Dispatches from the Creation Wars

The “Islamic Fascism” Brouhaha

Much has been written and said over the last few days after President Bush’s comments about the terrorist arrests in England and here the other day. Bush said that it was part of the “war with Islamic fascists” and a lot of people thought that was an inaccurate and insensitive thing to say. I don’t often defend Bush, but I will here. He’s absolutely right. The ideology of the people we are in a war against certainly can be fairly described as fascist, and it is undeniably Islamic. They seek nothing less than total submission to the most barbaric interpretations of the Quran and the sharia.

If you want to see the sort of world they seek, look no further than Afghanistan under the Taliban. It is almost impossible to exaggerate the barbarism of their rule. Women were to be covered from head to toe and were beaten in the streets if so much as an ankle fell into the sight of a man. They were forbidden to leave the house unless accompanied by a male relative, and it was against the law to teach a woman to read. Music was banned, as was all non-Islamic literature. Anyone even suspected of being gay was put to death by the most brutal means imaginable. All freedom of religion, speech and thought were destroyed. It’s hard to imagine a more vile dystopia than this.

The argument from mainstream Islamic groups is that this phrase impugns all of Islam and all Muslims, but I just don’t think that’s a credible position. Indeed, the very fact that the phrase includes the word “fascists” obviously distinguishes the group being referred to from non-fascists. He didn’t say “a war against Islam” or “against Muslims”, but against Islamic fascists, by grammatical definition a subset of the larger group. Just as we can talk about Christian reconstructionists without referring to all Christians, we can obviously refer to Islamic fascists without referring to all Muslims.

However, let me note one bit of irony here. The Washington Times has an editorial in which they also defend Bush in this regard. The fact that a newspaper owned by the Rev. Moon – undeniably a religious fascist in addition to being the leader of the world’s most powerful cult – would accuse another group of being fascist almost redefines the word ‘hypocrisy’.

Comments

  1. #1 Tulle
    August 15, 2006

    Ed, don’t you think Bush is a bit of a fascist himself. The irony to me is Bush calling the kettle black.

  2. #2 carpundit
    August 15, 2006

    Two quick things:

    1. Tulle, Bush is not a fascist. He may be a lot of things, even a closet imperialist, but he’s not a fascist. It cheapens the word to use it that easily.

    2. Ed, are there people who question or argue with Bush’s phrase “Islamic fascists?” It’s a fact. A self-evident, undeniable, you’re-not-rational-if-you-don’t-see-it fact.

    CP

  3. #3 Ed Brayton
    August 15, 2006

    I agree with carpundit. We can say a lot of things about Bush, but he is not a fascist, and it just cheapens the word and makes it meaningless to use it that way. There is a long, long way from trying to get around constitutional safeguards on his authority to mass murder and the elimination of all freedom. That’s not to say we shouldn’t fight against those encroachments, as I obviously do here on a daily basis. But exaggerating them by tying them to fascism only undermines the credibility of the argument against his actions, just as the right’s hysterical rhetoric about “destroying Christianity” undermines the credibility of their arguments against the ACLU. There are reasonable arguments and unreasonable ones, and the unreasonable ones can make people tune out the reasonable ones.

  4. #4 Jim Lippard
    August 15, 2006

    Unfortunately, while the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was repressive, it was more consistent than Hamid Karzai’s parliament of drug dealers and warlords, whose corruption has led to a resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan. Similarly, the Union of Islamic Courts has gained power in Mogadishu in Somalia against CIA-backed warlords.

    Apparently some people would rather have Islamofascists with clear rules than corrupt leaders.

  5. #5 Ed Brayton
    August 15, 2006

    Jim Lippard wrote:

    Unfortunately, while the Taliban regime in Afghanistan was repressive, it was more consistent than Hamid Karzai’s parliament of drug dealers and warlords, whose corruption has led to a resurgence of the Taliban in southern Afghanistan.

    I think this is probably the single most under-reported story right now. We pulled most of our resources out of Afghanistan when we invaded Iraq and the result has been devestating. The Afghan government we set up only has partial control of the country and the Taliban is making a serious comeback. We should have stayed engaged in Afghanistan long term, stabilized it and helped it transition to a new era. Our failure to do so has not only backfired on us and encouraged more terrorism rather than less, it also means continued suffering for a nation that has had more than its fair share of that.

  6. #6 SteveF
    August 15, 2006

    I supported the war in Afghanistan, however its implementation left a lot to be desired (as far as I can tell). By placing the emphasis on aerial assault, as opposed to a meaningful ground invasion, this helped the Taliban to simply melt away (primarily back to Pakistan), rather than outright destroying them.

    Presumably this was done because the Bush admin was sqeamish about troop casualties. It seems to me, that if you are going to go to war, you have to do it properly. This entails accepting the fact that people are going to die and accepting responsibility for this. Avoiding this painful reality isn’t especially helpful.

    (I realise that this is easy for me to say as someone who is not in the military)

  7. #7 Jeff Hebert
    August 15, 2006

    We should have stayed engaged in Afghanistan long term, stabilized it and helped it transition to a new era.

    That’s always been very puzzling to me. We were told that building up Iraq as a model democracy would serve as a shining light to the rest of the Middle East that freedom CAN work there. But all along I never understood why we didn’t just do that with Afghanistan instead of haring off after Saddam. Last I checked, Afghanistan’s in the Middle East, too.

  8. #8 Stogoe
    August 15, 2006

    No, I have to say that the Bush administration and the theocrats who support his junta are at the very least highly authoritarian and probably actually fascist, in the true sense of the term, consolidating corporate, religious, and national fanaticism under one banner and one man.

  9. #9 SteveF
    August 15, 2006

    I’ve also got to say that I agree with the sentiments expressed in the comments by Ed and carpundit. As someone on the left, I worry about the strain of anti-Americanism that runs through many people who share my values. There is a lot to criticise in American foreign policy. However, this doesn’t make Bush Mullah Omar and it doesn’t make America in any way equivalent to various dictatorships and other horrendous regimes in the Muslim world.

