Abusing history to make history

THE Pavlovian reflex of recent American Presidents to evoke World War II metaphors during times of conflict stems from the "good war" mythology created by Hollywood and marketed worldwide for three generations. So, Saddam Hussein was an "Arab Hitler", those who oppose the decision to invade Iraq are the voices of appeasement, Bush’s enemies are "Islamic fascists" sworn to destroy Mom, apple pie and Hicksville Middle American values.

By Matein Khalid

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Published: Sat 9 Sep 2006, 9:19 AM

Last updated: Sat 4 Apr 2015, 5:46 PM

While the fascist metaphor needlessly insulted the religion of a billion Muslims (who calls Hitler a Christian fascist?), I was intrigued by the eerie similarities between the Middle East in our time and the rise of European fascism in 1920’s.

The fascist ethos in Europe was a populist assault against the bankers, politicians and aristocrats who sleepwalked into the horror of the Great War in 1914. The Jews of course, were the most visible symbol of the globalist movement that was the logical endgame of the Industrial Revolution and the age of imperial conquest. Ironically, the macroeconomic horrors of the postwar decade —Weimer Germany’s hyperinflation and the collapse of the Reichbank, the Versailles Treaty reparations, trade protectionism, the post Black Tuesday stock market crash and contagion in the banking dominoes of Wall Street and Europe —all reinforced the fascist claim that Jewish traitors had double —crossed Wilhelmine Germany and corrupted its society, proverbial "war profiteers". Shame, defeat, the insecurities of globalisation, besieged cultures, the search for a scapegoat, xenophobia and hatred for a liberal secular elite defined Hitler’s Brownshirts and Mussolini’s fascisti, as it does Pakistani or Iran politics now. After all, Hitler was elected Chacellor of the Third Reich by a German middle class enamoured by the Fuhrer’s revolutionary National Socialist tirades against Bolsheviks, Jewish bankers and "degenerate" cosmopolitan intellectuals, a middle class impoverished by the most pathological inflation experience in modern times, the nightmare of Weimar.

It is all too easy for American ideologues who view the tragedy and pain of the Middle East as a "war of civilisation", the latest East-West existential crusade, to speak in terms of Hitler, appeasement and Munich. As the resurrected Taleban under Mullah Dadullah threatens NATO with an Afghan Diem Bien Phu and the American commitment deepens in Iraq’s sectarian nightmare, the neocon high priest of US foreign policy in the White House, the Republican think tanks and defense are even more strident in their "Islamofascist" rhetoric. It is mission critical to dehumanise the enemy, particularly if the freedom loving Darth Vaders, the princes of darkness, are winning the war. Osama’s medieval caliphate, Mullah Omar’s Taleban thus morphed into our generation’s Evil Empire / Nazi Germany, the existential threat to the West that evokes the bitter memories of the past East-West tragedies. So, it must have been when Xerexes’s Persian Empire invaded the Greek isles, when Charles Martel faced the Spanish Arab armies outside Poitiers, when the Sultan’s Grand Vizier Kara Mustafa besieged Vienna, when the Mediterranean Sea was an Ottoman lake, when Sultan Salahuddin retook Jerusalem from the Frankish knights at Hittin Cross.

As political nemesis finally overtakes George Bush and Tony Blair, they depict America’s foes as "fascist", and domestic antiwar opposition as appeasement. Iran’s President Ahmedinijad instigates the anti-Muslim hysteria in the Anglo-American chancelleries of power and the conservative media with his callous comments on the Holocaust and Israel’s right to existence as a sovereign state. The gutter press in the Middle East hurls anti-Semitic abuse at the Jewish people unfairly making the global diaspora complicit in Israel’s war crimes in the West Bank, Gaza and Lebanon. Ahmedinijad cannot claim to be the champion of Islamic civilisation and sponsor Holocaust cartoons without being dismissed as an anti-Semite or without wounding the faith he professes to serve. Ironically, Ahmedinijads’s outburst helps Bush and Rumsfeld brand challenges to Pax Americana in the killing fields of the Sunni Triangle or Afghanistan as a replay of the 1930’s. They help Bush rally an American population horrified by the rising body count in Iraq to bankroll the escalation of his unwinnable wars, help justify budget deficits that threaten to bankrupt the US.

Since so many neocon Republicans are rabid Zionists allied to Israel’s hawks, Bush’s Nazi / Hitler allusions evoke a visceral resonance at home. Arafat, Gaddafi and Saddam were all once "Hitlers" to the neocon —Zionist Churchills in Washington but now Osama, Dr Zawahari, Sayyid Nasrullah and the new President of Iran are our generation’s Uncle Adolf wannabes.

Bush’s "Islamofascist" outbursts are not new. To Reagans’s hawks, the Nicaragnan Contras were "commie scum", the USSR an "evil empire," critics of Latin American —CIA death squads appeasers, Bolshies and Sandalistas.

The November elections to the US Congress, public disgust and disillusionment with the "war on terror", Israel’s failure against Hezbollah, incompetence and battlefield losses in Iraq, the Iranian uranium enrichment programme and the terrorist threat from Al Qaeda all motivate Bush to whitewash his failure, to rant against "Islamofascists". Even secular Syria, Shia Hezbollah, Iraqi Sunni insurgents, Afghan warlords and Hamas nationalists are now members of the "Islamofascist" axis of evil. Like every demagogue since, well, Hitler, President Bush abuses history to make history.

Matein Khalid is a Dubai based investment banker

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