What's Left

Fascism: It Has Happened Here

By Stephen Gowans

In 1935, the American writer Sinclair Lewis, best known for his novels, Main Street and Babbitt, wrote It Can't Happen Here, a tale of an American president who becomes a dictator to save his country from welfare cheats, promiscuity, runaway crime, and a liberal press. Enraged by the fascism sweeping Europe, Lewis wrote his novel as a rejoinder to its title. Yes, fascism can happen here, he warned.
Were Lewis alive today, he would re-title his novel: It Has Happened Here.

George W. Bush promulgates a new defense doctrine that would allow the Pentagon to undertake pre-emptive attacks. "If you wait for a threat to fully develop, you've waited too long," he explains. This is like walking down the street and emptying an M-16 into passers-by who aren't wearing business suits.  "Potential muggers," you explain. "If I waited to find out whether they were friend or foe, I would have waited too long."

The new defense doctrine paves the way for unprovoked attacks on so-called "axis of evil" countries -- countries not in the US orbit. None of these countries -- Iraq, Iran and North Korea  (or the extended "axis of evil states": Cuba, Syria and Sudan) are home to any of the presumed 9/11 hijackers or any al-Qaeda operatives under U.S. detention.

Cuba, the US administration says, is a threat because it could develop biological weapons. Any country with a viable pharmaceutical industry could also develop biological weapons, but somehow, only Cuba is singled out.

North Korea is said to be a threat because it might someday acquire a nuclear warhead, and someday, against all logic, and suicidally, it might, perhaps, possibly, place the warhead atop a rudimentary ICBM and maybe aim the whole damn thing at the US. So, before any of those maybes, could be's, and perhaps's become reality, North Korea has to be taken out.

Iraq is said to be acquiring weapons of mass destruction, though how this would be known is unclear. There have been no weapons inspections in the country for years. And the administration offers no evidence. It just sounds like a good line. And it makes an attack seem somehow justifiable.

Israel, America's client in the Middle East, is chock a block of weapons of mass destruction -- including an estimated 200 nuclear missiles -- but somehow, that doesn't worry the United States, history's Olympic Gold Medalist in developing and using weapons of mass destruction.

So why are weak, struggling and economically blockaded countries singled out? For the same reason they're economically blockaded. They're socialist or nationalist and haven't integrated their economies into the US dominated world market. And George W. Bush intends to put an end to that. American primacy in the world will be unchallenged.

The Justice Department declares that "the military has the authority to capture and detain individuals whom it has determined are enemy combatants in connection with hostilities the Nation is engaged, including enemy combatants claiming American citizenship. Such combatants, moreover, have no right of access to counsel to challenge their detention."

To put this plainly: If the president, or his operatives, don't like you, for whatever reason, they can have you thrown in jail indefinitely, without charge, without the right of appeal, without access to council or the civilian courts. Indeed, the Justice Department says the courts "may not second-guess the military's enemy-combatant determination." And then it goes on to warn that "a conflict of military and judicial opinion (would be) highly comforting to the enemies of the United States," whoever they are, but apparently there are a lot of them -- countries and individuals, including individual Americans -- just waiting to be designated as such by the commander-in-chief.

Would it be too much to say this amounts to a police state?

Would it be too much to say the President has become a dictator?

Would it be too much to say that Washington's militarism is frighteningly similar to the Nazi's (expect more ambitious)?

"If such a thing were happening in any other country," editorialized the Washington Post, "Americans would know exactly what to call it."

So would Sinclair Lewis.

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