August 9, 2006

Juan Cole on the Misnomer of "Islamic Fascism"

Juan Cole, whom you should read if you don't already, has been on a roll since the crisis in Lebanon began. His latest post, Bush, Islamic Fascism and the Christians of Jounieh, has a very good passage about how Bush's reference to "Islamic fascism" is both incorrect and offensive. First, some background:

Bush is on vacation, his favorite place to be during a major crisis. The August retreat is the only open admission he makes that Cheney and Rumsfeld are actually running the country, and he just doesn't need to be in his office. The only difference between his stonewalling of Lebanon and the way he let New Orleans drown is that he has put away the banjo this summer, at least in public view. He had someone tie a necktie on him and stopped manically clearing brush for long enough to come out with Condi and hold a press conference. He lied, saying that no one wants to see the violence continue. He wants to see the violence continue. Otherwise he would insist on a ceasefire. You see, if you don't have a ceasefire, the violence continues. If you oppose a ceasefire, you are saying you want the violence to continue. He does.

Then he tried to explain the war in Lebanon by saying this,

'They try to spread their jihadist message -- a message I call, it's totalitarian in nature -- Islamic radicalism, Islamic fascism, they try to spread it as well by taking the attack to those of us who love freedom.'


...[T]here are other problems with what Bush said. He contrasted "Islamic fascism" to "democracy," presumably a reference to the Lebanese Hizbullah.

This point is incorrect and offensive for many reasons.

It is a misuse of the word "Islamic." "Islamic" has to do with the ideals and achievements of the Muslims and the Muslim religion. Thus, we speak of Islamic art. We speak of Islamic ethics.

There can be Muslim fascists, just as there can be Christian fascists (and were, in Spain, Italy and Germany, and parts of Central and South America; the Spanish fascists and the Argentinian ones, e.g., were adopted by the United States government as close allies.)

But there cannot be "Islamic" fascists, because the Islamic religion enshrines values that are incompatible with fascism.

Fascism is not even a very good description of the ideology of most Muslim fundamentalists. Most fascism in the Middle East has been secular in character, as with Saddam Hussein's Baath Party. Fascism involves extreme nationalism and most often racism. Muslim fundamentalist movements reject the nation-state as their primary loyalty and reject race as a basis for political action or social discrimination. Fascists exalt the state above individual rights or the rule of law. Muslim fundamentalists exalt Islamic law above the utilitarian interests of the state. Fascism exalts youth and a master race above the old and the "inferior" races. Muslim fundamentalists would never speak this way. Fascism glorifies "war as an end in itself and victory as the determinant of truth and worthiness." Muslim fundamentalists view holy war as a ritual with precise conditions and laws governing its conduct. It is not considered an end in itself.

Another excellent post by Dr. Cole is One Ring to Rule Them All, in which he speculates that the US-Israeli war on Lebanon is merely phase I of a larger strategy to deprive Asian economies (China and India in particular) of access to middle eastern oil in favor of the American economy:

Destroy Lebanon, and destroy Hizbullah, and you reduce Iran's strategic depth. Destroy the Iranian nuclear program and you leave it helpless and vulnerable to having done to it what the Israelis did to Lebanon. You leave it vulnerable to regime change, and a dragooning of Iran back into the US sphere of influence, denying it to China and assuring its 500 tcf of natural gas to US corporations. You also politically reorient the entire Gulf, with both Saddam and Khamenei gone, toward the United States. Voila, you avoid peak oil problems in the US until a technological fix can be found, and you avoid a situation where China and India have special access to Iran and the Gulf.

This one little paragraph is only a tiny bit of the larger argument; I suggest you read the entire post. (The whole post has created 81 comments to date - some of which have their own excellent analyses - which is about 3-4 times the number that Dr. Cole normally receives on any given post that he writes.)

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