- If it hasn't gone the way of Mussolini's Italy and Hitler's
Germany, it sure is teetering on the brink. America is a nation in deepening
crisis, a nation whose leaders repeatedly plunge their citizens into, and
make them pay for, serial wars abroad, while stealing their liberties at
home. USA has become a country that trashes its citizens (New Orleans),
tortures its enemies(Abu Ghraib), threatens other nations with nuclear
fire (Iran), flouts international treaties (UN Charter re Iraq), and spies
on (FISA), and intimidates, its critics(No Fly). Americans that can clearly
see the totalitarian machinations of Vladimir Putin in Russia and Hu Jintao
in China are blind to the fascism threatening to envelop them as well.
- Webster's defines fascism as "a totalitarian governmental
system led by a dictator and emphasizing an aggressive nationalism, militarism,
and often racism." A comparison of 20th century fascist and communist
regimes with President Bush's USA indicates the machinery for a full-blown
totalitarian takeover is now in place, even if no coup has occurred. As
Naomi Wolf writes in "The End of America"(Chelsea Green) the
2007 Defense Authorization Bill's Section 333 allows the president "to
declare martial law and take charge of the National Guard troops without
the permission of a governor when 'public order' has been lost" and
to "send the guard into our streets during a public health emergency,
terrorist attack or 'other condition.'"
- The enabling crowbar was the Military Commissions Act
of 2006. It gives the president authority to set up his own system for
bringing alien combatants to trial while denying them protection of the
Geneva Conventions. "The president and his lawyers now claim the authority
to designate any American citizen he chooses as being an 'enemy combatant,'"
Wolf writes of power usurpation that characterized the post-World War One
epoch in Europe and Asia.
- Thus, Congress has empowered Bush just as Germany's Reichstag
empowered Hitler, Wolf writes, recalling Hitler's boast, "Democracy
will be overthrown with the tools of democracy." Hitler's Interior
Minister issued Clause 2 that gave police the power to hold people in custody
indefinitely and without a court order, powers the U.S. Congress today
has conferred upon "The Decider" in the White House. Mussolini's
used the less grandiose "Il Duce" or "The Leader."
- According to Michael Ratner, director of the Center For
Constitutional Rights, New York, "the president candesignate people
enemy combatants and detain them for whatever reason he wantsthere are
no charges and prisoners have no lawyers, no family visits, no court reviews,
no rights to anything, and no right to release until the mythical end to
the 'war on terror.'"
- Wolf writes that dictators justify their usurpation of
domestic liberties by raising the alarm of "terrorist" threats.
Stalin, for example, used this very term in 1934 when he warned his public
of a world-wide conspiracy by capitalists to overthrow the Soviet state.
If there have been no mass arrests of native-born Americans it is only
because the president has not chosen to exercise this authority. If you
think it can't happen to you, recall that in September of 2003 the Army
arrested 36-year-old American-born Muslim chaplain James Yee, a West Point
graduate, allegedly for "espionage and possibly treason"---but
more likely for calling for better conditions for Gitmo inmates. Wolf wrote:
- "He was blindfolded; his ears were blocked; he was
manacled and then put into solitary confinement for 76 days; forbidden
mail, television, or anything to read except the Koran. His family was
not allowed to visit him. His lawyers were told he would face execution.
(But)Within six months, the U.S. government had dropped all criminal charges
against Yee." Yes, just as it has dropped charges against hundreds
of Guantanamo prisoners earlier, men labeled by former Defense Secretary
Rumsfeld as "the worst of the worst" but against the overwhelming
majority of whom the Bush regime apparently had no case whatever!
- The treatment Yee got is typical of those who run afoul
of the Bush regime: torture first, trial afterif there is a trial. And
since his release, Yee has been denied his free speech right to discuss
his ordeal---gagged by the Pentagon. Perhaps most incredible, even if a
Guantanamo prisoner should be found innocent, the Pentagon says he might
not be released anyway. This echoes Stalin's practice of re-arresting Gulag
prisoners after they had done their time. At one point, Stalin had eight
million souls behind bars, even exceeding President Bush, currently the
- Author Wolf says another danger flag is the creation
of paramilitary groups, "aggressive men who have no clear, accountable
relationship to the government or the party seeking power" Mussolini
had the blackshirts; Hitler the brownshirts; but whatever their dress,
they were thugs. Wolf says that Moycock, N.C.-based Blackwater Worldwide
stands ready "to deploy its unaccountable private army (35,000 men)
in the U.S.---in the aftermath of natural disasters, and also in cases
of 'national emergency.'" With at least a half billion dollars in
government contracts, "Blackwater is the world's largest private security
force, works closely with Halliburton, and is available for action outside
the scrutiny of Congress," Wolf writes. The outfit raked in $73 million
for patrolling the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina. And
Blackwater subcontractor Red Tactica, recruits former Chilean commandos,"
men described by one Chilean sociologist that are "valued for their
expertise in kidnapping, torturing and killing defenseless civilians,"
- Besides creating such "security" forces, dictators
create secret prisons, as Bush has done, ranging from prison ships in the
Indian Ocean to dungeons in Poland, where they can hide them from Red Cross
scrutiny, as the CIA has done. "We should worry about the men held
at Guantanamo because history shows that stripping prisoners of their rights
is intoxicating not only to leaders but to functionaries at every level
of society," Wolf writes. "Gitmo" is also an interrogation
camp, an operation "that is completely and flatly illegal" and
outlawed by the Geneva Conventions in 1949, she points out. Stalin also
employed torture and in 1937 actually legalized its use in Soviet prisons.
