Friday, September 15, 2006

The Kettle Pot Calling Black

George Bush, Jr. has achieved a certain fame for his occasionally peculiar language. After 9/11, for example, he talked about a new crusade, apparently forgetting how the old Crusades turned out. Campaigning in 2004, he lamented that rising insurance costs mean some gynecologists cannot practice their love for women. And last month, during the anniversary of the ongoing Katrina disaster, he granted an interview to Brian Williams of M.S.N.B.C. Williams mentioned Junior’s trips to Kennebunkport to visit his father, President George Bush, Sr. Some members of Bush, Sr.’s administration (including, reportedly, Bush, Sr. himself) are against Junior’s middle-east policies. So Williams asked if there was any tension between father and son.

Bush: My relationship is adoring son.
Williams: Do you talk shop?
Bush: Sometimes, yeah, of course we do. But, uh, uh, but — that’s a really interesting question. I mean, it’s kind of conspiracy theory at its most rampant.

It’s impossible to say whether Bush was leaping to a conclusion or slipping, so to speak, to a Freudian. Either way, it sounded odd.

Recently, Bush and figures in his administration have adopted another term from the anti-American right: “Islamofascism.” It’s perfect. It’s evocative and it doesn’t quite mean what it says — two common features of propaganda.

To understand how propaganda works, consider a related example. Before the U.S. attack on Iraq, Saddam Hussein was compared to a famous Catholic, Adolph Hitler. Hitler was a battered child who hated his father and, as an adult, pursued two investigations (ultimately inconclusive) into the possibility that his paternal grandfather was a Jew. Jews, of course, have been persecuted by Catholics for centuries. The Church did not excommunicate Hitler and remained notoriously silent on the excesses of his regime. Yet, when Hussein was called the new Hitler, the public did not conclude that Hussein was Catholic.

“Islamofascism” welds two emotionally charged words into one counter-articulate brand. The result is an all-purpose synonym for anti-Semitism, insurgency, resistance to U.S. intervention, terrorism, or anything else the administration might care to insinuate. Anything, that is, except genuine fascism.

Former Nixon counsel John Dean appeared on M.S.N.B.C. to discuss recent statements from Donald Rumsfeld. Dean mentioned that conflating terrorism with fascism runs against earlier administration claims that terrorism is not state-based because fascism is state-based. The core switcheroo of the Islamofascism smear, however, was not addressed. It’s not about religion, and it’s not about a clash of cultures or opposition to the U.S.

Fascism, as Benito Mussolini once explained, should be called corporatism because it combines the powers of state and business.

The U.S. military has been buying up supplies of the vaccine Tamiflu at $100 per dose to protect U.S. soldiers if a bird flu pandemic develops. No one actually knows if Tamiflu is effective against bird flu, but one thing is clear. Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld was chairman of Gilead Sciences, which developed Tamiflu. He’s a major stockholder of Gilead. He stands to make a lot of money from the decision to buy Tamiflu for the Department he heads. And “Rumsfeld isn’t the only political heavyweight to benefit from the demand for Tamiflu.”* There’s a word for that.

Four “contractors” were killed in Faluja, and the U.S. took revenge on the entire city. The men were “security personnel” from a company called Blackwater USA. F.E.M.A. hired Blackwater for security in post-Katrina New Orleans. Not surprisingly, information on Blackwater operations in Iraq is hard to find; but apparently, the Blackwater deal came through a series of companies which track back to Halliburton. Dick Cheney was the C.E.O. of Halliburton before he became Vice-President. He promptly held secret meetings with oil company executives to divvy up the oil fields in Iraq — seven months before 9/11 and two years before the invasion of Iraq.**

Our nation’s energy policy was written by politicians and businessmen who were conspiring to seize Iraq’s oil. There’s a word for that.

The Bush team doesn’t mind being fascists, but they’re not stupid. They know “fascist” is a title best bestowed on others. And let’s face it, “Christianofascism” sends all the wrong signals. Besides, it doesn’t roll well off the tongue.

** A lawsuit won the release of maps and a list detailing the progress of negotiations with interested companies. See:


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