Friday, September 01, 2006
There are at least three pieces of falsely based rhetoric that are beginning to emerge in the fall political campaign that need to be put into context now, early in the game.
All three are being put forward by senior U.S. government officials or Republican candidates, notably Vice President Dick Cheney, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and Pennsylvania's own nonresident peddler of nontruths, Sen. Rick Santorum.
The first of these is that any American who does not believe that the United States should stay in Iraq, to pursue President Bush's vanity war to the end and continue to lose young fighting Americans as well as burn up formidable amounts of cash, is somehow not only wrongheaded but also a traitor who does not really love freedom.
This is a scurrilous lie, insulting and a disgusting slur on good Americans -- Democrats, Republicans or independents -- who believe that it is time the nation found a way to bring an end to a war that is now more than 3 years old.
A second, very misleading, line that, notably, Republican Senate candidate Santorum is using, most recently at a talk in Harrisburg on Monday, is that America's current war is against "Islamic fascism." This concept is inaccurate and unhelpful to the United States in both of its words. Anyone with half a brain can see that Islam is by no means unified or unanimous in its support of al-Qaida, terrorism or even Hezbollah and Hamas. Think of the leaders of Egypt, Jordan and Saudi Arabia. Or think of Indonesia, Bangladesh and Malaysia, majority Islamic countries that have offered troops to the United Nations to stand between Hezbollah and the Israeli Defense Forces in defending the integrity of southern Lebanon.
In addition, what is going on in the Middle East does not meet the definition of fascism. Fascism is a political philosophy, albeit a scrofulous one, and is generally a national phenomenon, not cross-national and religious in its scope.
Mr. Santorum has given no previous indication of any knowledge of foreign affairs, but waving around the words "Islamic fascism" may take the cake.
The third falsely based line that some Republicans are throwing around is an effort to draw a link between the situation in Europe in the 1930s -- Hitler, British Prime Minister A. Neville Chamberlain's 1938 Munich deal, the Holocaust carried out by Germany and other nations against the Jews of Europe -- and some Americans' advocacy of a U.S. withdrawal from Iraq. The two situations have nothing whatsoever in common -- even the fact that Mr. Chamberlain saw himself as trying to preserve peace in Europe, whereas the Bush administration is trying to find a way to say it's been successful in Iraq despite the fact that none of its stated invasion objectives (apart from the overthrow of Saddam Hussein) have been achieved.
What would be most useful for America at this point is that its 2006 electoral campaign be waged on the basis of truths -- about its economic situation, of primary importance, as well as the current position of the United States in Iraq and the rest of the Middle East. Feeding lies into the system -- with claims that advocacy of withdrawal is disloyalty, "Islamic fascism" is the problem or the situation in the Middle East is like that in 1930s Europe -- is stupid and counterproductive to useful debate among competing candidates. It needs to stop now before it goes any further.