The Construction of U.S War Against Terrorism Through Documentary Work of Inside The Pentagon

“The Construction of U.S  War Against Terrorism Through Documentary Work of Inside The Pentagon : Developing Optimism Toward Public after 9/11 Attacked”

Tori Nuariza Sutanto1


The History of U.S military in the battlefields led the United States of America as the super power nation. As a consequence, United States of America tends to put the stability of their nation as the first priority. The security of the country  has to be under control.  The Historical background of some wars that involved by the U.S military creates such a principal which they always have to step ahead in military defense. Finding the new inventions and new technologies are the best way for United States of America to  keep their existence as the most powerful country. To prove their existence, the idea of establishing a military base as the supporting system and the headquarter comes out. It provokes the United States of America to build the Pentagon.

Creating a military base, such as Pentagon as the supporting system of U.S military in the battlefields, was the vital part for America to conquers the battlefields. It is designed as the Headquarters of the United States Department of Defense where the leaders could have  meetings and conferences, discussing systematic strategies, creating inventions in weapon technology, setting the battle in the media, and etc. As a symbol of the United States Military, the Pentagon designed to cover around 40.000 workers, with its complexity in terms of facilities where it is built based on their necessitty to support any kind of conditions.

  War is integral component or main component for spreading the new vision of United States foreign policies2. Thus, It related to one of ideolog groups called neo-conservatives. They emerged as a group that dominantly had influence in the U.S government. The root of neo-conservatives ideas in the U.S Policy can be seen in the nineties.

 After the era of Cold War, they implemented their vision in the use of military weapons directly in order to stengthen the domination of United States of America. Mainly, War dramatically improves the long-term capability of America to show their power projection toward not only to the midle-east countries but also other countries in the world3.

   Moreover, the United  States of America policies since the World War II era were imperialistic4. The domination of America in economy, military imperialism with the increasing in America military spending budget, the political role in the integration of NATO are only some of  proofs of the imperialistic movement of the U.S. Iran’s Impeachment 1953, Vietnam War, Gulf War, Iraq, Suriah, Libya, North Korea were the example of United States way to increase their influences. Noam Chomsky clearly states about “relation way”, the intervention of U.S in the other countries economy to serve the need of America enterprises, did manipulation and also the intervention in security system like sending troops in extremist way. It is perhaps called the new way of imperialism, a commitment to keep the unipolarity5. Unipolarity can be regarded as a fundamental characteristic to be a significant factor that provides another factors for instance in terms of economic.

 After the 9/11 attacked, U.S Government under the leadership of George W. Bush  spreaded out the information publicly about the starting of new era and U.S will be faced war. The Vice-President, Dick Cheney announced the annulment of 25 years limit execution of Osama Bin Laden. “War on Terrorism was different with another war like Gulf War, fundamentally, war on terrorism will be not finished in our era”. Every president can have a doctrine. Bush’s doctrine on terrorism was “you followed us, or you were on the terrorist side”. Since the day till now, every nation which still support terrorism will be seen as the U.S regime opponent6.

 Since the day till now, every nation which still support terrorism will be seen as the U.S regime opponent6. This was the derivation of Truman doctorine, which stated the the U.S intervention toward other countries whose communism developed. So, If the war on terrorism not the war toward the terrorism, What is actually the War on terrorism ? Was it defined as a new Cold War ? by changing  terrorism to communism as the different threat that should be opposed ?

In June 5, 2003, National Geographic released a documentary film of U.S Department of Defense office building entitled “Inside the Pentagon”. The history of the United States military headquarters is introduced from its construction during WWII to the renovations after 9-11. This program explores the Pentagon’s mission, staff, and plans for the future. This Documentary work systematically explaines the U.S Defense, 21st Century Warfare, Pentagon Community, The Attacked of Sept 11th, a glance of pentagon history from the original construction, Pentagon mission, and Pentagon Staff. In addition, there were some scenes that potrayed the wartime pentagon, about homeland security, show of new safety measures, phoenix project, new approach to war, and U.S weapons of war.

  • Film can effectively shape the people mindset and perception

Generally, film is divided into two, fiction film and non-fiction film. Fiction film is the genre of film which express fictional characteristic. There should be script, editing, and aesthetic. Otherwise, non-fiction film or documentary film is known as the film which concerns on documenting something, telling the real condition, and objective. Actually, how they call it as objective media and view something as “Reality”, if the media is constructed from the subjectivity of the human. Berger and Luckmann argue that reality which occurs in the society is constructed by human7 (Gordon, 1967). Hence, documentary film is manipulated and constructed as the manifestation of the human to share the political discourse.

Documentary is a useful audio-visual media to set up an understanding of a certain past event. It is important to understand what and how to read a documentary work.

There were many critics toward the U.S war propaganda on terrorism. The criticisms come from various media, such as films, newspapers, journals, Television shows, magazines, and etc. Film is portrayed as the most effective weapon to shape the people mindset and perception. Film can be seen as a device to spread the ideology. Douglas Kellner views Film which can represent the social struggles and also transcodes the political discourse of the era8 (Kellner, 2010, p. 2).  People could express their ideas, belief, or their political side through the film. Some Films, for instance, Black Hawk Down (2001), Transformes; revenge the fallen (2007), Top Gun (1986), Pearl Harbour, Iron man (2008) were some examples of symbiotic relations and mutual exploitations between Hollywood and the Pentagon, Department of Defense Liasson Unit9.

            Documentary work today has been significant toward the society as form of arts, aesthethic form, and a means of communication. The object of this research is the American media product i.e a documentary film entitled Inside the Pentagon. It is important to understand what and how to read a documentary work. Documentary is a useful audio-visual media to set up an understanding of a certain past event. Therefore, semiotics approach is needed. Semiotics will be  used as one of the approach to examine the object  of this research and to explore how the documentary film as term of propaganda which politically can be a device to drive public attention, perception, and awareness.

