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Seton Hall L. Rev.


This article examines persuasive statements by Presidents George W. Bush, Barack Obama, and Donald Trump involving appeals to national identity as a rhetorical foundation for anti-terrorism policy since 9/11. Their specific rhetorical methods have included the use of memorable catchphrases, alliteration, metaphorical framing, and contrast between values of the United States and those of the terrorists. President Bush focused on rallying the nation’s response against the perpetrators of the 9/11 attacks, identifying the U.S. with “freedom itself” and invoking the phrase “War on Terror.” President Obama emphasized the importance of the nation’s values while denouncing the Bush administration’s torture of terrorism suspects and extolling American values when announcing that U.S. forces killed Osama bin Laden, the leader of the terrorists involved in the 9/11 attacks. In contrast to his predecessors, who explicitly stated that the U.S. was not at war with Islam, President Trump has tended to invoke anti-Muslim sentiment in his anti-terrorism rhetoric and his immigration policies. The presidential statements presented justifications for the actions of the Chief Executives and reflected their priorities in directing the “War on Terror.”