American Fascism Is on the Rise
by Stan Goff
www.alternet.org/, October 14,
The precursors of fascism -- militarization of culture, vigilantism,
masculine fear of female power, xenophobia and economic destabilization
-- are ascendant in America today.
When I was 18, before student tracking in the public schools had
been formalized, an informal tracking system was nevertheless
in place: the university track, the craft track, the poultry worker
track, and the prison track. I was somewhere between the last
two. Both my parents were working in a defense contractor factory,
and I was left adrift in the factory-worker 'burbs to be trained
by television and alcohol. Raised on a curriculum of McCarthyism,
I did the most logical thing I could think of to avoid both the
factory and eventual incarceration with the ne'er-do-wells with
whom I was keeping company. I joined the Army, and volunteered
to fight communists in Vietnam.
I tried to get out of the Army once, and it lasted for four years,
whereupon I ended up doing piecework in a sweatshop outside Wilmar,
Ark. Back on that public school track, I suppose, but given that
the U.S. was no longer invading anyone's country, and that I was
responsible for an infant now, I went back into the Army. One
thing led to another, and as it turned out I was good at something
called special operations, and I ended up making a career of it.
By the time I signed out on terminal leave in December 1995, I
had worked in eight places designated "armed conflict areas,"
where people who were brown and poor seemed to be the principle
targets of these "special" operations. At some point
toward the end, I had decided that plenty of people could look
back and say they wished they'd lived differently; and I was just
one of them; and that I might salvage something worthwhile from
the whole experience by telling the people who had paid me --
people who pay taxes -- what their money was really being spent
Among other activities, I started writing books.
The bad apple
There was nothing more inflammatory in my first book, about the
1994 invasion and occupation of Haiti, than my assertion that
Special Operations was a hotbed of racism and reaction. "Hideous
Dream - A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti" was
my personal account of that operation, and I was explicit not
only about the significant number of white supremacists in Special
Operations but how the attitudes of these extremists connected
with the less explicit white male supremacy of white patriarchal
American society and defined, in some respects, the attitude taken
by U.S. occupation forces in Haiti toward the Haitian population.
The resistance to this allegation was particularly fierce, and
not merely from those inside the Special Operations "community,"
whose outrage was more public-relations stagecraft than anything
else. There was outrage from people who hadn't a moment of actual
experience in the military at all. This is an affront to something
sacred in the public imaginary of a thoroughly militarized United
States: that we are an international beacon of civilized virtue,
and that our military is the masculine epitome of that virtue
standing between our suburban security and the dark chaos of the
Outside. Questioning the mystique of the armed forces is tantamount
to lunacy at best and treason at worst.
This is the reason bad-apple-ism has been the predominant meme
of the media and the Pentagon when they are compelled to discuss
the stories of torture, rape and murder in Iraq and Afghanistan.
"A few bad apples" committed torture. "A few bad
apples" raped prisoners, fellow female soldiers, and civilians
in their homes. The massacre was not descriptive of the Marine
Corps, but the work of "a few bad apples." Anyone who
wants to be the skunk at this prevarication party need only ask,
"How do these bad apples all seem to aggregate into the same
One bad apple was dispensed with on June 11, 2001. That's when
Timothy McVeigh was given a lethal injection at 7 a.m. in the
death chamber of the U.S. federal penitentiary at Terre Haute,
Frugivorous analogies aside, McVeigh was not the product of a
tree or poor storage, but of a culture. Raised in western New
York by a devoutly Catholic father -- an autoworker -- after his
parents divorced when he was 10, Tim McVeigh, like many other
white youths who are socially awkward and living in times of economic
insecurity, was already reading survivalist and white nationalist
literature in his teens. The mythic-patriarchal absolutism of
racial ideology mapped perfectly onto the consciousness of someone
raised by a religiously devout male, and the fact that this ideology
responded directly to the insecurities of economic and gender
destabilization secured McVeigh as an early devotee.
