Saturday, March 11, 2006

National Socialism With A Human Face

It is abundantly clear that today’s Republican Party is no longer an advocate of conservative principles. Sadly, Republicans are an unholy trinity of corporatism, religious fanaticism, and National Socialism. This unholy trinity solidified into an iron triangle under President Bush. Apparently, the iron triangle is disintegrating. The Dubai port controversy illustrates that a conservative crack up is in full swing while America is in the nascent throes of nationalism.

Republican corporatists favored DP World, a company owned by the Dubai government taking over some American terminal operations. In fairness, numerous national security experts did not object to this transaction either. However, the Christian Right is filled with hatred for Islam and Bush has stoked the flames of nationalism for five years. Consequently, congressional Republicans rebelled against the Bush Administration and joined the Democrats in thwarting it.

I readily acknowledge that legitimate concerns about a nation with pre-9/11 ties to Al Quaeda owning a company running American terminals were raised. Perhaps, on the merits this transaction needed to be thwarted. Also, it must be acknowledged that the 9/11 commission and many Democrats, including John Kerry in 2004, consistently expressed concerns about our port security.

However, this case wasn’t made on the merits. This was about the American public hearing “United Arab Emirates” repeatedly in news coverage and we all know it. I could care less about millionaires in Dubai losing out. However, I am deeply concerned about my country’s psyche and blowback resulting from five years of Republican nationalism.

George Orwell wrote the following in his prescient classic “1984”:

“Patriotism is love for your fellow countrymen above all others. Nationalism is hatred for all others beyond all else."
If that quote from Orwell gives you pause, consider this dictionary definition of National Socialism:

“n: a form of socialism featuring racism and expansionism [syn: Nazism, Naziism]”
That is the course Republicans have unleashed and anyone who doesn’t see it are deluding themselves. Big brother has expanded exponentially under this “conservative” President in a manner that would make socialists blush using national security as cover. Furthermore, Iraq isn’t about national security or liberating a people from tyranny. It is a war of choice exploiting racism against Arabs after 9/11 and imperialist designs for their oil. We have yet to renounce any claim on permanent bases in Iraq. Nor will we.

The knee jerk reaction among many progressives is to screech about the evil Republican Party, blame the biased corporate media, and vent about feckless Democrats. I’ve done my share of all of that and with justification. This goes far deeper however.

I regret to say that our country has a cascading virus of xenophobia. This is nothing new in our history. We’ve seen it before. But it is somehow more disquieting in a world with raging globalization, Islamic fundamentalism, and proliferating weapons of mass destruction. I don’t want my country to be swept up in the backwash of bile sweeping this planet. Perhaps I am an idealist. I believe my country has a sacred mission to lead by example and appeal to humanity’s better instincts. Instead we appear to be led by the dark impulses of fear, greed, and gratuitous violence.

Our politicians merely reflect it. We see it in the immigration debate under the cover of national security. As for Dubai, hooray the deal was stopped! Does anyone feel safer?

One may see a positive side to all of this. The corporatists inside the Republican Party will engage in a brutal civil war with the Nationalist Socialist wing of their party. Corporatists profit from globalization, find the cheap labor of immigrants desirable, and the labor of foreign workers even more desirable. Although Bush exploited nationalism to keep power in 2004, he is clearly on the side of corporatists. The recent summit with India illustrates what side of the divide Bush is on. So does the Dubai controversy. Hence, some conservatives have become disillusioned with Bush, and are having an “epiphany” as Paul Krugman noted in his New York Times column yesterday.

Bush's comments yesterday were tragically surreal:

"In order to win the war on terror, we've got to strengthen our relationships and friendships with moderate Arab countries in the Middle East."
This coming from the President whose Administration sadistically tortures Arabs abroad and denies them due process of law at home. Bush is confronted with the sentiments he stoked to justify an illegal and immoral war.

But we let it happen. We’re to blame. The silent majority of this country was misled because it wanted to be misled. It hungered for vengeance against an unseen enemy and Bush provided the vehicle. Those of us who questioned and protested were in the minority.

Where we go from here frightens me. Obviously, Bush and the Republican Party are not an effective bulwark against this stain on America’s soul. How can they be when their power is contingent upon fear? Or when so called “moderate” Republicans rely on the appeals of xenophobic nationalism to deliver tax cuts for the rich? Sadly, Democrats seem gleeful at the prospect of getting to Bush’s right in order to obtain power themselves. We’ll see this as the immigration debate unfolds in the next couple years.

