly related to the U.S War on Terror under Bush and Obama. The interventionist strategies in the Middle East, “…has helped to spread the plague from a small tribal area in Afghanistan-Pakistan borderlands to a vast region spread between West Africa and Southeast Asia”. Like his predecessor President Obama chose to purely focus on capability over intent; and as this chapter stated, this only means the spread of terrorist activity, and the emergence of more urgent threats, with more serious agendas.
‘‘Beyond anything we have ever seen”. – Rise of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant
The key terrorist organisation that the United States is now combatting is the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant. This group has several names. However, as most states and international organisations including the United States regard the group as ISIL, that is what this thesis will refer to them as. ISIL emerged from the Iraqi terrorist organisation called, ‘Tanzim Qaidat al-Jihad fi Bilad al-Rafidayn’, or ‘Al-Qaeda in Iraq’; which formed in 2004 as a response to the United States-led invasion of Iraq the year previous. ISIL gained international notoriety in 2014 when it took over several cities in Iraq including the major city of Mosul, massacred 5,000 Yazidis in Sinjar; and conducted several public mass executions, sponsored terrorist attacks throughout the world, and beheading various Western journalists, aid workers and religious enemies. The group has since moved into Syria and gained territory and influence due to the chaotic Syrian Civil War.
Danish scholar Simone Molin Friis noted the use of extreme violence and terror by ISIL in enacting their doctrine as “Beyond anything we have ever seen”. President Obama represented the ISIL-threat as “a grave threat to our security”, and that he would not be “restricted by borders” in his campaign against the group. This is another example of Obama’s unwavering efforts in counterterrorism, where a nation’s sovereign borders are disregarded in favour of combatting the threat. Thus, after withdrawing from Iraq in 2012, President Obama re-entered Iraq at the request of the Iraqi government in June 2014. To the United States, ISIL represented a new type of threat. One of extreme brutality and violence, and one that did not concern themselves with public image or sympathy. This is a key difference between ISIL and al-Qaeda. It is stated by CTS academics that a reason why terrorist groups do not pursue weapons of mass destruction and extreme violence is that they risk turning off less extreme Sunnis and other Muslims from sympathizing with their cause. It is clear that the ISIL leadership does not concern itself with how it is perceived. It is its unrelenting brutality and apocalyptic agenda that has seriously concerned the United States. Noting the group’s extreme violence and rhetoric is a key component of the American construction of the ISIL threat. President Obama reflected this in 2014,
“They have rampaged across cities and villages, killing innocent, unarmed civilians in cowardly acts of violence…The United States of America will continue to what we must do to protect our people. We will be vigilant and we will be relentless. When people harm Americans anywhere, we’ll do what’s necessary to see that justice is done”.
As is consistent with the U.S representation of the terrorist threat since 2001, President Obama emphasised capability in representing the ISIL threat to the American public. When weapons of mass destruction are considered, the threat becomes significantly more concerning.
Belkis Wille of the ‘Human Rights Watch’ on the 6th of March 2017 reported that ISIL had used chemical weapons in an attack in Mosul, Iraq in attempting to take the city back from the government. This represents a worrying trend by ISIL to acquire and use weapons of mass destruction in the Middle East. According to the Dutch-Turkish jihadi Salih Yilmaz, the answer as to where and why ISIL seeks to acquire WMDs is as follows, “Where do you think IS got their chemical weapons from? From our enemies — and thus we use their own weapons against them”. Therefore, due to their clear intent to use WMDs, the United States represents the ISIL-WMD threat as the most significant national security concern today, as President Obama stated in 2016, “ISIL has already used chemical weapons — there is no doubt if these madmen ever got their hands on a bomb or nuclear material they would use it to kill as many as possible.”
In representing the WMD-threat posed by ISIL, the Obama administration placed nuclear disarmament as one of its top priorities. As noted by Matthew Bunn in 2016, since last nuclear security summit two years previous, security for nuclear materials has improved modestly—but the capabilities of… Islamic State, have grown dramatically”. In preventing these capabilities, President Obama has worked through multilateral forums to promote ‘nuclear free zones’ and encourage nuclear non-proliferation. In 2016, South America, Central Europe and South-East Asia were declared as free of nuclear materials by Obama. As he noted, in searching for WMD materials “vast regions of the world are now off-limits, and that’s a remarkable achievement”.
In the post-Obama climate, it has become clear that his covert policies of drone strikes and assassinations resulted in a sharp rise in anti-American, Islamic extremist activity in the Middle East. Critics of Obama state that his actions have increased the threat of terrorism, and increased the urgency which they will acquire WMDs. This is not entirely Obama’s fault however, as the idea of misconstruing the WMD-terrorism threat occurred initially with President Bush. With the election of Donald Trump to the White House in November 2016, came a drastic change for American foreign policy.
President Trump and the Threat – What Can We Expect?
As of the writing of this thesis, President Trump had passed his 100-day mark in the White House. In this short time span, he has endorsed foreign policy initiatives that are populist, protectionist and nationalist in nature. Trump’s foreign policy is difficult to assess, as his rhetoric regarding the Middle East is inconsistent at best. He has not specifically remarked on the WMD-terror threat, although he has discussed both issues separate of each other at length. Regarding ISIL, Trump has stated during his campaign that he would “…defeat radical Islamic terrorism, just as we have defeated every threat we have faced in every age before”. In addition, if the U.S dropping the GBU-43/B MOAB (Mother of All Bombs) on ISIL militants in Afghanistan is an indication of anything, it is that President Trump will conduct and amplify the bombings and strikes seen under Obama, with the confrontational rhetoric exhibited by Bush.
Regarding weapons of mass destruction, President Trump has been selective in his rhetoric. He strongly condemned the Syrian government’s alleged ‘Sarin gas attack’ upon civilians in Khan Shaykhun, Western Syria in April 2017, even responding with missile strike against the Shayrat Air Base in Syria on the 7th of April.   It was the first time that the United States had acknowledged intentionally carrying out military action against the forces of Syrian President Bashar al-Assad. However, Trump has encouraged the proliferation of nuclear weapons internationally, “If Japan had that nuclear threat, I’m not sure that would be a bad thing for us. Nor would it be so bad, if South Korea and Saudi Arabia had nuclear weapons, too”. This contradicts decades of bipartisan domestic support for the reduction of American and nuclear weapon stockpiles worldwide. A critical challenge for the Trump administration is not undoing the progress that has been made over the past 25 years in nuclear security programs designed to prevent terrorists from access to WMDs. This is concerning for many analysists and scholars who believe that Trump may not take the issue of nuclear proliferation seriously. Trump champions a reactionary style of discourse; thus, it may take a terrorist attack with a WMD for him to remark about the issue. What can be assumed however, is that he will emphasise capability over intent in framing the WMD-terror issue. As illustrated by his predecessors, this will be done in order to justify the extraordinary response needed to confront this perceived existential threat.