Gore Vidal said that McVeigh "needed a self-consuming cause
to define him[self]." Vidal's account, "The Meaning
of Timothy McVeigh," ominously printed in Vanity Fair just
days before the 9/11 attacks expressed another "self-consuming
cause," noted that McVeigh took his cues from the very government
he had worked for as a soldier. Before McVeigh's attack in Oklahoma
City, the most recent attack by Americans against Americans outside
of warfare was the FBI-BATF massacre of an obscure religious commune
that was demonized for destruction at Waco, Texas -- which McVeigh
memorialized by blowing up the Murrah Building on the Waco massacre's
When McVeigh was interviewed about the "collateral damage"
in Oklahoma, he was asked if he felt remorse. He replied that
Truman had never apologized for Hiroshima or Nagasaki. And the
formative moment in Iraq for Tim McVeigh was the order by Major
General Barry McCaffrey -- the sociopath appointed by Bill Clinton
to be the nation's "drug czar" -- to slaughter a seven-mile
line of retreating Iraqi soldiers and civilians after the cease-fire
in Iraq now called the Turkey Shoot. As the old military motto
says, "Trained by the best, kill like the rest."
Much has been made of McVeigh's affinity for "The Turner
Diaries," a neo-Nazi novel about a white nationalist guerrilla
war in the U.S., written under pseudonym by the late William Pierce.
Less often noted was another formative cultural product for McVey,
"Red Dawn," a silly film about American teenagers organizing
an armed resistance to the Soviet occupation of the United States.
While "silly" is a descriptive term for both these cultural
products, we cannot assume they are irrelevant.
On April 19, 1995, a fan of these martial
male fantasies detonated 7,000 pounds of explosives at a federal
office building and killed 168 human beings, in what he described
as a defense of the Constitution of the United States.
Before we judge his claim too harshly,
we should take note that this "defense of the Constitution"
is the core of the oath taken by every U.S. military member who
is now "serving" in the bloody occupations of Iraq and
Afghanistan. It was the oath I took that led me to burn down
the houses of Vietnamese, and the oath taken by Captain Medina
and Lieutenant Calley before they ordered the massacre in My Lai,
where the body count was three times that of Timothy McVeigh.
It's magic, this defense of a sacralized
political document; it changes forms. And white male supremacy
(we always leave out that second modifier, though it is just as
consistently true as the first) is not simple; therefore it cannot
be simply dismissed.
The reason I bring this up at all, this
old news of white male terrorism in the U.S., is anything but
academic. The U.S. military is inducting avowed white supremacists
again after an alleged hiatus one begun in response to the discovery
of Timothy McVeigh's ideological orientations, and the murder
of a black couple in December that same year by neo-Nazis in the
82nd Airborne Division.
John Kifner, writing for the New York
Times on July 7th:
A decade after the Pentagon declared a
zero-tolerance policy for racist hate groups, recruiting shortfalls
caused by the war in Iraq have allowed "large numbers of
neo-Nazis and skinhead extremists" to infiltrate the military,
according to a watchdog organization.
The Southern Poverty Law Center [SPLC],
which tracks racist and right-wing militia groups, estimated that
the numbers could run into the thousands, citing interviews with
Defense Department investigators and reports and postings on racist
Web sites and magazines.
"We've got Aryan Nations graffiti
in Baghdad," the group quoted a Defense Department investigator.
This, of course, is remarkable for its
abnormality or so some might have us think.
These explicitly white supremacist groups,
contrasted with the implicitly white supremacist Republican Party,
for example, openly embrace a vision of fascism, and openly admire
fascist leaders. And while I take issue with those who throw
the F-word around as a mere epithet stripped of any operational
meaning, the alarm sounded by the SPLC about fascists joining
the military under less than perfect oversight to prevent their
entry raises some very interesting issues about our entire political
I believe the case can be made that these
young men joining the military, embodying a racial-purity version
of military masculinity, are anything except ab-normal. They
A norm, after all, is defined as a standard
or model or pattern regarded as typical.