We want protection from them. The citizens of India poised to take our jobs. The regime in China that fuels its economy with slave labor, infringes upon our copyright laws, and finances our deficit spending. Those brown people crossing our borders, taking jobs, and costing money. Even the Gulf Coast wants protection from our own citizens because those damn victims of Hurricane Katrina need to be housed and schooled. Nobody wants to pay for them but many want to blame them for crime. You know what those people are like. In a time of economic uncertainty as well as vulnerability in our national security, everybody wants to be protected from them. Arabs, gays, the Jewish Zionists, black people from New Orleans who just might have the temerity to better themselves after a disaster.

While the public desires security against the powerful forces of globalization and easy scapegoats, it doesn’t want it to be unduly ugly. Rather Americans desire National Socialism with a "human face." For five years George Bush with his combination of swagger and façade of regular folks appeal has embodied that face. He no longer can due to his lame duck status and political weakness. But National Socialism with a human face is what the public craves and the political party or candidate that can wrap it in the right package will emerge victorious.

I hope my Democratic Party can stand tall against all this. I suspect some will cynically exploit the prevailing national sentiment while others of principle such as Russ Feingold, will eventually be foiled by the silent majority. Even if the Democrats recapture Congress this November and the White House in ’08, it may just be National Socialism with health care. Or Weimar Republic redux?


Deirdre Helfferich said...

An interesting tangent to your discussion of fear of people of color: the construction of detention centers in case of an "immigration emergency" for the US Immigration & Customs Enforcement Division. And guess who has the contract? Kellog Brown & Root.

Maureen Farrell has an interesting discussion of it on Buzzflash. The gist is that these detention centers may be aimed for US citizens, not illegal immigrants. Immigrants would just be the first to be detained.

jay lassiter said...

If Grandpa Rosenberg were alive to read this he would be ashamed and profoundly disgusted I am guessing?

christian_left said...

Interesting commentary, with lots of good points. I do, however, think that the opposition to the Dubai-UAE ports deal is good mixed with bad. True, it is regrettable that so much of the opposition seems driven by the racist and immoral anti-Arab sentiment that has been fanned by the right wing over the past several years. On the other hand, the deal illustrates many of the flaws of corporate-led globalization. It is, indeed, problematic for our national security that a company controlled by a foreign government be allowed to run U.S. ports. We have to move away from the blind illogic that everything would be better if we let corporations do what they want around the world without government interference. If this whole ports deal fiasco helps open up that debate, then it will have done some good.

vtpoet said...

If Grandpa Rosenberg were alive, he *might* be profoundly disgusted. Then again, he might have been profoundly disgusted by some of the other topics posted here, including rights for homosexuals.

It is hard to say how *any* of the previous generation would have come down on issues of the present day. That said, everyone, to a certain degree, is a product of their family's thoughts and values. This last post might well come closest to what Grandpa Rosenberg might have asserted.

It is always a risky thing to "use" ones ancestors as standard bearers. In doing so, they and their beliefs become fair game. That doesn't excuse Jay's cheap shot, but if one is going to stamp their argument with their grandfather's memory, then cheap shots are fair game.

As to the Dubai port deal, did security really have anything to do with it? I have heard repeatedly that sceurity remained in the hands of the coast card. Was this whole security canard just that?

Intrepid Liberal Journal said...

First I want to thank Deirdre for the attached links in her comments. They make for interesting and informative reading.

Christian Left also makes a valid point re corporatism and its undue influence on our security protocols. I don't disagree with that one bit. As I wrote in my post, one could have objected to the ports deal on the merits. I simply believe that objections in the body politic and out in the country were regulated more by xenophobia then the merits.

My thanks to VT Poet for putting things in perspective. I don't mind that people may disagree with me or even be disgusted by what I have to say. I stand up for what I believe. I saw hypocrissy out there about the Dubai debate going on. The debate seemed to me to be a facade to cover up for xenophobia. I don't like the trend and I like it even less that the Democratic Party contributed to fanning the flames. I expect that behavior from Republicans. I expect more from my party.

I relied on my grandfather's history in my previous post to make a broader point. As VT Poet writes, that is a risky undertaking and it became fair game.

In 1990 I saw two concentration camps in Poland - Auschwitz and Birkenbau. As Poland is the country my grandfather is from, it had a special signifigance to me. Also, my great grandfather who remained behind in Poland, actively worked to save children from the Nazis. Because of his efforts some of these children survived into adulthood. It is something of great pride for my family. When something like that is part of your family history, you are very sensitive to trends of xenophobia and nationalism. I can't say for certain how my grandfather would react to my posting today. Who can? But I know in my heart and gut, that one thing he would condemn is silence.

As for Mr. Lassiter, I will emulate my grandfather and excercise restraint. He's entitled to his opinion but the cheapness of his remarks is a reflection of dishonor. Nothing else needs to be said.

Deirdre Helfferich said...

I'm not sure I understand what is cheap about what Jay Lassiter said--if the Nazification of America isn't shameful and disgusting, what is?

