The Guardian 15 November, 2006

The vocabulary of fascism

Steve Yoder

Just in time for the November elections, the White House is again trying to make the case that the "global war on terror" has this in common with World War II: the enemies are fascists bent on world domination. President Bush said in August that the United States is "at war with Islamic fascists who will use any means to destroy those of us who love freedom, to hurt our nation". Defence Secretary Rumsfeld said that the administrationís critics are trying to appease "a new type of fascism." Bush and Rumsfeld are right on message: the Associated Press reports that "Islamic fascism" is indeed the Republican buzzword for the fall campaign.


Since Bush and Rumsfeld have opened up the issue, itís fair to assess whether the administration itself has ideological links with fascism. This is not a new topic, to be sure: Bush has gotten his fair share of comparisons to Hitler. Most of these have been ill conceived in terms of effect: Bush has not ordered Muslims into death camps en masse, outlawed opposition parties, or used overt lebensraum [living space] logic to justify invading two countries.

But in terms of language, the administrationís link to the Nazis deserves serious scrutiny. What follows is a sampling of how the administrationís messaging stacks up with that of the Third Reich on war, national security, and executive power.

Allies and Enemies

"Over time itís going to be important for nations to know they will be held accountable for inactivity. Youíre either with us or against us in the fight against terror."
George W Bush, 2001

"My party comrades, today the swastika forces the world to take a position for or against us. The world must decide, it has no choice. There can be no compromise."
Dr Robert Ley, Nazi Reich Organisation Leader, 1939

Executive Authority

"In light of the Presidentís complete authority over the conduct of war, without a clear statement otherwise, we will not read a criminal statute as infringing on the Presidentís ultimate authority Ö Congress lacks authority under Article I to set the terms and conditions under which the President may exercise his authority as Commander-in-Chief..."
Memo by Judge Jay Bybee, head of the Bush administrationís Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice, 2002.

"The authority of the Fuehrer is not limited by checks and controls, by special autonomous bodies or individual rights, but it is free and independent, all-inclusive and unlimited ..."
Adolf Hitler, 1934

International Law

"In my judgment, this new paradigm [of the stateless terrorist] renders obsolete Genevaís strict limitations on questioning of enemy prisoners Ö
Alberto Gonzalez, then White House Counsel (now Attorney General), 2002

"Geneva Conventions? Obsolete rubbish."
Marshal Wilhelm Keitel, chief of staff of the German Army, 1939

International Opinion

"Our job is not to conduct international opinion polls, but to defend the American people."
Dick Cheney, 2004

"Any attempt to criticise, judge or reject my actions from the rostrum of international presumption has no foundation before history and personally leaves me stone-cold."
Adolf Hitler, 1939

Interrogation

"Problem: The current guidelines for interrogation procedures at GTMO [GuantŠnamo] limit the ability of interrogators to counter advanced resistance. [Approved] category II techniques [include] (1) the use of stress positions (like standing), for a maximum of four hoursÖ.(5) deprivation of light and auditory stimuli Ö (7) the use of 28-hour interrogations Ö (9) switching the detainee from hot rations to MREs [meals ready to eat]Ö.(12) using detaineesí individual phobias (such as fear of dogs) to induce stress."
Memorandum signed by Donald Rumsfeld in 2002 with the note,
"However, I stand for 8-10 hours a day. Why is standing limited to 4 hours?"


"Third degree may only be applied if it is clear from preliminary investigation that the prisoner can give information on important facts, as social or subversive to the State and to the Reich, but will not disclose what he knows, and the information cannot be obtained by investigation ... Third degree can, according to the circumstances, consist, among other methods, of very simple diet (water and bread), hard bunk, dark cell, deprivation of sleep, exhaustion drill, but also in the administration of flogging (for more than 20 strokes a doctor must be consulted)."
Heinrich Mueller, Chief of the Gestapo, 1942

Peace

"Weakness and drift and vacillation in the face of danger invite attacks ... Only America has the might and the will to lead the world through a time of peril, toward greater security and peace."
Dick Cheney, 2003