We need to first see for how long white
supremacy has been considered ab-normal in the United States;
then we can see how ab-normal it is right now, and only then begin
to focus more tightly on the question of fascism and fascists
joining the military.
What is seldom examined in public discourse
outside the universities and a handful of anti-racist political
formations, is the question of what it means to be "white."
Thinkers from Toni Morrison to Noel Ignatiev to bell hooks to
Theodore Allen to Mab Segrest to David Roediger have studied whiteness
extensively, in its economic, cultural and political dimensions,
and conclude unanimously that there is no "objective"
measure for what it means; but that it is a social construction
linked absolutely to social power. The insistence on existence
of a white race, by racists and non-racists alike, is symptomatic
of a form of mystification that conceals the concrete relations
of power behind a set of widely accepted abstractions.
White supremacy as a beliefhas evolved
out of the practice of people in power, who defined themselves
as white as a way of differentiating themselves from those over
whom they wielded that power. Some very well-known American presidents
who made openly white supremacist pronouncements were Woodrow
Wilson, Theodore Roosevelt, and Richard Nixon. Of course, until
the dismantling of Jim Crow in the South, white supremacy was
a norm, and before the Civil War, slavery was a norm.
White supremacy was so normal in 1964
that after the defeat of Goldwater, the Republican Party adopted
thinly veiled racist appeals to attract white voters who felt
betrayed by the reluctant Democratic Party support for civil rights
legislation. Openly racist public officials like Jesse Helms,
Strom Thurmond and Trent Lott, even after their affiliations with
white supremacist organizations were publicized, continued to
be elected. The Republican appeals to white supremacy were cloaked
as opposition to welfare, as "states rights," and as
concern about "crime." As late as 1999 the Republican-controlled
House of Representatives blocked a vote to condemn the Council
of Conservative Citizens, a white supremacist organization with
whom then-Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott had close ties.
How normed does something have to be before
we can say it is normal?
Denial supports this "non-racist"
racism. A poll by the Washington Post in 2001 showed that half
of all white people believe blacks in the U.S. are just as economically
well-off and secure as whites.
But economic and social distance between
blacks and whites is far from closed, except in the minds of many
Six in 10 whites-61 percent-say the average
black has equal or better access to health care than the average
white, according to the poll.
In fact, blacks are far more likely to
be without health insurance than whites. In 2000, the U.S. Census
Bureau's Current Population Survey found that blacks were nearly
twice as likely as whites to be without health insurance.
The survey in fact notes that half of
whites have convinced themselves that African-Americans and Euro-Americans
are educated equally well in the U.S. The empirical evidence,
of course, points to a contrary conclusion. This misperception
by whites is based on two things: (1) the need to believe that
race as an issue is "all in the past now" and (2) the
association of middle-class whites with middle-class African-Americans,
which lends anecdotal support to the idea of equality-achieved,
by exclusive exposure to a non-representative sample of the black
population. Half of all whites believe that African-Americans
enjoy economic parity with whites, another staggeringly wrong
impression (the poverty rate for blacks is double that for whites,
as just one example).
Racial attitudes are constructed around
existing material advantage. This is not nearly as newsworthy
as a Klan rally. It is far more important, though, as a causative
agent for our social antagonisms. And there is an element of
white supremacy in the mainstream discourse about the Iraq war,
for example. Both liberals and conservatives articulate the notion
that the U.S. has to "stay in Iraq to prevent a catastrophe."
There is no recognition here of the orientalism (a white supremacist
meme) that assumes the superiority of Western tutelage and the
deviance (violent irrationality) of Arabs and-or Muslims. Privilege
naturalizes itself. It portrays itself as an outcome of nature;
and we all know that the laws of nature remain out of critical
reach. Alas, that's just how it is what a pity.