President Obama promised a different approach to the War on Terror, and this was reflected in his change of discourse regarding the unpopular initiatives. However, in the years since his election it has become clear that Obama simply brought the campaign against WMD-terrorism underground. Although he forbade the term ‘War on Terror’ and promised a more inclusive, multilateral approach to the issue, Obama continued in full the Bush doctrine in preventing WMD-terrorism through focusing on capability over intent. No matter the leader, the U.S will continue to focus on capability instead of considering intent, as the ramifications of a successful attack upon U.S hegemony would be significantly damaging. The United States has been seeking to recover its hegemonic reputation since the 9/11 attacks. Under the new President Donald Trump, this pursuit of ‘lost power’ will continue. This thesis predicts that President Trump will also consider WMD-terrorism to be the greatest threat facing the United States. As it is such a fear-inducing term, Trump’s direct, inflammatory rhetoric will only serve to increase that fear. Thus, we will continue to see the United States represent the WMD-terror threat by emphasising capability over intent, as it allows for the extraordinary, global response to that existential threat.
Since the September 11 attacks in 2001, the United States have feared a ‘nuclear 9/11’ whereby a terrorist organisation would attack the United States with a weapon of mass destruction. This threat was quickly seen as the most urgent, dangerous threat against the United States due to the potential capabilities of these groups and the consequences of such an attack. Thus, immediately after the 9/11 attacks, President George W. Bush launched the ‘War on Terror’. This was an initiative that would eliminate the WMD threat by exterminating all terrorist organisations and the states that supported them. However, this has only led to a perpetual conflict that has lasted 16 years and cost more than the entirety of the Cold War. This is because the WMD-terrorism threat has been justified overwhelmingly on estimated capability, with intent being largely assumed. Through a discourse analysis, this dissertation sought to answer the question:
To what extent has the United States favoured capability over estimated intent when representing the threat posed by WMD-terrorism?
This dissertation has argued that the United States overwhelmingly considered capability over intent when representing the WMD-terror threat. Through the analysis of their discourse the United States consistently emphasised capability over intent in representing the WMD-terrorism threat. This in turn allowed for the extraordinary responses needed against this existential threat.
In reaching this conclusion, this thesis discussed the literature surrounding threat perception, non-state terrorism and its relationship with WMDs in Chapter 1. It highlighted how the breakdown of the Soviet Union and emergence of non-state actors as the dominant threat was significantly worsened by the consideration of weapons of mass destruction. This chapter also discussed the contributions of Critical Terrorism Studies to understanding the research question. Throughout this thesis CTS theorists noted the bias attached to traditional terrorism students; and that potential consequences had been embellished in order to justify the pre-emptive ‘War on Terror’.
The initial reactions to the September 11 attacks were of immense shock and panic, with the White House urgently pressuring the Central Intelligence Agencies to find proof that al-Qaeda with Iraq’s aid conducted the attack. Bush immediately declared the attacks as an affront on American values like freedom and opportunity. Thus, the Bush administration infused the feelings of shock from the attacks with a strong patriotic discourse. The government worked with the media in framing the potential consequences of a WMD-terror attack. Bush would state that Americans are vulnerable to WMD in the hands of terrorists, and the media magnified those fears. This made all discussions concerning WMD-terrorism dominate the news media, leaving little room for any credible discussion of intent. In addition, traditional terrorism theorists asserted that it has always been al-Qaeda’s intention to access a WMD, and the 9/11 attacks were just the beginning of large scale attacks. However, theorists like Richard Jackson argue that groups like al-Qaeda are more rational in their decision making than traditionally received. They also acknowledge the WMD-taboo, and would not blindly launch a WMD strike without considering the ramifications. This assumption was made by the United States in order to invade and depose of the anti-American Taliban in Afghanistan; and to quickly pass numerous bills and laws. These actions would have been more difficult to achieve without installing the fear of WMD-terrorism within the public.
This thesis also discussed how the United States extended the term ‘terrorist’ to incorporate all ‘enemies of America’. This was demonstrated through the United States’ portrayal of Saddam Hussein’s Iraq. The Bush administration and media compressed and simplified the complex issues of ‘al-Qaeda, Saddam’s Iraq and weapons of mass destruction into one monolithic danger that needed to be countered immediately. This triple threat was the rationale behind the invasion of Iraq in 2003. However, CTS theorists noted that the claims behind the rationale were either misinterpreted or completely fabricated. Asserting instead that the reason why the United States claimed this monolithic threat existed was to eliminate an anti-American government in Iraq and re-establish American hegemony in the heart of the Middle East.
This thesis concluded with an examination of the change of discourse offered by President Barack Obama in 2008. Instead of reducing the scope and expenditure of the unpopular ‘War on Terror’ as was assumed, the War on Terror expanded to more countries and targeted more groups. Through covert assassinations and drone strikes, Obama had continued the interventionist strategies of his predecessor. In addition, they considered the threat of WMD-terrorism to be greater than ever before. CTS theorists argue the reason why is because of the United States failed to properly assess intent in favour of capability. They argue that Islamic terrorist groups emerge and fight due to American hegemonic influence in their homelands, not because they are ‘inherently evil’. This failure to consider intent led to the emergence of Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant, and the rise of brutality and violence within the Islamic world.
By emphasising capability over intent in constructing the WMD-terror threat, the United States has been able to securitise the issue. By doing this, the U.S government can provide disproportionate amounts of attention and resources in countering the WMD-threat. In representing the threat this way, it is removed from the realm of ‘normal politics’ into ‘emergency politics’ allowing for extraordinary actions against this threat under the guise of keeping American interests safe. Since 2001, the United States under Presidents Bush and Obama could justify any action against terrorist non-state actors anywhere in the world without the democratic rules and regulations of policy-making. This can be seen throughout the various developments in the War on Terror’s 16-year history. Under President Trump it can be expected that this trend of securitisation will continue. The issue of capability will continue to be preferred over estimated intent in representing the threat of terrorism with a weapon of mass destruction.
