W engages in name-calling to feed the fires of war

August 12, 2006 | By | 8 Replies More

“This nation is at war with Islamic fascists.”

The President actually said this to describe our opponent in his war on terrorism.   It appears to be a GOP talking point

Now, what would most Americans think if those intent on bombing civilians described their enemy as “Christian fascists?” How about “why are you bringing my religion into this?”  The President’s choice of words provokes needlessly because it is overbroad.  Just like “Bring it on.”  The President’s phrase is also ambiguous.  How can anyone tell who is, and is not, an “Islamic fascist”?  I suppose the President would respond, “It’s easy.  The Islamic Fascists are the guys we’re shooting at.”

But why bring Islam into the description of the purported enemy?  This just makes enemies where there weren’t any.  Instead, we should have kept the proper focus:  we need to be on the lookout against anyone (of whatever religion, country of origin, ethnicity, whatever) trying to attack American interests.  No more, no less.

And are “they” really fascists?  Here’s what Cenk Uygur had to say about that:

The idea that Muslims are looking to take over the world and are on the precipice of dominating militarily as the Nazis did is so laughable that I can’t quite believe they’re saying it out loud. Nazi Germany took France in five days. Are Islamic fundamentalists about to roll their tanks in to Paris and Prague?

The administration wants to keep a broad focus on “Islamic fascists,” rather than focus solely on the particular people bent on attacking American interests.  Why?  Without this overbroad focus, Bush can’t justify his war.  It doesn’t fit the frame of “war” to direct military violence against various guilty people scattered among hundreds of millions who pose no threat.

All of this demonstrates that a massive waste of human lives got off the ground based on a war of words.  And how is the real life “war” going? Words can give us lots of clues.  Listen to the words being shouted in Bagdad:

Hundreds of thousands of Shiites chanting “Death to Israel” and “Death to America” marched through the streets of Baghdad’s biggest Shiite district Friday in a show of support for Hezbollah militants battling Israeli troops in Lebanon.


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Category: Iraq, Language, Politics, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (8)

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  1. Jason Rayl says:

    Not that I particularly want to defend Bush, but the terrorist organizations we're engaged with here have self-identified themselves as Islamist. They claim to be doing this in the name of Allah, etc, and point to passages in the Qu'ran to support their violence. We've been calling them collectively Islamic Extremists for some time, just as we've identified groups such as The Sword and the Arm of the Lord as Christian Extemists. It's a label the "enemy" has chosen.

    I take exception to the use of "fascist" in this context, because it is incorrectly applied. Fascism by definition has to do with an end goal being a well ordered state, with a central authority that's very firmly corporeal. These folks don't fit that description. As far as I know, they have no end goal other than destroy Americans.

    Which does lead me to wonder what exactly it is they want to do should the day come they actually get us to leave and they end up In Charge. The Taliban had a shot at running a state and made a thoroughgoing mess of the whole thing (and we should all remember, or try to, because we won't, that Afghanistan is in the state it is in because of the Taliban). What would be the grand state that would replace our so-called puppet regime once Bin Laden "wins"? I don't think they have their political act together enough to be real facsists.

    No, they're just murderers.

  2. Erich Vieth says:

    Today, Russ Feingold expressed what I was trying to articulate (see here): our invation of Iraq didn't address the 9/11 attacks. There was no connection.

    The national defense needs to be relevant and focused on the danger. We shouldn't take on all Islamic people (even if the attackers call themselves Islamic) when it is only a tiny subset of Islamic people who orchestrated the 9/11 attacks. We should be above name-calling. No need to call anyone "fascist," especially when they don't qualify as fascists.

    We need steady, careful, resolute relevant defenses to attacks and potential attacks.

    It's not a matter of whether our national defense is "strong" or whether we "cut and run." It's whether we're aiming at the right target and whether we being careful to not goad people on to start new unnecessary fights.

  3. Jason Rayl says:

    I've been mulling this over for a time, and I've concluded that while the pairing of religion and politics in Bush's label is unfortunate, it may be the best way to describe what is on the ground. Not so much in the politics of the end goal Al-Qaeda and its immitators have in mind, but in tactics.