    In the UK at the moment, legitimate concerns about America are often leading leftists into very strange alliances with Islamo-facists of the worst type. I never thought I’d see the day when people who supposedly share my beliefs cosy up with people who support the stoning of gays and the repression of women. The left badly needs to realign itself.

  10. #10 themann1086
    August 15, 2006

    I wouldn’t classify the current Islamic terrorists as fascists. They fail to meet many of the requirements laid out in The Anatomy of Fascism [I'm blanking on the author's first name, but the last is Paxton]. One of the major criteria is a [series of] cris[i/e]s that challenge an existing liberal democratic regime, whereby a collection of people, led by men across the class spectrum who have been “cheated” by the system, advocate the replacement of or the radical changing of the democratic system [with them in charge, of course]. They also use street violence to support themselves [not randomly, but to garner support and spread fear when needed], and scapegoat some minority who is “corrupting the culture” or somesuch hogwash. Although they may reject laisse-faire capitalism, they support heirarchical structures and will support businesses over laborers. The particular beliefs of the Islamic terrorists do indeed match up with many of the general ideas fascists support, but the lack of democratic regimes makes the labeling of these groups as such very questionable at best. Paxton actually analyzes both this movement and the american militia [aka christian identity] movements, as well as some of the far-right elements in Israel’s democracy, but he avoids calling either of these straight fascists. This is of course a general brief summary, and I recommend the whole book.

    And no, Bush is definitely not a fascist. Authoritarian, yes, but fascist no. There are undeniably elements of proto-fascism within groups that have been courted by the GOP as the base, but they remain marginalized, for now, and not fully developed.

  11. #11 James Taylor
    August 15, 2006

    “We should have stayed engaged in Afghanistan long term, stabilized it and helped it transition to a new era. Our failure to do so has not only backfired on us and encouraged more terrorism rather than less, it also means continued suffering for a nation that has had more than its fair share of that.” – Ed.

    And we left for a war for profit in richer lands. Bush isnt a fascist, he’s a moron.

  12. #12 Steve Reuland
    August 15, 2006

    I don’t agree that the term “fascism” is accurate when describing Islamism. Fascism is first and foremost an extreme expression of nationalism, and the Islamists are anything but nationalists. They don’t care what nationality you are, or what ethnicity you are, just so long as you’re muslim (or more specifically, the right kind of muslim.)

    I suspect that the use of “Islamo-fascists” or whatever coming from the Right is simply a means to avoid calling the Islamists what they really are: Theocrats. That brings up too many parallels with the Republican Party’s own religious extremists.

  13. #13 Tulle
    August 15, 2006

    Well, colour me stupid :-) I was confusing authoritarian moron with fascist. Duh! Easy thing for a lefty like me, all those right wingnuts look kinda the same from over here. I use to think of myself as just left of the middle of the road, but compared to today’s conservative I am a rabid loony left wing radical. I mean I even believe in evolution, and that gay marriage is ok, and that the government should leave me alone unless I’m hurtin’ somebody. :-)

  14. #14 Scott Belyea
    August 15, 2006

    …we can obviously refer to Islamic fascists without referring to all Muslims.

    Well … I agree with your basic point, but I would have been more comfortable if the descriptor had been “fascist Muslims.”

    It seems to me that the core point is that it’s a subset of Islam, rather than a subset of fascists; and that fascist Muslims” is a more precise term. After all, “Islamic fascists” could be interpreted to say that all adherents of Islam are fascist.

    Not a defining point, I’d agree, but precision does matter …

  15. #15 Troy Britain
    August 15, 2006

    Themann, I think you are confusing the historical origins of western fascism with the broad definition of what fascism is. Just because Islamic fascists did not arise in exactly the same way (in failed democracies) does not mean that their behavior isn’t very similar to “traditional” fascists.

    As for scapegoating, are you kidding? Islamic fascists favorite scapegoat is the same one that the Nazis used, Jews (in the form of Israel). There second favorite being of course the U.S. (aka The Great Satan).

    Last week I watched a documentary on the “Protocols of the Elders of Zion” which documented the ongoing popularity of this anti-semitic hoax book. Much of it was about how popular the Protocols was in the Middle East (they make TV movies of the week based on it there).

    One of the most heart sickening segments (and that is saying a lot) was a clip from Egyptian TV showing a pretty young woman (wearing a scarf on her head of course) coaching a little girl (perhaps 5 yrs old, also with a scarf) to talk about how the Jews are evil monsters who Allah himself has denounced.

  16. #16 themann1086
    August 15, 2006

    The Islamic terrorists absolutely have scapegoats, the Jews and the U.S. [or the generic "West"]. I would disagree with characterizing fascism as necessarily extremely nationalistic; Nazism, after all, was an appeal to the Germanic Race, which included members of other countries who needed to be “brought together”, much the way the Islamic terrorists wish to create a pan-Islamic state.

    In the end though, we have to base our definition of fascism on the groups which existed at its height and how they operated. If any group supporting violence against a scapegoat is fascist, then fascism has such a broad definition as to be essentially meaningless. Fascism, in its proto- stage, operates as a separate entity inside the state, providing both security for citizens and other public works. Then it implants itself within the structure of the state by becoming part of an uneasy alliance with traditional conservatives and moderates or uneasy liberals disturbed by certain perceived left-wing progressive elements threatening the culture; the fascists eventually take over operation of the state [usually mostly peacefully], while keeping their alternative structures in place as a sort of intra-bureacratic competition between party loyalists and professional state employees. Then comes the wars of expansionism.

    al-Qaeda is actually not the first Islamic group that comes to mind here. Lebanon’s Hezbollah actually seems more like a fascist group in stage one. I’d still hesitate to call them fascist as they have massive state support from other nations, but with the recent attacks on the infrastructure of the fledgling Lebanon democracy, Hezbollah may begin to legitimize itself amongst the downtrodden in the country and the nation’s elite. In other words, the Israeli offensive which we tacitly supported may have done more to help the advancement of “Islamic fascism” than anything else.

