by Paul R. Dunn
In October and November of 2005 and in May, June and August of 2006 the President of the United States used the term, “Islamic Fascism” in major speeches to define the creed of America’s enemies. The pejorative term has been used by many propagandists on the far right to equate modern Islam with the sordid pasts of Italy and Germany under Hitler and Mussolini. It is a simplistic propaganda term used by writers Christopher Hitchens, Stephen Schwartz and others who conveniently portray a unity of belief and purpose within the ranks of our diverse enemies where none exists. It is the current mantra of the neo-conservatives who pushed for the Iraq war. Its promoters seek to establish a moral equivalency between World War II democracies on the one side and Fascist evil on the other. They want the US position in Iraq to be seen as opposing the modern day evil of Islamic Fascism. The use of the phrase fosters Islamophobia, and is designed to denigrate much of the Islamic world.
Sir Ian Hamilton wrote that “Propaganda as inverted patriotism draws nourishment from the sins of the enemy. If there are no sins, invent them!” Joseph Goebbels claimed “Propaganda has only one object: to conquer the masses. Every means that furthers this aim is good; every means that hinders it is bad.”
General George C. Marshall believed American boys going overseas needed an honest definition of the “ism” they were fighting against. He issued Army Orientation Fact Sheet No. 64, which read, “Fascism: is government by the few, and for the few.” Webster’s definition of Fascism is far more precise: “A governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce and emphasizing aggressive nationalism and often racism.”
Mussolini coined the term Fascism. He was a journalist and a war-wounded political activist who believed Italy had been shabbily treated by its allies after World War I. During a period of intense domestic political strife, Mussolini and his band of black shirts were granted power by the King. They’d promised national unity and discipline. The symbol he chose for his political party was the ancient Roman fasces, a bundle of rods containing an axe with the blade projecting. It had been borne before Roman magistrates as an emblem of official power in the time of Caesar. He reigned from 1922 until 1943.
Benito Mussolini’s philosophy was “All for the state, nothing outside the state; nothing against the state.” He believed that “Fascism denies that the majority, by the simple fact that it is a majority can direct human society; it denies that numbers alone can govern by means of a periodical consultation, and it affirms the immutable, beneficial and fruitful inequality of mankind.” The common street slogan for Italian Fascists was “Order, hierarchy discipline.”
Fascism was adopted in Germany by Adolf Hitler who greatly admired Mussolini. Hitler’s National Socialist German Worker’s Party gained power in 1933 by exploiting dissatisfaction with the punitive terms of Versailles, the Great Depression’s economic malaise, fear of communism and latent anti-Semitism. His trademark was the swastika and his aim, the suppression of all opposition through a dictatorship over all cultural, economic and political activities of the German people. The Nazi credos: supremacy of Hitler as Fuehrer, virulent anti-Semitism, the natural supremacy of the German people and world domination. The Nazi slogan: “Hitler over Germany. Germany over the world.”
The German philosopher Martin Heideggger announced in an open letter to the students of Freiburg, (November of 1933): “Doctrines and ‘ideas’ shall no longer govern your existence. The FŸehrer himself, and only he, is the current and future reality of Germany, and his word is your law.” Hitler vowed, “Those who see in National Socialism nothing more than a political movement know scarcely anything about it. It is more even than a religion. It is the will to create mankind anew.” George Seldes analyzing matters in 1934 concluded, “In Soviet Russia the state owns industry; in Germany and Italy, on the contrary, industry owns the state.” Playwright George Bernard Shaw called Fascism, “Capitalist Dictatorship.”
The Spanish Fascists, who assumed power in 1939 under Dictator Francisco “El Caudillo” Franco, adopted the absurd slogan, “Long Live Death. Down with intelligence.” Generalissimo Franco, who was only able to win the bloody Spanish Civil War with massive German and Italian military aid remained neutral during World War II. Serving as Regent from 1947 to 1975, he planned for a peaceful transition of government after his death. He designated Prince Juan Carlos to be constitutional monarch. Oppressive Fascism in Spain ultimately gave way to a moderate liberal democracy, which would have been anathema to the far rightist, Franco.
