So Long, Evildoer; Hello, Fascist

The Associated Press is leading its story on Bush’s reaction to the newly reported terror plot with an emphasis on the president’s use of the phrase “Islamic fascists.” The Times’s website editors follow suit by headlining the story “Bush Focuses on ‘Islamic Fascists.’ ” The implication is that this is a new coinage to describe what in a simpler time we could shove into the general Evildoer file.

This might all be just academic, but the president and his people began using a close variant of this idea last fall, when Bush gave several speeches — including one at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage — where he described “Islamo-fascism:”

“… The tragic images of innocent victims can make it seem like these terrorist attacks are random and isolated acts of madness. While these killers choose their victims indiscriminately, their attacks flow from an ideology and a terrifying vision for the world. Their acts are evil, but they’re not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever we choose to call this enemy, we must recognize that this ideology is very different from the tenets of the great religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment — by terrorism, subversion, and insurgency — of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom. …”

The New York Times Magazine on Sunday carried a long essay on the Israeli-Hezbollah war by the French philosopher Bernard-Henri Levi. The piece not only offers unqualified support for Israel’s military strategy to date, it declares the conflict inevitable and part of a new global struggle against yes, fascism:

“When I arrived in Israel, it was the anniversary of the day the Spanish Civil War began. It was 70 years ago that the Spanish generals set off the war — civil, ideological and international — that the fascist governments of the time wanted. And I could not help thinking about this as I landed in Tel Aviv. Syria in the wings . . . Ahmadinejad’s Iran maneuvering . . . Hezbollah, which everyone knows is a little Iran, or a little tyrant, taking Lebanon and its people hostage. . . . And behind the scenes, a fascism with an Islamist face, a third fascism, which is to our generation what the other fascism, and then communist totalitarianism, were to our elders’.

Given the history of the past century, one dare not simply dismiss the suggestion we’re up against a new breed of fascism. But now that the suggestion is made, you have to wonder if this — Iraq, Lebanon, resort to blind military might employed with no plan about a future, no parallel attempt to understand or come to grips with the rage fueling support for our enemies — is the best we can do in response to such a threat.

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