    Going back to al Qaeda… because they stretch across many arab states [primarily dictatorships], are very decentralized, and are completely outside the state structure, I don’t think they are there yet. I don’t see how their current tactics and strategies would enable them to become even members of the governing in any of these states, and until they can they’ll remain an easily classified group: terrorists.

  17. #17 Matthew
    August 15, 2006

    I don’t think they are fascists because authoritarianism =/ fascist. Fascism is the cooptation of populist movements by people in power. The muslim extremist movement (which isn’t even all the same, by the way) is a nationalist authoritarian movement.

  18. #18 David Heddle
    August 15, 2006

    Almost every sermon I have ever heard on 1 Pet. 3:1 (wives be in submission…) goes like this:

    Bulletin: today’s sermon is on 1 Peter 3:1

    Sermon: “It is undeniable that 1 Peter 3:1 tells us that wives are to be in submission to their husbands,” (total time, 10 seconds, spoken sympathetically) “however, let me tell you what this means for the husband! One…,Two…,” (45 minutes of dwelling on the husband’s responsibilities, spoken sternly)

    In this way the pastor can claim to address a difficult passage while actually avoiding it.

    This came to mind when I read this post because I knew that at least one if not several people would take a similar lip-service agreement followed by deflection approach.

    “Yeah, the Moslem nut-jobs are pretty bad—just like the extreme Christians.

    For example, Steve Rueland did not disappoint.

    I’m looking forward to more arguments along these lines. Especially from people who would (honestly) be just as nervous flying commercial with an unknown Presbyterian pastor as they would with an unknown Egyptian graduate student.

  19. #19 ctw
    August 15, 2006

    the message from the comments seems to be that the use of “fascists” adds nothing in the way of clarity and obscures the important point that the problem muslims are unequivocally “extremist” in the sense of employing “unacceptable” means. and my understanding is that those in the know refer to the muslims we’re up against as “islamist” (wanting to reestablish the caliphate). hence, the phrase “islamist extremists” seems to capture the essence while avoiding the implication of universality by employing two concatenated narrow filters (my impression is that one can be an islamist but not an extremist).

    charles

  20. #20 Matthew
    August 15, 2006

    No David, your analogy doesn’t apply. No one is “avoiding” talking about muslism extremists. They just aren’t dwelling on it because there isn’t much to say; they are bat shit crazy. Since everyone already agrees that they are bat shit crazy, what the hell else are you supposed to say about it?

  21. #21 Steve Reuland
    August 15, 2006

    “Yeah, the Moslem nut-jobs are pretty bad—just like the extreme Christians.”

    For example, Steve Rueland did not disappoint.

    Good grief David, I said nothing of the sort.

    And the name is “Reuland”.

  22. #22 Matthew
    August 15, 2006

    I wonder why Heddle thinks we are “avoiding” talking about islamic extremism in the first place. Does he think we are all secretly islamicist fellow travellers?

  23. #23 tacitus
    August 15, 2006

    As someone who had to fly back from the UK this weekend with not even a pen, a book, or a newspaper to keep me occupied, why would I be nervous about flying with an unknown Egyptian graduate student? I suspect there was at least one Muslim student on the plane with me, there usually is. I didn’t give it a second thought.

    Slightly OT, but still regarding religious fundamentalism: On the flight to the UK the week before, the seat next to me was booked by an orthodox Jew. As he came up the aisle he seemed reluctant to take his seat, and went off to find a flight attendant. Turned out that sitting next to the women on the other side of his seat from me was a problem. The crew looked for another seat, but the plane was full so he ended up having to ask the woman to swap seats with her son before he could sit down. She kindly did so, but if I were her, I would have been very offended by the implication of his request (yes, I know it’s all to do with his religious beliefs, but should that really be any excuse?)

    What’s more, the seat directly in front of him was occupied by a young woman who was, let’s just say, not modestly dressed, and he had no problem accepting drinks directly from the female cabin crew. The illogic of the whole situation was patently obvious.

    The man in question seemed nice enough, was quite apologetic about his predicament, but while people continue to hold to such ridiculous religious tenets that seek to micromanage one’s everyday existence, the foundations for religious extremism will continue to exist.

  24. #24 David Heddle
    August 15, 2006

    Steve Reuland,

    Sorry for the misspelling. However, I think you did say something along those lines–unless I am wrong when I infer that the Republican Party’s religious extremists you refer to (as reminiscent of theocrats) are Christian extremists. Am I?

    By the way–you attribute the term “Islamo-fascists” when coming from the right as a conspiracy to avoid the use of the term “theocrats” because it hits too close to home. But Ed, if I understand correctly, agrees with this term as Bush used it. Just curious–do you view Ed as one of those buffoons on the right who use the term instead of “theocrats”, or do you attribute the use of the term to something different and more benign if the speaker is not a Bush supporter?

    Matthew, where did I write that you were avoiding talking about Moslem extremism?

  25. #25 Matthew
    August 15, 2006

    Wasn’t that the point of your 1 Peter 3:1 analogy? I mean, these are your exact words talking about that passage:

    This came to mind when I read this post because I knew that at least one if not several people would take a similar lip-service agreement followed by deflection approach.

    I was just following your train of thought. If we are deflecting attention, what the heck for? We secretly want a islamicist regime?

  26. #26 Ed Brayton
    August 15, 2006

    I think they are Islamic fascists. I also think that they’re theocratic fascists, or Islamic theocrats (as opposed to Christian or Jewish theocrats, which certainly do exist). The difference between today’s Islamic theocrats and Christian theocrats (and remember, as I wrote the other day, I do not simply mean Christian conservatives, I mean genuine theocrats, particularly reconstructionists) is one of tactics. The Reconstructionists intend to use the political system to gain power (and have said so openly), while the Islamic theocrats use force. But the end result would be essentially the same, the end of liberty and the imposition of a totalitarian state. Still, true theocrats in Christianity are still quite marginalized and I see little reason to believe that will change any time soon. Yes, a few of their leaders have political influence in the Republican party and they certainly should be exposed and stopped (as I try often to help with), but our political institutions act as a brake on them and, frankly, I don’t think most of their fellow Christians would go along with them. In the Muslim world, unfortunately, the theocrats are much larger, much better organized, and much more ingratiated into power in many nations. They’re also more violent, of course.