Abdullah, Halimah and Alex Johnson. ‘Obama visits CIA HQ and talks next steps in ISIS fight’. NBCNews.com. April 13, 2016. Accessed 28 May 2017. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-visits-cia-hq-and-talks-next-steps-isis-fight
Aschale, Alelign. ‘A Critical Discourse Analysis of Barack Obama Speeches vis-à-vis Middle East and North Africa’. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Communication. Addis Ababa University Press. 2013
Bengio, Ofra. Saddam’s Word: Political discourse in Iraq. New York. Oxford University Press. 1998.
Bentley, Michelle. Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Foreign Policy: The strategic use of a concept. Routledge. 2014.
Bergen, Peter L. The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. Simon and Schuster. 2006.
Betts, Richard. ‘Intelligence Warning: Old Problems, New agendas.’ Parameters. Spring 1998.
bin Laden, Osama “Full transcript of bin Ladin’s speech – NOVEMBER 02, 2004”. Al Jazeera.net. 2004. Accessed 4 April 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20070613014620/http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=7403
Bunn, Matthew, Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth and William H. Tobey. ‘Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?’ Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. Harvard Kennedy School. 2016.
Bunn, M atthew. ‘Preventing a Nuclear 9/11’. How to Make America Safe: New Policies for National Security. Cambridge University Press: Boston. 2006.
Bush, George W. ‘”A Great People Has Been Moved to Defend a Great Nation – 9/11 Address to the Nation.” American Rhetoric. 2008. Accessed 6 April 2017. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm
Bush, George W. ‘Full text: Bush’s speech’. theGuardian.com. 18 March 2003. Accessed 19 April 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/mar/18/usa.iraq
Bush, George W. ‘President Bush Addresses the Nation September 20, 2001.’ The Washington Post Company. 2001. Accessed 4 April 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushaddress_092001.html
Bush, George W. ‘President Delivers State of the Union Address’. White House Archives. Washington D.C January 29, 2002. Accessed 23 April 2017. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html
Bush, George W, 2003, in Urszula Okulska and Piotr Cap. Perspectives in Politics and Discourse. John Benjamins Publishing, 2010.
Buzan, Barry, Ole Wæver and Jaap de Wilde. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. Lynne Rienner Publishers. 1998.
Cameron, Gavin. ‘WMD Terrorism in the United States.’ The Nonproliferation Review/Spring 2000. Middlebury Institute of International Studies. 2000.
Chomsky, Noam. Hegemony or Survival. Metropolitan Books. 2003.
Chomsky, Noam. Who Rules The World? Hamish Hamilton. 2016.
Clarke, Richard A. Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terrorism. New York: Free Press/Simon & Schuster. 2004.
Cooper, Helene and Mujib Mashal, ‘U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan,’ New York Times (April 13, 2017). Accessed 5 May 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/moab-mother-of-all-bombs-afghanistan.html
De Luce, Dan. ‘Obama’s Drone Policy Gets an ‘F’. The Cable: Foreignpolicy.com. (February 23, 2016.) Accessed 28 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/23/obamas-drone-policy-gets-an-f/
Doornbos, Harald and Jenan Moussa. ‘How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile’. Foreign Policy. 17 August 2016. Accessed 4 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/17/how-the-islamic-state-seized-a-chemical-weapons-stockpile/
Einhorn, Robert. ‘Non-Proliferation Challenges Facing the Trump Administration’. Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Series Paper 15. Foreign Policy: Brookings Institution. 2017.
Eland, Ivan. ‘Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record.’ Foreign Policy Briefing. CATO Institution. 1998.
Eve, Martin Paul. ‘“Too many goddamn echoes” : Historicizing the Iraq War in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega’. Journal of American Studies. Cambridge University Press. Vol. 49. 2015.
Falkenrath, Richard A. Robert D. Newman and Bradley A. Thayer. America’s Achilles’ Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack. MIT Press. 1998.
Feaver, Peter. ‘Obama’s embrace of the Bush doctrine and the meaning of ‘imminence’’. Foreign Policy. 2013. Accessed 20 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/02/05/obamas-embrace-of-the-bush-doctrine-and-the-meaning-of-imminence/
Flannery, Frances L. Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism: Countering the Radical Mindset. Routledge. 2015.
Francis, Ellen. ‘Scores reported killed in gas attack on Syrian rebel area’. Reuters. (4 April 2017). Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idlib-idUSKBN1760IB
Freedman, Lawrence. War in Iraq: Selling the Threat, Survival. Vol. 46. Issue. 2 .2004.
Friis, Simone Molin. ‘Beyond anything we have ever seen’: beheading videos and the visibility of violence in the war against ISIS’’. International Affairs. Vol. 91. Issue. 4, 2015.
Gallup. ‘George W. Bush Presidential Job Approval, September 21-22, 2001.’ Presidential Approval Ratings — George W. Bush. 2017. Accessed 4 April 2017. http://www.gallup.com/poll/116500/Presidential-Approval-Ratings-George-Bush.aspx
Ganor, Boaz. ‘Defining Terrorism: Is One Man’s Terrorist another Man’s Freedom Fighter?,’ Police Practice and Research, Vol. 3, No. 4. 2002.
Gaouette, Nicole. ‘Obama: Vast parts of the world off-limits for nukes’. CNN Politics. Accessed 21 May 2017. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/01/politics/isis-nuclear-summit/
Gershkoff, Amy and Shana Kushner. ‘Shaping Public Opinion: The 9/11-Iraq Connection in the Bush Administration’s Rhetoric’. Perspectives on Politics, Vol. 3, No. 3. Sep., 2005.
Gerzhoy, Gene and Nick Miller. ‘Donald Trump thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons. Here’s what the research says.’ The Washington Post. Accessed 21 May 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/06/should-more-countries-have-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-thinks-so/?utm_term=.36428107dd4d
Grimmett, Richard F. ‘Authorization For Use Of Military Force in Response to the 9/11 Attacks (P.L. 107-40): Legislative History’. CRS Report for Congress. Washington D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2007.
Gunning, Jereon. ‘A Case For Critical Terrorism Studies?’ Government and Opposition. Vol. 42, No. 3. 2007.