The new militarization of American society
You are what you do. -- Jean Paul Sartre
Fascism traditionally employs either a
master-race or master-culture narrative. This narrative is reinforced
for troops on the ground in Iraq by the circumstances. The role
of occupier is the role of dominator, and as the Stanford Prison
Experiment proved dramatically, this dominator role very quickly
translates into the dehumanization and objectification of the
dominated. On the ground, at the infantry level, wars of domination
in every instance become race wars.
The dustup recently about a Marine singing
a song (which was published on the Internet as a video), called
"Hadji Girl," in which he humorously describes killing
Iraqi children to the raucous applause of his fellow Marines,
was hardly a blip in the corporate media.
In American society right now, with the
immigration hysteria fueled by faux populists like CNN's execrable
Lou Dobbs, there is a growing wave of xenophobia that has begun
to legitimate vigilantism, like that of the Arizona Minutemen
(supported even by the governor of California); and vigilantism
is always a feature of fascism in periods before it decisively
achieves state power. The lines between the comic-opera militias
parked along the Arizona border, the "libertarian" militias
in the Midwest and the Aryan militias in the Idaho foothills are
not terribly clear. Timothy McVeigh could have easily related
to all of them.
The social currents of racial/cultural
supremacy are there. The vigilantism is forming. So two aspects
of fascism are already falling into place.
Another aspect, and one that was formative
of Timothy McVeigh, is economic destabilization. Fascism can
be described as a "middle class" phenomenon. One can
look at the emergence of the three most studied fascist governments,
Mussolini's Italy, Franco's Spain and Hitler's Germany, and in
every case there was a privileged stratum of the working class
that had been the beneficiaries of metropolitan capitalist development
(courtesy of peripheral colonies) that rubbed shoulders socially
with the professional and managerial sectors. In times of instability,
friction develops between fractions of this stratum. Insecurity
among the lower middle-classes creates anxiety and anger that
can easily be directed by populist-sounding demagogues (Mussolini
and Hitler actually claimed to be socialist, even as they strengthened
the ruling classes in their own societies during militarization).
Those just above these fractious masses are caught between their
anxiety at the turbulent resentments of the lower stratum and
their fear that they themselves are only a paycheck away from
joining them. Leftist scholars have documented and explained
this class dimension of fascism at some length.
Columbia University's contribution to
Answers-dot-com section on "fascism" notes:
While socialism (particularly Marxism)
came into existence as a clearly formulated theory or program
based on a specific interpretation of history, fascism introduced
no systematic exposition of its ideology or purpose other than
a negative reaction against socialist and democratic egalitarianism.
The growth of democratic ideology and popular participation in
politics in the 19th cent. was terrifying to some conservative
elements in European society, and fascism grew out of the attempt
to counter it by forming mass parties based largely on the middle
classes and the petty bourgeoisie, exploiting their fear of political
domination by the lower classes. [In the American South, this
dread was aimed at blacks, and the bogeyman of black rule was
repeatedly invoked, along with the black sexual satyr, to fuel
anti-black pograms.-S.G.] Forerunners of fascism, such as Georges
Boulanger in France and Adolf Stker and Karl Lueger in Germany
and Austria, in their efforts to gain political power played on
people's fears of revolution with its subsequent chaos, anarchy,
and general insecurity. They appealed to nationalist sentiments
and prejudices, exploited anti-Semitism, and portrayed themselves
as champions of law, order, Christian morality, and the sanctity
of private property.
In each of the European cases, the trigger
bringing fascist demagogues to power was a profound economic crisis.
This is a tendency buried within an ever-expanding regime of
capital accumulation, because the "logic of capital"
inevitably comes into conflict with the "territorial logic
of power" (David Harvey, "The New Imperialism,"
Oxford Press, 2003). The mobility of capital eventually liquidates
or abandons all spaces, including living space, and this throws
middle classes into both economic and psychological disorder.
