President* Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.
Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wisconsin. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings. Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.
And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."
These men are obviously confused about the word. Merriam-Webster defines fascism as "a political philosophy, movement, or regime (as that of the Fascisti) that exalts nation and often race above the individual and that stands for a centralized autocratic government headed by a dictatorial leader, severe economic and social regimentation, and forcible suppression of opposition".
A recent definition is that by Robert O. Paxton:
"Fascism may be defined as a form of political behavior marked by obsessive preoccupation with community decline, humiliation, or victim-hood and by compensatory cults of unity, energy, and purity, in which a mass-based party of committed nationalist militants, working in uneasy but effective collaboration with traditional elites, abandons democratic liberties and pursues with redemptive violence and without ethical or legal restraints goals of internal cleansing and external expansion."
So essentially you can't be a fascist unless you have a country and an economy. You can, however, be a religious fundamentalist/extremist without a nation, but you still must be able to finance your revolution.
But the Republican party, its own hoary alliance with Christian fundamentalists -- and yes, extremists -- together with the billions in US corporate largesse, fits the definition perfectly. And believe it: Bush knows a fascist when he hosts one.
Simply put (for you conservatives still having trouble understanding), the Islamic fundamentalists attack us because they want us out of the Middle East. It's not just about oil or money or power; they reject our commercialism because they fear Islam losing its influence to the siren song of Western fashion, electronic gadgets, cinema, music, and vices. And because they want revenge for what (they perceive) we have done to the region and the religion.
But back to the Fascists. I know; let's ask someone who actually was a Fascist for his definition. Hey, Benito Mussolini:
"Fascism should more appropriately be called corporatism because it is a merger of state and corporate power."
What do you have to say about this, Sinclair Lewis?
"When fascism comes to America, it will be wrapped in the flag and carrying the cross."
Here's more from the AP:
Dennis Ross, a Mideast adviser to both the first Bush and Clinton administrations and now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he would have chosen different words.
"The 'war on terror' has always been a misnomer, because terrorism is an instrument, it's not an ideology. So I would always have preferred it to be called the 'war with radical Islam,' not with Islam but with 'radical Islam,'" Ross said.
Why even mention the religion? "Because that's who they are," Ross said. "Fascism had a certain definition. Whether they meet this or not, one thing is clear: They're radical. They represent a completely radical and intolerant interpretation of Islam."
While "fascism" once referred to the rigid nationalistic one-party dictatorship first instituted in Italy, it has "been used very loosely in all kinds of ways for a long time," said Wayne Fields, a specialist in presidential rhetoric at Washington University in St. Louis.
"Typically, the Bush administration finds its vocabulary someplace in the middle ground of popular culture. It seems to me that they're trying to find something that resonates, without any effort to really define what they mean," Fields said.
Naah, that can't be true, Mr. Fields. (Can it?) So how long has this been going on, Mr. President?
"The real truth of the matter is, as you and I know, that a financial element in the large centers has owned the government of the U.S. since the days of Andrew Jackson."
That was FDR, not GWB. Another US president:
"I hope we shall... crush in its birth the aristocracy of our moneyed corporations, which dare already to challenge our government to a trial of strength and bid defiance to the laws of our country."
Thomas Jefferson said that. In 1816. Once more from the original source:
Stephen J. Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University, suggested White House strategists "probably had a focus group and they found the word 'fascist.'
"Most people are against fascists of whatever form. By definition, fascists are bad. If you're going to demonize, you might as well use the toughest words you can," Wayne said.
Remember who the real fascists are as you hear this phrase repeated over and over again in the coming days and weeks.