Intrepid Liberal Journal said...

I want to apologize to Jay Lassiter. I misinterpreted his comment and overreacted. It is clear to me that he meant my grandfather would be disgusted by the Nazification of America not what I wrote. I cross posted yesterday and was blasted by many on the Left for basically saying that xenophobia was just as wrong among Democrats as Republicans. That made me oversensitive. VT Poet sort of interpreted it the same way and stood up like a good friend. But I was the one who was wrong in misinterpreting.

vtpoet said...

Glad to hear that we both misintepreted Jay's comments. Just shows how difficult it can be to communicate via the written word.

Anyway, the more I re-read your post, the thinner the National Socialism analogy becomes.

//...the Christian Right is filled with hatred for Islam and Bush has stoked the flames of nationalism for five years. //

This may be true, but there is a *virulent* racial element, if my understanding is correct, to true National Socialism. It's not abundantly clear to me that race plays a specific role in the Christian Right. As you yourself wrote, the Christian Right hates Islam, not Arabs. If all the Arabs converted to Christianity tomorrow, the Christian Right would be shedding tears of righteous joy. I'm not sure it matters so much to them that they are "Arab". This is not to say that there aren't Christians who are also racist, but racism cuts across all classes, beliefs and cultures.

//It is a war of choice exploiting racism against Arabs after 9/11...//

Is it really exploiting racism? There are certainly egregious cases of racism, but I think the comparison to National Socialism fails.
A minority (albeit a powerful and influential one) seems to be controlling America's course right now. The result is, possibly, a new kind of chauvinism that is a strange brew-- part religion (fundamentalism) mixed with a kind of religious nationalism (that has appropriated secular political tenets), part conservativism and a whole lot of insular anti-intellecutalism.

I have not idea what to call this new breed of government. Let's coin a new -ocracy. Any ideas?

Below is an interesting passage from Wikipedia related to Nazism. The author is defending his assertion that Nazism is a fundamentally racist system of government.

"These activities are kept under wraps for the purpose of avoiding mass outrage. As an example, the United States Army, and even Alberto Gonzales himself, approved 100% of torture at places like Camp X-Ray and Abu Ghraib. These tortures included raping children in front of parents to get answers, electrocution, and sodomising an inmate with a chemical light covered in battery acid. Read the Abu Ghraib report for yourself. This is typical horrific Nazi-like behaviour, and yet most Americans know little, if anything, of it. All tyrannical governments behave in this way. They feed the population, and most of their own underlings, lies, so that they will carry out operations for a government they would otherwise totally object to supporting."

Intrepid Liberal Journal said...

Perhaps the phrase I'm looking for that best captures it all is: "Corporate Nationalism."

vtpoet said...

A Particracy.

This comes closest, in my opinion, to describing Bush's America and the kind of Government Bush, consciously or not, would like to see in the country. Tom Delay is a prime example of Particratic behavior (redistricting in Texas).

The Christian right, and probably many inside the White House and Christian Right Wing Think Tanks envision a Nationalist & Theocratic Particracy.

The less Theocratic of Republicans probably would like to see more of a Nationalist & Corporatist Particracy.


I don't think there is anything remotely Socialist about George Bush. There was nothing particularly "Socialist" about the Nazis either. That was a name they gave themselves to put people of the scent, as it were.

The Liberal Democratic Party of Russia, as one Wikipedia article put it, was neither Liberal nor Democratic.

Michigan-Matt said...

Wow, "nazification" of America? Where the Hell are you all living these days? Is your Left-of-Center paranoia so rampant and interbred you've lost any grip you once had on reality? Y

Really you all need to get out more... and drop the Democrat moonbeam laced kool aid. find some friends outside your insular but comfortable political circle and grow, develop some political insights based on reality.


Deirdre Helfferich said...

As I've said elsewhere, we certainly aren't there yet. And as the discussion above indicates, the Nazis are an imperfect metaphor for what is happening in the United States. But even people like (genuinely conservative) Justice Sandra Day O'Connor are beginning to get worried about things that lead up to fascism: in her case, the increase in death threats against the judiciary and the inflammatory remarks made by people in Congress. As she said, "It takes a lot of degeneration before a country falls into dictatorship, but we should avoid these ends by avoiding these beginnings."

And the beginnings are showing themselves all around: the use of religion as a political tool to manipulate the public, fearmongering & jingoism, whittling away civil liberties (USA PATRIOT Act), stage-managed "public" speeches paid for by the taxpayers but only open to supporters of the president, brazen admission by the president of lawbreaking and a legislative branch willing to abdicate its responsibilty to keep executive power in check, and on and on.

No, we are not fascist or national socialist yet, but the trouble is, we are on that road—unless we do something about it.

Anonymous said...