Date of Award


Document Type


Degree Name

Master of Arts (MA)


College of Humanities and Social Sciences



Thesis Sponsor/Dissertation Chair/Project Chair

Emily Isaacs

Committee Member

Jessica Restaino

Committee Member

Robert Whitney


The current war in Iraq has been defined as both a war on terror as well as a war to free the people of Iraq. It is a fight against a member of the axis of evil and likewise an attempt to bring democracy to the Middle East. Prior to the start of the war, other countries were warned that they were either with us or against us while American citizens were told that a preemptive strike in Iraq was necessary to stop a country harboring weapons of mass destruction. These phrases were used to both frighten Americans as well as embolden them, to rationalize as well as dignify the cause for war, and as a strategy to define Americans as righteous as well as scare them into protection of their fellow citizens.

This thesis will raise questions concerning language and how it produces notions of good and evil as well as how the language used to justify war shapes and molds reality itself. Specifically, this paper will examine four texts. Each is a speech made by President George W. Bush in the months preceding his decision to go to war in Iraq. The initial analysis will be of President George W. Bush’s September 20, 2001 speech in Washington D.C. An examination of Bush's November 10, 2001 speech to the United Nations General Assembly in New York, New York will ensue and will be followed by an interrogation of his 2002 State of the Union Address which was given on January 29, 2002. Finally, Bush's speech to the graduates at West Point Military Academy on June 1, 2002 will be explored. The rhetorical construction of these speeches and how each speech builds on the previous one will be explored. While they were delivered over a period of ten months and appear in different contexts, viewed together, it is obvious that each speech anticipates the next. Ultimately, this paper will demonstrate how the rhetorical maneuvering which is employed in the speeches of George W. Bush is used to both justify the war in Iraq as well as prove that going to war in Iraq was a foregone conclusion by the Bush administration prior to 2001, but which the events of 9/11 only helped to more clearly define.

File Format