They can break both ways: embracing a progressive path of "going
through to the other side" of the crisis by creating new
social models, or embracing the (often idealized and mythical)
Giovanni Arrighi, writing in "Hegemony
Unravelling" (New Left Review, March-April 2005), made the
point that "[a]s Karl Polanyi pointed out long ago, with
special reference to the overaccumulation crisis of the late nineteenth
and early twentieth centuries, devastations of this kind inevitably
call forth the 'self-protection of society' in both progressive
and reactionary political form."
That hasn't happened in the United States
yet. The anxiety has been building, along with an increasingly
precarious social existence in the 'burbs, where car infrastructure
is running into record oil prices, pension funds are being wiped
out in strategic bankruptcies, and the household debt overhang
is beginning to resemble a plank suspended over a canyon with
a couple of nails. Not coincidentally, militarization has been
one of the processes that has postponed the inevitable.
The militarization of American society
has gone on for some time (ever since World War II, to be exact),
but this militarization-an aspect of fascism as well-has taken
on a different character since the Bush administration lucked
into 9/11. Aside from the Straussian convictions about mythopoetic
perception management (using cheap cinematic conventions), the
practical result of the neocon core advisor group around this
decaying-dynastic White House has been the accelerated militarization
of economic, domestic and foreign policy. Perception management,
after all, including cynical constructions of the nation as the
bulwark of good against evil, has been in the armamentarium of
The American economy has been using the
military contracting system during decades of "deindustrialization"
(moving offshore to exploit cheap labor) to create a surrogate
export market for key industries. The military has also long
been used as a research and development subsidy vehicle for private
corporations. What the Bush administration has done that is unique
is to prioritize unilateral military action in foreign policy
at the expense of diplomatic maneuvering and consensus-building
among the core capitalist metropoles, and to centralize population
control measures at home under a more militarized system though
the with "tactical" units has been in progress for decades
and the Clinton administration paved the way for the exponential
expansion of the domestic prison population.
Another unique feature of the Bush administration's
militarization program has been the private contracting of military
and paramilitary operations to an alphabet soup of corporations,
some led by ruling-caste veterans like Bill Perry and many led
by the sketchiest characters crawling out of the rank and file
of the military itself. In Iraq, mercenaries are now the third-largest
armed contingent on the ground, behind only the American armed
forces and the Kurdish peshmerga. There are roughly 25,000 of
these "contractors" working in Iraq and they are almost
completely immune from any law.
Last year, after a homemade video "escaped"
(a la "Hadji Girl" these folks seem to be proud of themselves)
showing so-called security contractors in an SUV driving down
an Iraqi highway with Elvis music blasting as they shot cars off
the road for sport, the blogs began distributing it. In December,
the Washington Post finally ran a story on it. Only then did
the military even comment on the video, which they said they would
investigate. Nothing has come of this alleged investigation.
What did surface, however, once the media decided it was worth
a closer look, is that this kind of colonial impunity is routinely
exercised by contractors, who are little more than extremely well
paid thugs, and is not covered by either Iraqi law or the U.S.
Uniform Code of Military Justice.
Because the salaries of these contractors
are routinely above $100,000 a year, with all expenses paid on
site, the military itself, especially Special Operations, has
had to steeply increase reenlistment bonuses ( some as high as
$150,000 in a single lump sum), to partially stem the exodus of
Special Ops troops into the lucrative world of corporate mercenaries.
This is a world unto itself, a culture
obsessed with death, firearms and racial-purity doctrines. One
need only page through the periodicals of this subculture, the
most widely circulated being Soldier of Fortune magazine, to find
these preoccupations between the articles and ads like a toxic
salad. The glue holding them together is gun culture. Gun culture
is not an obscure fringe, but a very mainstream, widely popular
subculture that taps directly into another key component of fascism:
Sex, Race, and Guns
Anson Rabinbach and Jessica Benjamin,
writing in American Imago in 1995 ("In the Aftermath of Nazi
Germany: Alexander Mitscherlich and Psychoanlaysis-Legend and
The crucial element of fascism is its
explicit sexual language, what Theweleit calls "the conscious
coding" or the "over-explicitness of the fascist language
of symbol." This fascist symbolization creates a particular
kind of psychic economy which places sexuality in the service
of destruction. Despite its sexually charged politics, fascism
is an anti-eros, "the core of all fascist propaganda is a
battle against everything that constitutes enjoyment and pleasure."
