Thursday, November 1, 2007

The "Islamo-Fascism" Hoax & the Rise of the Clueless Neoconservative

Posted by pmulshin October 12, 2007 18:18PM

I used to have a special key set up on my computer so I could type the words "clueless liberal" with just one stroke. I think I'm going to have to set one up to type "clueless neoconservative." I have in mind Tom Bevan, who is cofounder of the website RealClearPolitics.

I'm sure Bevan, like most neocons, is a well-meaning sort. But like most neocons, he is hopelessly naïve about the essentially left-wing nature of the political philosophy he endorses.

In a recent piece headlined "Dr. Paul's Malpractice," Bevan attacks traditional conservative Ron Paul for rejecting the neocon buzz-word "Islamic fascism."

"It's a false term to make people think we're fighting Hitler," he quotes Paul as saying after Tuesday evening's GOP presidential debate. "It's war propaganda designed to generate fear so that the war has to be spread." To a true conservative, Paul's statement is unarguable. It is not conservatives, but liberals who go around finding fascists underneath every bed. In the great ideological wars of the 20th century, conservatives were much less bothered by fascists than by communists.

Bevan credits the popularization of the term to Christopher Hitchens, an avowed Marxist. In other words, he admits the term is of Marxist origins, but then states that by refusing to endorse it, Paul "veered off into the sort of paranoid fringe kookiness" of a fringe candidate.

It is Bevan who has veered off into kookiness. Why would any conservative want to mouth a term invented by a Marxist?

Just how kooky this term is became apparent to me last year when I spoke to another Marxist who had an equal claim to originating the term. That was Stephen Schwartz, a San Francisco labor-organizer-turned-Muslim who somehow convinced credulous neocons to consider him a conservative after 9/11. The cluelessness of the neocons was go great that in 2003 this one-world socialist actually got to write a paean to Trotsky for National Review Online. The headline alluded to "Trotsky-Cons" - a species every bit as likely to exist as unicorns.

After my column on this subject (posted below) ran, I started getting a series of long e-mails from Schwartz, each one nuttier than the one before. The subject matter would be a bit arcane to the typical conservative, but one subject that he mentioned repeatedly was of some value in dissecting the neocon pathology.

That difference revolves around the Spanish Civil War. If you want to determine whether a person is a conservative or a neoconservative, ask the following question: Who were the good guys in the Spanish Civil War? If the response is the communist side, then the person to who you are speaking is a neocon. The neocons saw the Spanish Civil War as just another fight against fascism. The fact that the communist side was notorious for burning down Catholic churches and murdering priests and nuns means nothing to your typical neocon.

Schwartz, of course, was on the communist side. As for Bevan, it's time for him and a lot of people like him to figure out what side they're on. You're either on the conservative side along with Ron Paul - or you're on the neoconservative side with a bunch of Marxist nuts. The only thing that's real clear from his piece is that he has a lot to learn about politics.

Here is my column from last year in which I explained the extremely dubious etymology of the term "Islamofascism" and why no true conservative should use it:

War of the words

He's getting warm.

President Bush, I mean. He is finally getting close to naming the enemy in the war he originally titled the "War on Terror." The problem with that title was that only a politician or an idiot could say it with a straight face, terror being an emotion, not an enemy.

So around this time last year, the president tried to arrive at a more precise definition. This war, he said, is a "struggle against ideological extremists who do not believe in free societies and who happen to use terror as a weapon to try to shake the conscience of the Free World."

Got that? Me neither. So I was pleased that Bush has finally come up with a label for the enemy. The other day he remarked that the plot to blow up airliners over the Atlantic was "a stark reminder that this nation is at war with Islamic fascists."

Now we're getting somewhere. Or are we? Just what is an "Islamic fascist?"

As it happens, even before Bush uttered that term I had been doing some research into its origins. Its claimed author is a journalist and activist by the name of Stephen Schwartz. Schwartz, whom I have met, is an intelligent and interesting guy -- perhaps a bit too interesting.

Schwartz grew up in the San Francisco Bay area as a self-described "red diaper baby," the scion of two parents with Marxist beliefs. Like most of the neoconservatives who haunt such publications as The Weekly Standard, he had a long run as a left-wing radical before moving to what is commonly perceived to be the right -- though we old-fashioned conservatives dispute whether neocons are in fact right-wingers.

Anyway, while adrift in that great sea of trends and urges that is the Bay Area, Schwartz became a Sufi. What is a Sufi? Again, this is an area in which I have some personal expertise. As it happens, some of my high school pals from Jersey moved to the Bay Area years ago and fell in with a Sufi circle. The practice of Sufism seemed to largely revolve around reading books full of jokes and riddles cleverly structured to reveal some eternal truth. One Jersey guy, a rare skeptic in that haven of believers, used to ask, "Why did the Sufi cross the road?" The answer, of course, was "To get to the other side."

Schwartz took Sufism more seriously. He eventually converted to Islam, of which Sufism is an offshoot. He was thus well-positioned to comment on the Islamic world after Sept. 11, 2001. On Sept. 22 of that year, he claims to have been the first Westerner to employ the term "Islamofascism," which he defined as "the use of the faith of Islam as a cover for totalitarian ideology." He defined the term to include such groups as the Wahhabis in Saudi Arabia, the Muslim Brotherhood in Egypt and Hezbollah in Lebanon, among others.
The term soon became popular with the neoconservative crowd. But why did the neocons settle on "Islamofascism?" Why not "radical Islam?" The reason, I suspect, is that the neocons, unlike traditional right-wingers, have a certain affinity for the term "radical."

But the term "fascist" does not really fit the modern Islamist movement. Historically, fascists have been neither totalitarian nor particularly ideological. Fascists have been better known for the ideologies they suppressed than for any ideology of their own. Think of Franco in Spain or Pinochet in Chile. And fascists generally rule as authoritarians rather than totalitarians, as conservatives liked to point out back in the Reagan era.

That was certainly the case with Saddam Hussein. Here we encounter a key problem with the term "Islamofascist": The only true fascist in the Gulf region was not an "Islamofascist," at least not in the eyes of the guy who coined the term. Far from advancing totalitarian Islam, Hussein suppressed it even more viciously than Franco suppressed totalitarian Marxism. If Bush had titled his war the "War on Radical Islam," Saddam would have been seen as a more likely ally than enemy, as was the case when the U.S. employed Pinochet as a bulwark against communism in Latin America.

Instead we got the "War on Terror." The title may have been vague, but the promises were specific. Just one month after the World Trade Center fell, leading neocon Richard Perle was cheerleading for an attack on Iraq. An interviewer asked him what would happen "if we go into Iraq and take down Hussein."

"Then I think it's all over for the terrorists," Perle replied.

Actually, it was just beginning. If one accepts the definitions put forth by the neocons, the "terrorists" are both running the Iraqi government and trying to overthrow it. As for Bush, he seemed shocked the other day to find out the Hezbollah supporters he put in charge of Iraq actually support Hezbollah.

That brings to mind those amusing Sufi stories. Why did the president cross the Tigris-Euphrates?

Give up?

To get to the other side.

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