Haass, Richard N. ‘The Irony of American Strategy’. Foreign Affairs. Vol. 92. Issue. 3. 2013.
Hanson, Lene. Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War. Routledge. 2013.
Hoffmann, Bruce. ‘The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies’. Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly. Vol. 13. 2017.
Jackson, Richard. Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning and Marie Breen Smyth. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. Palgrave Macmillan. 2011.
Jackson, Richard. The Core Commitments of Critical Terrorism Studies. European Political Science. Vol. 6, No.3, 2007.
Jackson, Richard. Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism. Manchester University Press. 2005.
Jameela, M. ‘”You’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists” – Juxtaposed Ideologies in the War on Terror.’ White Rose Research. The University of Edinburgh: Postgraduate Journal of Culture and the Arts. 2016.
Jett, Philip D. Why American Foreign Policy Fails: Unsafe at Home and Despised Abroad. Springer Books. 2006.
Joyner, Daniel. Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. Oxford University Press. 2011.
Kinder, Donald. ‘Communication and Public Opinion’. Annual Review. University of Michigan: Center for Political Studies, Vol 1. 1998.
Kull, Steven, Clay Ramsay and Evan Lewis. ‘Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War’. PIPA-Knowledge Networks Poll: The American Public on International Issues. University of Maryland: Program on International Policy Attitudes, 2003.
Lakoff, George. ‘War on Terror,” Rest In Peace’. Rockridge Institute Writings. Rockridge Institute. 2006.
Lane, H. Clifford, John La Montagne and Anthony S. Fauci. ‘Bioterrorism: A clear and present danger’. Nature Medicine. New York: Vol 7, No. 12, Dec, 2001.
Lasher, Kevin. J. and Christine Sixta Rinehart. ‘The Shadowboxer: The Obama Administration and Foreign Policy Grand Strategy’. Politics & Policy. Vol. 44, No. 5. 2016.
Legal Information Institute. “18 U.S. Code § 2332a – Use of weapons of mass destruction”. Cornell University Law School. 2004. Accessed 25 March 2017. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2332a
Leibovitch, Mark in Susan Moeller, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Media: Anatomy of a Failure’. Yale Global Online. Yale University Press. 2004. Accessed 30 March 2017. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/weapons-mass-destruction-and-media-anatomy-failure
Lindsay, James. L. ‘George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the future of US global leadership’. International Affairs. Chatham House: Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-.Vol. 87, No. 4. 2011.
Lum, Cynthia, Leslie W. Kennedy and Alison Sherley.’ ‘Are counter-terrorism strategies effective? The results of the Campbell systematic review on counter-terrorism evaluation research’. Journal of Experimental Criminology. Rutgers University: School of Criminal Justice and Center for the Study of Public Security. 2006.
Meek, James Gordon. ‘FBI was told to blame Anthrax scare on Al Qaeda by White House officials’. New York Daily News. 2 August 2008. Accessed 29 March 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/fbi-told-blame-anthrax-scare-al-qaeda-white-house-officials-article-1.312733
Moeller, Susan D. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction. Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. 2004.
Morgan, Matthew J. The Impact of 9/11 on Politics and War: The Day that Changed Everything?. Palgrave Macmillan. 2009.
Mowatt-Larssen, Rolf. Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?. Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs: Harvard Kennedy School. 2010.
‘National Strategy For Combating Terrorism.’ The White House Archives, Washington D.C. February 2003.
National Security Strategy of the United States (2010). DIANE Publishing, 2010.
Obama, Barack in David Olive. An American Story: The Speeches of Barack Obama – A Primer. ECW Press. 2010.
Obama, Barack. “G8 Declaration on Counter Terrorism,” The American Presidency Project. 2009. Accessed 25 April 2017. http://www.presidency.ucsb.edu/ws/?pid=86411
Obama, Barack. ‘Obama’s Remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan’. New York Times. 15 July 2008. Accessed 25 April 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/us/politics/15text-obama.html
Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. ‘Chapter 4: The Global Challenge of WMD Terrorism’. Country Reports on Terrorism 2009. Washington D.C: U.S State Department. 2010. Accessed 29 April 2017. https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2009/140890.htm
Office of Management and Budget. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012. Washington D.C: Government Printing Office. 2011.
Office of the Press Secretary, ‘Press briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’, Public Papers of the President. 22 August 2014. Accessed 3 May 2017. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/22/press-briefing-principal-deputy-press-secretary-eric-schultz-and-deputy-
Olorunda, Tolu. ‘The Substance of Truth’. Springer Science & Business Media. 2012.
O’Neill, Andrew. ‘Terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction: how serious is the threat?’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, Vol. 57, No. 1. 2003.
Pape, Robert. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. New York: Random House Publishing Group. 2005.
Pape, Robert. ‘It’s the Occupation, Stupid’. Argument: Foreign Policy. 2010. Accessed 1 May 2017. https://foreignpolicy.com/2010/10/18/its-the-occupation-stupid/
Paul, Ron. Trump’s Foreign Policy: An Unwise Inconsistency.’ The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. Washington: Vol. 36 No. 2, Mar/Apr 2017.
Paz, Reuven. ‘Hotwiring the Apocalypse: Apocalyptic Elements of Global Jihadi Doctrines.’ Suicide Bombers: The Psychological, Religious and Other Imperatives. IOS Press. 2008.
Peschek, Joseph G. The Politics of Empire: War, Terror and Hegemony. Taylor & Francis, 2006.
Purpura, Philip P. Terrorism and Homeland Security: An Introduction with Applications. Butterworth-Heinemann. 2007.
Qutb, Sayyid. Milestones. Chicago: Kazi Publications. 1964.
Rendall, Steve, and Tara Broughel. ‘Amplifying Officials, Squelching Dissent’. Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. (1 May 2003.) Accessed 21 April 2017. http://fair.org/extra/amplifying-officials-squelching-dissent/
Ritter, Scott. ‘The Case for Iraq’s Qualitative Disarmament.’ Arms Control Today; Washington. Vol. 30 No. 5. 2000.
Rudner, Martin in Adrian Humphreys, ‘One Official’s ‘Refugee’ Is Another’s Terrorist.’ National Post. 2006.
Rycroft, Matthew. The Secret Downing Street Memo. 23 July 2002. Accessed 24 April 2017. http://downingstreetmemo.com/docs/memotext.pdf
Sageman, Marc. Understanding Terror Networks. University of Pennsylvania Press. 2004.
