While I’m keyboarding this I’m listening to Keith Olbermann explain the new name for the Iraq misadventure — “The War We Didn’t Start.” Also on Countdown — Brian Williams interviewed the President, who still says we went to Iraq because of 9/11 — “fundamentalists” attacked us, he said. It cannot be true that the Iraq War is helping recruit new jihadists, according to Bush, because we were attacked by jihadists before we invaded Iraq. (Like there can’t be more jihadists now?) Bush also claims he never even thought about attacking Iraq until after 9/11, which contradicts what Paul O’Neill told Ron Suskind.
And how pathetic is it that Bush is refusing to take responsibility for a war the whole world knows he started? And which was utterly unnecessary?
In his speech Rumsfeld continued the “Islamo-fascism” theme being promoted by the White House lately. Katha Pollitt writes in the current issue of The Nation about the Bushies sudden fondness for the word fascism.
If you control the language, you control the debate. As the Bush Administration’s Middle Eastern policy sinks ever deeper into bloody incoherence, the “war on terror” has been getting a quiet linguistic makeover. It’s becoming the “war on Islamic fascism.” … The move away from “war on terrorism” arrives not a moment too soon for language fussbudgets who had problems with the idea of making war on a tactic. To say nothing of those who wondered why, if terrorism was the problem, invading Iraq was the solution. (From the President’s August 21 press conference: Q: “But what did Iraq have to do with September 11?” A: “Nothing.” Now he tells us!)
The term Islamo-fascism isn’t new, Pollitt writes, nor is it accurate. But it sure is useful.
“Islamo-fascism” looks like an analytic term, but really it’s an emotional one, intended to get us to think less and fear more. It presents the bewildering politics of the Muslim world as a simple matter of Us versus Them, with war to the end the only answer, as with Hitler. If you doubt that every other British Muslim under the age of 30 is ready to blow himself up for Allah, or that shredding the Constitution is the way to protect ourselves from suicide bombers, if you think that Hamas might be less popular if Palestinians were less miserable, you get cast as Neville Chamberlain, while Bush plays FDR. “Islamo-fascism” rescues the neocons from harsh verdicts on the invasion of Iraq (“cakewalk…roses…sweetmeats…Chalabi”) by reframing that ongoing debacle as a minor chapter in a much larger story of evil madmen who want to fly the green flag of Islam over the capitals of the West. Suddenly it’s just a detail that Saddam wasn’t connected with 9/11, had no WMDs, was not poised to attack the United States or Israel–he hated freedom, and that was enough. It doesn’t matter, either, that Iraqi Sunnis and Shiites seem less interested in uniting the umma than in murdering one another. With luck we’ll be so scared we won’t ask why anyone should listen to another word from people who were spectacularly wrong about the biggest politico-military initiative of the past thirty years, and their balding heads will continue to glow on our TV screens for many nights to come. On to Tehran!
RJ Eskow has a similar take on the fondness for fascism.
The term “Islamic fascism” is demonstrably inaccurate in describing the threat we face. It’s been ginned up to stifle any genuine debate about how best to defend ourselves, and for partisan political gain. But that’s not the worst of it: it also weakens us. It uses a false historical analogy to confuse us, leaving us less able to analyze and react to the genuine dangers around us. …
… IF [Islamic Fascism] is a propaganda creation in the classic sense of the term. Anyone with a grasp of history knows that “fascism” entails intense nationalism and collaboration with large corporations, both of which Islamists reject. They do practice intense control of individual behavior, which is hateful but not limited to fascist movements.
So why use the term? For one thing, it evokes our Second World War enemies. There was clarity of purpose in WWII – we all knew the enemy and were united in our intent. Opposing the allies’ military strategy was tantamount to undermining the war effort. And the President’s judgment was never questioned.
Lastly – and most importantly – the appeasement strategy of Neville Chamberlain has echoed down the years as one of history’s tragic mistakes. Calling Islamism “fascism” allows purveyors of a failed military strategy – most recently Donald Rumsfeld – to try hiding their ineptitude behind the charge that their critics are Chamberlains.
In short, it’s subliminal sucker bait.
Yesterday Donald Rumsfeld dangled plenty of sucker bait in front of the American Legion.
… 1919 was the beginning of a period where, over time, a very different set of views would come to dominate discourse and thinking in the west.
