I don’t know about you, but when I hear America’s latest enemy described as
a "New Hitler" my eyes glaze over and I assume I am being assaulted by
fear-mongering propaganda. Invoking the shadow of Hitler is a way to bypass
analysis and sway opinion, to silence dissent, to rally the troops.
Mr. Bush invokes this shadow when he speaks of "Islamic fascism", and we
have argued about similar terms on this weblog in the recent past. I wonder if
this tendency to call one’s enemies "fascists" is not some residual habit left
over from the Leftist pasts of some of the leading neoconservative thinkers. To
those of us with similar pasts it is embarrassing to remember throwing the term
around so carelessly.
Those who defend such language will usually point to some combination of
aggressiveness, expansionism, and ideological agenda on the part of the radical
jihadists to justify such rhetoric.
Or they will mention anti-Semitic comments from Mr. Ahmadinejad, though
from what I have read these are taken out of context: "What will you do if
Israel bombs Iran?", the interviewer will ask. "We will destroy Israel!", he
will bluster, and the next day the headlines blare "New Hitler vows to destroy
I wonder at the selectivity of this.
The last two issues of the international version of The Jerusalem
Post have contained two paid political advertisements. The one obliquely
suggested using nuclear weapons to destroy Iran. The other was a petition to
annex southern Lebanon.
These ads- in a mainstream Israeli newspaper- clearly show the existence of
violent, expansionist, ideological Zionists. Do you think Mr. Bush would call
them "Jewish fascists"?
Don’t hold your breath.
I fear we are seeing the demonization of enemies that is necessary in
preparation for war. And I have become convinced that there are those in the
Bush administration who think that the only way out of the mess they have made
in Iraq, the only way to proceed with their stated goal of American hegemony in
the Middle East, is to provoke a major war. Too many of them are crowing about
World War III. Others are preparing us to accept total war, citing Hiroshima as
a model, telling us that we are too soft-hearted, that we need – in John
Podhoretz’ chilling phrase- "the cold-eyed singleness of purpose" that it takes
to incinerate the innocent by the hundreds of thousands.
Personally, I resist this cold-eyed propaganda by invoking the image of the
blind Iranian boy, Muhammad, his devout granny, and his adorable sisters from
the Iranian film The Color of Paradise whenever I hear the word
And I invoke the image of the Hasidic Jews Moshe and Malli from another
favorite film, the Israeli Ushpizin, whenever I hear the words "Jewish"
It works for me; just a little tactic to keep everyone human.
And if it is aggressiveness, expansionism, and ideology that qualifies one
to be the latest Hitler, then the neocons meet the standard.
Of course, I am not saying it is only our leaders who demonize. They call
the Iranian president the new Hitler, but the ayotollahs of Iran have long
called the United States "the Great Satan", which is a very literal
So. The war that is shaping up is going to be Hitler vs. Satan?
I hope no one minds if I declare my neutrality right now.