    What the fascists in Italy and Germany (and elsewhere) did in the 20s and 30s to distort national politics was very similar to what we see going on in Iraq. They had armies (blackshirts in Italy, brownshirts in Germany) of essentially bullies who would invade the streets, beating people up, destroying property, to demonstrate their power and to argue that their political opponents did not have the ability to "protect" the citizenry. The riots drove popular opinion into the camp through what amounted to protection racket schemes–"You want this to stop? Vote me in."

    Looking at the events in Iraq purely in terms of tactics, they are imitating their political forebears. Fascist may be the best label describing these tactics.

    Islamic fascism…well, one must ask how one feels about Sha'ria Law and the way it oppresses people, and look at the extreme governance of the Taliban in Afghanistan, all of which was loudly proclaimed to be based on Islam. The problem then is trying to tease about ideology from power-mongering.

    Not responding to the actions of these people would probably have been the best policy. But that is very, very hard to do.

  4. grumpypilgrim says:

    I admire this post and its comments, because I think they clearly and correctly explain what is happening. Even though al Qaeda is using a collection of extreme Islamic religious beliefs to provide unity, and even though it is using some fascistic methods, it is not "fascist" organization. It is just a bunch of thugs and murderers — basically a street gang with better financing and smarter leaders.

    Unfortunately, Bush's ridiculous rhetoric is no surprise. As Erich says, Bush needs to inflate the perceived threat from terrorists so he can justify his insanely expensive (in both lives and dollars) response. I still remember one of Bush's campaign advertisements during the 2004 election: the ad criticized Kerry for not voting to build more B2 stealth bombers to help fight terrorism. Yes, B2 stealth bombers — to help fight a bunch of sociopaths with box cutters, AK-47s and bottles of explosive chemicals in their carry-on bags. How ridiculous is that?

    The longer Bush is in office, the more I realize he is delusional. First, he inflated his fight against al Qaeda — an organization that probably has fewer people than most any big-city high school — into a "global war on terrorism," and now he believes he is fighting global "Islamic fascism." In both cases, he seems to believe he is on a mission from God and, like so many crusaders before him, he doesn't appear to let reason and rationality 'cloud' his decisions. Unfortunately for all concerned, we now see the result of inflating the size of the target before shooting at it: lots of very angry people who don't appreciate being part of the unnecessary collateral damage. Who can blame them?

  5. Susan Cogan says:

    As much as I hate to defend Bush, they are fascists. I generally think you lose 50 debate points when you compare your opponent to the Nazis. But Islamists seek an utterly totalitarian government without any glimmer of personal freedom or civil liberty. Come up with another word if you don't like "fascism." Right now it's shorthand for a brutal, murderous and vile form of government, utterly contemptuous of human diginity and freedom–a style of government that exists in much of the Middle East and which is dearly beloved by the Islamic fascists.

  6. Erich Vieth says:

    Since Bush says we are currently fighting "Islamic Fascists," and because the mainstream media is lazy, we are now officially fighting "Islamic Fascists." See this post from MediaMatters: http://mediamatters.org/items/200609060003

  7. Erika Price says:

    Well, if the Bush Administration insists upon viewing all terrorists as "Islamic Facists", in other words grouping them as a cohesive organized movement or army, then they have to start recognizing and treating supposed terrorists as members of an army. I refer to, of course, the Geneva Convention requirements for dealing with enemy detainees. We've only really slid by thus far on the claim that the prisoners at Gitmo don't qualify as prisoners of war because they don't belong to a formal army or nation.

  8. grumpypilgrim says:

    Erika highlights a key point: the Bush Administration characterizes "the terrorists" with metaphors that vary depending upon what political message they want to create. In one breath, Bush says he is "winning the war" and that "the terrorists" have been largely neutralized. In another setting, he says "the terrorists" lack central command and control, and consist of isolated cells scattered around the globe. In yet another situation, he talks about "Islamofascism," as if it were an organized bloc that possesses all the resources of Nazi Germany or Communist Russia. The reality of the situation is probably nothing like any of these metaphors, but Bush's followers appear to be mindless enough to believe whatever metaphor Bush uses.

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