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U.S. propaganda is the real enemy

May 26, 2007|By ALLAN POWELL

Sidney Blumenthal, in a recent book, quotes the ancient historian, Thucydides in his History of the Peloponnesian War to illustrate the danger of creating word games during a war. "The meaning of words had no longer the same relation to things, but was changed by them as they thought proper. Reckless daring was held to be loyal courage; prudent delay was the excuse of a coward; moderation was the disguise of unmanly weakness. To know everything was to know nothing. Frantic energy was the true quality of a man."

One has the sinking feeling in his stomach that Thucydides was writing about the Bush administration rather than events in ancient Greece. John Dean calls these newly created words (neologisms) "war-speak." They generally appear at critical times when the news from Iraq report a more advanced state of disarray and that a new dose of unreality seems useful.

The latest wrinkle in the "war-speak" language abuse saga is "Islamic fascists." This is calculated to stir up the national anxiety level and to give the appearance that Bush and company are on top of events in the Middle East. But we are not deceived. If referring to Middle East terrorists as fascists was improper, "Islamic fascists" is more so. This direct coupling is no more than "war- speak"!

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To be sure, these declared haters of America are fanatic, cold-blooded killers who are evil and relentless in their brutal retaliations. Why then, is there any point in creating a term so manifestly improper to describe the enemy? Bluntly put, the answer is propaganda.

The memories of fascist behavior in World War II are still fresh. By associating present day Islamic extremists with past barbarities of totalitarian states, public attention will not focus on the ugly fact that we rushed headlong into a misconceived war of choice. Moreover, our occupation and mutilation of the infrastructure of Iraq has incubated many, many, more enemies than we had before.

The governments in the Middle East are not fascist. They are primarily a species of theocracy with a tight linkage of church, state and economy. Because they are closed or near-closed societies, there is little hope of discernable change. The neo-con advisors to President Bush made a fatal blunder in supposing that we could use force to democratize a country surrounded by other authoritarian regimes.

All this is to say that religious fanatics in the Middle East do not have the trappings that go with fascism. Basically, fascism is grounded on an economy which is under the control of a dictator. But it was other characteristics endemic to European fascism which made it one of - if not the - most evil political systems ever created.

The fuehrer system of power, militarism, expansionism, racial superiority, glorification of the state and philosophical irrationalism such as that dished out by Friedrich Nietzsche created an unholy political leviathan. I seriously doubt if any linkage exists between such a creation as the foregoing and the governments we are facing in the Middle East.

We do not need to fear "Islamic fascists," because they do not exist. We do need to fear religious extremists who hate us because of our presence in their sphere of influence. We also need to be perceptive about our own government's manipulation of words. Word games are as old as language itself. We are not immune from being fooled by word craftsmen now in power. "War-speak" is also our enemy.

Allan Powell is a Hagerstown resident who writes for The Herald-Mail.

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