The book “Writing, The War on Terrorism” is a detailed scholarly analysis on the use of language in the media and political offices before and during the so called “counter-terrorism” operations led by the United States and its allies. The central thesis of this work is the claim that the mainstream rhetoric is a carefully orchestrated effort, executed with the intention of manipulating public opinion regarding the War on Terror. The author supports his arguments by quoting from official documents and public records in the lead up to and during the war operations. The book also tries to expose the impotency of the mainstream media in asking tough questions of people in power by citing the story of abused Iraqi prisoners.
While the book is well-referenced and comprehensive in its treatment of the subject, it is not devoid of flaws. Nevertheless, what flaws there are is peripheral to the essence of the book. For the most part, Richard Jackson comes up with a much needed work on this neglected aspect of the ongoing war on terrorism. This elaborate study looks at ‘the role of language and discourse in the construction of the “war on terrorism”‘. According to the author, language, in this context is used to “normalize the practice of war” on terrorism (Jackson, 69). The narrative is very elaborate in terms of attention to detail and employment of complex logic in support of arguments. The book is also an exposition on how the political elite of the United States use language as a medium of public deception. The power wielded by the political elites of the country, the author argues, is so ubiquitous that even legislation are subject to manipulations. An interesting case in point is the “Patriots’ Act” (a euphemism). By delving into the labyrinth of official rhetoric over the last few years, the author comes up with impressive essays on the nature of American hegemony and its quest for global dominance. In Richard Jackson’s own words, “the language of anti-terrorists actually prevents rather than facilitates the search for solutions to political violence; that it actually encourages terrorism” (Jackson, 120).
The book tries to weave together three diverse subjects in the form of language, writing and present day terrorism. While the book is predominantly factual, one however gets the feeling that the author is biased against the American government. Given that the Bush Administration is one of the most unpopular American politics had ever seen, the book still does not present a single appreciation or recognition of courageous and earnest journalism that did find publication. Essentially, the book can be seen from two contrasting viewpoints. Firstly, this is a study of journalistic language of the present day, with all its ambiguities, misrepresentations and evasions. Secondly, it is an expose on the hidden agenda’s behind the apparently benevolent foreign policies of the American government. With respect to the latter, the author joins such dissident intellectuals as Noam Chomsky, Michael Parenti and Howard Zinn in displaying his critical assessment of the most powerful government in the world.
By the time a third of the book is read, the reader gets a distinct feeling of the author’s bias. While no claim can be made regarding the factual inaccuracies of the book, an equally significant charge against this work is its ideologically motivated choice of references. In other words, Richard Jackson does not take into consideration opposing points of view, which is reflected in his Bibliography. The primary and secondary sources referred come from the extreme left-liberal end of the political commentary spectrum. From the left-liberal point of view comes some mistaken views about the United States, its policies, its role in the world politics and terrorism.
With all its apparent biases, ideological leanings and selective representation of facts, the analytical ability of the author really does deserve appreciation. As an academic, Richard Jackson does not restrict himself in writing a book for fellow academics. By employing simple language and lucid arguments, the author shows by example what political writing should be. Also deserving merit is the author’s employment of clever alliterations, interesting juxtapositions of words and suitable metaphors. While these qualities give the book an air of literary flourish, they don’t undermine the fact-based approach to the work.
A book on the finer aspects of the War on Terror, like the political rhetoric and use of language, had surprisingly evaded scholarly attention. “Oversight” is a weak argument in support of this phenomenon. Pro-establishment “indoctrination” in the academic culture is a more plausible explanation. In this context, a radical and groundbreaking work such as this book makes for a pleasant change to readers from all walks of life. Essential being the subject matter and the chosen point of view of analysis, the creative tailoring of the arguments consistent with the central hypothesis is a violation of academic scholarship. The repeated criticisms of American hegemony and arrogance will not go down well with all sections of readership.