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.
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.
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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