We have seen and will see again unintelligent people shoehorn every single muslim lined up against America into the rhetorically convenient empty phrase islamofascists. The phrase plays great in Peoria, which after all is the point, but it displays a lack of knowledge about who is fighting us and why, a misunderstanding that could and is getting American kids killed. Some might argue that the administration cannot possibly be as chunderheaded as its rhetoric implies. Maybe I am wrong, in fact I hope so. So show me. Who is doing the deep thinking in our government? Where is their work product? As near as I can tell this lethally stupid oversimplification reaches all the way to the top.
Anyhow, I don’t link to Billmon
enough at all. He deserves better, so go read this essay.
What’s alarming (or encouraging, from bin Ladin’s point of view) is that the original covert war against a transnational terrorist group appears to have morphed into a connected set of traditional Third World insurgencies, in which Islamist guerrilla fighters have managed to find or create relatively secure bases — the Taliban in Afghanistan’s Orzugan and northern Helmand provinces, the core of the old Al Qaeda in Pakistan’s tribal areas and, just perhaps, Al Qaeda in Iraq in Anbar Province.
Col. Pat Lang, a former Middle East desk officer for the DIA, calls these “redoubt areas” — perhaps harking back to the so-called Iron Triangle, an expanse of rubber plantations northwest of Saigon that was one of the Viet Cong’s favorite stomping grounds. (Che Guevara’s old concept of revolutionary foci might also apply.)
Such redoubts are essentially no go zones where the “legitimate” government has no presence and occupation troops rarely go (and then only in massive strength). This means they can be used as rear areas by the insurgents — places to assemble units, rest and refit, build supply dumps, headquarters, hospitals, etc. Locals can be enlisted or dragooned into serving as porters, laborers, spies, etc. Redoubts are what southern Lebanon is to Hizbullah, and like southern Lebanon they may be honeycombed with tunnel complexes, command bunkers and underground ammo dumps and armories — all the things a guerrilla army needs to survive a war with a vastly superior First World military.
How big a problem is this? Well, if you buy the Cheney administration’s premise that the United States cannot allow the creation of sanctuaries that could be used to plan, organize, train and prepare for terrorist attacks on America or its allies, then it’s a very big problem. Totally unacceptable. But the threat could be even more serious than even the Cheneyites understand.
That is just a teaser to get you to read the whole thing. So go. I don’t agree with his last paragraph (not shown here), which in my opinion conflates a failure with an impossibility, but the piece should help to dispel the picture-book rhetoric that seems to have taken over our understanding of how and why Americans are dying in the middle east.
Phenomenal article. Best I’ve read in years. Great find.
Wow, great article. I’ve got to say, you buried the lead (and maybe Billmon did too) on this one, but maybe that doesn’t matter since I read the whole thing, as you intended. :)
Great observations. Cheney just doesn’t do diplomacy–he’s more of a perpetual war kind of guy–he’s wanted to execute his (failed) plan for Iraq since at least 1990. And I’m sure Cheney could derive some benefits from it–he has so far, after all. I don’t think it would justify the costs at all, but he might. And if not, well, he got his.
I don’t understand the connection between your deriding the term “Islamofascist” (and the alleged simps who use the term) and linking Billmon’s article about “extreme reactionaries” “that have no meaningful economic or political program” but can rely on “wide and deep fears of cultural penetration and Western domination, and the ancient religious duty of all Muslims to defend Islam and the community of believers.”
And I think the term “Islamofascist” exists precisely for the reason Billmon identifies: to highlight and, where possible, promote the enormous diversity of Islam” and not to “implicitly and even explicitly defining all who oppose their maximum program for a “new” Middle East as extremists — the enemies of civilization.”
Billmon’s essay is worse than a strawman attack, it misrepresents. And, as usual he offers no meaningful alternatives to the dreaded neo-cons. Weak.
That seems to be a minority opinion. Don’t put intentions into the mouths of people who clearly have not earned your benefit-of-the-doubt.
