Date of Award

Spring 2006

Document Type

Restricted Thesis

Terms of Use

© 2006 Marissa A. Vahlsing. All rights reserved. Access to this work is restricted to users within the Swarthmore College network and may only be used for non-commercial, educational, and research purposes. Sharing with users outside of the Swarthmore College network is expressly prohibited. For all other uses, including reproduction and distribution, please contact the copyright holder.

Degree Name

Bachelor of Arts


Peace & Conflict Studies Department

First Advisor

Robin Wagner-Pacifici


Through the deployment of a narrative of "truth" regarding the September 11th, 2001, terrorist attacks, the Bush administration endeavors to construct a field of meaning (to constitute the social fact), or symbolic homeland, in which the war on terror becomes 'inevitable'. While this narrative shifts in shape and substance, it does utilize some traceable tendencies and discursive techniques. It is produced by power, authorized and published by official institutions and, in tum, operates to affirm structures of power and political action. The Bush administration posits this narrative as "truth" and strives to naturalize this truth in order to justify the military activities of the War on Terror. Those who challenge this regime of truth and the action it justifies: those who contest the form of justice performed by the War on Terror as social fact become, by definition, delusional. These dissidents are not merely excluded discursively from speaking "truth", but they are productively excluded; reproduced and reconstituted as irrational, madmen, unpatriotic, other, deviant, and even suspected terrorists and enemy combatants. Despite this productive exclusion, contestation of truth continues in the War on Terror. A diversity of actors from the inhabitants of Shanksville, Pennsylvania, to the dissent groups of lower Manhattan, are unsettling the contours of the symbolic homeland that the Bush administration discursively constructs. As active agents, they are contesting truth; contesting realities. Methodology includes an examination of how the official narrative interpreting the 9/11 attacks was constructed, authorized, negotiated, and contested through an examination of several of President Bush’s speeches post-9/11 as well as the 2002 National Security Strategy and the 9/11 Commission Report. The author also looks at specific cases where people have challenged this official narrative.


Political oratory, Persuasion, Rhetoric