"A defenceless nation is a danger to peace. Its defencelessness all too easily invites the attention of easy attacks by foreign armies."
Rudolf Hess, Nazi Party Deputy Fuehrer, 1934

Pre-emptive War

"I donít think it makes any sense if youíre serious about prosecuting the war on terror, if youíre serious about defending the nation, if you believe as I do and the President does that the best defence is a good offence, that youíve got to go on offence and go after them over there where they plot and train and plan so we donít have to fight them here at home."
Dick Cheney, 2004

"For perhaps many a person will ask himself the question, why are we fighting at such great distances? We are fighting at such great distances in order to protect our homeland, in order to keep the war as far removed from it as possible Ö It is therefore preferable to keep the front line at a distance of 1000 and if necessary 2000 kilometres from the borders of the Reich, than to hold that front somewhere near the border of the Reich and to be forced to hold it there."
Adolf Hitler, 1942

Prisoners of War

"Under Article 4 of the Geneva Convention, Taliban detainees are not entitled to POW status Ö To qualify as POWs under Article 4, al Qaeda and Taliban detainees Ö would have to have worn uniforms or other distinctive signs visible at a distance Ö"
Ari Fleischer, White House Press Secretary, 2003

"[English and American] sabotage units in civilian clothes or German uniform have no claim to treatment as prisoners of war."
Admiral Wilhelm Canaris, German Chief of Military Intelligence, 1942

(Here both the Nazis and the Bush administration ignored a key provision of the Geneva Conventions, which requires that all prisoners be given prisoner-of-war status until a court determines otherwise.)

Propaganda

"We donít lie. We donít need to lie. We do empower our operational commanders with the ability to inform the Iraqi public, but everything we do is based on fact, not based on fiction."
Major General Rick Lynch, spokesman for the Multinational Force in Iraq, on the US militaryís practice, with Bush administration approval, of planting news stories in Iraqi newspapers that are written by US soldiers posing as freelance journalists.

"Its [propagandaís] task is the highest creative art of putting sometimes complicated events and facts in a way simple enough to be understood by the man on the street Ö Good propaganda does not need to lie, indeed it may not lie."
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, 1934

Torture

"In the absence of any textual provision to the contrary, we assume self-defence can be an appropriate defence to an allegation of torture."
Memo by Judge Jay Bybee, head of the Bush administrationís Office of Legal Counsel, US Department of Justice, 2002

"In the occupied territories, where occupation personnel were daily threatened by attempts on their lives, more severe methods of interrogation were permitted, if it was thought that in this manner the lives of German soldiers and officials might be protected against such threatened attempts."
Dr Robert Servatius, defence counsel for accused Nazi war criminals at the Nuremburg trials, 1946

Troops

"And in this long run, we can be confident in the outcome of this struggle ... because we have on our side the greatest force for freedom in the history of the world: the men and women of the United States Armed Forces."
George W Bush, 2006

"Our enemies claim that the Fuhrerís soldiers marched as conquerors through the lands of Europe ó but wherever they came, they brought prosperity and happiness, peace, order, reliable conditions, a plenitude of work, and therefore a decent life."
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, 1945

US versus Them

"But my most important job these days is to protect the homeland, is to protect America against nothing but a bunch of cold-blooded killers. Protect our country against people who hate us because of what we love. They hate us because we love freedom. They hate us because we love the idea that people can worship an almighty God any way they see fit. They hate us because we speak our mind, we allow public discourse and dissent. They hate us because we have a free press. And so long as we love freedom, theyíll hate us."
George W Bush, 2002

"No one can doubt that the warmongering cliques in London and Paris want to stifle Germany, to destroy the German people. Ö They hate our people because it is decent, brave, industrious, hardworking, and intelligent. They hate our views, our social policies, and our accomplishments. They hate us as a Reich and as a community."
Joseph Goebbels, Nazi Propaganda Minister, 1939

Znet (abridged)

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