Are America’s enemies in any way like the Fascists of the twentieth century? Do they promote the idea of industrial concentration, world domination and dictatorship? Do they have a single leader whose writings and speeches inspire them to action? Do they share common goals? Bin Laden, with a price on his head and hiding in a cave, is hardly such a leader. He is considered the enemy of all moderate Muslim leaders. History will fail to find valid parallels between Fascism, Fascist governments and the disparate forces opposing us in Iraq and around the world. Enver Masud has written, “As for ‘Islamo-Fascism,’ Islam does not meet the definition of Fascism . . . when the community of Muslims (the Unmah) had a central authority (the Caliphate) it was neither totalitarian nor Fascist.” He argues that only a tiny minority of zealots within Islam are calling for a “return to a Caliphate.” Eric S. Margolis, in “The Big Lie About ‘Islamic Fascism,” debunks the term. He argues “Fascism demands a succession of wars, foreign conquests, and national threats to keep the nation in a state of fear, anxiety and patriotic hypertension.” None are elements of the modern disorganized Muslim world.
The trouble with catchy propaganda phrases like “Axis of Evil” and “Islamic Fascism” is that they have to be able to stand the test of time. “One Nation Under God” and “A government of the people, by the people and for the people” have stood up well and served to unite Americans of all parties and faiths. Does anyone know of a slogan the so-called Islamic Fascists are promoting? The White House has lumped under the Islamic Fascist umbrella such totally diverse elements as Al-Qaeda, the Iranian government, The Taliban, The Muslim Brotherhood, Hammas and Hezbollah, yet none label or consider themselves Fascist. And more to the point, their followers do not profess a Fascist agenda. Critics of the use of the term point out that to a Muslim, the term is both offensive and historically without merit or accuracy. Muslims universally perceive Allah as their true leader, not some self-professed worldly Fascist. There are no members of the Aryan Nation or Skin Heads, who idolize Hitler to be found within their ranks. Even during World War II few prominent Arab leaders announced sympathy for Hitler and his racist ideology even thought many were strongly anti-colonial Britain.
The fiercest fighting in Iraq now involves Muslim-on-Muslim terror as Sunnis and Shiites wage what more and more see as a sectarian civil war for power (and oil revenues) to fill the vacuum caused by the removal from power of Saddam Hussein by the United States. The concept of suicide bombing, looting, assassination and armed insurrection by citizens against the ruling state authority is the very antithesis of the historic meaning of Fascism.
The fact that the highly fractured Arab and Muslim worlds are significantly anti-American was not caused by a call for Islamic Fascism. It flows from the US invasion of an Arab state, Iraq, stationing non-Muslim troops within the Islamic Holy Land of Saudi Arabia and blind support for Israel against indigenous Palestinians. Anti-US sentiment was further heightened when we supplied and then resupplied arms, bombs and aircraft to Israel for its massive retaliatory war against the mostly Muslim citizens of Lebanon, none of whom were professed Fascists.
J.B. Priestly in the Root Is Fear wrote “Almost all propaganda is designed to create fear. Heads of governments and their officials know that a frightened people are easier to govern, will forfeit rights it would otherwise defend, are less likely to demand a better life, and will agree to millions and millions being spent on ‘defense.'” Between now and Election Day we’ll see Karl Rove’s minions flaunt the Islamic Fascist line repeatedly and unabashedly to garner votes. It may be good politics but it is lousy history.
[Paul R. Dunn, a columnist for The Pilot newspaper of Southern Pines, NC, is the author of “Touching Raw Nerves: A Liberal Yankee Columnist Takes on Conservative Dixie.” He has provided OP-ED articles for The New York Times.]
Enver Masud, “‘Islamo-fascism’ is an Oxymoron,” The Wisdom Fund, August 31, 2006
[“Fascist ideology doesn’t have anything to do with the way global terrorist networks think or operate, and it doesn’t have anything to do with the overwhelming majority of Muslims around the world who practice the peaceful teachings of Islam,” Feingold said.–Frederic J. Frommer, “Democratic Sen. Russ Feingold Calls on President Bush to Stop Using Phrase ‘Islamic Fascists’,” Associated Press, September 12, 2006]
[His September 19 speech was almost exclusively confined to the Middle East, an overwhelmingly Muslim region. The absence of even a reference to the North Korean pillar of his so-called “axis of evil” was revealing enough that his WWIII (3) “on terror” has shrunk to focus exclusively on the Muslim Middle East. . . .