He shows that in this world of war the repudiation of one's own
body, of femininity, becomes a psychic compulsion which associates
masculinity with hardness, destruction, and self-denial.
Men who are threatened by women's decreased
dependency and increased organization often adopt an individual
strategy of " overconformity," compulsively acquiring
"masculine" accoutrements, be they giant automobiles,
guns or attack-breed dogs, and just as compulsively behave as
if they are trying out for a role with the World Wrestling Foundation-affecting
a kind of bright-eyed homicidal aggression as we are further socialized
to equate fear with respect.
Divisions of "male" labor and
divisions of "female" labor respond to changes in the
economic and political terrain. Look at the more "respectable"
masculinity that prioritizes responsibility to the family-which
keeps men who are not in the ruling class working. Compare that
to the fascistic masculinity displayed by the masculine over-conformers
(described above), which merges easily with the idealization of
military masculinity in times when warfare plays a more central
role in society-for example, during crises of (economic and social)
destabilization. War becomes necessary to "rescue"
the nation. Gun culture is permeated with this thought, including
its sense of embattlement, and its embrace of mythical frontier
masculinity that sacrifices comfort to overcome dark forces from
Economic destabilization is extremely
disruptive of conventional masculinities that equate the male
role with that of a provider (I am not endorsing "provider
masculinity" or any expression of patriarchy, but comparing
them); and create the conditions for overcompensation in the form
of hyper-normal male identity as an armed actor.
The rise of fascistic masculinity prefigures
systemic fascism, often in the form of vigilantism. Gun culture
is steeped in vigilantism, which is steeped in military lore.
Guns in this milieu transcend their practical uses and take on
a powerful symbolic significance.
In the last decade, the National Rifle
Association (NRA), which has always had close ties with the military,
has been taken over from what are considered within the organization
as "moderates," that is, those whose message emphasizes
peaceful, law-abiding gun use, like hunting (which is not peaceful
for the game animals, but that's another issue).
During my service with 3rd Special Forces
Group in Haiti in 1994, members of the SFU initiated back-channel
communications in support of the right-wing death squad network,
Two of the favored preoccupations of Barry,
the SFU, Soldier of Fortune, and the NRA were Ruby Ridge, where
Vicki Harris, the wife of an ex-Special Forces white supremacist
(Randy Weaver), was killed by an FBI sniper with her baby in her
arms, and the outrage at Waco against the Branch Davidians.
Let me say here, for the record, that
the FBI actions in both these cases were criminal and inexcusable,
and largely provoked by the FBI itself. But the fact that Weaver
was one of the neo-fascists own, and that Koresh and his acolytes
were white, combined with the stunning abuse of power by the federal
government in both cases, turned these two cases into a twin cause
celebre for the militia-right. I will also note that I own firearms;
I have no problem with others owning them; and I think much liberal
opposition to firearms is stupid and moralistic and drives many
people into the arms of the lunatic right. I am an advocate of
the right to self-defense. My critique of gun culture is a critique
of those sectors for which guns have been combined with imaginary
enemies and taken on a deeply symbolic value as tokens of a violent,
reactionary masculinity that fantasizes about armed conflict as
a means to actualize its paranoid male sexual identity.
The problem is that this reaction is far
There is a kind of interlocking directorate
between white nationalists, gun culture, right-wing politicians,
mercenary culture (like Soldier of Fortune), vigilante and militia
movements, and elements within both Special Forces and-now-the
privatized mercenary forces. It is hyper-masculine, racialist,
militaristic and networked.
