Volume 76, Number 19 | September 27 - October 3, 2006

Talking Point

Bush’s war on history and to…toma…tomatotarianism

By Ted Rall

Poor Bush. You know the economy is lousy when Karl Rove orders him to talk up Iraq.

Iraq — car bomb/civil war/assassination/roadside bomb/more dead Marines/mosque explosion Iraq — is his good news. Then, when he goes to unveil his newest talking point in the war of words to distract us from our Great Disappearing Paychecks, he mucks up the sound bite.

“As veterans,” he warned the American Legion on Aug. 31, “you have seen this kind of enemy before. They’re successors to fascists, to Nazis, to communists and other totalitarians of the 20th century, and history shows what the outcome will be. This war will be difficult, this war will be long, and this war will end in the defeat of the to...to...toma...tomatolitarians.”

Again, louder: Poor Bush! Five years of regurgitating five-cent words like “cave” and “evil” left him unprepared for the challenge of multisyllabic ninth-grade obscurities, much less the “isms.” When the 60-year-old mental virgin’s handlers decided he should do a rehash of Chris Hitchens’s “clash of ideologies” shtick, they did everything they could to make things easy for him. Ex-thinker Hitchens’s neo-con buzzword “Islamofascism” (six syllables) got chopped down to “Islamic fascism” (three plus three). Then Bush flew too close to the sun. Anyway you cut it, tomatotarianism is one danged long word.

Chris Mooney’s book “The Republican War on Science” details Bush’s jihad against rationality. Censoring the findings of its own E.P.A. and denying the consensus of the world’s scientists, the Bush administration continues to deny global warming. They made the F.D.A. say that mercury may not be poisonous. They even forced the National Cancer Institute to claim that abortion causes breast cancer. Do they believe this nonsense or is this razzle-dazzle B.S. merely cover to protect the G.O.P.’s corporate sponsors? No one knows.

What we do know is that the Bushies have also declared war on history.

“On one side,” Bush said, “are those who believe in the values of freedom and moderation, the right of all people to speak and worship and live in liberty. And on the other side are those driven by the values of tyranny and extremism, the right of a self-appointed few to impose their fanatical views on all the rest.” Given the recent history of the man delivering the speech — stealing elections, torture, concentration camps, indiscriminately bombing civilians, ordering the C.I.A. to overthrow the democratically elected presidents of Haiti, Kyrgyzstan and Venezuela, spying on our phone calls and medical records — well, liberty isn’t exactly his best friend. He’s obviously pro-tyranny. And yet, he tells us, it’s the Islamotomatotarians who are about to get it in the kisser.

One of the curiouser traits of Fool and the Gang is their habit of lying about bad historical figures. Saddam Hussein, for example, killed about 100,000 people and started wars against Iran and Kuwait. The Bushies say he killed 400,000 and was seconds from taking over the world. Isn’t 100,000 and two wars bad enough? Why not leave it at that?

The Bushies’ newfound/reheated Islamofascist trope follows the same pattern of libeling evildoers. Politicized Islamic fundamentalists dream of installing Taliban-style governments and enforcing a rigid Saudi/Wahhabiist-style version of Sharia (religious) law throughout the Muslim world. They want to force everyone to follow Islamic strictures, censor and/or eliminate news media, and deny women the rights enjoyed by men. That’s the truth, and it isn’t pretty. (It’s also worth noting that, when the Saudis began lopping off the heads of adulterers in the ’80s, liberals screamed while the Republicans shipped them high-tech American weaponry.)

The truth, scary as it is, is never enough for Bush. So he abuses his bully pulpit, preaching mangled history to a nation notoriously ignorant of the lessons of the past.

“Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term,” writes conservative columnist Joseph Sobran. “And wartime propaganda is usually, if not always, crafted to produce hysteria, the destruction of any sense of proportion. Such words, undefined and unmeasured, are used by people more interested in making us lose our heads than in keeping their own.”

Despite Bush’s latest attempts to conflate them, radical Islam has nothing in common with communism or fascism (which, moreover, have little have in common with each other). Totalitarianism is an ideological tool deployed by oppressive nation-states; they monitor and regulate every detail of their citizens’ everyday lives. Citizens of radical Muslim societies like Taliban-era Afghanistan and present-day Saudi Arabia enjoy privacy and autonomy in their homes; state oppression manifests itself externally, in the streets.

Fascists use state control for the benefit of business, communists seize businesses for the benefit of the state, and Islamists have little interest in controlling economic activity as long as it doesn’t violate Sharia. (Liquor stores, for example, are banned.)

“Islamic terrorist attacks,” Bush told the National Endowment for Democracy in Oct. 2005, “serve a clear and focused ideology, a set of beliefs and goals that are evil, but not insane. Some call this evil Islamic radicalism; others, militant jihadism; still others, Islamo-fascism. Whatever it’s called, this ideology is very different from the religion of Islam. This form of radicalism exploits Islam to serve a violent, political vision: the establishment, by terrorism and subversion and insurgency, of a totalitarian empire that denies all political and religious freedom.”

Along with his comparison of Islamists to Nazis and communists, implicit in Bush’s “totalitarian empire” argument is the assertion that we’ll have to defeat them Over There or end our lives fighting desperate house-to-house battles against turbaned hordes in the streets of Nashville. There isn’t even a smidgen of truth to this — not even the most extreme Islamists have expressed a desire to invade or subjugate the United States or any other historically non-Muslim country — but Bush isn’t out to spread the truth.

At this point, Bush’s ambitions are far less lofty: First, with the House of Representatives seemingly destined to go Democratic this November, he’d like to save the Senate for his party.

Second, he wants to learn to say tomatotarian.

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