Earlier this summer, Democratic senator Dick Durbin got in trouble for comparing the mistreatment of prisoners in Guantanamo Bay with what Nazis did. This week, Donald Rumsfeld got in trouble for comparing critics of the war with Nazi appeasers. In response to criticism, Rumsfeld clarified that critics are not just like Nazi appeasers but also those who appeased communists.
The Bush administration has taken to calling theirs the fight against Islamofascism. In the midst of all these references to Nazis and fascists, it is worth reviewing what political ideology helped to trigger the atrocity that killed more people than now live in Canada.
Here is a definition captured on Wikipedia:
Paxton further defines fascism's essence as:
· "1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions; 2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits; 3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts; 4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint; 5. fear of foreign `contamination."
Using this definition of fascism, let’s see who comes closest to the ideology – the Bush administration or its critics.
1. a sense of overwhelming crisis beyond reach of traditional solutions
The Bush administration and its apologists have argued that even civil rights have to be renegotiated in light of the threat of this new war against terrorism, suggesting that prevention of terrorist acts has priority over any traditional civil rights.
Critics of the Bush administration have maintained that terrorism calls for international cooperation and police action – treating terrorism as a crime rather than a war. In this light, the threat is no different than so many others that we’ve learned to live with.
2. belief one’s group is the victim, justifying any action without legal or moral limits
The Bush administration has launched an invasion of Iraq in spite of hard evidence of a threat to the lives of Americans from the Iraqi regime. As a result, some 30,000 to 150,000 Iraqis have been killed. The American invasion was not sanctioned by international organizations like the UN and even today the administration claims exemptions from the international criminal court. Guantanamo Bay in Cuba was chosen as a holding place for suspects in the war on terrorism because it was in location that exempted it from US or international law.
Bush’s critics have argued that holding children in Guantanamo is both illegal and immoral, and have questioned the need to kill civilians in the invasion and occupation of Iraq.
3. need for authority by a natural leader above the law, relying on the superiority of his instincts
Bush has repeatedly asserted his exemption from laws. He knew that Putin had a good soul because he looked into his eyes; he knew that Saddam was a threat because he’d threatened his father.
Bush’s critics argue that the constitution and not the former C-student from Yale is the ultimate authority in this country.
4. right of the chosen people to dominate others without legal or moral restraint
See definitions 1 through 3.
5. fear of foreign `contamination."
The Bush administration seriously curtailed the number of foreign graduate students and workers who would have earlier come to this country, a group that has previously included Andy Grove (co-founder of Intel) and Sergy Brin (co-founder of Google).
Bush’s critics have seen foreign opinion and people as not only relevant but beneficial in the commerce of ideas, much as foreign goods and services benefit our economy through open trade.
There is a reason that people revert to the Nazi comparisons. One has to do with the desire to again face a force that is clearly in the wrong. More subtly, another has to do with the recurrence of policies that trace their origins to the same uber-patriotism that sees national identity as something to be protected from real people, disregard for legal niceties that constrain one from doing “the right thing,” and conviction that the times we live in do not allow us to enjoy the same civil liberties that previous, less troubled generations enjoyed. Perhaps there is a reason that more Europeans see America as a greater threat to global stability than Iran.