November 21, 2007

Although I admit to having given my vote last fall to Rick Santorum in his unsuccessful campaign to hold on to his U.S. Senate seat, I have been appalled by his recent harping on the menace of “Islamofascism.” Santorum has lent himself to a largely neoconservative-funded campaign, headed by journalist David Horowitz and Washington lobbyist Frank Gaffney, to make us aware, in Horowitz’s words, that “Islamofascism is the greatest danger America has ever faced.”

So pervasive is this danger that, according to Rick and his friends, they have had to organize on American college campuses a consciousness-raising-event, which started on Monday, called “Islamofascism Awareness Week.”

As a modern European historian, I am shocked by this silliness.

Fascism was a European movement of the interwar years, and one that came in a wide variety of forms. Almost all fascist movements were reactions to the spread of communism and to the threat that it posed to civil peace and existing property relations.

Most fascists took advantage of the weakness of liberal parliamentary institutions in their countries to draw support from a threatened middle class, and they sometimes (although not always) targeted as their enemies national minorities and particularly Jews.

Were it not for the Nazi variant of this once widespread central- and southern-European movement, no one would even recall the fascists, except as an historical footnote.

It was the viciousness and expansiveness of German Nazism, and Hitler’s particularly shocking brutality toward Jews, Poles and others whom he regarded as “subhuman, which has given the fascists a bad rap.

I doubt that Rick, David and New York celebrity Norman Podhoretz, who has just published an overwritten book on the subject, would be calling obnoxious Muslim fundamentalists a world “fascist” danger, were it not for the continued media and public preoccupation with Hitler’s crimes.

In today’s Europe, all self-important progressive forces call themselves “antifascist,” although it cannot be shown that what they oppose has anything to do with interwar European fascism.

If the public and the producers of the History Channel thought about the mass murders committed under communist tyrants as often as they do about Hitler’s killings, we would now be in the midst of “Islamocommunist Awareness Week.”

Needless to say, I would find such an event to be as ridiculous as what is now being scheduled in the name of American “antifascism.”

The problem with this misnaming of one’s enemies is that it creates inaccurate pictures of what is going on right now.

Bin Laden is not a stand-in for Benito Mussolini, or for Hitler. He is an international terrorist, who must be combated for the most part through coordinated police actions and the selective use of military forces.

With all respect to the unguided missile Podhoretz, we are not engaged in “World War Four” (apparently the third one already whizzed by). The present struggle has nothing to do with the war against Hitler, even if Muslim leaders sometimes shift from denouncing the Israelis to ranting against “international Jewry.”

More often than not, historical parallels, and particularly for people with obvious obsessions, are something we should not engage in.

And I don’t care what George Santayana said about “those who forget the past.” I am more impressed by the insistence of the German philosopher Nietzsche that “we should let the dead bury the dead.”

And while on this tear, I would point out that those who are screaming loudest about “Islamofascism,” as is the case some hard-core neoconservatives, are often the same people who wish to welcome illegals into the U.S.

For example, as Bill Kristol informed us last spring on FOX News Sunday, illegals may be serving in the military, which is “fighting for democracy in the Middle East.” (What was not clear about this remark is whether Kristol knew that it is illegal for illegals to serve in our military.)

My own position is exactly the opposite. Let’s cut out the hype about Hitler’s reappearing in Arab head-dress and stop invading countries to halt the spread of “Islamofascism.”

And contrary to the counsels of Linda Chavez, Norman Podhoretz and other members of the war party, we should carefully limit our immigration.

Above all, we should protect our borders against people who resemble the types who came here to carry out the horrendous attack of 9/11.

That attack did not occur because we failed to send armies to crusade for democracy against Islamofascism. And the phony students from the Middle East, who snuck through our borders to blow up the World Trade Center, were not celebrating European fascism when they wrought their violence.

They were post-fascist and post-communist terrorists who got here because the Immigration and Naturalization Service was not doing its job.

I trust Rick or someone on his staff is reading this. My gentle admonition might help him to stop acting like a fool.

This column previously appeared at


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