Donald Rumsfeld is an idiot.

I don’t really need to go into a long pre­sen­ta­ton of facts to sup­port that asser­tion; we can begin with the débâ­cle in Iraq — which, yes, is Bush’s fault but Rummy shares quite a lot of the blame — and end with Rumsfeld’s most recent com­ments regard­ing … well, at least 61% of American cit­i­zens.

Let’s fire up the Wayback Machine for a moment and return to the hal­cyon days of our uni­ver­sity English classes. (Please don’t run away. This won’t hurt.) We’re going to do a close read­ing on the fol­low­ing graf from the LA Times:

SALT LAKE CITY — Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday com­pared crit­ics of the Bush admin­is­tra­tion to those who sought to appease the Nazis before World War II, warn­ing that the nation is con­fronting “a new type of fascism.”

Okay, we’ve got some­thing like a theme going here, with two very direct asser­tions being made. (Later grafs in the arti­cle sup­port these ini­tial conclusions.)

First asser­tion: Anyone who crit­i­cizes the Bush admin­is­tra­tion regard­ing Iraq is sim­i­lar to UK Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain who, in the 1930s, tried to work out a nona­gres­sion pact with Hitler.

As we know, that pact was doomed to fail­ure. The sub­se­quent Nazi anschluss with Austria, fol­lowed by the inva­sion of Poland, should have served as more than suf­fi­cient warning.

Therefore, by sug­gest­ing there’s a fault with Bush pol­icy in re Iraq, I (and 61% of my fel­low Americans) am guilty of being like Chamberlain. Essentially I’m a namby-​​pamby cow­ard who can’t see the for­est because all the damn trees keep get­ting in the way, and my opin­ion would allow ter­ror­ism to some­how spread. It might even be treasonous.*

Second asser­tion: Islamic extrem­ism is a form of fascism.

The White House is using the term “Islamo-​​fascism” to describe right-​​wing Islamic ter­ror­ists and their moti­va­tions, and the term is very much being picked up by the lock­step “con­ser­v­a­tives” all across this land of ours.

Deconstruction: We’ll be look­ing at the claims put forth by Rummy. The aim here is to ana­lyze them and see if they appear to align with facts.

For the first asser­tion, we have Rumsfeld sug­gest­ing a par­al­lel between crit­ics of a war with pro­po­nents of peace-​​at-​​any-​​price deci­sion­mak­ing. The prob­lem is that the par­al­lel doesn’t work, because (1) the con­text is dif­fer­ent; and (2) the con­flict is different.

Context in this case means the set­ting as well as the cir­cum­stances. We’re not argu­ing, at this point, about whether to go to war or not. We are already embroiled in the war. What I (and many, many oth­ers) think is that the war was unjus­ti­fied from the begin­ning, and we need to get the hell out as expe­di­tiously as fea­si­ble while at the same time not mak­ing things worse than we already have.

This does not mean “cut and run” nor a total with­drawal of forces; it means, instead, work­ing diplo­mat­i­cally, doing what we can with the aid of the UN to sta­bi­lize Iraq, and cut­ting out the blood-​​n-​​guts rhetoric entirely.

George W. Bush him­self has pubicly admit­ted there is no asso­ci­a­tion of Iraq with ter­ror­ism, the “War on Terror” or the attacks on the WTC and Pentagon in 2001. Thus, if we are to fol­low his state­ments to their log­i­cal con­clu­sion as sug­gested by Rumsfeld, Bush is his own worst critic and the most guilty of appeasement.

As for dif­fer­ences in the con­flict itself: The Nazis were a coör­di­nated machine with an estab­lished head­quar­tered loca­tion. They were not act­ing in secret, hid­ing as a can­cer within a super­fi­cially healthy nation. By 1939 they were openly aggres­sive and obvi­ously dan­ger­ous, and it was clear they had one motive: World dom­i­na­tion, at least the non-​​Asian part of the world.

They had a sta­ble pop­u­la­tion base and a damned large tech­nol­ogy pool, and were by war’s end crank­ing out stun­ningly sophis­ti­cated air­craft and mis­sile designs — so sophis­ti­cated that Nazi sci­en­tists were given free passes to come to the US and work on our offen­sive capa­bilites after the war, their his­to­ries absolved. (That this was a very eth­i­cally ques­tion­able deci­sion should be obvi­ous today.)