Why then coin the term Islamo-FASCIST as opposed to Muslim Fundamentalist, or Islamist even? What alternative do you or Billmon suggest?
Are you asking me to coin another misnomer for unrelated groups of people whose interests only partially intersect, if at all? That sounds like a losing proposition. Describing the various groups accurately seems like a better idea. For example, ‘al Qaeda elements interested in fomenting Islamic revolution’ and ‘Shiite factions working to impose an Iran-style Mullah state’ and ‘former Baathists attempting to consolidate a sub-government in Sunni geographic strongholds.’ See also, ‘palestinian groups focused on terrotorial conflict with Israel’ and ‘Kurdish militias determined to establish sovreignty and reverse the Baathist arabification of their territory.’ Obviously there is more. It seems ludicrous to stuff all of that into a single phrase, especially given the current president’s tenuous history with inciting general ant-Islamic sentiment (think crusade, or the promotion of General Boykin).
Here, I believe, is the fundamental flaw in the arguement. The Cheney 1% doctrine, the idea that any terrorist anywhere is a viable threat to the foundations of American life, is horribly flawed.
Cheney’s been pimping the “we haven’t been attacked since 9/11” line for some time now. However, he seems to blissfully overlook the fact that Islamic terror targets “The West” not “The United States”. Our survallience measures HAVE failed to stop the train attacks in London and Madrid, numerous bombings in Pakistan, three simultanious bombings of American hotels Amman, Jordan… And these attacks have cost America its international support. Shortly after the Madrid bombings, Spain elected a new anti-WoT President. The train bombings have done little to support Tony Blair. And low-and-behold, Pakistan has warmed noteable to Al-Queda since they promised to play nice with each other.
Billmon’s “extreme reactionaries” “that have no meaningful economic or political program” but can rely on “wide and deep fears of cultural penetration and Western domination, and the ancient religious duty of all Muslims to defend Islam and the community of believers.” are fairly characterized as Islamofascists.
The alternatives you suggest are unwieldy to say the least – but I appreciate that you offered some. It is unfortunate that religions are used and abused by fascists like the Christian Idenitity Movement, but you can’t shy away from calling it what it is even if it offends others in the same general religious group. They should direct their offense at the fascists first – not those who name the fascists.
Alleged? Are you suggesting that the sudden appearance of the term in presidential speeches, followed immediately by the constant repetition of the term by every GOP mouthpiece on every talk talk show and every website in every reference to the imaginary “war on terror” was just a coindicdence, or just word-of-mouth adoption of a snappy new phrase?
Ummn, no that is NOT a fair characterization. Mainly because it is inaccurate.
Fascism is a radical political ideology that combines elements of corporatism, authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism.
Quote: “Fascism ought to more properly be called corporatism since it is the merger of state and corporate power – Benito Mussolini.
“Violent, Reactionary [Islamic] Movement” is more of a fair characterization.
The term “Islamofascism” is mental junkfood for rubes.
Larry: Read the article or my comments more closely and tell me why Billmon’s “extreme reactionaries” “that have no meaningful economic or political program” but can rely on “wide and deep fears of cultural penetration and Western domination, and the ancient religious duty of all Muslims to defend Islam and the community of believers.” can’t be fairly characterized as Islamofascists.
Why I’d shy away from criticizing any religion and, most especially its most extreme elements, is beyond me. By using the term aren’t the evil neo-cons or whoever explicitly attempting to distinguish between the radical elements and the general population of believers? If the general population objects, that may suggest different problems: natural defensiveness and more widespread sympathy with radical beliefs. I hope it is more of the first than the second…
jh: I don’t think the objection to Islamofascist is that it is technically deficient by Wikipedia’s or Mussolini’s standards. But since you mention it: authoritarianism, nationalism, militarism, anti-anarchism, anti-communism and anti-liberalism are all characteristics of AQ and similar movements. How important is corporatism in that equation? I’d suggest not important at all.
I can’t understand what is happening unless they refer to it with a short and pithy catchphrase. Then and only then will the world fit into my preconcieved notions, thus allowing me to function.