Five years after U.S. President George W. Bush launched his global war on terrorism, this war has boiled down to a war on Islam: One cannot target all those Muslims, their countries and their Islamic syllabus without targeting their religion. . . .
All the anti-Islamist terminology cannot blur the fact that the issue is oil. There’s no question that controlling the oil and the profits from oil is a U.S. top priority in the Middle East, particularly as Washington is not only bracing for a future competition with China and India for that resource, but also is already in fierce race with Europe and Japan . . .
Mr. President, they hate you because your administration and its predecessors have been for decades depriving them of their liberty, freedoms, resources and elected governments, in a historic trend that extends from removing an elected leader in Iran in the 1950s because of his nationalizing the oil and replacing him by the Shah, a brutal dictator, to suffocating the Palestinian people to squeeze out the elected Hamas-led government from power in 2006.–Nicola Nasser, “Bush and Islam: Words versus Deeds,” Asian Tribune, September 29, 2006]
VIDEO: Aaron Russo, “America: Freedom to Fascism,” freedomtofascism.com, October 20, 2006
“Flirting With Fascism on CNN Headline News: Host Glenn Beck threatens Muslims with concentration camps,” Fair.org, December 4, 2006
[This effort signals the final and perhaps most deadly stage in the long campaign by the radical Christian right to dismantle America’s open society and build a theocratic state. . . .
These kind of paramilitary groups bring to mind Nazi Party brownshirts, functioning as an extrajudicial enforcement mechanism that can and does operate outside the law–Chris Hedges, “America’s Holy Warriors,” truthdig.com, December 31, 2006]
Editorial: “The Imperial Presidency 2.0,” New York Times, January 7, 2007
[History tells us that one of the most unstable political combinations is a country – like the United States today – that tries to be a domestic democracy and a foreign imperialist.–Chalmers Johnson, “Why Nemesis is at the US’s door,” Asia Times, February 1, 2007
Chris Hedges, “American Fascists: The Christian Right and the War On America,” democracynow.org, February 19, 2007
Kenneth Ballen, “The myth of Muslim support for terror,” Christian Science Monitor, February 23, 2007
Joe Conason, “It Can Happen Here: Authoritarian Peril in the Age of Bush,” democracynow.org, March 14, 2007
[The power of the Executive to cast a man into prison without formulating any charge known to the law, and particularly to deny him the judgment of his peers, is in the highest degree odious and is the foundation of all totalitarian government whether Nazi or Communist.
Therefore, those libertarians who continue to support this foreign policy of empire, militarism, and interventionism are faced with an inescapable moral and philosophical dilemma, perhaps the biggest of their lives: whether to continue advancing libertarianism or to continue supporting a pro-empire, interventionist foreign policy, knowing that such a policy means an unfree society. After all, everyone would acknowledge the irrationality of declaring, “I am fighting for a free society and supporting a government policy that destroys freedom.” . . .
Throughout the many years of the Cold War, . . . one glaring fact stands out: At no time did conservatives ever claim that Islamo-fascism was a threat that required a massive military machine.–Jacob G. Hornberger, “The Islamo-Fascist Rationale for Abandoning Liberty,” Future of Freedom Foundation, March 16, 2007]
[Accounts of a February 28 “literary luncheon” at the White House suggest that US President George W Bush’s reading tastes – until now a remarkably good predictor of his policy views – are moving ever rightward, even apocalyptic, . . .
The luncheon, . . . held in honor of visiting British historian Andrew Roberts, whose latest work, A History of the English-Speaking Peoples Since 1900, . . . repeatedly advised the president, according to Irwin Stelzer, one of the neo-conservative attendees, to ignore rising anti-US sentiment abroad and opposition at home in pursuing his “war on terrorism” – or what the historian has called “the Manichaean world-historical struggle” against fascism, of which “totalitarian Islamic terrorist fascism” is only the latest. . . .
Bush had also recommended that his staff and friends read another, even more apocalyptic, analysis of the current “war on terror”, America Alone: The End of the World as We Know It by Toronto-born neo-conservative columnist Mark Steyn.
