In Arlington National Cemetery on September 12, 2002, the defense secretary, Donald H. Rumsfeld, presided over the burial with full military honors of a single casket containing unidentified remains intended to represent all 184 victims of the 9/11 Pentagon attack, a number that included civilian and military personnel on the ground and passengers on American Airlines Flight 77. Their collective grave, marked by a four-and-a-half-foot granite monument, sits within eyesight of the building where they died. The Pentagon Group Burial Marker, folded at the time of its dedication into Bush administration justifications for the planned invasion of Iraq, is today linked both in official and unofficial discourses to a set of monuments and graves scattered throughout the cemetery related to incidents of terrorism in the post-Vietnam era. The linkage gains fresh urgency as casualties mount from what has been defined as a war against terrorism. This article argues that these monuments are freighted with new historical meanings, justifications, and claims to legitimacy, drawn into a longer story of American victimization, Islamic aggression, reluctant empire, and triumphant U.S. nationalism and military virtue.

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