Is George W. Bush another Hitler?
James Taranto, writing in the Wall Street Journal, offered up an offhand dismissal of Counterpunch as "an outfit whose staple is stuff comparing Bush to Hitler," which seems to suggest he thinks the very notion is beyond the pale of civil discourse.
But stay. As one of the first to notice some similarities between Bush II and the early Hitler, I didn't actually say that George and Adolf were joined at the hip. Indeed, I suggested in my Counterpunch article back on Feb. 1, during the high-pressure White House drive to war in Iraq, that our unelected president was surely no Hitler, since "Bush simply is not the orator that Hitler was." More importantly, I didn't equate Bush with Hitler because there are some other big differences between the two.
So far, for example, while he has rounded up some Arab and Muslim men purely because of their ethnicity or religion, Bush has not started gassing them--at least not yet. What I did say, however (and I think subsequent events have proven me even more correct than did the events that had occurred prior to Feb..1), is that some of the tactics of the Bush administration resemble those of Hitler and his Brownshirts. I would go further and add that Bush's attorney general, John Ashcroft, a man who has pointedly praised the old Confederacy, would probably feel quite comfortable in brown with a hakenkreuz tacked to his sleeve.
What are some of the Nazi-like tactics of the Bush administration?
Let's start with war-mongering. The American Heritage Dictionary, no bastion of leftism, defines fascism as "A system of government that exercises a dictatorship of the extreme right, typically through the merging of state and business leadership, together with belligerent nationalism."
Now we may not yet have a dictatorship, but we do have the extreme right with a solid lock on power in Washington today, and a glance at the top echelon of the Bush administration makes it clear that there is not just a merger, there's a thorough melding of state and business leadership in this administration. As for belligerent nationalism, what else is one to call a war of aggression like the one against Iraq, especially now that it's clear what most thinking people realized before the war even started--that Iraq had no significant offensive military capability, much less weapons of mass destruction. It was all a massive lie deliberately designed to scare the living crap out of an already nervous American public, so that they would accept the ongoing assault on the Bill of Rights being masterminded by Ashcroft. That strategy was vintage Goebbels.
Then there's the suspension of habeas corpus, right to counsel, and a host of other civil liberties. When American citizens like Jose Padilla can be clapped into prison--a military prison at that--with no charges filed, no access to friends or relatives, and no right to talk to a lawyer, we have crossed a line into fascist territory. Maybe we haven't reached the point of wholesale mass arrests and concentration camps (though even that, reportedly, is being contemplated by the proto-fascist Ashcroft, and we know who appointed that right-wing religious zealot and racist to his post), but once the principle of arrest without charge or trial is accepted by the courts, the move to camps is a quantitative, not a qualitative step. I would note that, Guantanamo, where hundreds of Afghan combattants have been languishing in horriffic conditions, is being turned into a concentration camp, and Bush has ordered the establishment of a kangaroo-court military tribunal assemblyline that ends with a gas chamber and execution, so maybe even that parallel will prove prescient.
What is particularly troubling about the Bush administration's enthusiastic foray into preventative detention and arrest without charge is that it is also appointing wholesale a group of federal judges at all levels who have little or no respect for such niceties as habeas corpus or the right to face one's accuser. Eventually, if this process continues, victims of Ashcroft's mad vendetta against civil rights and liberties will have no one to turn to but equally rightwing and perverse jurists like Antonin Scalia and his adoring acolyte Clarence Thomas.
It's worth pointing out too that Hitler was not the monster of 1939 when he took power in 1933. Indeed, when he first came to power, in the wake of the Reichstag fire, a traumatized nation saw him as a savior of the German government, which at the time was a parliamentary democracy. Even as he began ratcheting down the rights of the citizenry, and as his brownshirted minions and his gestapo began oppressing certain unpopular minorities and political enemies on the left, there were many, including in the United States, who saw Der Fuhrer positively (Henry Ford and Charles Lindbergh come immediately to mind). So the fact that the Bush administration is not at this point a fascist government should not preclude or deter us from examining its behavior for evidence of fascist-like behavior.
The fundamental difference I see between the Germany of the middle 1930s and the America of today is that, even as many Americans sit on their sofas and absorb the propaganda that passes for news on their TV sets, there remains a vestigial notion of democracy and civil liberties, the legacy of over two centuries of American civil society. A significant percentage of Americans--certainly far greater than in Hitler's Germany in the years before World War II--are troubled by the current trampling of democracy and the Bill of Rights, as attested by the wave of towns and cities and even state governments which have passed statutes protecting the Bill of Rights against the Aschroft-inspired onslaught of the Patriot Act.
So let's make ourselves clear here. George Bush is not Hitler. Yet. America is not a fascist state. Yet. John Ashcroft isSwell, let's not go there. The attorney general, a man whose claim to fame is having lost an election to a dead man, is perhaps the leading edge of a drive in that direction.
Wall Street Journal commentator Taranto may mock Counterpunch and other publications that point to fascist tendencies in the current administration, but he had his forebears aplenty in 1930s Germany, where the newspapers of the day were awash in apologists for Chancellor Hitler's gradual assumption of dictatorial powers. These pundits, like Taranto and his ilk, failed or were unwilling to see where things were heading, and justified the obvious erosion of freedom and democracy in the name of combating the scourge of terrorism and revolution, as well as the threat of the "other" posed by such undesirables as the Jews and the Gypsies. Today's American counterparts of these apologists, like Taranto, justify the setting aside of long-standing civil liberties in the name of combating terror and dealing with such undesirables as the Middle Eastern immigrants in our midst.
Calling attention to the parallels with the demise of Weimar Germany and the rise of Hitler is hardly out of line.
It is what we should be seeing more of in the "respectable" media.
Dave Lindorff is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal. A collection of Lindorff's stories can be found here: http://www.nwuphilly.org/dave.html