On a more serious note, do people honestly believe that lumping together groups that the only place their goals intersect is the removal of American forces being refered to as a single entity is in any way wise? It strikes me as a less than good idea, but hey, I’m just a random pseudonymn on the interwebs.
P.S. I love you guys.
((hugs and kisses))
But if you want to make that argument, your point can legitimately be enlarged as follows:
By the time you’ve called everyone a hyphenated fascist, the word has lost a lot of its purpose — except, as pointed out upthread, its rhetorical/propaganda purpose.
(1) possibly other major religions as well; I’m thinking here of some of the right-wing Hindu political parties in India though I’m less certain about this point.
The right is always finding ways for you to easily identify your enemies. Accuracy isn’t important, for example you dopn’t have to support th elefts policies to be a liberal anymore, just speak out against Bush. When the whole goal is to make it easier for people to direct their anger it really doesn’t matter if the enemy is fascist or liberal or communist or nazis. It plays in Peoria as Tim said.
That more than anything reveals the basic flaw in thinking that I indicate in my post. Of course they are unwieldy. Trying to stuff the real phenomena bedeviling America and Israel in the middle east into a wieldy catchphrase will ipso facto eliminate the details necessary to understand what it happening. Wishing away the unwieldiness of reality is counerproductive and, in a leader, fatal.
That exactly contradicts what most know to be true. The only route to success in a war on terror involves winning the support of moderate muslims. If a leader cannot come up with simple phrasing that does not set back his own country-s interests (Dept. of State used to be good at that, before it died) then for the sake of his country he should step aside for somebody who can.
Vida Loca: Once again, I don’t think the relevant objection is whether “Fascist” is techinically correct. However, the Christian Identity Movement, for example, is, indeed, a fascist movement. It was wikipedia’s definition (via jh), don’t get down on me.
By the way it occurs to me that the term Jihadist (in Tim’s title up top) will do fine for most of these folks – but it ignores the fact that the ideology – not just its fighters – is dangerous (and odious).
Indeed. Islamofascist over there means just as much as if not less than Christofascist would over here–and they both probably play about as well. It’s just more divisive, inflammatory, nonscensical rhetoric–which seems to be one of the few things that the current administration does excel in.
The problem with the term “Islamofascist” is that it lumps groups together that only have one or two features in common. The first being a willingness to use violence, the second is that they happen to be Muslims.
That they all direct their violence towards the West and particularly towards hated occupiers, doesn’t mean they are in a grand, Pan-Islamic fascist movement.
Apart from killing Westerners, particularly those on their soil, they have very disparate goals, and if allowed to attain power, would not organize themselves in a way that is particularly fascist.
The Kurds and Palestinians immediately come to mind. The Sunnis too, depending on how you look at it.
That is why “Islamofascist” a stupid, stupid term.
And yes, I also object to the whole McFascist concept. But if they’re going to draw inane conclusions, then we’re going to point out the obvious parallels and the inevitable consequences of their non-reasoning.
Here’s perhaps a different way to think of the weakness of the term “Islamofascist”: what does it inadvertently include? From what I’ve heard of its usage, it’s inclusive enough to cover Pakistan, for example. That is, Pakistan is no worse a match for the fascism criterion than any of the other groups that are commonly held to be “Islamofascist”. Are we at war with Pakistan? Should we be, simply because they meet some pinheaded and overly general definition?
How about Saudi Arabia.
I am not talking about how they can be “fairly characterized.” I am talking about the deliberate use of a focus-grouped moniker that dumbs down the problem set and makes it easier for politicians to manipulate voters.
I am talking about GWOT viewed as a product, with features and talking points, and thereby losing its connection to the real world, which is subtler, more compicated, and more dynamic than the marketing types want you to believe.
I don’t want GWOT as a product or as a fall schedule, complete with season openers, plot hooks, sweeps and ratings campaigns, and so forth. I want government to do the hard work of really understanding these things and then taking the time to explain it to me, not trying to dumb everything down and trying to sell me their new lineup of power grabs.
I want government to govern, not to act like it is a tv network.
