How common was "homeland" as a term for the United States before 9/11?

Nowadays the term “homeland security” seems familiar, as if it was always there. But I don’t recall hearing the term “homeland” as a term for the United States before President Bush began using it after the terrorist attacks in September 2001. How common was the term before 9/11?

Extremely uncommon. It smacks of fascism.

No, it doesn’t.

Yes it does?

For what it’s worth, I remember in the days after sept. 11, when “Homeland” and “protect the homeland” etc were being bandied about, that it was very strange to hear the States referred to as the “homeland.” In fact, I remember discussing with several people whether it was appropriate to do so, given how jackbooted it sounded. Shrug.

Otherwise, I don’t think that this is the type of thing that, 4 years after the fact, it will be possible to verify without some sort of institutional research. (Usage of homeland, I mean. Although I assume that the NSA has tapes of me cogitating over the phone about the issue… :wink: )

Of course, this is just my opinion. I’ll see if I can’t find anything more useful with my googleology.


It certainly wasn’t a common term prior to 9/11. I want to say that the first time I recalled hearing it was as early as 1999 or 2000, with the release of the Hart-Rudmann report. IIRC, that report basically recommended the creation of what is now officially the Dept of Homeland Security. I’ll try to find that report online to see if it contained the term ‘homeland’.

So, the answer to the question you actually asked appears to be basically what I thought it would be: it was essentially a neologism.

Here’s a transcript of a radio show from 9/17/02, and a quote.

Elsewhere in the show, one of the guests mentions that there was, essentially, handwringing about the new usage from both sides of the aisle. I also remember this, but it’s quite late here and I’m not going to look it up. Sorry. As for the why of the unease, I found this essay on nomenclature which I found to be insightful and sums up my general feeling far more eloquently than I could probably manage at the moment. It’s called Words and the War. (Also, I love the graphic across the top of that page. Eek!)


P.S. The link is to a message board, but I don’t think that this could be construed in any way as promulgating a “board war.” If anyone thinks I’m mistaken in this manner or we shouldn’t link to other message boards in general, please feel free to report this post. I’ll leave it in the wind for now.

Here it is: (.pdf! warning)

This all came out before 9/11. It got some press and some interest among the key players, but I don’t recall much widespread interest by the public at large until after 9/11.

IIRC the Pentagon mooted the idea of a Homeland Command, as a place to stick all the Reserve and National Guard units. (Such outfits are so uncool until a war starts.) The Reservists and Guardsmen did not fall for that and so the idea died.

In most discussion, and it was rarely discussed, the term was ‘continental defense.’

So I’ve found a few interesting things, going mostly off of your lead here.

Firstly, the use of homeland, as in “homeland security” is present in the Hart-Rudman report. Here’s a link to some summary stuff and a couple of .pdf’s I didn’t open. Link to Hart-Rudman report, Phase I. (New world coming: American Security in the 21st Century. Catchy title. With cool graphics…) If you look in the first link on that page, you will see that “homeland security” is quite prominent.

And the press release type thing for the second phase. Warning, pdf! But the colors are so pretty! (Here’s the boring, html version as translated by google. Booring! I’m not sure if that link will work, as it seems to be browser dependent. Good luck!) Again, prominant homeland action going on, as would be expected from the same folks, two years later.

Finally, the thing that I found the funniest is this critique of the Hart-Rudman report called The Hart-Rudman Commission and the Homeland Defense by Ian Roxborough. (link to .pdf file. You’ve been warned… pdf version and hopefully htmlified version) Why is it funny?

Note that this thing came out in September 2001. Oops. (Or am I misreading this? It’s possible, it’s very late…)

Boy, does that sound quaint. Picture guys in 1918 tin hats and britches at great big stone artillery emplacements, with cartoony-looking blue and yellow bombers overhead, waiting for the battleships to come over.

LOL… but just the word itself. It always makes me think of Italians talking about the homeland.

Fascism, though… when you mention das vaterland or motherland, now that rings bells of fascism.

When I hear “homeland security” or “homeland defense” it kind of inspires lack of confidence in the government. That turn of phrase just seems so damn corny, and kind of mitigates any air of importance that it should have. I guess I’m saying that I’d prefer something that really, truly does sound more fascist! Maybe MINILOVE would be taking it too far, though.

The term “homeland” always reminds me of the German “Heimat”, which isn’t inherently fascist, but was frequently used in Nazi propaganda. I know it doesn’t answer the question directly, but there are those who see parallels between current politics and the Nazi party. Shocking, I know.

Obligitory Wiki: Heimat

I’ve always thought it sounded too much like Fatherland. So yeah, it does have Fascist undertones for some people.

“Homeland” sounds incredibly fascist to me. It’s definitely close to “fatherland”.

As does “Patriot Act”, now that I think about it. Who could object to anything named “Patriot Act”? Only those who are, shall we say, UNPATRIOTIC?

Obviously, 1984 was set about twenty years too early.

I think part of the reason that it smacks of something aggressive if not outright fascist is that it presupposes “forward defense” (i.e. military activity in other peoples’ nations) as something distinct from security actions at the “home base.” It presuposes a foreign war footing, but also a common heritage in the “Heimat” sense which rings strange to many Americans seeing as this is a nation of immigrants.

Presumably the term is at best redundant because I wouldn’t expect the “US Department of Security” to be patrolling, say, Ghana.


I watch a lot of documentaries and WWII dramas. Frequently the Germans are singing a song with ‘Vaterland’ in it. What are the words?

I recall some discussion of this in the NY Times shortly after the creation of the Department of Homeland Security was announced. It was in the “Week in Review” section, and the write noted that, traditionally, matters involving operations within the US were labeled “domestic”, implying that “homeland security” was consciously chosen over “domestic security”.

The main point of the article was how in recent times political considerations have massaged congressional and executive language toward a more “plain spoken” argot. His reasoning on the choice of “homeland” was because “domestic” makes one think of government bureauocracy. The writer also cited the apparent preference for “freedom” instead of the more esoteric “liberty”, a word that makes one think of the ACLU, generally (though wrongly) assumed to be an anti-Republican/conservative organization.

Um… funny you should mention that…

Johnny L.A.: possibly Die Wacht am Rhein? I have a vague idea (no cite) that because of copyright issues (?) or something similar, the anthem of the Nazi Party, Horst Wessel or Das Horst Wessel Lied (the Horst Wessel Song) could not be used in WWII-era films, so Die Wacht am Rhein was frequently used instead.


Same for me.