“President Likens Dewey to Hitler as Fascist Tool.”
So ran the New York Times headline on Oct. 26, 1948, after what Dewey biographer Richard Norton Smith called a “particularly vitriolic attack in Chicago” by Harry Truman.
What brings this to mind is President Bush’s assertion that we are “at war with Islamic fascism” and “Islamo-fascism.”
After the transatlantic bomb plot was smashed, Bush said the plotters “try to spread their jihadist message I call – it’s totalitarian in nature, Islamic radicalism – Islamic fascism; they try to spread it, as well, by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.”
What is wrong with the term Islamo-fascism?
First, there is no consensus as to what “fascism” even means. Orwell said when someone calls Smith a fascist, what he means is “I hate Smith. ” By calling Smith a fascist, you force Smith to deny he’s a sympathizer of Hitler and Mussolini.
As a concept, writes Arnold Beichman of the Hoover Institution, “fascism … has no intellectual basis at all nor did its founders even pretend to have any. Hitler’s ravings in ‘Mein Kampf’ … Mussolini’s boastful balcony speeches, all of these can be described, in the words of Roger Scruton, as an ‘amalgam of disparate conceptions.'”
Richard Pipes considers Stalinism and Hilterism to be siblings of the same birth mother: “Bolshevism and fascism were heresies of socialism.”
Since the 1930s, “fascist” has been a term of hate and abuse used by the left against the right, as in the Harry Truman campaign. In 1964, Martin Luther King Jr. claimed to see in the Goldwater campaign “dangerous signs of Hitlerism.” Twin the words “Reagan, fascism” in Google and 1,800,000 references pop up.
Unsurprisingly, it is neoconservatives, whose roots are in the Trotskyist-social Democratic left, who are promoting use of the term. Their goal is to have Bush stuff al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran into the same “Islamo-fascist” kill box, then let Strategic Air Command do the rest.
But the term represents the same lazy, shallow thinking that got us into Iraq, where Americans were persuaded that by dumping over Saddam, we were avenging 9/11.
But Saddam was about as devout a practitioner of Islam as his hero Stalin was of the Russian Orthodox faith. Saddam was into booze, mistresses, movies, monuments, palaces and dynasty. Bin Laden loathed him and volunteered to fight him in 1991, if Saudi Arabia would only not bring the Americans in to do the fighting Islamic warriors ought to be doing themselves.
And whatever “Islamo-fascism” means, Syria surely is not it. It is a secular dictatorship Bush I bribed into becoming an ally in the Gulf War. The Muslim Brotherhood is outlawed in Syria. In 1982, Hafez al-Assad perpetrated a massacre of the Brotherhood in the city of Hama that was awesome in its magnitude and horror.
As with Gadhafi, whom Bush let out of the penalty box after he agreed to pay $10 million to the family of each victim of Pan Am 103 and give up his nuclear program, America can deal with Syria as Israel did after the Yom Kippur War – for an armistice on the Golan that has stuck, as both sides have kept the deal.
America faces a variety of adversaries, enemies and evils. But the Bombs-Away Caucus, as Iraq and Lebanon reveal, does not always have the right formula. Al-Qaida, Hamas, Hezbollah, Syria and Iran all present separate challenges calling forth different responses.
Al-Qaida appears to exist for one purpose: Plot and perpetrate mass murder to terrorize Americans and Europeans into getting out of the Islamic world. Contrary to what Bush believes, the 9/11 killers and London and Madrid bombers were not out to repeal the Bill of Rights, if any ever read it. They are out to kill us, and we have to get them first.
Hamas and Hezbollah have used terrorism, but, like Begin’s Irgun and Mandela’s ANC, they have social and political agendas that require state power to implement. And once a guerrilla-terrorist movement takes over a state, it acquires state assets and interests that are then vulnerable to U.S. military and economic power.
Why did the ayatollah let the American hostages go as Reagan raised his right hand to take the oath of office? Why did Syria not rush to the rescue of Hezbollah? What did Ahmadinejad not rocket Tel Aviv in solidarity with his embattled allies in Lebanon? Res ipse loquitor. The thing speaks for itself. They don’t want war with Israel, and they don’t want war with the United States.
“Islamo-fascism” should be jettisoned from Bush’s vocabulary. It yokes the faith of a billion people with an odious ideology. Imagine how Christians would have reacted, had FDR taken to declaring Franco’s Spain and Mussolini’s Italy “Christo-fascist.”
If Bush does not want a war of civilizations, he will drop these propaganda terms that are designed to inflame passions rather than inform the public of the nature of the war we are in, and the war we are not in.