    So, would I be afraid to sit on a plane with Gary North? Not a bit. Despite what I consider his absolutely insane views on theology and government, there is no history to suggest that he would be any more likely to blow up a plane than you and I would. Would I be afraid to sit on a plane with an Islamic fascist? Absolutely. So would you, I hope.

  27. #27 Steve Reuland
    August 15, 2006

    David, the point is simple: The Republicans are very sensitive as to how language affects the public’s perception of a given debate. The don’t want to frame this in terms of “theocracy” or religious extremism per se, because that would raise questions about their own religious extremists (who are not extremists you see, they’re just “values voters”). Hence they use non-religious frames such as “fascism” or similar language. (Other, far more absurd examples include “they hate us for our freedoms”, or my personal favorite, calling the terrorists “nihilists”.)

    That is quite obviously not the same as saying that there is some sort of equivalence between Islamic and Christian extremists. They have commonalities to be sure (namely, theocratic tendencies), but this doesn’t mean that they aren’t different in their motives and methods.

    Now look what you’ve done. You’ve gone and made me break my rule that I don’t clarify things when the original statement was clear enough to begin with. I hope you’re happy.

    As for Ed thinking that the term “fascism” is appropriate, I have already explained why I disagree, and I’m not breaking my rule twice. Clearly, thinking that Ed is semantically wrong about the nature of the Islamists vis-a-vis fascism does not imply that he subscribes to Frank Luntz style re-labeling. He thinks the term is accurate and I don’t, and that’s all there is to it.

  28. #28 Chance
    August 15, 2006

    For what it’s worth my 2 cents.

    I don’t see much difference between the thought processes of an Islamic fundie and a Christian one. I think the primary difference is in access to power. In terms of participants I suspect it’s a one to one ratio. For every suicide bomber who thinks 72 virgins awaits we have a similiar individual who would love to bomb an abortion clinic or put someone in jail for sodomy(or just kill them). As Ed mentioned our nutters use currently politics instead of bombs and if left unchecked would cause as much human misery as the Islamic nutters.

    The primary difference is that in the west people bend their religion to fit their secular ideals while in the Islamic world religion bends the government. I do not doubt for a second that if the situation would ever change in the west we would see the same level of extreme irrational and violent behaviour from our equivalent individuals.

  29. #29 goddogit
    August 15, 2006

    Fine.
    Let’s say Bu–sh– is “right” in his characterization (this stretches my imagination beyond any previous attempt, since the only “right” this Ultimately Ugly American and his gang know are what benifits them while harming others), AND let’s agree that he is “not a fascist” himself (which I believe he is, but is heavily restrained by an active opposition, the affluence of the USA, an unwilling military, and an entrenched form of government not easily displaced).
    Let’s also agree that certain Islamic groups are, through violence and subversion, attempting to impose regimes in their nations that fulfill the basic definition of “fascistic” (despite its current repellent President and religion-strongarmed government, I find it difficult to include Iran in such a definition, but…).

    Given those (clearly highly qualified) suppositions, are any of you willing to join with pResident Dubya and Dick Cheney and that crowd on any possible move they might make?
    At this time, there is nothing America, the nation, can do except kill people and steal things.
    Assistance can be given to reasonable people, by individuals and independent organizations only, working inside these places, sometimes. We can refuse to go along with the “any criticism of (name of religion here) is hate speech” bu–sh– movement and call the evil they do under their veils evil, which it is. We can promote education and support those in these areas who wish to build stable lives. We can respect their religious beliefs while openly and honestly stating our own.
    We cannot hope to “fight” it in the Bu–sh– fashion, with bombs and missiles. The Devil may be right, but he never means well.

  30. #30 themann1086
    August 15, 2006

    I think they are Islamic fascists. I also think that they’re theocratic fascists, or Islamic theocrats (as opposed to Christian or Jewish theocrats, which certainly do exist). The difference between today’s Islamic theocrats and Christian theocrats (and remember, as I wrote the other day, I do not simply mean Christian conservatives, I mean genuine theocrats, particularly reconstructionists) is one of tactics. The Reconstructionists intend to use the political system to gain power (and have said so openly), while the Islamic theocrats use force. But the end result would be essentially the same, the end of liberty and the imposition of a totalitarian state.

    So, they’re theocrats, authoritarians, even totalitarians… agreed, on all three points. But that does not necessarily make them fascist. Using a narrow term describing a particular political phenomenom in such a broad way makes the word worse than useless: it becomes a slur to attack political opponents, or even legitimate enemies of the state. See the comment accusing Bush of being a fascist, or TNR accusing Kos and Co of blogofascism, or those guys with that paper against EBM and “microfascism”, or Jonah Goldberg’s upcoming book on the liberal fascist Democrats including Hillary Clinton, or… etc.

    This is why I object to the word fascist. It is inaccurate in describing Islamic terror in general [wait, I thought we were in a global war on terror... all terror... hmmm...] as Islamic fascism, though certain segments [see Hezbollah] are trending that way.

  31. #31 David Heddle
    August 15, 2006

    Chance,

    For every suicide bomber who thinks 72 virgins awaits we have a similiar individual who would love to bomb an abortion clinic or put someone in jail for sodomy(or just kill them).

    Equating suicide bombers to abortion clinic bombers is ridiculous.

    Abortion clinic bombers (few in number that they are) are under the delusion that they are within their rights to exact punishment on someone they see as a murderer.

    If there is a rough equivalence, it would be with the Moslem fundamentalist who kills his sister because she was raped.

    The men who were to bomb the planes didn’t see the passengers as criminals deserving of punishment–or even if they did their primary purpose was not to punish those particular people–some of whom would no doubt have been fellow Muslims.

    There intent was to punish entire states, namely the US and England.