When he received his infamous "albums" with the names of those
to be executed and imprisoned, next to some names he often wrote: "Beat!
Beat! Beat!" And only months after taking power, Hitler "established
a network of illegitimate prisons where torture took place" and where
guards could murder inmates with "no chance of being punished,"
Wolf said. And like Stalin, The Decider has signaled his henchmen beatings
are now the American Way.
- Dictators hold power by instilling fear in their citizens.
Since 2000, Wolf writes there has been "a sharp increase in U.S. citizen
groups that are being harassed and infiltrated by police and federal agents,
often in illegal ways." She pointed to a 2006 ACLU report that California
police had infiltrated antiwar protests, political rallies, and other constitutionally
protected gatherings and were secretly investigating them, even though
the California state constitution forbids this. And prior to the 2004 Republican
convention in New York, police department detectives infiltrated groups
planning peaceful demonstrations. At the Federal level, Bush's apparatchiks
are compiling dossiers on law-abiding citizens. The Defense Department's
Talon program has created a database about peaceful antiwar and other groups
and activists. As Jen Nessel of the Center for Constitutional Rights says,
"We have absolutely moved over into a preventive detention model---you
look like you could do something bad, you might do something bad, so we're
going to hold you."
- Bush regime actions' today recall how the Gestapo, NKVD,
Stasi (East German secret police) and Red China's Politburo "all requisitioned
private data such as medical, banking, and library records," Wolf
writes, because access to such private data "breaks down citizens'
sense of being able to act freely against those in power." And although
the Department of Homeland Security's TIPS scheme to get letter carriers
and meter readers, etc., to report suspicious activities was met with derision
and never funded, the ACLU noted it was merely absorbed in the Pentagon's
- Privacy in America today as guaranteed by the Constitution
is fast becoming a memory. The New York Times reported the government in
2005 was monitoring your e-mail and telephone talk without legal warrants
and the following year the newspaper disclosed U.S. treasury officials,
with CIA help, "were reviewing millions of private bank transactions
without individual court-ordered warrants or subpoenas," Wolf pointed
- One method of intimidation is to limit a citizen's right
to travel freely. The Bush regime has created "watch"(75,000
names) and "no fly"(45,000 names) lists that restrict individuals'
air travel--and those searched and/or stopped from flying can complain
all they like because it won't do them any good. Robert Johnson, an American
citizen, Wolf reports, described the humiliation factor of being strip
searched when he attempted to board an airplane: "I had to take off
my pants. I had to take off my sneakers, then I had to take off my socks.
I was treated like a criminal." This has now become a commonplace
ordeal for thousands of Americans. Even at the height of World War Two,
such invasions of personal rights would have been unthinkable.
- Going back to Webster's definition of fascism, USA today
is the world's runaway leader in "militarism." Forty-three percent
of all U.S. tax dollars in 2007 went to feed the war machine, as the Pentagon
believes security depends on operating more than 700 military bases in
130 countries overseas in addition to 1,000 at home. Bush has escalated
its budget so that USA now spends nearly as much on arms as all the rest
of the world combined. Uncle Sam is also the No. 1 private arms peddler
to the world. By contrast, Iran, portrayed by the White House as a menace
to the Middle East, has an annual military budget that is 1/100th of the
- Perhaps it would be a good exercise for Americans to
read how Hitler emphasized nationalism and militarism. As he wrote in "Mein
Kampf": "Instead of everlasting struggle the world preaches cowardly
pacifism, and everlasting peaceThere is only one right in this world and
this right is one's own strength." As for "reconciliation, understanding,
world peace, the League of Nations, and international solidarity---we destroy
these ideas." Hitler called for delivering Germans "from the
hopeless confusion of international convictions" and educating them
"consciously and systematically to fanatical nationalism." Armed
with such views the fascist state thinks nothing of starting an aggressive
war based on lies. In 1939, Hitler claimed he was attacked by Poland, igniting
World War Two. Bush claimed that Iraq had nuclear and biological weapons
to destroy America when, in fact, it was the United States that possessed
those very weapons and it was Iraq that had none.
