Convincing A Nation Built On War Not To Go To War

Submitted By bbeishon
Words: 4447
Pages: 18

Convincing a nation built on war not to go to war: An analysis of how Barack Obama employs linguistic techniques to oppose the Iraq War and win the support of his audience and America.


On the 11th of October 2002, President Bush was given congressional approval to use the armed forces of the United States against Iraq (CNN) with 65% of the public supporting the war (Olive 2008). This was in response to allegations that Iraq was supporting terrorist group Al Qaeda and was actively seeking nuclear weapons capabilities (CNN). 9 days before congress would grant their approval Obama, a democratic Illinois state senator at the time (, gave a speech opposing the Iraq war which was delivered in Chicago at what was dubbed to be an anti war rally ( The speech is considered to have been a leading factor in his projection to presidency in 2009 (Olive 2008). By making, what many conceived to an anti war speech, Obama risked losing support (Olive 2008) as history has shown war to be America’s popular choice of response when threatened or otherwise. This is balanced against the awareness and concern of Americans that their soldiers would once again be put in danger for what may have been a waste of time. A 2013 report found that the Iraq War has cost over 2 trillion dollars and is projected to reach 6 trillion over the next four decades ( No weapons of mass destruction were found but a pro American outcome was the decimation of Al Qaeda yet this is weighed against at least 134,000 Iraqi civilian deaths (
If Obama’s speech was a major factor in his road to presidency then I’m interested in how Obama presented himself as a strong leader of a minority that believed that going to war against Iraq was the wrong decision. By investigating how he portrays the rights and wrongs of war when addressing a nation that wants revenge for the 9/11 terrorist attacks I can determine the morals he wishes people to see in him as a potential leader. In order to assert himself as a leader I expect Obama to present his opinion of the war as appropriate and will analyse how he presents his opinion.
I will also consider how Obama supports the American stance of pro- war and defending freedom whilst he opposes the Iraq war at an anti-war rally as he doesn’t want to be portrayed as a pacifist. I will consider the American stance of pro-war to stem from the national ethos of America based on a set of ideals: freedom, equality and opportunity. Interestingly Bush dubbed the Iraq invasion “Operation Freedom” possibly to embody the American belief system ( I will also consider the situation in Iraq at the time to be something that is feared to threaten the America with regards to the 2001 9/11 terrorist attacks that shook the United States and defined terrorism.
Research questions

Main focus:

How does Obama present himself as a strong leader while taking a controversial stance?


How does he support the traditional American stance on war while opposing the Iraq War?

How does he portray the rights and wrongs of the Iraq war? How does he present his opinion as appropriate?

I will divide the text into natural phases that are determined by a shift in topic, stance or temporality and will analyse the text by using transitivity, appraisal and modality with regards to the context.
The term transitivity refers to the relationship between different participants and the role they play within a process (Bartlett 2014: 44-5). I will use an analysis of transitivity to determine how Obama construes the roles of the main participants and himself in relation to the kinds of activities they’re involved in. This provides understanding of how Obama may position himself as a strong leader and the level of involvement Obama perceives participants to have in negative or positive processes. Below I outline the 4 process types included in my analysis:
Material: a