Bush sees "Islamic fascism"; world misses irony
The below Aug. 30 AP account notes the growing use of the term "Islamic fascism" by the Bush administration and its amen chorus in recent days. The response has been predictable in the extreme, with lefties (e.g. The Huffington Post) calling it a "false historical analogy", and righties (e.g. the neo-interventionist William Shawcross on the website of the Australia/Israel Jewish Affairs Council) insisting "Yes, the Problem is 'Islamic Fascism'." Both, we fear, are missing the point. We've noted before the western left's unseemly illusions about Islamic extremism, and we don't think the term "Islamic fascism" is necessarily all that inaccurate. We just think it is hilariously ironic coming from Bush.
Republicans Target "Islamic Fascism"
WASHINGTON — President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.
Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.
And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."
White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.
The White House on Wednesday announced Bush would elaborate on this theme in a series of speeches beginning Thursday at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City and running through his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19.
"The key is that all of this violence and all of the threats are part of one single ideological struggle, a struggle between the forces of freedom and moderation, and the forces of tyranny and extremism," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One.
Depicting the struggle as one against Islamic fascists is "an appropriate definition of the war that we're in," said GOP pollster Ed Goeas. "I think it's effective in that it definitively defines the enemy in a way that we can't because they're not in uniforms."
But Muslim groups have cried foul. Bush's use of the phrase "contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community," complained Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
The tactic recalled the first President Bush's 1990 likening of Iraq's Saddam Hussein to Adolf Hitler.
"I caught hell on this comparison of Saddam to Hitler, with critics accusing me of personalizing the crisis, but I still feel it was an appropriate one," the elder Bush later wrote in a memoir.
It was one of the few times the younger Bush has followed his father's path on Iraq.
Stephen J. Wayne, a professor of government at Georgetown University, suggested White House strategists "probably had a focus group and they found the word `fascist.'
"Most people are against fascists of whatever form. By definition, fascists are bad. If you're going to demonize, you might as well use the toughest words you can," Wayne said.
After all, the hard-line Iranian newspaper Jomhuri Eskami did just that in an editorial last week blasting Bush's "Islamic fascism" phrase. It called Bush a "21st century Hitler" and British Prime Minister Tony Blair a "21st century Mussolini."
If you ask us, while neither Bush nor Ahmadinejad are precisely (or "classically") fascist, they are both way too close for comfort. On both sides, this is a case of the pot calling the kettle black.
And while we really hate to vindicate Poppy Bush, we have pointed out before that Saddam himself recently compared himself to Mussolini, if not Hitler.
Inconvenient to anti-war propaganda? Don't blame us.