When George W. Bush began making poignant references to what he termed “Islamic Fascists,” he shed more light on the nature of the ideology driving the neoconservative movement than he did on the ideology driving militant Islamic groups in various parts of the world—for reasons we will soon examine. Although the administration quickly dropped the use of the term “Islamic fascists,” other elements of the neoconservative movement have continued to utilize it. Now, as we are in the midst of what its right-wing architects are calling “Islamofascism Week,” it behooves us to ask, “Who are the fascists?”
If we consider the nature of fascism, we can see that the ideology driving the agenda Mr. Bush is pushing shares far more with the fascist movements of the 20th Century than any of the Islamic groups or states he and his political allies seek to condemn. Consider that one of the principal innovations of the fascist movement, introduced by Hitler in Mein Kampf, and perfected by his principal propagandist, Joseph Goebbels, was the “big lie.” The basic premise of this idea was that if one tells a big enough lie often enough and with adequate conviction, most people will hold it to be true, for the average person does not believe that anyone would have the audacity to lie so brazenly. Therefore, what is being alleged must be true.
Leaving aside the allegations of weapons of mass destruction in Iraq, a skillful use of the “big lie” technique, let us consider the allegation that so-called Islamic Fascism threatens Western Civilization. This is another big lie. The nature of this lie is revealed by the fact Ayman Zawahari, Usama Bin Laden, and the movements they lead were incapable of posing a significant threat to the Egyptian and Saudi states respectively. Zawahari’s Jihad group was ruthlessly crushed by the Egyptian government during the mid-1990s. Bin Laden’s challenge to the Saudi state in the aftermath of the 1991 Gulf War was similarly thwarted. Hence, both men eventually ended up in a cave in Afghanistan. The terrorist acts they orchestrated in Egypt and Saudi Arabia proved to be a nuisance, in a strategic sense. However, at no time did those acts constitute an existentialist threat to either state.
While terrorist acts perpetrated by what has come to be known as al-Qaeda may be disruptive, they could never pose a significant threat to the integrity of Western Civilization, neither politically, economically, nor socially. By way of illustration, it took less than two months for the stock markets to rebound to pre-September 11, 2001 levels in the aftermath of the attacks of that day. Today, five years after those attacks, American exports are higher, global trade levels, led by the United States, are higher, world tourism is up, domestic air travel, the sector hardest hit in the aftermath of the 9/11 attacks, has surpassed pre-9/11 levels, and legal immigration to the United States is as high as it has ever been.
Those attacks, which occurred under dubious circumstances that have yet to be thoroughly investigated, are unlikely to be replicated and did little lasting damage to this country. This illustrates the overblown threat of the “Islamic Fascist” enemy.
The question here is how could groups that were incapable of destabilizing two middling Third World states pose a mortal threat to the United States, the world’s sole superpower? Moreover, how could such groups ever pose an existentialist challenge to the whole of Western Civilization? The very allegation is so preposterous that we can only describe it as a “big lie.”
Closely associated with this lie is the allegation that Bin Laden, and now Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, are comparable to Hitler and Stalin. Such an allegation is totally baseless. Both Hitler and Stalin presided over modern industrial states with strategic resources that rivaled and in many sectors surpassed those of Western Europe and even America. Hitler’s Germany was the most advanced state on earth, in terms of military technology. They were the first nation to employ militarily-viable ballistic missiles, the V-2 rocket; a jet-powered tactical fighter aircraft, the Messerschmitt Me 262, and at one point were months away from developing an atomic bomb. Stalin’s Soviet Union possessed the largest collection of conventional armed forces on earth, and would eventually preside over a nuclear arsenal of over 20,000 warheads, most of them aimed at the major industrial, military, and population centers of the United States. These warheads were situated on sophisticated land, sea, and air-based delivery systems that posed a significant threat to the survival of the United States and Western Europe.
As compared to the resources possessed by those states, the “Islamic Fascists” have nothing. Only one Muslim country, Pakistan possesses nuclear weapons, and that country’s handful of nuclear warheads is neutralized by India’s larger and more sophisticated nuclear arsenal, as well as Israel’s estimated 200-300 nuclear bombs. By all reasonable estimates, Iran is at least five years away from developing a nuclear bomb, and possesses no delivery system capable of reaching Western Europe, to say nothing of America. As for non-state “Islamic Fascists” they possess neither a nuclear weapon nor any delivery systems.
As far as the threat of a an agent of an “Islamic Fascist” organization or state getting his hand on a small nuclear devise and carrying it to the United States to be detonated, that threat is less credible than a rogue security operative affiliated with a western power getting his hand on such a devise. Such an eventuality itself is less credible than any random act of terrorism that may emanate from an unimaginable array of actors. As last year’s shootings in Montreal and a rash of school shooting sprees throughout the United States demonstrate, any stray lunatic is capable of engaging in unanticipated acts of terrorism at any time. That is a threat that we lived with before 9/11, and it is a threat we will have to continue to live with. If the billions of dollars we are spending on “homeland” security are not making us any safer from these threats then we need to take a hard look at how that money is being spent.