In short, there is only one sim­i­lar­ity between Islamic extrem­ists and Nazis: The desire to take over the world by vio­lence. That is the only sim­i­lar­ity. There is no other.

On a less fact-​​based tack, Rummy’s sug­ges­tion is that any­one who ques­tions the Fed is a bad guy. I guess the Constitution, par­tic­u­larly Amendment I, is another attempt at “appeasement”.

In my esti­ma­tion, those who ques­tion the Fed — whether I agree with them or dis­agree — are guilty of noth­ing but exer­tion of a sin­gu­lar and cru­cial free­dom: The free­dom to ques­tion the gov­ern­ment. Rummy, like Cheney, is play­ing a very dan­ger­ous game in imply­ing that dis­sent = sup­port of ter­ror­ism.

Rumsfeld, in the same speech, also made the statement:

Once again, we face sim­i­lar chal­lenges in efforts to con­front the ris­ing threat of a new type of fas­cism, but some seem not to have learned history’s lessons.”

The bald-​​faced hubris here is stun­ning, or it would be if we hadn’t already heard half a decade’s worth of sim­i­larly vapid-​​yet-​​tendentious announce­ments from the same source. Rumsfeld him­self is betray­ing a shock­ing lack of aware­ness of his­tory in both his atti­tude (which totally over­looks the his­tor­i­cal fact of, oh I don’t know, Viet Nam maybe) and his facts.

Islamic extrem­ism is not fascism.

The sim­plest def­i­n­i­tion of fas­cism is a join­ing together of the state and com­mer­cial inter­ests (which should alarm most peo­ple pay­ing atten­tion to how much influ­ence on US gov­ern­ment big busi­ness has, but that’s another rant for another day). While other def­i­n­i­tions of fas­cism vary from this core, there is a con­stant in place: A cen­tral­ized, strong state.

There is no cen­tral­ized, strong state behind Islamic ter­ror­ism. While there are def­i­nitely finan­cial ties with nations such as Saudi Arabia, one of the things that makes the cur­rent crop of ter­ror­ists so hard to neu­tral­ize is their very state­less­ness. If they, like the Nazis, had a cen­tral loca­tion from which they oper­ated, they’d be sim­ple to shut down — and then the argu­ment could be put forth that they were fas­cists of a sort (though not truly so).

However, since the Islamic extrem­ists can actu­ally be cit­i­zens of the very nations they want to attack, since they don’t have com­mon nation­al­ity, they are not fas­cists. That they are also not work­ing to pro­mote a mix­ture of com­mer­cial and gov­ern­ment inter­ests fur­ther dooms the claims that we’re look­ing at fascism.

(Tangentially, what we’re look­ing at is con­cep­tu­ally very sim­i­lar to some­thing else, some­thing much more home­grown, some­thing that should dis­turb any ratio­nal being: Right-​​wing fun­da­men­tal­ist Christians. What begins as hands-​​raised shouts of “hal­lelu­jah” usu­ally descends to abus­ing any­one behav­ing in an “unright­eous” fash­ion, and can some­times end with acts of domes­tic ter­ror­ism. However, it’s worth not­ing that the Bush admin­is­tra­tion has stayed well away from draw­ing this par­al­lel, prob­a­bly because they don’t want to upset the very voter base that propped them up in 2004.)

Thus my con­clu­sion that Rumsfeld is an idiot. He’s unin­formed, wil­fully igno­rant, stub­born, unaware of cru­cial facts, and a bully to top it all off.

While there are many to whom Rummy’s lat­est com­ments will be more of the same old mind­less rhetoric, there is a grow­ing wave of peo­ple — many of whom are Republican and style them­selves as con­ser­v­a­tive — who are begin­ning to see through the veil of lies. However, our long national night­mare is far from over. All that’s hap­pen­ing now is a bit of rest­less­ness. It’s going to take more work before the sleeper actu­ally wakens.


* Conflation of resis­tance to war with abet­ting ter­ror­ism is a clas­sic exam­ple of arti­fi­cial polar­iza­tion via false dilemma, a very cheap rhetor­i­cal trick but one that mil­lions of Americans have fallen for.


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