How does fascism emerge? An analysis of the events leading up to the emergence of fascism in Europe in the 1920s and 1930s point to some important findings. These are –
1. High unemployment (1921 in Italy and 1932 in Germany.)
- Destabilized government in the wake of WW I. Both countries were at the mercy of factional strife, coups, and street fighting.
- Fear of Communism. When the Communists came to power in Russia, they executed Tsar Nicholas II, cruelly bayoneting his daughters. This sent a down every royal spine in Europe (many of whom were related to Nicholas.) The wealthy also feared for their power and riches. Communists were active in both countries, trying to get themselves elected or take the government by force. Both Mussolini and Hitler exploited this fear to secure help from the wealthy and powerful.
- Wounded national pride in the wake of WW I. Although Italy was among the victors of WW I, it was quickly marginalized by the other victors. It received none of the spoils of war and no voice in the armistice. Germany lost the war, much territory, and had to endure the Treaty of Versailles which inflicted total blame and financial reparations.
- Many war veterans from WWI. The streets were full of experienced soldiers, jobless, often still armed. They were ripe to be organized against other political parties. Political disputes often spilled over to gunfire in the streets. These conditions favored the most ruthless political party.
For instance, millions of jobs, esp. in the manufacturing sector have moved away from the USA to countries, at least since the 1990s, where the costs of manufacturing are lower. Most of these jobs never returned to the USA. Many of those former employees are either out of job or are forced to work for low-paying jobs in parts of the USA that are commonly called these days as ‘rust belts.’ The 2008 economic melt-down, brought about by Bush Jr.’s hawkish policy and neo-Crusades - the perennial wars in Afghanistan and Iraq - saw many of their life-time savings evaporate; many lost their homes and businesses. They are bitter, angry and frustrated, and would like to see a change for the better. They have been the major force to elect Donald Trump as the 45th POTUS.
Ever since Barack H. Obama was elected as the 44th president, the USA has witnessed a series of tense events along racial fault lines. The election outcome in November 2008 was undesirable to many White Americans who refused to accept the evolution of their country and government that has increasingly become diverse, slightly more tolerant on sensitive issues. Many of them joined white supremacist militia groups, preparing to bring about a race war against non-Whites and a federal government that they considered illegitimate and run by a ‘disguised Muslim’ (and not a ‘faithful’ follower of Jesus Christ) who – in their faulty understanding - was not even born within the USA.
After the loss of the Democrats to the Republicans in both the Houses in the 2010 mid-term election the Obama administration was weak to tackle a plethora of internal problems facing the divided country. The right-wing extremists and conservatives (including evangelicals) saw the Obamacare as expensive and thus, unhelpful to general public and rallied for its annulment. They also saw several of the executive orders of Obama, e.g., on LBGT, as warning signs for the conservatives to wake up and rally behind the Republican candidates.
The voices of these disgruntled White Americans found a very powerful advocate, or more correctly a provocateur, in ultra-right Fox TV News, owned by the neoconservative Rupert Murdoch. With a non-stop barrage of propaganda, based on ‘fake news’, fed by the conservative media outlets (including radio talk show hosts), the last couple of years of Obama administration saw the Congress as a lame-duck, which would not allow Obama’s choice for the Supreme Court to even get a hearing.
9/11 had already dug a gigantic, deep wound in American pride that had defined American psyche and politics ever since. No time in its history was the USA ever attacked by non-state actors that killed some three thousand citizens. Rather than finding the root causes of the attack, the USA and its western partners attacked first Afghanistan and then Iraq savagely, killing in the process nearly a million unarmed citizens of those countries that had nothing to do with 9/11. Those regimes were soon toppled, the entire infra-structure of those countries destroyed, and puppet regimes installed. The rest is history!
More than a trillion dollars has already been spent in the Bush-initiated and Obama-continued ‘Global War on Terror’ in those countries to keep America ‘safe’ here from terrorists. [With all the expenses piling up for health care needs of injured veterans, the cost of the war may rise to six trillion dollars.] And yet, the wars, started by the chicken-hawk, neocons within George W. Bush’s administration, have not ended with American soldiers still dying there.
In spite of its gaping flaws, America’s war in faraway countries that did not attack the USA was sold to the general public and soldiers as a necessary and justifiable war. As part of the military’s rule of engagement, unarmed civilians – old and young, including toddlers and infants - were mercilessly killed or maimed unprovoked.
As a result of the evil that they committed in the killing fields of Iraq and Afghanistan, many of the soldiers are now suffering from chronic PTSD. The Veterans Administration has failed them. Consequently, many of the returning soldiers are now dependent on drugs to temporarily forget their war crimes. Some of them have also committed homicides. Many of them remain jobless and are very critical of the government for what they consider their abandonment. Many are joining private militias for a ‘higher’ cause and some are even killing non-Christians to that end.
Thanks to western savagery and the sectarian heavy-handed practices of the U.S.-supported Iraqi government, a new nemesis – Daesh (more commonly called ISIS/ISIL), an un-Islamic terrorist outfit – has emerged in the scene, which seems to be more dangerous and determined to not only take over the ownership of Iraq and Syria but also to bring the fight to both sides of the Atlantic Ocean. Their mindless nihilism has killed and injured mostly Muslims; a much smaller number of Europeans and Americans has also been victimized by their brainwashed comrades. Daesh has recruited thousands - Muslims and non-Muslims alike - to join the rank and file to kill and be killed in an imbalanced war with the West. They remain a formidable force unless they are defeated both ideologically and materially.