I may be wrong in this but I’m under the impression that the Syrian and Iraqi Baath parties came close to being technically fascist organizations for at least part of their histories. But being secular organizations, they were also opposed by the much more devout religious fundamentalists.
slickdpdx, I am pondering Colin Powell’s letter to John McCain, dated today, now making its rounds on the intertrons. Particularly, this line:
I think that’s an understatement, and I think it speaks to the issues relevant here.
As snappy catchphrases go, “islamofascist” has some deficiencies: it only works if you don’t know much about Islam, or about fascism, or about both.
The really good, always reliable, road-tested catchphrase — Communism(tm) — however, is pretty well worn out. Red-baiting the opposition and the critics of an idea or a policy just doesn’t pack the punch that it once did.
So, of course, we have to go to war with the catchphrases we have, not the catchphrases we wish we had…
No, the fact they kill other Muslims who don’t agree supports the Islamofascist term. I really think many of you are confusing your feelings about administration policy with your response to a word used by the administration.
Obviously Not Ozymandias
Obvioulsy people! Get a grip! They kill people they don’t like, ergo they are fascist! How much simpler do I have to make it for you?
“sometimes like the Cheney Administration is deliberately trying to set the Middle East in flames. Why? What possible benefit could they or America derive from the bonfire that would justify the costs?”
In the yes of the neocons, America would benefit if Israel benefits. And it is well to remember that a free democratic and unified Iraq would still not be friendly to Israel. A mess in Iraq turns eyes away from the West Bank and Gaza. As did the invasion of Lebanon.
I hate this administration, no confusion about it. But its not why I don’t like the term. The use of the term is what I hate about this administration. The summing up of different items under one easily digested term. I hate the way they simplify for their audience.
No reason that I can think of.
Myself…I’m tired of the Cyclonefascists telling me my Hawkeyes will be killed this weekend, and these Walmartofascists who greet me at the door despite the fact that I don’t want to be greeted and they smell like old people.
And don’t even get me started on womendriverfascists….
Look, the important issue isn’t whether the term “islamofascist” is accurate (I could write an even longer essay explaining why it isn’t) but whether it is useful for the purpose the administration is using it: propaganda.
If the name of the game is rallying the wing-nut base or convincing average Americans that there may be a terrorist hiding under their bed, it may have some value. But out in the Muslim world (and the Muslim diaspora) an awful lot of people are going to see or hear that word and decide that the President of the United States just called them a fascist — PARTICULARLY when you look at the administration’s current rhetorical definition of a “moderate” Muslim, which practically requires them to wboleheartedly embrace a Western-inspired cultural revolution.
Is this smart propaganda? I don’t think so.
And I hate that (a) it has worked for them, and (b) they manage to get away with it.
I prefer the term Islamonazifascistklingoncommies.
This is a logical fallacy of the first order.
That one Muslim (or Christian, or Hindu or African Animist for that matter) will kill the other, does not mean either of them is necessarily fascist.
It just means they are killers.
The term “Islamofascist” is a political shorthand. A catchphrase. Branding.
As such it is meant to persuade without invoking a terrible amount of thought. In short, it is a propaganda tool.
“Islamofacist” in our current millieu sounds like a bad Ronco product. It is meant to invoke imagery of Mussolini in a keffiyeh, and we all know what a bad, bad man he was.
As a term, it is deficient in accurately describing the diversity of goals held by our current adversaries. And it’s overuse by our current leadership is emblematic of thir dishonesty and incompetence.
To be an informed electorate, we don’t need propaganda. We need information. Detailed, honest information.
Ask yourself, is our current leadership responsible enough to give us the information we need?
Taking into account their willingness to use mind-numbing terms like “Islamofascist”, I’d say no.
Facile comments (that are also misrepresentative) do not an argument make Mr/Ms Not Oz. Check the Wiki entry jh cited, that is the working definition s/he provided. I responded using that definition. Moreover, I explicitly included those who don’t kill in my definition see the comment above:
At least Tim’s not accusing the term of being code for “brown people” like Ezra did.