Semiotic is the study of signs. Using semiotics as a study of sign merely connects with the meanings, because of sign convey meaning. In this way, film could communicate denotative and connotative meaning. Connotative meaning is constructed from what and how the object is shot.

Connotative meaning of a movie can be constructed through its cinematic signs or we can say language of the film such as mise-en-scene, setting, make up, shot, angle, tone, figure behavior and other cinematographic elements of a movie.

  • U.S War against Terrorism

Rahul Mahajan in his book, The New Crusade : America’s War on Terrorism (2002) stated that world changed after the September 11th10. After the tragedy of  9/11 , It shows new era, not because of the ruthless attacked with the victims to 3000 people, also not for the warn of international terrorist but it for the globally fundamental shifting that did by the U.S government as response. Then, It spreads globally “War against Terrorism”.

                        Some groups who opposed U.S new war on terrorism thinks that war on terrorism was not fight the terrorist. Since the militerictic response after the 9/11 was not the best solution, even it made worse. As if the safety of the U.S citizen become the first priority, the policy will be different. It portray to the late of reaction from the aeroplane airlines to give safety, instead of just gaining more and more money. The changing of cockpit to steel made after 9/11 has not done sooner. Also the X-Ray Checking on the baggage in the airport did not provide widely to the all of U.S  after one year. Moslem community in the U.S became the victims of generalization or stereotypying. Stop the terrorist by do extradiction way would be more effective than do war against them.

The emphasis of War on Terrorism in Afghanistan and The Iraq invasion  try to legitimate U.S Foreign policy to support of their declaration of war. The historical background of 9-11 tragedy explored dramatically in exaggerating scene. The dramatic series of scene that shows the september 11th tragedy were trying to direct the viewers to blame terrorism. Again, it was a kind of way to support and expand war-like culture so that the U.S government policy to attacked Afghanistan and  did invasion were supported by the U.S Citizen.

  • Developing Optimism Toward Public after 9/11 Attacked

                        This documentary work of Inside The Pentagon was released on the crucial situation.  In the 2002 till 2003, this issue was very global. Ellis and McLane underline the concept and term of propaganda in a documentary work which suggests that politically documentary can be a tool to drive public attention and awareness11. After 9/11, U.S citizen were traumatic, in fear, and in grief. This documentary try softly set the perception by drawing mindset through the scenes for instances, explaines the U.S Defense and the history of Pentagon.

Then, the explanation of 21st warfare shows the successful story, defeats, and also failure but it emphasized to construct “Pentagon learned from history and will not fail again” (vietnam war and gulf war).  This documentary work also explores the Pentagon’s mission, staff, and plans for the future. It construct the complexity of pentagon attempts and also possibility of succeed from the systematic strategies.

Do flasbacking scenes of historical backgroud of Pentagon original construction on September 1941, the era of World War II contructs self-optimism and remembering the triumph of World War II. After those scenes, to stimulate the hate to the terrorist, the scenes of September 11th comes out. The way of this documentary work shaping the perceptions by designing such well form of arts with factual information  were succeed.

How this work developing optimism toward public after 9/11 attacked portrayed on the example of scenes of new safety measures, phoenix project, and new approach to war, and  weapons  of war. At the very beginning of the movie, semiotic values portrays this movie in order to constructs the viewer perception that U.S Department of Defense always prepare for everything. In addition, It portrays how many people involved in the military operation.

The present of Pentagon as the Department of Defense has changed America. It shown how pentagon strengthen U.S military troops from the far distance, and as a consequence strengthen politically U.S position in the world. The Pentagon strategy of using intelligence informations and sattelite increase their possibility to win the war, because information is power

Having watched the movie, there are some quetions appear. The movie presents the power of U.S Military troops with the other supporting systems in the media battle, weapon technology, information technology, and etc. There some of semiotic meaning that exaggerates to portray the new power of U.S Military and the new approach of them to war.

Technology plays an important role in the new era of war, twentieth century. The complexity of strategy, military leaders meeting, mission, operation, and other supporting system decided the triumph or failure in the battlefields. The inventions in weapon technology and other supporting systems contributed to the better history of U.S military.

With all of the presentations, the documentary work of Inside the Pentagon politically can be a tool to drive public attention and awareness. It construction stimulate to build optimism because by knowing the all informations as power, by always finding new inventions and technology, and  by believe on their U.S Deparment of Defense, the U.S citizen will be in safe.

 Citations :

 1]Tori Nuariza Sutanto, an eighth semester student of English Department of Sebelas Maret University, focuses on american studies mainstream.

2 Mahajan, Rahul, 2005 “Melawan Negara Teroris; Dominasi Amerika Serikat terhadap Irak dan Kedaulatan Dunia”, Teraju; Jakarta , Pendahuluan, xiii

3 Ibid, Pendahuluan xiii

4 Ibid, Chapter 2 “New Way of Imperialism

5  Ibid,.

6 Taken from the speech of President Bush on the Congress, September 20, 2001,

 7 Kelly, R. Gordon. 1967. The Social Construction of Reality: Implications for Future Directions in American Studies.

8   Kellner, Douglas.2010. Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in Bush-Cheney Era. Wiley-Blackwell. p. 132-158

9   Sutanto, Tori Nuariza, “Empire ; Hollywood and the War Machine”, november 18, 2011           

 10   Mahujan, Rahul, 2002. The New Crusade part II; The New White Man’s Burden”. (monthly review press, 2002)

11  Ellis, Jack C and Betsy A. McLane, A New History of Documentary Film, (New York: Continum, 2006), 



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