    Altogether different–except to those whose agenda is to equate Moslem and Christian fundamentalism.

  32. #32 Chance
    August 15, 2006

    Equating suicide bombers to abortion clinic bombers is ridiculous.
    Abortion clinic bombers (few in number that they are) are under the delusion that they are within their rights to exact punishment on someone they see as a murderer.

    You may have a point, but suicide suicide bombers are doing the same as you said later here:

    There intent was to punish entire states, namely the US and England.

    The difference is one of degree. You can’t have it both ways.

    My analogy isn’t adequate given these scenarios but it is adequate to serve my larger point which is that religious fanatics are dangerous people and our nutters work their way through government rather than explosions and killing(although some do that also). I suspect this has more to do with them being kept in check by a secular society than it does anything else. Especially given the not so rare views espoused by many of them towards various members of society.

    Altogether different–except to those whose agenda is to equate Moslem and Christian fundamentalism.

    Except to those who see evil in one while excusing it in another form. Why must one have an agenda to see parallels? Why do people always think there is some alterior motive?

    Not everything is ideology driven.

  33. #33 Troy Britain
    August 15, 2006

    Guys, you’re being more than a tad pedantic here. What’s next are you going to insist that no group should be referred to as being fascist unless they are primarily of Italian descent?

    This is all literally semantics, pointless semantics. Attach whatever negative description you want, “authoritarian”, “totalitarian”, “fascistic”, “theocratic extremist”, whatever. The end results are the same.

    Do you think it matters one whit to the victims of these ideologies whether they are being oppressed and murdered by Nazis, fascists, communists, The Inquisition, or the Taliban?

    The details of their origins, the color of their flags, their stated ideologies and goals might vary but their methods are almost identical and the results are identical for those unfortunate enough to live under such regimes: a loss of freedom and/or death.

    Now let the debate over the use of the words “ideology” and “regime” begin…

  34. #34 Jim S
    August 15, 2006

    Here is a link to the definition of fascism at wikipedia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fascism#Definition

    In a way it’s more of a discussion of the many definitions of fascism. Those who deny that fascism, even combined in any way with Islamic or a “prefix” making it Islamo-fascism are of course not thinking of one aspect of the fundamentalist Islamic belief system. That is the belief that all Muslims should be in one state which would be highly autocratic, ruled by a religious individual or small group.

  35. #35 Mike Crichton
    August 15, 2006

    “Totalitarian” doesn’t equal “Fascist”. Were Stalin and Mao Fascists?

  36. #36 Troy Britain
    August 15, 2006

    Are the people who were killed by Stalin and Mao less dead than those killed by Hitler or Mussolini?

    Again, different flags, different slogans, same bullshit.

  37. #37 themann1086
    August 15, 2006

    This is all literally semantics, pointless semantics. Attach whatever negative description you want, “authoritarian”, “totalitarian”, “fascistic”, “theocratic extremist”, whatever. The end results are the same.

    But the means are very different. Even their methods of ruling, to large extents, are very different. And no, those different negative descriptions do not all mean the same thing, they don’t describe the same phenomena, and they can’t be used interchanably. The modern-day GOP is almost exclusively authoritarian, but they aren’t totalitarian; part of their base could be deemed “theocratic”, but not all of it is; and very little portions of the base are proto-fascist. It might just be semantics to you, but semantics are very important when it comes to documenting historical events, trends, and phenomena.

  38. #38 Mike Crichton
    August 15, 2006

    The word “Fascist” has a specific meaning, like the word “Communist”. It’s just as idiotic to refer the jihadi’s as Fascists, as it is refer to Hitler as a Communist. If anything, they’re mutant Marxist/”Divine-Right-of-Kings/Mandate-of-Heaven” Theocrat hybrids. Mixing up labels that have specific meanings is a shortcut to sloppy thinking, and a step away from actually being able to solve the problems in question.

  39. #39 themann1086
    August 15, 2006

    Thanks Mike, that was the point I was driving towards. Much more succinct than I put it.

    One other related point I’d like to make. We here have had an intelligent, open discussion about the meaning of the word fascist, and whether or not the current breed of Islamic terrorists meet those criteria. Who here thinks Bush was exposed to or even considered these arguments? Anyone?

  40. #40 Steve Reuland
    August 16, 2006

    Do you think it matters one whit to the victims of these ideologies whether they are being oppressed and murdered by Nazis, fascists, communists, The Inquisition, or the Taliban?

    If you’re the one getting killed, then I suppose it doesn’t matter. But for the rest of us who aren’t in any immediate danger, it darn well should matter. If we want to face this threat and deal with it in the most effective manner possible, then we have to understand it for what it truly is and not simply lump it in with every other nasty political movement in history. Different ideologies have to be dealt with in different ways.

    In my opinion, the massive failure of the Bush administration to deal with Islamic radicalism (which they’ve only made worse) stems from a complete lack of concern with who the Islamists are and what they’re motivated by. The administration’s attitude is that any problem can be solved with a lot of tough-talk and blowing shit up, and while genuine fascists might respect a show of force like this, the Islamists think they have God on their side, and they’re not impressed.

    That to me is the problem with labeling Islamists as fascists. It shows a lack of seriousness in trying to understand the enemy that we’re actually up against. And that has very severe consequences.

  41. #41 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    Here’s why I think the term “fascist” applies to the “Islamic” wackos who are causing so much trouble and bloodshed all over the world: the parallels between them and the Nazis are simply too obvious, and too important for policy purposes, to ignore (in no particular order):

    1) Like the Nazis, they arise in conditions where the socio-political institutions of their home countries are unable, or unwilling, to tackle their people’s problems, or to make themselves relevant to their people in the modern age.

    2) Like the Nazis, they are themselves unwilling to question certain beliefs or institutions that they consider sacrosanct/untouchable, and thus deprive themselves of possible avenues of redress or progress. (The Germans were unwilling to question their nationalist aspirations, or hold their military and big business accountable for their failures in and after WW-I; many Muslims are unwilling to modify static religious beliefs and bigotries to adjust to modern circumstances.)

