The day following the attack on Pearl Harbor in December, 1941, President Roosevelt declared War on the Japanese in an address to the American people. Nine days after the attacks on the U.S. by terrorists on September 11, 2001, George W. Bush declared war on terrorism and terrorists in an address to the American people. Despite the different causes for these declarations, in both speeches the presidents use language that often masks the real meaning they imply in what could be called a form of ôwar speak.ö
In his declaration of War on Japan, President Roosevelt uses a form of language that appeals to the enormous emotion among Americans over the attack on Pearl Harbor. However, Roosevelt uses a form of language that removes negative images of war and killing that might be called ôwar speak.ö He maintains that Americans will ôremember the character of the onslaught against us,ö a phrase that by using ôonslaughtö softens the real meaning of thousands of Americans slaughtered by the Japanese (Roosevelt, 1941, p. 582). In addressing Americans, he maintains AmericaÆs response to the terrorists ôwill lift a dark threat of violence from our people and our futureö (Bush, 2001, p. 800). Similar to Roosevelt, he is using a form of ôwar speakö where he does not mention the bloodshed that will need to occur to lift this ôthreatö to Americans.
Bush appeals to the emotions in a way that undermines the harsh realities of war in very much the same manner as Roosevelt did in 1941. Roosevelt (1941) maintains that Americans will ôdefend ourselves to the uttermostö against this ôform of treacheryö (p. 583). He does not explain what kind of enormous sacrifice will be required to achieve this goal, one that included a second world war before whose end the U.S. would drop two atomic bombs on Japan. Bush, likewise, appeals to peopleÆs emotions by couching the rhetoric of war in the principles and values that app