Steyn’s book, which, unlike Roberts’, actually made the New York Times best-seller list, sees Europe’s demographic trends and its multicultural, “post-nationalist” secularism – of which his native Canada is also guilty – as leading inevitably to the “Eupocalypse”, the “recolonization of Europe by Islam”, the emergence of “Eurabia”, and the onset of a “new Dark Ages” in which the United States will find it difficult to survive as the “lonely candle of liberty”.
Steyn . . . sees Islam itself – and not just “Islamist radicals” or “jihadis”, such as al-Qaeda – as a unique threat that cannot be reconciled with “free societies”.–Jim Lobe, “Hurry to ‘The End’, for the end is nigh,” Asia Times, March 20, 2007]
[We are just a terrorist “incident,” either real or imagined, away from a declaration of martial law and all its attendant consequences. Buckley grimly notes the polls are “savagely decisive” on the war question, and he asks: “Beyond affirming executive supremacy in matters of war, what is George Bush going to do?” The answer may be contained in Title 10, Chapter 15, Section 333.
Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Kit Bond (R-Mo.) are sponsoring legislation that would repeal the changes,–Justin Raimondo, “Blueprint for Dictatorship,” Antiwar.com, April 20, 2007]
[The idea that Europe is being “taken over” by Muslims is the unifying theme of this cruise. With one or two exceptions, the passengers discuss “the Muslims” as a homogenous, sharia-seeking block – already with near-total control of Europe.–Johann Hari, “The Iraq war has been an amazing success, global warming is just a myth – and as for Guantanamo Bay, it’s practically a holiday camp… The annual cruise organised by the ‘National Review’, mouthpiece of right-wing America, is a parallel universe populated by straight-talking, gun-toting, God-fearing Republicans,” Independent, July 13, 2007]
[Kudos to British political scientist John Sidel for his brief and biting essay “The Islamic Threat in Southeast Asia: A Reassessment”  that seeks to redress the appalling imbalance. In fewer than 60 pages, Sidel, a professor at the London School of Economics, demolishes many of the shaky premises that have shored up the so-called “second front” in the US-led “war against terror” and helped create a dangerous divide between Muslims and non-Muslims in the region.–Michael Vatikiotis, “De-demonizing Southeast Asian Islam,” Asia Times, August 22, 2007]
Shlomo Shamir, “Reform Jewish leader tells U.S. Muslims that Islam is being demonized,” Haaretz, September 1, 2007
[I teach every year Japanese fascism in the 1930s and 40s. I discuss different definitions of fascism, pointing out how some seem to fit the Japanese case, while others don’t, causing some scholars to even reject application of the term. But there is precious little in any mainstream scholarly definition of fascism that applies to the Islamic world in general or even specific countries.–Gary Leupp, “Horowitz’s Latest Hate Campaign Heads for Campus,” antiwar.com, October 10, 2007]
Editorial: “Danger lurks in use of term ‘Islamofascism’,” Boston Globe, November 8, 2007
[The pairing of “Islam” and “fascism” has no parallel in characterizations of extremisms tied to other religions, although the defining movements of fascism were linked to Catholicism – indirectly under Benito Mussolini in Italy, explicitly under Francisco Franco in Spain. Protestant and Catholic terrorists in Northern Ireland, both deserving the label “fascist,” never had their religions prefixed to that word. Nor have Hindu extremists in India, nor Buddhist extremists in Sri Lanka. –James Carroll, “Islamofascism’s ill political wind,” Boston Globe, January 21, 2008]
Michael Winship, “ Andrew Bacevich, America and the World,” truthout.org, August 15, 2008
[Our “counter-terrorism” campaign basically consists of three steps repeated endlessly:
(1) Interfere in or otherwise act aggressively in the Muslim world.
(2) Provoke increased anti-American sentiment and fuel terrorism as a result of Step 1.
(3) Point to the increased anti-American sentiment and terrorism as a reason we need to escalate our interference and aggression in the Muslim world. Return to Step 1.
The coordinated campaign to hype the alleged “growing domestic Muslim threat” at exactly the time we are escalating our conventional war in Afghanistan and our covert Predator war in Pakistan is a perfect illustration of this process. Basically, what Shane’s article reveals is the shocking truth that waging war and otherwise interfering in Muslim countries for more a full decade radicalizes Muslims and drives some of them to want to return the violence. Who would have guessed?–Glenn Greenwald, “The allegedly growing domestic Muslim threat,” salon.com, December 14, 2008]