Sanger, David E. ‘THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH; Bush Sees ‘Urgent Duty’ to Pre-empt Attack by Iraq’. New York Times. October 8, 2002. Accessed 20 April 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/08/us/threats-responses-president-s-speech-bush-sees-urgent-duty-pre-empt-attack-iraq.html
Sawe, Benjamin Elisha. ‘Worst Terrorist Attacks In World History’. Worldatlas Articles. 2016. Accessed 17 April 2017. http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worst-terrorist-attacks-in-history.html
Schweitzer, Yoram ‘Al-Qaeda and Suicide Terrorism: Vision and Reality’. Military and Strategic Affairs. Vol. 2. No. 2. 2010.
Singer, J. David. ‘Threat-Perception and the Armament-Tension Dilemma.’ The Journal of Conflict Resolution. Vol. 2, No. 1, Studies on Attitudes and Communication, Mar., 1958.
Sprinzak, Ehud. ‘The Great Superterrorism Scare.’ Foreign Policy. No. 112 Autumn, 1998.
Taureck, Rita. ‘Securitisation Theory and Securitisation Studies.’ Journal of International Relations and Development, Vol. 9. 2006.
Telatar, Gökhan. ‘Barack Obama, the War on Terrorism and the US Hegemony’. Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations. Vol. 13, No. 4. 2014.
Tipton, Harold F. and Micki Krause. Information Security Management Handbook. 5th ed. Vol. 3. CRC Press. 2006.
‘The Vice President Appears on NBC’s Meet the Press’. White House Archives. (Washington D.C. December 9, 2001). Accessed 19 April 2017. Available from: https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/print/vp20011209.html
Travis, Hannibal. ‘Why Was Benghazi “Saved,” but Sinjar Allowed to Be Lost? New Failures of Genocide Prevention, 2007–2015’. Genocide Studies International. University of Toronto Press. Vol. 10, No. 2. 2017.
Trump, Donald. ‘Full text: Donald Trump’s speech on fighting terrorism’. POLITICO. (August 15 2016). Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-terrorism-speech-227025
‘US says strike on Syria destroyed fifth of Assad’s jets’. Al Jazeera. (11 April 2017). Accessed 6 May 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/strike-syria-destroyed-assad-jets-170410212129905.html
Vandepeer, Charles. ‘Rethinking threat: intelligence analysis, intentions, capabilities, and the Challenge of Non-State Actors’. School of History and Politics. University of Adelaide. 2011.
Vogel, Ryan J. ‘Drone Warfare and the Law of Armed Conflict’. Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, Vol. 39, No. 1, 2011.
Wæver, Ole. “Aberystwyth, Paris, Copenhagen: New Schools in Security Theory and their Origins between Core and Periphery”. International Studies Association. Montreal. 2004.
White, Craig M. Iraq: The Moral Reckoning. Lexington Books. 2012.
Wille, Belkis. ‘ISIS Accused of Unleashing Chemical Weapons in Mosul’. Human Rights Watch. 6 March 2017. Accessed 4 May 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/06/isis-accused-unleashing-chemical-weapons-mosul
Williams, Lynn M. and Susan B. Epstein. ‘Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status’. Congressional Research Service. Washington D.C: Library of Congress, 2017.
 Matthew Bunn. ‘Preventing a Nuclear 9/11’. How to Make America Safe: New Policies for National Security. (Cambridge University Press: Boston. 2006). 11-21.
 J. David Singer. ‘Threat-Perception and the Armament-Tension Dilemma.’ The Journal of Conflict Resolution. (Vol. 2, No. 1, Studies on Attitudes and Communication, Mar., 1958). 90-105
 Richard Betts, ‘Intelligence Warning: Old Problems, New agendas.’ Parameters. (Spring 1998.) 26-35.
 Richard Jackson. Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism. (Manchester University Press. 2005.) 9.
 Singer. ‘Threat-Perception and the Armament-Tension Dilemma,’ 90-105
 Charles Vandepeer. ‘Rethinking threat: intelligence analysis, intentions, capabilities, and the Challenge of Non-State Actors’. School of History and Politics. (University of Adelaide. 2011). 12.
 Vandepeer. ‘Rethinking threat: intelligence analysis, intentions, capabilities, and the Challenge of Non-State Actors,’ 14-18.
 Matthew J. Morgan. The Impact of 9/11 on Politics and War: The Day that Changed Everything?. (Palgrave Macmillan. 2009). 222.
 Harold F. Tipton, Micki Krause. Information Security Management Handbook. (5th ed. Vol. 3. CRC Press. 2006.) 579.
 Marc Sageman. Understanding Terror Networks. (University of Pennsylvania Press. 2004.) Preface: iv.
 Legal Information Institute. “18 U.S. Code § 2332a – Use of weapons of mass destruction”. Cornell University Law School. 2004. Accessed 25 March 2017. https://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/text/18/2332a
 Gavin Cameron. ‘WMD Terrorism in the United States.’ The Nonproliferation Review/Spring 2000. (Middlebury Institute of International Studies. 2000.) 162.
 Ehud Sprinzak. ‘The Great Superterrorism Scare.’ Foreign Policy. (No. 112 Autumn, 1998). 110-124
 Richard A. Falkenrath, Robert D. Newman, and Bradley A. Thayer. America’s Achilles’ Heel: Nuclear, Biological, and Chemical Terrorism and Covert Attack. (MIT Press. 1998.) 138–147.
 H. Clifford Lane, John La Montagne, Anthony S. Fauci. ‘Bioterrorism: A clear and present danger’. Nature Medicine. (New York: Vol 7, No. 12, Dec, 2001). 1271.
 Both notes conclude with the lines: “DEATH TO AMERICA, DEATH TO ISRAEL, ALLAH IS GREAT”.
 James Gordon Meek. ‘FBI was told to blame Anthrax scare on Al Qaeda by White House officials’. New York Daily News. (August 2nd 2008.) Accessed 29 March 2017. http://www.nydailynews.com/news/world/fbi-told-blame-anthrax-scare-al-qaeda-white-house-officials-article-1.312733
 Richard Jackson, Lee Jarvis, Jeroen Gunning & Marie Breen Smyth. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. (Palgrave Macmillan. 2011.) 127.
