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.

 

Saudi Arabia replaces powerful intelligence chief

Invisible Bouteflika urges Algerians to vote

Egypt leftist leader urges all revolutionary groups to unite

Washington will not issue visa for Iran UN envoy

Algeria finally opens its piggybank to lure back exiled youth

Egypt jails ex-presidential hopeful for fraud

Jordan ‘destroyed’ combat vehicles entering from Syria

South Sudan army loses key oil town of Bentiu

Lebanon parliament soon to elect new president

Zarif to discuss Caspion Sea states in Russia

MERS spreading in Saudi Arabia

Suicide bombs rock Ramadi government compound

Three Palestinians killed in Gaza blast

Peace talks delayed after Palestine blamed for fatal shooting

Palestinians clash with Israeli police in Al-Aqsa

Undercover New York police unit that spied on Muslims disbanded

British paedophile gets 20-year sentence in Morocco

Syria army fights its way into besieged Homs

Benflis mobilizes ‘army’ to monitor Algeria election

Syria army advances on rebel-held neighbourhoods in Homs

Egypt court bans any Brotherhood candidacies in upcoming elections

Turkey rights groups sound alarm at plan to build gay-only prisons

Kuwait coup plot video ‘neither genuine nor reliable’

Iraq Kurdistan digs trench to prevent militant infiltration from Syria

Saudi urges stern world action against Syria

Zarif mission to mend Iran-Gulf ties begins in UAE

Results of Egypt vote appear before time in collection of signatures

South Sudan rebels demand firms end oil production

Jordan court sentences Syrian smugglers to five years in prison

Security concerns force Iraq to shut notorious Abu Ghraib prison

Turkey to social media companies: Open offices and pay taxes

Bashir bans political party meetings without permission

Shoes thrown at Jordan PM for ‘raising prices’

Jordan envoy to Libya abducted

US condemns ‘unconscionable’ threats against Libyan PM

Assailants attack Bahrain police car with Molotov cocktails

Bomb attack targets security checkpoint in Cairo

US takes issue with Assad’s upper hand claim

Militants close Iraq's Euphrates River dam

How did Bouteflika's 15 years in power bring corruption to Algeria?

Libya court adjourns trial of ex-Gathafi officials

Iran complains to UN over US visa ban to chosen envoy

Twitter executives meet Turkish officials amid tax evasion accusations

UN rights chief condemns ‘routine’ use of torture in Syria

Egypt's Sisi officially submits bid for president