Geez! All this discussion and intellectual preening about the supposed simpletons that populate America brought about in an extended discussion over what name we use to identify closely and loosely affiliated entities that are our enemies and share a most prominent characteristic. And you expect to have credibility in efforts to contain or defeat them (miltarily or otherwise)?
If the dems lose again – despite having a wealth of valid criticisms – don’t come crying to me.
Wha? Authoritarian sure, but nationalism and militarism are most certainly not elements of AQ. What on earth do you think the word “militarism” means? Give four examples of AQ espousing or implementing either militarism or nationalism and I’ll reconsider.
Anti-anarchist is damn near every human who’s over age 30 and not at the rock bottom of their local socioeconomic pecking order. Anti-communist is an ideological perspective shared with the US. Where does that leave you?
AQ’s ideology is nothing at all like fascism. Baathists, maybe, sorta, a little bit. Those guys are too socialist to be labeled fascist in traditional terms, but hey, language evolves.
Yeah, I wonder how the hell that happened. I’m sure it had nothing to do with you or with them.
Yes? Some of us were actually even talking about the article before you came along and derailed the thread with your petty attacks.
And actually I think that you could easily make the case that al-Qaeda’s (or perhaps any) terrorist actions are designed to cause anarchy. Not ultimately as an end in itself, mind you, but still.
Ah yes, the standard rightwing way to close any defense-related conversation. I’m surprised that you spent so long trying to make logically sound argument if this is where you end up.
pb: before you get nasty you might want to read the thread, which began with my discussion of Billmon’s article and Tim’s post. Sorry I didn’t pile on to the Billmon love machine. The rest is mostly me responding to petty attacks that have little to do with my criticism up top.
Also, next time you all call John Cole a cry baby you might want to stop the whining yourself. The expletive is an almost certain sign of a commenter choking on pie.
Facile. AQ wants to establish a one-party theocratic oppresive government, as you (barely) imply toward the end.
Oh no, you started this with your condescending passive aggressive bullshit. Once you started losing the argument, you want to blame the other side and take your ball and go home. Well, it’s not going to work this time.
I did, asshole.
Hardly. I was actually discussing it before you even came along; you, on the other hand, were just slinging invective and inventing jackalopes until you ran out.
What the fuck is that supposed to mean?
Did *you* even read the thread?
I’m calling *you* a cry baby. And who is “you all”, and what does that have to do with me?
Oh, that’s rich. Yeah, you’re such a poor poor victim here, and *I’m* supposed to be the one who’s whining?
Not choking–I’m spitting it back in your face.
Finally: Tim – to be fair – you are the one that introduced the rubes in Peoria. So don’t get upset when I point out that insults and an over-sympathetic response to the question “What do we call outr enemies?” will lose those votes and drown your legitimate criticisms.
And yet, they aren’t necessarily ‘anti-anarchism’, because they are willing to use it as a tool.
Its been fun. Enjoy the echo chamber.
Great. Now where were we? Oh yeah, the article.
How about “Islamic Terrorists” (IslamoTerrs) or “Islamic Reactionaries” (IslamoRacts). The last one is good because it sounds like “IslamoRats.” Even Little Green Footballs should be able to get behind that one.
Fun for the whole family!
Tom in Texas
Personally I advocate referring to all of them as “Them” or “‘Em” for short (you know who they are, by the way. I shouldn’t have to spell it out). Some easy examples:
They all want to kill you because they hate your freedom.
We have to take them out over there, so they don’t get us over here.
They’re coming across our unguarded borders faster than we can catch ’em.
Just drop a bomb and turn the place to glass. They all hate us anyway.
As they say where I come from:
“Don’t start none, won’t be none”
Moreover, I have found the discussion above helpful in dissecting yet another crude Neocon propaganda device.
That is it only partially accurate proves Tim’s point, not yours
Yeah, Billmon’s four points are pretty much common sense and a logical progression. Al Qaeda, through the embassy bombings, the Cole, and then in spectacular fashion 9/11 has made that point with an exclamation mark. In part, I think that’s one reason why there hasn’t been another major attack here. Been there, done that.