 Barry Buzan; Ole Wæver; Jaap de Wilde. Security: A New Framework for Analysis. (Lynne Rienner Publishers. 1998.) 21
 Ole Wæver. “Aberystwyth, Paris, Copenhagen: New Schools in Security Theory and their Origins between Core and Periphery”. International Studies Association. (Montreal. 2004.) 13.
 Buzan, et al; Security: A New Framework for Analysis, 21
 Rita Taureck. ‘Securitisation Theory and Securitisation Studies.’ Journal of International Relations and Development, (Vol. 9. 2006.) 54
 Buzan, et al; Security: A New Framework for Analysis, 24.
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction, 127.
 Mark Leibovitch in Susan Moeller, ‘Weapons of Mass Destruction and the Media: Anatomy of a Failure’. Yale Global Online. (Yale University Press. 2004.) Accessed 30 March 2017. http://yaleglobal.yale.edu/content/weapons-mass-destruction-and-media-anatomy-failure
 Jereon Gunning. A Case For Critical Terrorism Studies? Government and Opposition. (Vol. 42, No. 3. 2007.) 363.
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction, 1-4
 Richard Jackson. The Core Commitments of Critical Terrorism Studies. European Political Science. (Vol. 6, No.3, 2007.) 244-250
 Susan D. Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction. (Center for International and Security Studies at Maryland. 2004.) 32.
 Jackson. Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism, 9.
 Lene Hanson. Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War. (Routledge. 2013.) 15.
 Hanson. Security as Practice: Discourse Analysis and the Bosnian War, 15-16.
 Morgan. The Impact of 9/11 on Politics and War: The Day that Changed Everything?, 222.
 Benjamin Elisha Sawe. ‘Worst Terrorist Attacks In World History’. Worldatlas Articles. 2016. Accessed 17 April 2017. 2016. http://www.worldatlas.com/articles/worst-terrorist-attacks-in-history.html
 Gallup. George W. ‘Bush Presidential Job Approval, September 21-22, 2001.’ Presidential Approval Ratings — George W. Bush. 2017. Accessed 4 April 2017. http://www.gallup.com/poll/116500/Presidential-Approval-Ratings-George-Bush.aspx
 George W. Bush. ‘President Bush Addresses the Nation September 20, 2001.’ The Washington Post Company. 2001. Accessed 4 April 2017. http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-srv/nation/specials/attacked/transcripts/bushaddress_092001.html
 “Our war on terror begins with Al Qaeda, but it does not end there. It will not end until every terrorist group of global reach has been found, stopped and defeated”.
 Richard F. Grimmett. ‘Authorization For Use Of Military Force in Response to the 9/11 Attacks (P.L. 107-40): Legislative History’. CRS Report for Congress. (Washington D.C: U.S. Government Printing Office. 2007), 1-2.
 ‘National Strategy For Combating Terrorism.’ The White House Archives, (Washington D.C. February 2003). 3-18.
 Philip P. Purpura. Terrorism and Homeland Security: An Introduction with Applications. (Butterworth-Heinemann. 2007). 16-19.
 George Lakoff, ‘War on Terror,” Rest In Peace’. Rockridge Institute Writings. (Rockridge Institute. 2006), 1-2.
 Jackson, Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism, 8
 George W. Bush. ‘”A Great People Has Been Moved to Defend a Great Nation – 9/11 Address to the Nation.” American Rhetoric. 2008. Accessed 6 April 2017. http://www.americanrhetoric.com/speeches/gwbush911addresstothenation.htm
 Jackson. Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism 62.
 Jackson. Writing the War on Terrorism: Language, Politics and Counter-terrorism: 77-80.
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 5
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 7.
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 5.
 George W. Bush 2003, in Urszula Okulska, Piotr Cap. Perspectives in Politics and Discourse. (John Benjamins Publishing, 2010). 123
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 32.
 Sayyid Qutb. Milestones. (Chicago: Kazi Publications. 1964). 66-69.
 Osama bin Laden. “Full transcript of bin Ladin’s speech – NOVEMBER 02, 2004”. Al Jazeera.net. 2004. Accessed 4 April 2017. https://web.archive.org/web/20070613014620/http://english.aljazeera.net/English/archive/archive?ArchiveId=7403
 Rolf Mowatt-Larssen. Al Qaeda Weapons of Mass Destruction Threat: Hype or Reality?. (Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs Harvard Kennedy School. 2010). 5.
 Lawrence Freedman. War in Iraq: Selling the Threat, Survival. (Vol. 46. Issue. 2 .2004), 16.
 Andrew O’Neill. ‘Terrorist use of weapons of mass destruction: how serious is the threat?’ Australian Journal of International Affairs, (Vol. 57, No. 1. 2003), 108.
 Yoram Schweitzer. ‘Al-Qaeda and Suicide Terrorism: Vision and Reality’. Military and Strategic Affairs. (Vol. 2. No. 2. 2010,) 101-103.
 Reuven Paz. ‘Hotwiring the Apocalypse: Apocalyptic Elements of Global Jihadi Doctrines.’ Suicide Bombers: The Psychological, Religious and Other Imperatives. (IOS Press. 2008), 103.
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction, 138.
 Sprinzak. ‘The Great Superterrorism Scare,’ 114.
 ‘The Vice President Appears on NBC’s Meet the Press’. White House Archives. (Washington D.C. December 9, 2001). Accessed 19 April 2017. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/vicepresident/news-speeches/speeches/print/vp20011209.html
 Scott Ritter. ‘The Case for Iraq’s Qualitative Disarmament.’ Arms Control Today; Washington. (Vol. 30 No. 5. 2000), 9.
 Martin Paul Eve. ‘“Too many goddamn echoes” : Historicizing the Iraq War in Don DeLillo’s Point Omega’. Journal of American Studies. (Cambridge University Press. Vol. 49. 2015), 583.
 George W. Bush. ‘Full text: Bush’s speech’. theGuardian.com. 18 March 2003. Accessed 19 April 2017. https://www.theguardian.com/world/2003/mar/18/usa.iraq
 Freedman. War in Iraq: Selling the Threat, Survival, 7
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 36.
 David E. Sanger. ‘THREATS AND RESPONSES: THE PRESIDENT’S SPEECH; Bush Sees ‘Urgent Duty’ to Pre-empt Attack by Iraq’. New York Times. October 8, 2002. Accessed 20 April 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2002/10/08/us/threats-responses-president-s-speech-bush-sees-urgent-duty-pre-empt-attack-iraq.html
 Ibid ^
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 36.
