A recent Associated Press article highlighted the newest buzzword of the Republican party. Instead of calling it a war against terror, it is now a war against "fascism" or also "islamic fascism".
For those who are unsure of what the definition of fascism is, here is how Dictionary.com defines the term:
a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
If you don't like that definition you can use your own source but the two should be similar.
This new phrase is intended to, according to the White House and GOP strategists, "attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific."
Ok, fair enough. Instead of an open-ended description of who we're up against we're trying to narrow the view to a specific type of group. However, in using the term fascism, the White House has unknowingly set itself up for ridicule not because it's grasping at anything to change the public's opinion, but rather because the actions of this administration are flirting with the definition of fascisim. Am I mad? No more than anyone else but since you've asked, let me explain via a checklist.
- a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power,
Obviously George Bush is not a dictator. He came to office by a (somewhat) democratic election though it took a court order to do so.
However, since taking office he has expanded the powers of the presidency far beyond what any preceding president has ever done, including Lincoln and Roosevelt who both were in office during times of war. In fact, many of the things Bush has done would lead one to believe that nothing less than complete power is his ultimate goal. For example, his gutting of the Constitution's prohibition against unreasonable searches via the Patriot Act and the NSA warrantless wiretaps would be two examples of such usurpation of power.
- forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism,
This administration has demonstrated, on numerous occasions, its ability to crush dissent. A short list of people who have criticized the actions of this president and who have either lost their jobs or were forced to quit include 1:
Richard Clarke, the president's chief adviser on terrorism on the National Security Council. He became disillusioned with the president's insistence to make an unsubstantiated link between Iraq and 9/11 as well as the president ignoring evidence of an impending attack.
Paul O'Neill, the former Secretary of the Treasury who vocally opposed the president's tax cuts and was asked to resign.
Larry Lindsey, a top economic advisor to the president, who let it slip that the Iraq invasion could cost $200 billion and was fired. The current cost has surpassed $400 billion and some are predicting it could hit $1 trillion within a few years.
Anthony Zinni, was recalled back from retirement to serve as special envoy to the Middle East. He commented that the aftermath of the Iraq invasion would be long and problematic and his appointment was not renewed.
Eric Shinseki, army chief of staff. When he told Congress that the occupation of Iraq could require "several hundred thousand troops", Donald Rumsfeld publicly stated that General Shinseki would be leaving when his term ended.
Susan Wood and Frank Davidoff, both resigned from the Food and Drug Administration over the agency's decision to again delay a final ruling on the "morning after pill", also known as Plan B, for non-prescriptive use. The delay was due to pressure from the adminstration rather than from a scientific stance.
Teresa Chambers, US Park Police Chief. When she told reporters and congressional staffers about budget problems, she was placed on administrative leave. When her attorneys filed a demand for immediate reinstatement through the Merit Systems Protection Board, she was fired two and a half hours later.
Then of course there is the outing of Valerie Plame by the administration. When her husband, Joe Wilson, did not corroborate a document (later shown to be forged) that Iraq had attempted to buy uranium yellow cake, Valerie's name was given out as a CIA operative to reporter Robert Novak who later published the information.
The article referenced above has a much longer list of people whose lives were upended when they dissented from the administration's viewpoint of which I pulled out select items.
- regimenting all industry, commerce, etc.,
This is one area where the administration does not meet the actual definition but rather skirts around it. By its actions, such as the revision to the bankrupcy laws which only benefit the credit card industry, or allowing oil companies to set energy policy, the administration is allowing for a regimentation of industry by allowing industry to set its own rules, including monopolies in the cable and phone industry.
- and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism.
Here is where the Bush administration, and its lackeys, shine. Ever since the occupation of Iraq this administration has gone out of its way to push one and only one agenda; the american agenda. The claim is that we're trying to bring freedom and democracy to the world even though when free and democratic elections were held in Palestine we rejected the outcome because of who won. In its pursuit of this goal, anyone who challenges this notion is immediately labeled as an appeaser of fascism or misinformed about what is taking place.
A funny quote from the Associated Press article comes from Charles Black, a GOP consultant with close ties to the White House. In describing the islamic fascists, he says:
"It helps dramatize what we're up against. They are not just some ragtag terrorists. They are people with a plan to take over the world and eliminate everybody except them."