If one simply pays attention to cultural
production in the United States, especially film and video games,
it is fairly easy to see that the very memes that are the cells
within the body of white nationalist militarism are ubiquitous
within our general cultural norms. The film genre that most closely
corresponds to a fascist mind-set is the male revenge fantasy,
wherein after some offense is given that signifies the breakdown
of order (usually resulting in the death or mortal imperilment
of idealized wives or children) in which Enlightenment social
conventions prove inadequate, and the release of irrational male
violence is required to set the world straight again. Any reader
can list these fantasies without a cue. It is one of the most
common film genres in American society.
R. W. Connell wrote in "Masculinities"
(University of California Press, 1995):
In gender terms, fascism was the naked
reassertion of male supremacy in societies that had been moving
toward equality for women. To accomplish this, fascism promoted
new images of hegemonic masculinity, glorifying irrationality
("the triumph of the will", thinking with "the
blood") and the unrestrained violence of the frontline soldier.
Chaotic Dark Othering
It is in no way aberrant when the lionized
Theodore Roosevelt can be quoted saying: "the timid man,
the lazy man, the man who distrusts his country, the over-civilized
man, [italics mine] who has lost the great fighting, masterful
virtues, the ignorant man, and the man of dull mind, whose soul
is incapable of feeling the mighty lift that thrills 'stern men
with empires in their brains'-all these, of course, shrink from
seeing the nation undertake its new duties; shrink from seeing
us build a navy and army adequate to our needs; shrink from seeing
us do our share of the world's work, by bringing order out of
chaos in the great, fair tropic islands from which the valor of
our soldiers and sailors has driven the Spanish flag."
Roosevelt was also a lifetime member of
the NRA, itself founded by Civil War veterans who were dismayed
by the poor marksmanship of soldiers and decided to prepare the
next generation of boys and men for armed combat.
Roosevelt is often cited as a conservationist
who admired the wilderness. What is less often noted is that
"wilderness" was seen as a place where men could test
themselves against "raw" nature, and that he referred
to said wilderness as "lands we have won from the Indians."
Karl Rove claims to be a major fan of Teddy Roosevelt biographies
and quotes Roosevelt often.
The use of mythic male wartime figures
is a common political ploy. Former Attorney General John Ashcroft
frequently used Lincoln that way to justify his own attacks on
civil liberties, implicitly comparing the phony war on terror
to the American Civil War.
This is not news, but it does support
my general thesis that some key elements of fascism are already
norms for broad sections of American society.
This should give us a special sense of
concern that the military-under pressure from a retention and
recruitment crisis-has relaxed the screening process against white
nationalists joining the military precisely to gain military training
and combat experience. This not only allows more of these dangerous
ideologues into the military, it gives them unprecedented access
to other combat veterans, brutalized into the sociopathy of war
and inured to white supremacy through the inevitable racialization
of the occupied enemy.
What makes this particularly alarming
is that another essential element for the emergence of fascism
is a national enemy. It is not unremarkable that the very people
who question the federal government as an extension of ZOG/Illuminati/World-Government
have also accepted the narrative-constructed by that self-same
U.S. government for its own martial purposes-of a highly organized,
technologically advanced terrorist threat: Al Qaeda. This has
replaced the vastly overstated threat of the World Communist Conspiracy
that proved so useful for the post-WWII American security state.
The fact that immigration is now routinely portrayed as a security
issue (letting terrorists in), at the same time that anti-immigrant
vigilantism is being supported by public figures like CNN's Lou
Dobbs (arguable already a fascist) and Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger
, should give all of us pause not only because we are now training
future McVeighs but because the immigration polemics are finding
a receptive audience even among so-called moderates and liberals
of the middle-class.
