Working Paper 167

The Iraq War and the Discursive Construction of Knowledge: claims of political threat, risk, cost, and benefit

Kerstin Lueck, Gordon Chang

Department ‘Integration and Conflict’

Year of publication

Number of pages

Working Paper 167

Political concepts pertaining to threat, risk, cost, and benefit are often constructed and proffered by ‘experts’ with glowing credentials and extensive investigative resources. In Gramsci’s terms, these experts are a type of “intellectual” that serves political functions. Despite the appearance of objectivity and impartiality, technical assessments within policy circles are hardly analytically neutral or value-free. In this research study we critically analyze the discourse utilized by the Iraq Survey Group (ISG) and U.S. politicians – in both public media appearances and official governmental documents – to show the methods by which appointed experts and politicians affirmed the existence of an Iraqi threat in the absence of physical evidence for weapons of mass destruction stockpiles or active weapons programs. Furthermore, the goal is to analyze how these experts and U.S. politicians created certified knowledge – that is, knowledge claims about threat, risk, cost, and benefit – that helped political leaders to justify the Coalition’s invasion of Iraq.

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