This is funny because this is exactly what Ann Coulter2 says we, the United States, should do. Don't believe me? Here's her quote:
We should invade their countries, kill their leaders and convert them to Christianity. We weren't punctilious about locating and punishing only Hitler and his top officers. We carpet-bombed German cities; we killed civilians. That's war. And this is war.
In other words, the neo-conservative viewpoint is that it's bad when someone else wants to take over the world and eliminate anyone except themselves, but it's ok when we want to do it no matter how many of them we kill. Funny, isn't it? For the record, the idea of forced conversions and wholesale slaughter of civilians was something the Crusaders practiced. I guess Ann never got the memo that such things went out of style 900 years ago.
As far as the racism issue is concerned, this administration has an unusual idea about race. Apparently if you have dark skin and black hair you should be under constant watch because you might be a terrorist. However, if you have dark skin and black hair and illegally enter the country, you should be granted asylum even though you've broken the law by entering the country illegally.
One could argue that since the perpetrators of September 11th were of arabic descent (17 of the 19 were Saudis in case you were wondering), that all persons of such ilk should be looked upon with suspicion. However, I have never heard that all white males between the ages of 18 and 25 should be under suspicion for possible terrorist attacks after Timothy McVeigh destroyed the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma.
Does this mean that we as a nation are fascists? Of course not. Does this mean that George Bush is a fascist? No, not really for as much as some people would like to believe. What the above does mean is that the nation is experiencing some of the indicators of fascism. From the perceived blatant disregard for Constitutional norms to outright attacks on anyone who disagrees with policy, every week this country takes one more step down the wrong path.
Don't believe me? Try this on for size. Ever since September 11th there has been a slow but persistent erosion of ones privacy. This is evidenced by such things as not being able to pay for an airline ticket with cash as well as not being able to show up and purchase a ticket at the counter for a flight at the last minute. How is this an invasion of privacy? Because by forcing people to use either online sources or contacting the airlines directly and forcing you to use a credit card to purchase your ticket, the government is now able to track your movements.
Why is this a big deal? Most would say it's not, that flying on a plane is not a right but a privilege. That may be true but what if the same principle were applied to driving? Driving isn't a right, it's a privilege. Would your opinion be the same?
What about taking out a library book. Did you know that the Patriot Act has said that librarians must turn over the lists of people who take out books when requested to do so by law enforcement agencies? So what, right? Well what if you've taken out a book on chemistry because you're working on something for a class project. If a law enforcement agency gets the list of people who took out that book and your name is on the list, you could be barred from flying to see Aunt Thelma in Texas because you could be a potential terrorists. After all, you did take out a book on chemistry.
Think I'm going overboard? What about if you paid off your credit card debt but found out that your check to pay the bill never cleared because the government thought you might be a terrorist. Sounds outlandish, right? Unfortunately, it is completely true. Just ask the Soehnge's. They tried to be responsible folks and pay off their debt. Instead, their actions caused the bank to hold their check and notify the Department of Homeland Security. But this is just an instance of the government invading ones privacy to be sure someone isn't being a terrorist, right?
I know some of you reading this are thinking that I'm completely offbase, that I'm some left-wing, neo-anarchist with an axe to grind against the government. Sadly, no matter how much you would like me to admit to that, I'm not. I'm just someone who doesn't think the idea of the government knowing where I've been every time I fly or drive, or what I'm purchasing, or read, is any of its business.
What's truly interesting is that throughout the Cold War, successive administrations took pains to point out how the people living behind the Iron Curtain were subjected to constant spying by both the government and their neighbors. How the Soviets and their satellite nations compiled dossiers on the minutest details of a persons life to find anything that could be used against them to pressure the person into spying on their neighbors.
Yet here we are, doing the exact same things that we railed against. All in the name of freedom. Or is it fascism? It's getting hard to tell the difference.1 Casualties of the Bush administration
2 Ann Coulter has said alot of funny things such as "I think [women] should be armed but should not [be allowed to] vote.", which is an interesting comment since that would mean she herself could not vote and would instead want this country to roll back the clock 100 years.
Then there is this choice quote which relates to this column:
"My libertarian friends are probably getting a little upset now but I think that's because they never appreciate the benefits of local fascism."