First Published: 2006-09-04

 
Bush zeroes in on 'Islamic fascism'
 

US President faced with unpopular war in Iraq, reframes war on terror.

 

Middle East Online

By Olivier Knox – WASHINGTON

Adjust your dictionaries!

US President George W. Bush, trying a different approach to galvanizing support for the unpopular Iraq war, has framed it as the central front in a global war against "Islamic fascists."

"This nation is at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation," the president said on August 10 in response to the alleged British airliner bomb plot.

The controversial expression quickly drew fire from at least one prominent US Muslim group that said it fanned anti-Muslim hate, as well as from Saudi Arabia, where the cabinet declared "terrorism has no religion or nationality."

Bush aides grudgingly acknowledge that the expression stretches the dictionary definition of fascism but say it is useful "shorthand" to get the US public to grasp that it is locked in a world-wide ideological struggle.

And that is a critical part of the White House's strategy for limiting the political damage from the unpopular war in Iraq ahead of November elections that will decide control of the US Congress.

"What it does, I think, is it clarifies the kind of struggle that is the war on terrorism, it is an ideological struggle at its root," said a senior Bush aide on condition that he not be named.

"The term succinctly encapsulates that idea rather better than 'the war against radical extremists who have a twisted interpretation of Islam.' It's a shorthand way of saying that," the official said.

Fascism as a political movement has its roots in Italy, where it became a formal political movement in 1919 and the driving force behind Benito Mussolini's rise to power in 1922.

While US dictionaries call it an authoritarian system of government with rigid one-party dictatorship, suppression of opposition, centralized government control over the economy, belligerent nationalism, the term has become synonymous with authoritarianism of any sort since World War II.

"That's true, but the core of it is suppression of thought, suppression of speech freedoms, freedom of worship, etc, through terror and use of violence," said the anonymous US official.

And he noted Bush's other description of Islamist extremists as "successors to Fascists, to Nazis, to Communists, and other totalitarians of the 20th century."

Although "Islamo-fascist" gained wide currency among US conservatives after the September 11, 2001 terrorist strikes, a search of global news outlets turns up the term in a September 1990 article in London's The Independent newspaper.

And the expression "Islamic fascist" appears in a January 1979 Washington Post article on Washington's response to Iran's Ayatollah Ruhollah Khomeini.

Bush has used -- and quickly dropped -- controversial expressions about the war on terrorism before.

Shortly after the attacks of 2001, Bush referred to the war on terrorism as a "crusade," drawing an unhappy reaction worldwide because it recalled the bloody wars between Christians and Muslims in the Middle Ages.

In August 2004, he briefly mused that "we actually misnamed the 'war on terror.'"

"It ought to be 'the struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the free world,'" he said.

Asked why Bush and his Republican party had settled on "fascism" just 10 weeks before the elections, Republican National Committee head Ken Mehlman told MSNBC television: "I think it's a very apt description of what we face."

"The fact is, like earlier fascists -- there were fascists in Italy and there were fascists in Nazi Germany -- here are folks who want to subordinate the freedom all over the place," he said.

 

5 killed in string of suicide bombings in Lebanon

Netanyahu lauds Israel’s deal with Turkey

Erdogan apologises to Putin over downing of Russia jet

One year on, Tunisia holds minute silence for beach massacre victims

Iran cracks down on ‘Western culture’ of canine ownership

Bahrain jails 5 people on charges linked to ‘terrorism’

Clashes continue at Al-Aqsa compound

Turkey allows German minister visit after air base row

UN chief tells Israelis, Palestinians 'stand firm against violence'

Brexit vote unlikely to curtail Gulf appetite for London property

Egypt cancels high school final exam after online leaks

Dozens killed as clashes intensify in Yemen

Sarraj says only united military can defeat ISIS in Libya

Jordan court charges 21 people with 'terrorism'

Iraq forces take ISIS last positions in Fallujah

Iran conceals heated military standoff in Kurdish region

Brexit vote lays bare depth of division across Britain

Young Britons vent anger at grey Brexit vote

Russia planes pound Aleppo as Syria regime forces closes in

Car bomb kills four civilians in Libya's Benghazi

US-backed Syria fighters edge further into ISIS border hub

Tunisia flaunts seaside security to bring back tourists

Britain and EU: A fraught divorce

Libya govt. forces repel ISIS counterattack in Sirte

Oil slides on British referendum result

Crashed EgyptAir black boxes to go to France for repairs

5,000 migrants rescued from rubber dinghies in Mediterranean

Britain votes to break away from EU, PM resigns

Turkey acquits British academic over 'terror propaganda' charges

24 jailed in Bahrain for forming IS cell

Iraq commander says forces control over 80% of Fallujah

Israel sentences 4 Palestinians to life

Turkey in new quest to patch up with regional foes

Defiant Bahrain moves to dissolve opposition bloc

Kurdish-Arab forces push into IS Syria bastion of Manbij

Yemen govt says rebels must withdraw before any transition

Turkey confirms new accession talks with EU

Saudi suspect found dead after gunfight in Shiite town

Suspended Kuwait sues IOC for damages

Erdogan lashes out at EU treatment of Turkey

UN Chief, Saudi prince discuss situation in Yemen

Turkey blocks visit of German delegation to Incirlik air base

Trump goes on blistering offensive against Clinton

EU negotiators endorse new border force proposal

Head of EU parliament hopes to arrange meeting of Israeli, Palestinian leaders