    3) Like the Nazis, they seek to unite “their people” under their militant drive against an easily-identified “foreign” scapegoat (“Crusaders and Jews,” gays, the West, capitalism, globalisation, whatever, did I mention Jews?); rather than risk an internal debate that thay might lose.

    4) Like the Nazis, they know, beneath all their rhetoric, that “their people” don’t really want what they have on offer, and, given a real choice, won’t support their backward values or policies. Therefore, they seek to impose their values by murderous force and intimidation, and subvert, by whatever means and without scruple, any institution or movement that might create a viable alternative to their preferred course of intolerance, isolation, and “purity.”

    5) Like the Nazis, they seek to blame all of “their people’s” troubles on some “other,” and accept no responsibility for themselves or their actions.

    6) Like the Nazis, when faced with a policy dispute or internal debate, they almost invariably gravitate toward the most extreme and mindless option, which is portrayed as the most “pure,” “direct” or “honest” path, and shouting down all voices of moderation or reasoned discussion in favor of simple, colorful, cathartic, mindless war. Screaming in unison for the TV camera feels so much better than the drudgery of thought and daily work. Capitulating to their demands will not bring peace, only more demands. Surrendering to their attacks will only enable wider attacks.

    7) Like the Nazis, their support comes primarily from people who — rightly or wrongly — see themselves as losing ground or being cheated due to socio-economic changes over which they feel they have no control; and thus falling into a posture of fearful hostile reaction, rather than positive action.

  42. #42 Mike Crichton
    August 16, 2006

    Raging Bee : All those criteria also apply to Stalin and
    Mao. Do you argue that _they_ were Fascists too? What next, referring the Tuberculosis as a “Virus”? Do we start calling all criminals “Rapists” by default? For “Bob”s sake, WORDS HAVE MEANINGS. They don’t just mean whatever you want them to at this particular moment. :-P

  43. #43 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    1) Like the Nazis, they arise in conditions where the socio-political institutions of their home countries are unable, or unwilling, to tackle their people’s problems, or to make themselves relevant to their people in the modern age.

    But the conditions for the modern Islamic terrorists are in areas where the people aren’t suppose to have influence on their government, which differentiates itself from the nations where fascism across the century has formed.

    2) Like the Nazis, they are themselves unwilling to question certain beliefs or institutions that they consider sacrosanct/untouchable, and thus deprive themselves of possible avenues of redress or progress. (The Germans were unwilling to question their nationalist aspirations, or hold their military and big business accountable for their failures in and after WW-I; many Muslims are unwilling to modify static religious beliefs and bigotries to adjust to modern circumstances.)

    Not that the information you provided here is wrong, but this fits the definition of dogmatists and ideologues; I’m pretty unwilling to question my belief in constitutional liberal democracies, but that doesn’t make me a fascist.

    3) Like the Nazis, they seek to unite “their people” under their militant drive against an easily-identified “foreign” scapegoat (“Crusaders and Jews,” gays, the West, capitalism, globalisation, whatever, did I mention Jews?); rather than risk an internal debate that thay might lose.

    Absolutely; this is one area where they are in lockstep with fascism.

    4) Like the Nazis, they know, beneath all their rhetoric, that “their people” don’t really want what they have on offer, and, given a real choice, won’t support their backward values or policies. Therefore, they seek to impose their values by murderous force and intimidation, and subvert, by whatever means and without scruple, any institution or movement that might create a viable alternative to their preferred course of intolerance, isolation, and “purity.”

    This isn’t accurate. The Nazis absolutely believed that the people would support them; and they did, didn’t they? The Nazis were elected, after all, and then proceded to consolidate their power with little to no opposition from the people. It’s actually a staple of fascism that it gains considerable [if not majority] support from various aspects of the nation.

    5) Like the Nazis, they seek to blame all of “their people’s” troubles on some “other,” and accept no responsibility for themselves or their actions.

    This isn’t really an aspect of fascism… it’s actually a very common trait amongst various leaders and ideologies across history.

    6) Like the Nazis, when faced with a policy dispute or internal debate, they almost invariably gravitate toward the most extreme and mindless option, which is portrayed as the most “pure,” “direct” or “honest” path, and shouting down all voices of moderation or reasoned discussion in favor of simple, colorful, cathartic, mindless war. Screaming in unison for the TV camera feels so much better than the drudgery of thought and daily work. Capitulating to their demands will not bring peace, only more demands. Surrendering to their attacks will only enable wider attacks.

    Don’t underestimate the intellectual origins of fascism. It held a lot of support from the intelligista in the 20s and early 30s, though lots, but not all, of it faded after they actually came to power.

    7) Like the Nazis, their support comes primarily from people who — rightly or wrongly — see themselves as losing ground or being cheated due to socio-economic changes over which they feel they have no control; and thus falling into a posture of fearful hostile reaction, rather than positive action.

    And this differs from our conservative movement here in the U.S. how? I’m not disagreeing, it’s absolutely an accurate description, but it doesn’t make them fascists.

    To be clear, however, I don’t say this to try and minimize the threat posed here. It is very real and very deadly. I simply wish to have a clear, concise, and above all accurate description of that threat, and fascist is simply not it.

    Not yet, anyway. I’ll be watching the events in Lebanon closely.

  44. #44 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    I was not trying to pin down a single definition of the word “fascism;” that word (always a bit ill-defined) has been applied to a wide variety of movements and philisophies, from “divine right of kings” all the way to, yes, Stalinism and Maoism. I am merely trying to list some of what I consider to be very important (and dangerous) characteristics that we, as voters, should keep in mind as we confront today’s threats. These characteristics separate them, in pragmatic policy terms, from other enemies we’ve faced in the past, and demand somewhat different responses from what we’ve done before.

    IMHO, the important factors to consider with regard to “Islamic” extremism are: reaction, irresponsibility, scapegoating, intolerance, and the desire for racial/cultural/religious “purity.” Yes, other regimes and movements have these characteristics, but they’re not as central and indispensible to those regimes and movements as they are to the Islamists, the KKK, or the Nazis.