 M. Jameela. ‘”You’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists” – Juxtaposed Ideologies in the War on Terror.’ White Rose Research. (The University of Edinburgh Postgraduate Journal of Culture and the Arts. 2016), 22.
 Donald Kinder. ‘Communication and Public Opinion’. Annual Review. (University of Michigan: Center for Political Studies, Vol 1. 1998). 172.
 Amy Gershkoff and Shana Kushner. ‘Shaping Public Opinion: The 9/11-Iraq Connection in the Bush Administration’s Rhetoric’. Perspectives on Politics, (Vol. 3, No. 3. Sep., 2005). 526.
 Boaz Ganor. ‘Defining Terrorism: Is One Man’s Terrorist another Man’s Freedom Fighter?,’ Police Practice and Research, (Vol. 3, No. 4. 2002.) 287-304.
 Martin Rudner in Adrian Humphreys, ‘One Official’s ‘Refugee’ Is Another’s Terrorist.’ National Post. (17 January 2006.) 2.
 Gershkoff and Kushner. ‘Shaping Public Opinion: The 9/11-Iraq Connection in the Bush Administration’s Rhetoric’, 527-528.
 Steve Rendall and Tara Broughel. ‘Amplifying Officials, Squelching Dissent’. Fairness and Accuracy In Reporting. (1 May 2003.) Accessed 21 April 2017. http://fair.org/extra/amplifying-officials-squelching-dissent/
 Steven Kull et al. ‘Misperceptions, the Media, and the Iraq War’. PIPA-Knowledge Networks Poll: The American Public on International Issues. (University of Maryland: Program on International Policy Attitudes, 2003). 1-21.
 Moeller, Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 32.
 Gershkoff and Kushner. ‘Shaping Public Opinion: The 9/11-Iraq Connection in the Bush Administration’s Rhetoric’ 528.
 Richard N. Haass. ‘The Irony of American Strategy’. Foreign Affairs. (Vol. 92. Issue. 3. 2013). 58.
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. 27.
 Noam Chomsky. Hegemony or Survival. (Metropolitan Books. 2003). 12-20.
 Ofra Bengio. Saddam’s Word: Political discourse in Iraq. (New York. Oxford University Press. 1998). 35.
 Peter L. Bergen. The Osama Bin Laden I Know: An Oral History of Al Qaeda’s Leader. (Simon and Schuster. 2006). 179.
 Robert Pape. Dying to Win: The Strategic Logic of Suicide Terrorism. (New York: Random House Publishing Group. 2005). 115.
 George W. Bush. ‘President Delivers State of the Union Address’. White House Archives. Washington D.C January 29, 2002. Accessed 23 April 2017. https://georgewbush-whitehouse.archives.gov/news/releases/2002/01/20020129-11.html
 Richard A. Clarke. Against All Enemies: Inside America’s War on Terrorism. (New York: Free Press/Simon & Schuster. 2004). 269–270.
 Craig M. White. Iraq: The Moral Reckoning. (Lexington Books. 2012). 276.
 Philip D. Jett. Why American Foreign Policy Fails: Unsafe at Home and Despised Abroad. (Springer Books. 2006). 55.
 Joseph G. Peschek. The Politics of Empire: War, Terror and Hegemony. (Taylor & Francis, 2006). 186.
 Moeller. Media Coverage of Weapons of Mass Destruction, 52.
 Ibid ^
 Jackson et al, Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. 138.
 Ibid ^
 Peter Feaver. ‘Obama’s embrace of the Bush doctrine and the meaning of ‘imminence’’. Foreign Policy. 2013. Accessed 20 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2013/02/05/obamas-embrace-of-the-bush-doctrine-and-the-meaning-of-imminence/
 Bruce Hoffmann. ‘The Evolving Threat of Terrorism and Effective Counterterrorism Strategies’. Hampton Roads International Security Quarterly. (Vol. 13. 2017). 5.
 Alelign Aschale. ‘A Critical Discourse Analysis of Barack Obama Speeches vis-à-vis Middle East and North Africa’. Journal of Applied Linguistics and Communication. (Addis Ababa University Press. 2013). 7-8.
 Tolu Olorunda. ‘The Substance of Truth’. Springer Science & Business Media. 2012. 177.
 Barack Obama in David Olive. An American Story: The Speeches of Barack Obama – A Primer.(ECW Press. 2010). 274.
 Barack Obama within the New York Times. ‘Obama’s Remarks on Iraq and Afghanistan’. New York Times. 15 July 2008. Accessed 25 April 2017. http://www.nytimes.com/2008/07/15/us/politics/15text-obama.html
 Lynn M. Williams & Susan B. Epstein. ‘Overseas Contingency Operations Funding: Background and Status’. Congressional Research Service. (Washington D.C: Library of Congress, 2017). 1-40.
 Daniel Joyner. Interpreting the Nuclear Non-Proliferation Treaty. (Oxford University Press. 2011). 174-175.
 Gökhan Telatar. ‘Barack Obama, the War on Terrorism and the US Hegemony’. Alternatives: Turkish Journal of International Relations. (Vol. 13, No. 4. 2014). 43-44.
 James. L. Lindsay. ‘George W. Bush, Barack Obama and the future of US global leadership’. International Affairs. (Chatham House: Royal Institute of International Affairs 1944-.Vol. 87, No. 4. 2011). 765.
 Michelle Bentley. Weapons of Mass Destruction and US Foreign Policy: The strategic use of a concept. (Routledge. 2014). 111.
 Ibid. 111-112
 Office of Management and Budget. Budget of the United States Government, Fiscal Year 2012. (Washington D.C: Government Printing Office. 2011). 43.
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. 127.
 Office of the Coordinator for Counterterrorism. ‘Chapter 4: The Global Challenge of WMD Terrorism’. Country Reports on Terrorism 2009. (Washington D.C: U.S State Department. 2010). Accessed 29 April 2017. https://www.state.gov/j/ct/rls/crt/2009/140890.htm
 National Security Strategy of the United States (2010). (DIANE Publishing, 2010). 23.
 Ibid ^ 24-25.
 Jameela. ‘”You’re either with us, or you are with the terrorists” – Juxtaposed Ideologies in the War on Terror.’ 22.
