I can’t remember the first time I heard the term “Islamofascism,” but I can remember the first time I knew it was going to stick. It was Oct. 6, 2005, and President George W. Bush was delivering a speech. In it, he said, “Islamic terrorist attacks 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, Islamofascism.”
From that moment, if not before, the media took Bush’s ball and ran with it, where every new stumbling block in the Middle East could be reduced to one word — Islamofascism. Bill O’Reilly couldn’t get enough of it. Rudy Giuliani was glad to finally have a verbal substitute for “9/11.” And Rush Limbaugh hadn’t been so happy to have a new word to repeat ad nauseam since “Clinton” in the 1990s. Yes, for the neoconservatives, most of whom didn’t have much of a purpose in life since the end of the Cold War, the new menace on the horizon finally had a name, and they intended to use it.
The problem is Islamofascism doesn’t really mean anything. Trying to reduce the complexities of Middle Eastern politics into a single, jingoistic phrase is not only impractical, but a disservice to the American public. Explains conservative columnist Joseph Sobran, “Islamofascism is nothing but an empty propaganda term. 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.”
Sobran is correct. Take for example the recent assassination of Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto. Every pro-Bush talking head was screaming “Islamofascists” before the woman’s body was cold. Bhutto’s supporters and family were blaming Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf. Musharraf was blaming the “extremists.” But who are the extremists? Who are the Islamofascists?
According to a Parade magazine article on former Prime Minister Bhutto, it was “the ISI, Pakistan’s infamous intelligence service, (that helped to) overthrow her first government. The ISI has close ties to radical Islamists and was responsible for the Taliban’s rise to power in Afghanistan. America’s CIA, which also supported the Afghan holy warriors in their guerrilla struggle against the Soviet Union in the 1980s, continues to work with the ISI today — theoretically in suppressing the very terrorist legions it helped to create.”
The entire neoconservative cabal may be correct in their child-like assertion that Bhutto’s death was undoubtedly the work of Islamofascists, but the neocons fail to mention that these Islamofascists might have been supported by the United States.
Southerners educated enough to know that the War for Southern Independence was not simply a war over slavery should understand the absurdity of trying to stuff complex politics into an ideological box. I have long disagreed with Southerners who believe slavery wasn’t an issue, just as I disagree with those who insist that Islam is merely a “religion of peace.” Slavery was indeed a factor in the American “Civil War” just as Islam is a factor in the “War on Terror.” But neither were/are the only factors, or even the predominant factors.
The War for Southern Independence was the result of several political, economic, and constitutional crises that were exacerbated by a president with imperial intentions. Abraham Lincoln conveniently whittled the entire mess down to problems with pesky “rebels” and later, made that word interchangeable with “slavery.” The War on Terror also has multiple causes, most of which were predicted by our Founding Fathers, who warned against “foreign entanglements.” As the 9/11 Commission and the CIA have acknowledged, a half century of American intervention in the Arab world has certainly been the primary contributing factor to the current crisis, which has now been exacerbated by another president with imperial intentions. What’s that old saying about history repeating itself?
Islamofascism is but the latest term used in the semantic war all leaders wage to fool the people into supporting wars of aggression. Southerners used to remember what it was like to be invaded, conquered, and reconstructed, and we weren’t very happy about it.
Well neither is the Middle East — Islamic, fascist, or otherwise.
Catch Southern Avenger commentaries every Tuesday and Friday at 7:50 a.m. on the “Morning Buzz with Richard Todd” on 1250 AM WTMA.