Another part is why distract the Great Satan while they’re doing their damndest to help and push you along to achieve points 2 and 3? If it ain’t broke…
This administration isn’t the dimmest bulb in the pack, there is no light on in the house. They’ve had and still have this idea that terrorist groups like al Qaeda are state dependent. That if they whack out a state (Iraq) and set up a huge bug zapper (our military) “over there”, like moths the islamofascists will irresistibly be drawn in to be vaporized.
They can’t grasp the concept that terrorist groups are not dependent upon state sponsorship. In addition, it really seems they’re even more retarded in thinking that there are a finite number of islamofascists and if they can just keep the zapper lit long enough, all will be well.
If I were bin Laden, since Bush is doing all the heavy lifting on getting me points 2 and 3, I’d use the free time to work towards 4. Pakistan would look really sweet. Whip up some fundamentalist fervor; get the base on board. Try to whack that colonialist stooge Musharraf. Ahh, to wake up in the morning having nukes under your control or controlled by buddies. Now if bin Laden had a sense of humor and some honesty, I could see him releasing another video around Nov. 1 and in English saying “Stay the course.”
The Other Steve
I for one am glad that Bush has saved us from the Islamofascists robots. If not for him, we’d all be speaking Islamofascist German.
Screw it…I say we redefine the term to “Muslim Death Machine”
how could that possibly be insulting to anyone?
I believe that the focus group considered “Evil Ragheads” and turned it down as being unfair these guys.
“Muslim Death Machine” would be a cool name for a Metal band. I know there’s Christian Death Metal out there, but is there any Muslim Death Metal? At least then you’d know *why* you couldn’t understand any of the words.
But really they could have just stuck with “the enemy”. You know, those people who “want to kill us” or “hate our freedoms”. Killers, freedom-haters, mother-stabbers, father-rapers…
You’re raising a legitimate point here: the words you use to define a problem have a great deal to do with how you understand and proceed to solve the problem. And I agree with you that we have a problem: we have enemies out there (though I’d add that this is not a new phenomenon, it’s been true since way before we even became a country).
Some of these enemies share a common characteristic: they’re Muslims. But a great many more Muslims (both Muslims who are, and Muslims who are not, just as much American citizens as you or I are) are not our enemies. An even greater number of them don’t give a rat’s ass about us one way or the other (as much a bunch of frikkin narcissists as we are, we never really get that last point). On the other hand, many of our enemies are not even religious much less Muslim.
You can poke holes in the word “fascist” in much the same way. It’s actually a term that has some meaning, and “the fact they kill other Muslims who don’t agree supports the Islamofascist term” doesn’t get to it. Would a person of the Jewish faith who killed another Jew be a Judeofascist?
The category “islamofascist” is analytically useless. It is, however, rhetorically handy in uniting naive frightened people in opposition to an “other” that they have thought very little about. The many benefits of the policy they’re being united to support are evident all around us.
Tim tried to suggest examples of categories that might be more useful because they’re more analytically accurate, although they don’t have the nice sound-bite look and feel that “islamofascist” does. But if they can be used to enable us to have a better understanding of who our enemies (and our friends) really are and how to proceed from a policy point of view they will serve a valuable purpose.
I think they’re smart enough to see that as an open ended engagement. Its just what you need when your governing on the premise that at war time the constitution shifts law makingn duties to the executive branch.
In other words:
“They’re coming right for us!”
“[We’ve got to] thin out their numbers.”
jg nails it. This isn’t about protecting America, and it certainly isn’t about protecting any of the ideals usually associated with America. It’s about making the new American system of authoritarianism permanent, for the benefit of a small number of people.
If the remaining Bushists on this board think they’ll be among that lucky few, they’re even dumber than we thought.
No no. It’s cool. They’re “saved”. When the shit hits the fan, they’ll get sucked up into God’s anis by brilliant shafts of light.
“Back! Back! Go back to the same foul, wretched cloaca that spawned thee!”