    But the conditions for the modern Islamic terrorists are in areas where the people aren’t suppose to have influence on their government, which differentiates itself from the nations where fascism across the century has formed.

    The important similarity is that the movements I mention flourish in places where the people feel they don’t have influence or their values aren’t upheld: the Weimar Republic, SAudi Arabia, Baathist Syria and Iraq, and the isolated Muslim-immigrant ghettoes in European cities.

    I’m pretty unwilling to question my belief in constitutional liberal democracies, but that doesn’t make me a fascist.

    That’s because you’re smart enough to understand such principles (which are rather complicated compared to “obey Dear Leader”), and are able to work within that system to get what you need, if not what you want.

    The Nazis absolutely believed that the people would support them; and they did, didn’t they? The Nazis were elected, after all…

    Not by a majority; it was a three-way race that took place during the Depression, amid widespread post-WWI resentment and fears of Commernism and major changes taking place all over the world.

    Don’t underestimate the intellectual origins of fascism. It held a lot of support from the intelligista in the 20s and early 30s…

    Again, this was at a time when fascism was seen as the only strong alternative to Godless International Communism, which was then seen as bringing about the end of freedom, private property, religion, and all other things good and civilized. (Yes, there was democracy, but the US didn’t care about Europe back then, and democracies in Europe were too fragile to resist the barbarian onslought.)

    And this differs from our conservative movement here in the U.S. how?

    Not much: there is indeed a reactionary, scapegoating, fascist strain in the US and Western Europe, on both the left and the right. And yes, it is a clear and present threat.

  45. #45 Ed Brayton
    August 16, 2006

    The problem here is that we have two different usages of the word ‘fascism’, one narrower, more technical and, certainly, more historically accurate, the other broader and more common. It’s easy to declare that words have meanings, but of course words often have multiple meanings depending on the context and the usage, and meanings also change over time (ask any happy, I mean gay, person). I readily concede that my usage of the term is not technically correct and that a real scholar of political movements would indeed distinguish between fascist movements and other authoritarian and totalitarian movements. And I certainly recognize that such distinctions are important in that context and probably should have picked a better term.

    But in this context, I don’t think it matters all that much. I don’t think the objections to the phrase “Islamic fascism” were based on a technical meaning of the word ‘fascism’, but to a rejection of the use of the term ‘Islamic’ in conjunction with something negative (the same people also object to phrases like ‘Islamic terrorists’). But the fact is that they are Islamic and they are terrorists. The point of my post was that it is entirely reasonable to call them Islamic because, obviously, they are Islamic and their ideology is entirely based on that religion. And like it or not, the term ‘fascist’ has come to be used to describe any totalitarian movement. That is its far more common usage today and it’s probably not going to change, so we just need to recognize whether it’s being used in a scholarly context or a colloquial one. I probably should have specified that in my original post and treated it from a more scholarly perspective to avoid the diversion into the semantic debate.

  46. #46 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    My objections of the phrase were based on fascist, but point taken as I agree that most people objecting to it did so for the wrong reasons. Islamic terrorists is a much more accurate [and somewhat less loaded, or at least loaded less incorrectly] term than fascism. I don’t know if I agree that fascist will continue to be used so broadly, but it definitely will if idiot leaders continue to use it haphazardly to describe whichever enemy we happen to be facing [and lefties and righties continue to use it to cudgel their opponents].

    I suspect that when David Neiwert gets back from vacation he’ll have a few things to say about this. It is one of his hobby horses after all.

  47. #47 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    The term “fascist” (note the small “f”) is sufficiently applicable to today’s “Islamic” terrorists and bullies, at least for rhetorical, rally-the-troops-to-charge-on-the-enemy purposes. (It’s certainly more applicable to those scumbags than the term “Islamic.”) And if it strikes some of us as a vague political definition, well, that’s partly because the people we call “fascist” tend to be a bit vague in their own thinking. Clear and consistent thinking isn’t exactly a strong point for either Hezbollah, the KKK, the BNP, the “Christian” “right,” or the Nazis (neo- or paleo-).

    The term “communist” gets a bit slippery for much the same reason too.

  48. #48 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    One of the points you made was that these terrorists represented a different kind of threat from previous ones the U.S. had faced in the past, and I agree; the problem with using fascist rhetorically is that we faced actual fascism before, in the 1940s. World War II isn’t exactly forgotten either, especially here in the U.S. where it was fought by The Greatest Generation. Using the term fascist implies a number of things, including that the threat posed is similar and that our response should be similar. That’s flat-out wrong. It’s also a core part of the Bush Doctrine: terrorists can only be funded and supported by states; therefore, potential rogue states need to be taken out. By calling the Islamic terrorists fascists, Bush is making a connection between taking out the Nazi state and taking out Islamic ‘fascist’ states. That’s not what needs to be done.

  49. #49 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    …the problem with using fascist rhetorically is that we faced actual fascism before, in the 1940s.

    And we’re facing it now, but while in the ’40s it had only one head, now it has many heads, and many parts that don’t really obey either head. Different political “organization,” same motives, agenda and threat. (If “fascist” meant “well-organized,” Mussolini would not have qualified; neither would today’s US white-supremacists, who explicitly practice “leaderless resistance” to avoid the lawsuits that broke the KKK.)

    Using the term fascist implies a number of things, including that the threat posed is similar and that our response should be similar. That’s flat-out wrong.

    The threat to our liberties is indeed similar. And how, esactly, do you think our response should be different?

    By calling the Islamic terrorists fascists, Bush is making a connection between taking out the Nazi state and taking out Islamic ‘fascist’ states. That’s not what needs to be done.

    The Taliban, at least, did need to be taken out. And no, not all rogue states need to be taken out by force; but that should always be kept as one live option among others.