- Bush nonetheless started a seemingly endless war that
has by some estimates to date killed more than 1 million Iraqis, wounded
perhaps 2 million more, forced a like number from their homes, ravished
their country and its economy, touched off a civil war, forced 1 million
Iraqis into foreign exile, and killed and wounded 35,000 American troops.
Former UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan called the Iraq war "illegal"
but Bush, like Hitler, cares nothing for international treaties, even if
those the U.S. has signed under our Constitution are the supreme law of
the land. He has made a mockery to the anti-nuclear treaty, causing former
President Carter to charge his own country has become the leader in nuclear
proliferation. What's more, Bush has spent about $50 billion on germ warfare
"defense" with no known significant foreign threat to USA.
- Americans may think that Webster's view that fascism
is often accompanied by racism doesn't fit them. Indeed, USA's strides
to eliminate racism based on color in the last century are a societal marvel.
But racism against African Americans has largely been replaced with the
foolhardy notion that Americans are better than everybody else in the world
and have the authority to set right any ruler they believe is in error.
This view of their own superiority echoes Hitler's "master race"
view of the German people or the Tokyo militarists' view in 1940 that a
superior Japan was destined to rule "the eight corners of the world."
In this sense, America is very "racist" indeed and the "aggressive
nationalism" highlighted by Webster's is apparent in the rhetoric
of its public officials and the conduct of its foreign affairs.
- Yet another characteristic of the fascist state is its
leader's use of arbitrary power. Note how Bush evades the will of Congress
by tacking on "signing statements" to laws he doesn't like, thus
refusing to enforce them, putting himself above the will of Congress and
the American people. Note how his aides refuse to respond to Congressional
subpoenas to testify. Yet another example is how the Justice Department's
own internal investigators found Bush's appointees filled nonpolitical
posts with party hacks and then lied about what they had done. "Civil
Service Laws Were Breached in Filling Nonpolitical Jobs" said a New
York Times reported July 29th. It should be remembered Hitler followed
a like policy when he purged Jews from their government posts. When tyrants
rule, merit is ever subservient to loyalty.
- Of course, Bush has not flung thousands of Americans
into prison to torture and murder them as Hitler, Mussolini, and Stalin
did, but he has the power to do so, making the latter half of 2008 a time
of danger for Americans. Wolf writes, "At a point in both Mussolini's
and Hitler's takeovers, citizens witnessed a stunning series of quickly
escalating pronunciamentos or faits accomplis. After each leader made his
bids for power beyond what the Italian parliament and the German Reichstag
allowed him, each abruptly started to claim all kinds of new rights that
were extra-parliamentary; the right unilaterally to go to war, to annex
territory, to veto existing laws, or to overrule the judiciary," etc.
- To repeat the question, "Is America fascist?"
the answer is that the machinery is in place for a totalitarian takeover
at the direction of a tyrant. While it is true that the U.S. is not a one-party
state (some will dispute this owing to the many similarities of the two
major parties) like fascist Italy and Germany, and it does have free elections,
for the first time in its history in 2000 and 2004 an ominous cloud of
doubt has hung over the authenticity of the popular vote and a vast segment
of the voting public today does not trust the election machinery to record
their vote as they intend. There are no mass arrests and executions in
the thousands and millions that typified the regimes of Hitler and Stalin
(Stalin had 681,000 people executed in 1937-8 "Great Terror"
alone); free speech still exists (under Stalin, a person could be imprisoned
for making a Stalin joke); and the government has not put its leaden hand
on business as Putin has done although crony capitalism in the selection
of defense contractors is rampant. These vital distinctions set America
apart from the totalitarian society. Yet, with each passing day in its
"War on Terror" the Bush regime tightens its hold on the machinery
to establish totalitarian rule here.
- Americans need to keep in mind that worse than anything
President Bush has inflicted upon its own citizenry is what its wars of
aggression have inflicted on innocent humanity abroad. A million dead Iraqis
can't give a damn by what terminology you describe the United States. If
the American people allow their government to make criminal wars to deprive
innocent foreigners of their lives and liberties they do not deserve to
enjoy either at home.
- Sherwood Ross is a Miami-based writer who has worked
as a reporter for the Chicago Daily News, a columnist for wire services,
a news director for a large civil rights organization, and as a publicist
for colleges, labor unions and entrepreneurial start-ups. Reach him at
<mailto:firstname.lastname@example.org>email@example.com Phone: 305-205-8281.
The writer is indebted to Naomi Wolf for her book, "The End of
America." Ms. Wolf is cofounder of The Woodhull Institute for Ethical
Leadership, New York, an organization that teaches young women how to assume