 Kevin. J. Lasher & Christine Sixta Rinehart. ‘The Shadowboxer: The Obama Administration and Foreign Policy Grand Strategy’. Politics & Policy. (Vol. 44, No. 5. 2016). 851.
 Jackson. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction. 127.
 Ibid ^ 127.
 Adam Quinn. ‘The art of declining politely: Obama’s prudent presidency and the waning of American power’. International Affairs. (Oxford: The Royal Institute of International Affairs. 2011). 813.
 Haass. ‘The Irony of American Strategy’. 58-59.
 Ryan J. Vogel. ‘Drone Warfare and the Law of Armed Conflict’. Denver Journal of International Law and Policy, (Vol. 39, No. 1, 2011). 101-102.
 Lasher and Rhinehart. ‘The Shadowboxer: The Obama Administration and Foreign Policy Grand Strategy’. 852.
 Noam Chomsky. Who Rules The World? Hamish Hamilton. 2016. 60.
 Dan De Luce. ‘Obama’s Drone Policy Gets an ‘F’. The Cable: Foreignpolicy.com. (February 23, 2016.) Accessed 28 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/02/23/obamas-drone-policy-gets-an-f/
 Robert Pape. ‘It’s the Occupation, Stupid’. Argument: Foreign Policy. 2010. Accessed 1 May 2017. https://foreignpolicy.com/2010/10/18/its-the-occupation-stupid/
 Cynthia Lum, Leslie W. Kennedy, Alison Sherley.’ ‘Are counter-terrorism strategies effective? The results of the Campbell systematic review on counter-terrorism evaluation research’. Journal of Experimental Criminology. (Rutgers University: School of Criminal Justice and Center for the Study of Public Security. 2006). 510.
 Ivan Eland. ‘Does U.S. Intervention Overseas Breed Terrorism? The Historical Record.’ Foreign Policy Briefing. (CATO Institution. 1998). 1-2.
 Telatar. ‘Barack Obama, the War on Terrorism and the US Hegemony’, 43.
 Chomsky. Who Rules The World? 225
 Hannibal Travis. ‘Why Was Benghazi “Saved,” but Sinjar Allowed to Be Lost? New Failures of Genocide Prevention, 2007–2015’. Genocide Studies International. (University of Toronto Press. Vol. 10, No. 2. 2017). 139-143.
 Simone Molin Friis, ‘Beyond anything we have ever seen’: beheading videos and the visibility of violence in the war against ISIS’’. International Affairs. (Vol. 91. Issue. 4, 2015). 734.
 Office of the Press Secretary, ‘Press briefing by Principal Deputy Press Secretary Eric Schultz and Deputy National Security Advisor Ben Rhodes’, Public Papers of the President. 22 August 2014. Accessed 3 May 2017. https://obamawhitehouse.archives.gov/the-press-office/2014/08/22/press-briefing-principal-deputy-press-secretary-eric-schultz-and-deputy-
 Jackson et al. Terrorism: A Critical Introduction, 138.
 Ibid ^
 Frances L. Flannery. Understanding Apocalyptic Terrorism: Countering the Radical Mindset. (Routledge. 2015). 249.
 Belkis Wille. ‘ISIS Accused of Unleashing Chemical Weapons in Mosul’. Human Rights Watch. 6 March 2017. Accessed 4 May 2017. https://www.hrw.org/news/2017/03/06/isis-accused-unleashing-chemical-weapons-mosul
 Harald Doornbos & Jenan Moussa. ‘How the Islamic State Seized a Chemical Weapons Stockpile’. Foreign Policy. (17 August 2016). Accessed 4 May 2017. http://foreignpolicy.com/2016/08/17/how-the-islamic-state-seized-a-chemical-weapons-stockpile/
 Halimah Abdullah & Alex Johnson, ‘Obama visits CIA HQ and talks next steps in ISIS fight’. NBCNews.com. (April 13, 2016.) Accessed 28 May 2017. http://www.msnbc.com/msnbc/obama-visits-cia-hq-and-talks-next-steps-isis-fight
 Matthew, Bunn. Martin B. Malin, Nickolas Roth, William H. Tobey. ‘Preventing Nuclear Terrorism: Continuous Improvement or Dangerous Decline?’ Project on Managing the Atom, Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs. (Harvard Kennedy School. 2016). 1.
 Nicole Gaouette. ‘Obama: Vast parts of the world off-limits for nukes’. CNN Politics. Accessed 21 May 2017. http://edition.cnn.com/2016/04/01/politics/isis-nuclear-summit/
 Ibid ^
 Ron Paul. Trump’s Foreign Policy: An Unwise Inconsistency.’ The Washington Report on Middle East Affairs. (Washington: Vol. 36 No. 2, Mar/Apr 2017): 14-15.
 Donald Trump. ‘Full text: Donald Trump’s speech on fighting terrorism’. POLITICO. (August 15 2016). Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.politico.com/story/2016/08/donald-trump-terrorism-speech-227025
 Helene Cooper & Mujib Mashal, ‘U.S. Drops ‘Mother of All Bombs’ on ISIS Caves in Afghanistan,’ New York Times (April 13, 2017). Accessed 5 May 2017. https://www.nytimes.com/2017/04/13/world/asia/moab-mother-of-all-bombs-afghanistan.html
 Ellen Francis. ‘Scores reported killed in gas attack on Syrian rebel area’. Reuters. (4 April 2017). Accessed 5 May 2017. http://www.reuters.com/article/us-mideast-crisis-syria-idlib-idUSKBN1760IB
 ‘US says strike on Syria destroyed fifth of Assad’s jets’. Al Jazeera. (11 April 2017). Accessed 6 May 2017. http://www.aljazeera.com/news/2017/04/strike-syria-destroyed-assad-jets-170410212129905.html
 Gene Gerzhoy & Nick Miller. ‘Donald Trump thinks more countries should have nuclear weapons. Here’s what the research says.’ The Washington Post. Accessed 21 May 2017. https://www.washingtonpost.com/news/monkey-cage/wp/2016/04/06/should-more-countries-have-nuclear-weapons-donald-trump-thinks-so/?utm_term=.36428107dd4d
 ‘Robert Einhorn. ‘Non-Proliferation Challenges Facing the Trump Administration’. Arms Control and Non-Proliferation Series Paper 15. (Foreign Policy | Brookings Institution). 2017. 5.