The generalized flexibility of the term
"terrorist" makes it infinitely more useful as a political
instrument than a specific nation or regime, and so invests the
term with a long half-life. The fact that Al Qaeda is a fiction
created by the U.S. government-a fact well documented by researchers
like Jason Burke, author of "Al Qaeda: Casting a Shadow of
Terror" (Penguin Books, 2004), and even the militarily connected
Rand Corporation, which referred to Al Qaeda as "a notion."
In a stunning bit of linguistic legerdemain,
the actual mass movement of political Islam has been recoded by
the neocons as Islamo-fascism, and among the crypto-libertarians
of the white right, fascist is an epithet reserved now for liberals.
With the same semantic abracadabra, the
"notion" that is Al Qaeda is transformed by our cultural
paranoia in such a way that every Arab, every Muslim, every immigrant,
every dissident, every person of color, every (choose your enemy)
is a threat; and the world is divided between Us and the Dark
Other with no resolution except the agonal, and could-with economic
dislocation as the catalyst-tumble us into a paroxysm of white
nationalist hyper-masculinity as prelude to a new, uniquely American
My friend, Steve McClure, a former window
dresser and feral scholar in the darker residential regions of
Washington, D.C. -itself a study in colonization and social contrasts-notes:
I hate the word fascist. It has been
bandied about so much and brings up images of Storm troopers in
grainy newsreels that it seems devoid of meaning. Furthermore,
classical fascism was possible only in a mass society, organized
along industrial lines, with one-to-many communications. Classical
fascism is a reactionary modernism, a response to class struggle.
Both German and Italian variants came to power after the defeat
of revolutionary upsurges.
I think our own situation is very different,
and a better term needs to be found that captures the unique qualities
of our reactionary postmodernism. "Military police state"
doesn't quite cut it. Fascism implies policing of thought as well
as bodies, today's reaction is selective, policing bodies but
allowing private speech and the empty illusions of parliamentary
democracy to stand.
The civilizing mission
This trend of ignoring the backgrounds
of military inductees-driven by numerical necessity-is swelling
the ranks of tomorrow's vigilantes of reaction. People have the
mental habit of assuming that the powerful control their own outcomes.
They don't. The militarization of police forces, white flight
and urban abandonment, even the international system of dollar
hegemony that the military backstops these all develop with multiple
determinations, more akin to weather than strategy, with the larger
system taking on a character independent of the agents within
it. Changing outcomes is not the same as controlling them.
My greatest anxiety for my two grandchildren
is not that they will be the victims of a plot but the inheritors
of inertia and a society of "good Germans," while society
dives into a long period of unanticipated macho warlordism and,
oh by the way, ecocide.
We already have whole sections of America-in
the former enclaves of a now deracinated working class-where hopelessness
exists alongside police forces that function very like a military
occupation force. Before the war, these occupation zones-filled
with idled, angry, dark-skinned youths-were our middle-class nightmare,
the Dark Chaos that inevitably leads us back to the patriarchal
default, to militarized masculinity, and to the cultural celebration
of bounty hunting and sexual revenge in feudal prisons.
Alas, the place-marker of a war on drugs-that
created the largest national prison population on the planet-couldn't
create the pretext for bases in Southwest Asia, so the war on
terror will have to do. The recruitment crisis that has opened
the door to neo-Nazi youths entering military service was anything
but a plan. The term before the war that proponents used to describe
its outcome was "cakewalk."
Now even putative liberals have copped
to their own version of "white man's burden," saying
(the rhetorical) we cannot "abandon Iraq," lest "we"
leave behind a terrible state of disorder. And so "we"
continue down that hoary, blood-drenched path of "civilizing
The Bush administration never tires of
telling us how war is necessary to protect "us" from
We need to ask ourselves, however, what
sowing the winds of war abroad will reap at home. They are not
Arabs who are painting Aryan Nations graffiti on the shattered
walls of Baghdad.
Stan Goff is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces.
During an active-duty career that spanned 1970 to 1996, he served
with the elite Delta Force and Rangers, and in Vietnam, Guatemala,
Grenada, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Somalia and Haiti.