Another pertinent aspect of fascism is its glorification of the nation. This glorification of the nation by all fascist powers made fascistic governments vehemently opposed to all forces that ran counter to the ability of the nation to consolidate its control, both over the territory under its sway, and over the lives of individual citizens. Here the following statement, attributed to Mussolini, is extremely instructive, “The Italian nation is an organism having ends, life, and means of action superior to those of the separate individuals or groups of individuals which compose it.” Since its inception, fascism has been one of the greatest threats to individual liberties in the Western world. As we look at our shrinking civil liberties should we not see the shadow of fascism lurking over our lives and institutions?
Does this description of a nation-state centric ideology more closely conform to the advocates of the Bush agenda, or the so-called “Islamic Fascists” who are advocates of a trans-national ideology that sees the nation-states as a western, neo-colonial innovation that has been imposed on the Muslim people via European colonization of Muslim lands? The answer should be quite clear. If anything, Islamic militancy, based on its stated goals, should be more closely associated with the anarchistic movements appearing in Europe beginning in the latter part of the 19th Century. Like many of today’s Islamic movements, those movements sought the eradication of the prevailing nation-state system, and the destruction of the institutions that support it. Hence, the ideological similarities between those movements and anarchism are far greater than the similarities between those movements and fascism. Why then are those Islamic movements being associated with fascism?
The answer is simple. If today’s Islamic movements were associated with anarchism, the antithesis of totalitarianism, it would be impossible to then draw a comparison between the leaders of those movements and the leaders of the totalitarian regimes that once posed a very real threat to the integrity of the West. Anarchism has no Hitler or Stalin to serve as its identifiable symbol. By drawing a link between Islamic movements and fascism, the symbolic leader of those movements, Bin Laden, in the eyes of the western public, can be linked to the symbolic leaders of the totalitarian menaces of the past century, Hitler and Stalin. Hence, evil can be given a tangible “face” which can serve as a symbolic representation of the totalitarian menace those movements allegedly embody.
This process of vilification and negative “branding” has been clearly illustrated in the campaign against Ahmadinejad. Although he is an elected official of limited tenure who lacks deep and lasting power in the Iranian political system, he has been transformed into a symbol of the evil Islamic enemy. All of the nuances and complexities of the Iranian political system, the various loci of political power within that system, and the movements representing opposition to it have all been glossed over by the stereotyped symbolism associated with a single individual.
Another salient feature of fascism is that it is an ideology that elevates the national leader to the status of a symbolic representation of the nation itself. This aspect of fascism is captured brilliantly in a leading social science text:
At the head of the fascist elite is the leader –Il Duce in Italy or Der Fuehrer in Germany- in whose name everything is done, who is said to be “responsible” for all, but whose acts can nowhere be called into question. The leader is neither a scholar nor a theorist, but a charismatic man of action.
If we examine the nature of the leaders of contemporary Islamic movements and the nature of the leader of the regime in Washington D.C., which more closely conforms to a fascist description? Again, the answer should be clear.
Here a critical question is in order, “If fascism is an inaccurate description of today’s Islamic movements, why is the association being pushed so vehemently by some parties?” I would look to the history of fascism for the answer. One of the most dastardly programs birthed by fascism is what the Nazis referred to as the final solution, the endlösung, which involved the extermination of the Jewish population of Germany. Many of those who so loudly trumpet the term “Islamic Fascists” envision their own endlösung for the Muslims. To illustrate this point, I will quote directly from one of their recent proclamations. On July 21, 2006, Warner Todd Huston writes, on the website of the prominent African American conservative and former candidate for the United States Senate, Alan Keyes:
So, we feel the only true solution is that millions of Muslims must be killed and the sooner the better it will be for the whole world. Not because Jews are somehow perfect or that Muslims just plain “need killing,” but because Islam is so patently evil and needs to be defeated!
Such calls are now commonplace in even mainstream print and electronic media here in the United States. The fact that Keyes, as mentioned above, was a candidate for the Senate, and that Huston occasionally writes for the Los Angeles Times illustrates just how mainstream this hatemongering has become.
If we search the proclamations of the “Islamic Fascists” we find no parallel calls for a “final solution,” neither against Jews nor others. Hamas calls for the liberation of Palestinian lands not the physical elimination of the Jews. Al-Qaeda calls for the end of Americans strategic presence in the Middle East and not the destruction of America. The Iraqi resistance calls for the end of the American occupation of Iraq and not the end of America. The various Jihad groups in Kashmir call for the termination of the Indian occupation of Kashmir and not the termination of India. The Chechen resistance calls for the end of the brutal Russian occupation of their lands and not the end of Russia. Even if some obscure, obscurantist Islamic groups were to make calls for the destruction of America, Israel, India, Russian, or any Western power, they posses no strategic resources to translate those threats into credible military action. To elevate such groups to the level of Nazi Germany or the former Soviet Union is a disingenuous ploy to mask a patently racist, potentially genocidal agenda.
I will conclude by mentioning a final feature of fascism. The three most powerful fascist regimes of the 20th Century, Mussolini’s Italy, Hitler’s Germany, and Hirohito’s Japan, if we include the latter amongst the 20th Century fascist states, all pursued irrational, militaristic, imperialist policies that led to their ruin. Again, if we examine the policies of the current regime in Washington D.C and the consequences of its policies for this country we must ask, “Who are the fascists?” The American people must ask and answer this question with dispassionate honesty and forthrightness. The nature of the answer will go a long way in determining the future of this republic