Dogma Alert

Wednesday, August 02, 2006

As Thomas Jefferson warned, U.S. slipping toward fascism

August 02, 2006 09:09 am
Craig Etchison,
Center for Nonviolent Alternatives,
Fort Ashby, W.Va.

“Yes, we did produce a near-perfect Republic. But will they keep it, or will they, in the enjoyment of plenty, lose the memory of freedom? Material abundance without character is the surest way to destruction.” As I watch what’s happening to our Republic, I find Thomas Jefferson’s words prescient. In the last 25 years, the near-perfect Republic has been all but destroyed by the forces of fascism.

Impossible? Evidence overwhelms. Scholars have identified common characteristics of fascist regimes, from Hitler to Mussolini, from Suharto to Pinochet. Looking at the major characteristics of fascism in terms of the U.S. today is illuminating — and depressing.

Nationalism and disdain for human rights characterizes fascism. In the U.S.? How about illegal wire tapping by the NSA? American citizens such as Hamdi and Padilla arrested and denied all constitutional protection. Torture OK’d by the president and his attorney general, who calls the Geneva conventions “quaint.” Thousands of prisoners held in secret detention. Nationalism? You’re either for us or you’re against us. Wave the flag and thoughtlessly worship the country’s leader. U.S.A. number one, always.

Control of the media — and especially censorship of war making — characterizes fascist regimes. U.S. corporations, who reap massive profits, own the mass media, so the media ignore news that might embarrass those in power. Remember the Downing Street Memo, where Bush admitted fixing the intelligence to scare the country into war? U.S. media ignored it. Remember Armstrong Williams, paid to shill Bush policy as real news? The GAO reports that government videos paid for by tax dollars and sent out by Bush people to television stations “constitute covert propaganda.” Lies heaped on lies, a given in fascist regimes.

Obsession with national security is also characteristic of fascism. Note how we’ve been hammered by national security fears in order to pass laws such as the Patriot Act, which deprive us of basic constitutional freedoms. Note the staggering increase of government documents now classified and the increased difficulty of freedom of information requests. Fear mongering is a given with fascists — keeps the populace in line — and the Bush fear-mongering never ceases. Remember how he didn’t want the smoking gun to be a mushroom cloud? Speech after speech offering security if we give up our freedom.

In fascist regimes, corporate power is protected, cronyism and corruption is rampant, and elections are fixed. Did anyone notice that Congress rejected a proposal to investigate Iraq war profiteers? Even though Halliburton — the V.P.’s company — is serving meals with expired dates and dirty drinking water. What about the new bankruptcy law written by credit card companies that hammers honest working people while leaving loopholes for the wealthy? Anyone notice Exxon’s profits after energy policy was written by energy executives behind the V.P.’s closed doors? Mussolini was right to equate fascism with corporatism.

Cronyism and corruption? Jack Abramoff. Iran-Contra felons with top Bush jobs. Billion dollar no-bid Iraq contracts to the V.P.’s company. Enron.

Fair elections are anathema to fascists. An actual hand count of Florida votes proved Gore the 2000 winner. One in every nine votes of people of color was tossed out in Florida. The irregularities in Ohio in 2004 boggle the mind. We’re now saddled with electronic voting machines that are easily manipulated and have no paper trail. The more e-machines, the more illusory fair elections.

The military reigns supreme in fascist states. The U.S. military-industrial complex holds unparalleled economic and political sway. In 2004, the U.S. spent almost half of the $1 trillion the world spent on arms. If 2006 war spending continues, we will waste $2.8 trillion in the next five years, leading to more terrorism and more people hating us. Economists J. Brauer and N. Anglewicz recently calculated that 68 cents of every tax dollar is spent on war and war-related activities. This war economy, mostly funded by massive borrowing from Japan and China, results in slashing social programs and not renewing crucial infrastructure.

Will Jefferson’s words be prophetic or will the people rise up against this fascist disease? The latter, I hope, though corporate forces and a greedy few arrayed against us and the Republic are considerable. Change will require a major change in our thinking and in our actions.


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