    (Actually, I think Bush is making the connection between past and present enemies of our basic values. At least that’s the connection he SHOULD be making. But with a stupid dry-drunk like Bush Jr., one never quite knows until it’s too late…)

  50. #50 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    Ok, you’ve made several excellent points [which is why I keep coming back here for intelligent debate on the issue], but I’m a bit confused on one point: is the use of the word fascist a rhetorical point to rally the troops, or an accurate description of our current enemies.

    To be perfectly honest, I don’t think the Islamic terrorists pose a grave threat to my liberties. They pose a ephemeral threat to my safety and a threat to the already-limited liberties of the Arabic world; but I sincerely doubt they would be capable of single-handedly overturning our constitutional regime.*

    Our response needs to be, as Kerry said back in 04, more law enforcement and less military, a la our removal of the Taliban and the legal round-ups which recently caught the British plot and, way back when, got the original WTC bombers. Less invasions, more investigations.

    *This should not imply that these terrorists would do great harm to America’s power, standing in the world, infrastructure, and most importantly people. No force in the forseeable future would be able to occupy and overturn America’s government. If our most powerful military in the world can’t hold a country the size of Texas, who the hell is gonna occupy us?

  51. #51 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    America is clearly in no danger of going under in the near future, unless of course our own far right continue to ru[i]n the country. But liberty in Europe is under real attack, not only from actual terrorists, but from Muslim reactionaries and their leftist supporters, and ordinary thugs of the kind who murdered Theo van Gogh for making a movie that criticized some aspect of Islamic doctrine. (Also, that fatwa against Salman Rushdie is still in effect, and Rushdie himself is still compromising his lifestyle with protective measures.) There is a very powerful and concerted movement afoot to silence criticism of Islam, undermine democratic institutions in Europe, and impose Sharia law in their place. There’s room for disagreement over strategy and tactics, but the threat is just as real, and just as great, as that of Hitlerism was way back when.

  52. #52 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    Liberty in Europe already has some…. unique wrinkles, such as the bans on wearing religious accessories in French public schools, or the crime of denying the Holocaust. Not that the Islamic threat isn’t also true, as it is, but there are other restrictions on liberty in the EU. I’m also not sure what you mean by the “leftist supporters” of “Islamic reactionaries”. Could you clarify that?

    I don’t think that the threat is as bad, right now, as Hitler. It could very well evolve in that direction, but in the present time and circumstances I don’t see it. I see liberties being curbed and racial profiling and attempts to silence free speech, but it’s not at that level, yet. The threat is just as real, agreed, but that doesn’t make it fascist.

  53. #53 Steve Reuland
    August 16, 2006

    1) Like the Nazis, they arise in conditions where the socio-political institutions of their home countries are unable, or unwilling, to tackle their people’s problems, or to make themselves relevant to their people in the modern age.

    I don’t think this is really the case at all. Most oil-rich Muslim countries are not suffering from economic depridations, they are facing the opposite problem of what to do with all of that oil money. As a result, they’ve been furiously trying to develop some sort of modern technological economy (much of it probably wasteful, but that’s another story) and this has posed a major threat to their citizens’ traditional way of life. So what we have here is possibly history’s greatest collision between modernism and traditionalism, with the traditionalists fighting a religiously inspired war against the rising tide of modernity.

    The case with the Nazis was different. Germany was already a moderized, technologically savvy country, but they were facing economic ruin and the perception of having been treated unfairly by the British and French and their “stab-in-the-back” civilian leadership during the Great War. The Nazis came in with the promise of strength, both economically and militarily, and this was very appealing to the German masses.

  54. #54 Raging Bee
    August 16, 2006

    “Economic depredations” are not the same as socio-political failure, although they often go together.

    Yes, OPEC regimes are trying to use their windfall to modermize their countries. But having a new life bought for you by infusions of cash from your government is not the same as having a stake in your country’s economy, or having a meaningful role or job in it. Unemployed masses are a threat to civil peace, even when they’re on welfare.

    The Saudi royal family are not only despotic, but corrupt to the core by all that oil money. They’ve promised a heap of reforms, but only a tiny fraction of them have actually been delivered. They know their people despise them, so they try to buy back loyalty by funding extremist muttawas, madrassas, and state-controlled media, all of which use a steady diet of Wahabbist extremism and bigotry to keep people in line and redirect their anger at something — anything — other than their own government. Remember the Toon Tantrum? That was orchestrated to divert attention away from their latest crowd-control fiasco at Mecca, in which at least 200 pilgrims died.

    They may be the richest failed state in history. (Remember where most of the 9/11 hijackers came from? That should tell you how much good all that oil money is doing.)

  55. #55 Roman Werpachowski
    August 16, 2006

    “Islamic fascists” is historically inaccurate. Fascism and fundamental Islam are two different ideologies.

    But maybe this distinction is too much to expect from the politicians, bloggers and commenters nowadays.

  56. #56 Ed Brayton
    August 16, 2006

    I think Steve Reuland hits the nail on the head when he says that this is really a battle between modernism and traditionalism. I also think the primary battle takes place within Islam itself. There are several levels to this problem, not one, which is why I think the notion that it must be fought on one level is wrong. I don’t think it’s reasonable to claim, for example, that the solution is law enforcement and not military; clearly both will be required, and more. When dealing with a group like Hezbollah, for all practical purposes an army, there is no possible short term solution other than military. The long term solution to the problem at the largest level is the theological and cultural battle within the Islamic world between reactionaries and modernists (just as that same battle took place within Christianity a few hundred years ago). But below that level, all of our resources – military, economic, cultural, diplomatic, legal, etc – will be required in different situations.

  57. #57 themann1086
    August 16, 2006

    I should have known better than to leave a statement unqualified. Make that “primarily law enforcement”. Always exceptions to the rule…

  58. #58 ctw
    August 17, 2006

    “this is really a battle between modernism and traditionalism … within Islam itself.”

    and the name paul berman uses for the latter is “islamism”, which – though leading to what we would consider to be a totalitarian state – need not be pursued using “extreme” measures like violence; which is why I suggested (much) earlier that if accuracy and avoiding a term that is excessively encompassing is of any interest, “islamist extremists” might be a better candidate than “islamic fascists”.

    -c

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