Over the next decades, a sentiment took root that contended that if only the growing threats that had begun to emerge in Europe and Asia could be appeased, then the carnage and destruction of then-recent memory of World War I might be avoided. It was a time when a certain amount of cynicism and moral confusion set in among the western democracies. When those who warned about a coming crisis — the rise of fascism and Nazism — were ridiculed and ignored.
Indeed, in the decades before World War II, a great many argued that the fascist threat was exaggerated — or that it was someone elseâ€™s problem. Some nations tried to negotiate a separate peace — even as the enemy made its deadly ambitions crystal clear.
It was, as Churchill observed, a bit like feeding a crocodile, hoping it would eat you last.
There was a strange innocence in views of the world. Someone recently recalled one U.S. Senatorâ€™s reaction in September 1939, upon hearing that Hitler had invaded Poland to start World War II. He exclaimed:
“Lord, if only I could have talked with Hitler, all this might have been avoided.â€
And that Senator was a Republican.
“Can we truly afford to believe that somehow vicious extremists can be appeased?” Rumsfeld continues, without providing examples of anyone suggesting any such thing.
“There was clarity of purpose in WWII,” says Eskow. “We all knew the enemy and were united in our intent.” Erich Fromm wrote that authoritarians seek escape from freedom by submerging themselves in a group or cause. At least some of our current crop of righties have adopted the conceit that they are all soldiers in a great war; their service (bloviating?) is just as vital to the cause as that of uniformed troops under fire for their country. They’ve got the world divided up into the bright, glorious Us and the dark, depraved Them, and they are warriors on the side of Goodness. This conceit gives them the illusion of clarity of purpose. True clarity would, of course, require understanding the Middle East in all its complexities, as-it-is. But this righties cannot and will not do.
If you can put yourself in a rightie’s place for a moment (don’t stay too long), it becomes clear why they see us lefties as traitors — we’re not following the script. We’re not playing our proper role in their drama. We’re telling them that their dearly beloved fantasy life is all bullshit.
This also explains why they refuse to understand Middle Eastern people and politics. Their fantasies demand demonic (and ethnically Middle Eastern) forces united in single purpose against Us. Reality is a lot more complicated.
Over in Britain, Mark Seddon wonders why Americans are so worked up over Muslims when it wasn’t so long ago that a federal building in Oklahoma City was blown up by a home-grown terrorist.
The Oklahoma bombing was dwarfed by the September 11 outrage in New York and Washington DC – and despite the best attempts of the museum and its staff to provide both a memorial to its victims and to study terrorism – its effects and causes – the federal caravan has moved on. Though McVeigh and his supporting cast of survivalist desperadoes had the federal government and all this it stands for in their sights, the same government and much of the media seem only interested to foreign terrorists now. McVeigh, sadly, was from the extreme end of a not insubstantial group of Americans, who believe in nihilist religious sects, despise all forms of government, and believe themselves to be the real patriots who defend the American constitution.
I still think it’s a damn shame they fried McVeigh before 9/11. He didn’t live long enough to experience becoming a has-been.
In Oklahoma City I met a Republican member of the state senate who, while condemning the act that disfigured his city, wanted to explain how this home grown act of terror came about, what motivated the survivalists and why they felt aggrieved. But that was because the Oklahoma bombing came from within, rather than from without. It is difficult to imagine many American politicians, who while condemning foreign terrorists, try to understand what motivates the killers and in so doing redress some of the larger injustices those same terrorists use to feed violence thereby separating the small minority from the vast majority who seek justice through peaceful means.
Beside the fact that McVeigh was white — it’s so much easier to think of Middle Eastern terrorists as crazed, noncognitive animals. (The flip side of that, of course, is thinking of Middle Easterners as simple brown people who will greet us with flowers and gratitude when we invade them.)
Or else their strategy is not about fighting terrorism; Mark Seddon continues,
Those who advocate a “permanent war on terrorism” may deliberately, or inadvertently, be seeking to justify that old Foster Dulles fear-instilling maxim that in order to persuade a people to carry a great burden it is important to create a threat. In other words, a climate of fear suits them politically. There is of course a major threat out there, but it is neither permanent nor unassailable, and neither should it be exaggerated.
Like Olbermann said — “This country faces a new type of fascism – indeed.”