Thursday, August 31, 2006

Word play and warfare

What's going on with the term "Islamic fascism"? It's been used by the likes of Christopher Hitchens and other intellectual NeoCons; I distinguish Hitchens from some NeoCons who seldom publish even when they hold professorships.

The AP:
President Bush in recent days has recast the global antiterrorism effort as a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzzword for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.

Bush used the term this month in talking about the arrest of terrorism suspects in Britain, and he spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House news briefings.


Conservative commentators have long talked about "Islamo-fascism," and Bush's phrase was a slightly toned-down variation on that theme.

Dennis Ross, a Mideast adviser to both the first Bush and Clinton administrations and now director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he would have chosen different words.

"The war on terror has always been a misnomer, because terrorism is an instrument, it's not an ideology," Ross said. "So I would always have preferred it to be called the 'war with radical Islam,' not with Islam but with 'radical Islam.' "
This has been advanced, by some pundits, as a rebranding of the war on terror. There is a little more going on than just that. One has to reflect on 30 years of tension to see what might be going on in the President's mind. Perhaps we may also view the Iranian hostage crisis as the Beer Hall Putsch of Islamo-fascism. That is not too outlandish, as Mark Bowden's latest book is subtitled: "The First Battle in America's War with Militant Islam". defines fascism as, "a governmental system led by a dictator having complete power, forcibly suppressing opposition and criticism, regimenting all industry, commerce, etc., and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism and often racism."

Whether there really are Islamo-fascists is not the point of this entry. There are clearly some in positions of leadership that buy into this assertion, and it centers on the idea of wilayat al-faqih, a concept practiced by Hezbollah and Ayatollahs in Iran.

Adam Shatz in a 2004 New York Review of Books article:
Hezbollah now has some 100,000 supporters, about half of whom are party members. When Nasrallah raises his voice, the Lebanese pay close attention to what he says, whether or not they like him. Bashar Assad, Syria's young leader and Hezbollah's other major sponsor, is said to revere him.[2] Although Nasrallah depends on Iranian arms and Syria's support for his military operations, he has achieved a significant degree of autonomy from both parties, which may complicate future efforts to disband it. Hezbollah, which adheres to the principle of wilayat al-faqih, or rule by the Islamic jurist, regards Iran's supreme leader, the Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, as its ultimate leader, and maintains close ties to Iran's leadership, especially to the hard-line clerics who helped organize the party in the early 1980s.[3] It was Khamenei who reportedly influenced Hezbollah's decision to maintain its armed wing rather than devote all its energies to Lebanese politics after Israel's withdrawal from southern Lebanon in May 2000. But Hezbollah has long ceased to be an Iranian-controlled militia. (The last remaining Revolutionary Guards left the Bekaa Valley in 1998.) Although Hezbollah is believed to coordinate foreign policy matters with Iran's Revolutionary Guards, the Lebanese and Western experts I've talked to say it reaches most of its everyday decisions without consulting Iran. Moreover, they say, Khamenei has never overruled Nasrallah.
We can anticipate semi-states emerging in Iraq under the control of Sadr or SCIRI employing wilayat al-faqih as well. The insurgent strategy of providing medical, infrastructure and employment services could be viewed as a wilayat al-faqih dictatorship expanding its control. Perhaps that is or is not fascism.

With Iran pursuing a nuclear program, CNN, it is interesting to note that the "war on terror" has been rebranded to counter "Islamo-fascism". If there is one nation that defines Islamo-fascism, it is Iran. At least, that might be the opinion of some in the White House.


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