As a result of continuing wars in vast territories of Asia and Africa, tens of millions of affected people are on the move now. While a vast majority of these refugees have found temporary shelters in nearby Muslim countries, a much smaller fraction of the refugees has also poured into Europe, Canada, Australia and the USA, which are overwhelmingly Christian countries, where the old racism of the past has resurfaced under the new insignia of anti-immigration movement. Many of the racists and bigots within these countries – historically, all former colonizers – are defining the ugly face of neo-fascism in their respective countries.
Not surprisingly, the fear of ISIS and immigration has filled the vacuum left over by communism to see that this new breed of fascism is alive and kicking in many parts of Europe, Australia and the USA.
Like the fascism of the past, while the enemy’s face has changed, the new fascism glorifies war (by suggesting that if ‘we’ don’t defeat and crush ‘them’ ‘they’ will make ‘us’ inferior and force ‘us’ to alter our lifestyle) and promotes authoritarianism. It is populist. It is opposed to the free press and sees its function only as a vehicle to promote and propagate its agenda.
It is no accident that Senator McCain, an old guard of the Republican Party, sees fascist leanings in President Trump’s attacks against the media.
Like his fascist predecessors – Mussolini and Hitler - Trump has been able to exploit the dissatisfaction among the jobless White Americans, the fear of immigrants - esp. the Latinos and Muslim immigrants (from war torn countries), let alone the so-called Islamic radicals and the ISIS, an erosion of conservative values, a divided Congress, the wounded pride of the Americans and the anger of the returning veterans to his advantage. His toxic formula to present himself as a populist leader succeeded so well that in spite of his brazen and offensive utterings about women, many White Americans (including women) voted for him to make him the president.
Many political observers imagined that once elected, and with time, his behavior would modify. But so far he has proven them wrong. He has also surrounded himself in the White House with advisers who are known more for espousing their despicable hatred and intolerance against ‘others’ than anything either noble or good, except probably the inclusion of two generals – one (retired) ‘Mad Dog’ Mattis and the other (a serving general) McMaster. Both the latter individuals are level-headed, honest and visionary leaders. Only time would show whether they would have a sobering effect on Trump to modulate his behavior or become a casualty.
There is no doubt that the USA is going through an unusual time under a new president whose rhetoric has made the world leaders jittery and wary of his intentions.
One of the major global threats is Daesh, which needs to be defeated – the sooner the better.
However, as I have noted in the past, history has repeatedly shown that it’s very difficult to defeat neo-Khawariz organizations like today’s Daesh, and yesterday’s Hashishyyin (Assassins). Even after their political defeat, they continue(d) to wreak havoc. The best measure is to defeat them ideologically. It is there that the Muslim community can be an unmatched asset to mortally defeat it. [Sadly, the current intolerance against Muslims by the fascist-leaning leaders in many parts of the world (esp. Europe and the USA) is not helpful at all.] I am glad to note that this age-old wisdom is understood quite well by smart students of world history like Generals Mattis and McMaster.
Lt. Gen. H. R. McMaster, told the staff of the National Security Council last Thursday, in his first “all hands” staff meeting, that the label “radical Islamic terrorism” was not helpful because terrorists are “un-Islamic.” That is a repudiation of the language regularly used by both the president and General McMaster’s predecessor, Michael T. Flynn, who resigned last week after admitting that he had misled Vice President Mike Pence and other officials about a phone call with a Russian diplomat. It is also a sign that General McMaster, a veteran of the Iraq war known for his sense of history and independent streak, might move the council away from the ideologically charged views of Flynn. If he succeeds, this would be a great victory for all.
There is no doubt that Trump’s unbridled remarks against immigrants are emboldening many white supremacists who are unleashing their hate crimes against ‘others’. This week, two Indians (who had legal permits) were shot in a bar in Kansas by an anti-immigrant bigot - Adam W. Purinton (wearing military medals) who tossed ethnic slurs at them and suggesting they did not belong in the United States before returning to the bar to kill one and wounding the other Indian.
The attack, which the federal and local authorities are investigating as a possible hate crime, reverberated far beyond both states. It raised new alarms about a climate of hostility toward foreigners in the United States, where President Trump has made clamping down on immigration a central plank of his “America first” agenda.
Nearly three weeks ago, a trial began in federal court in Tennessee of a self-professed Christian minister Robert Doggart - who plotted to kill Americans of another faith (Islam) to prove his “commitment to our God.” The trial did not get much publicity simply because the man on trial is not Muslim. If he were Muslim, we would of course have heard of his sinister plot. But as we have seen time and time again, terrorist plots by non-Muslims are met with a collective yawn by most in our media.
Undercover FBI agents allege that Doggart was plotting to travel to upstate New York to kill Muslims there using explosives, an M-4 assault rifle and even a machete to cut the infidels to shreds. The FBI’s investigation also found that Doggart viewed himself as a religious “warrior” who wanted to kill Muslims to show to his commitment to his Christian God. Doggart even boasted that the attack on the Muslims “will be cruel. And we will burn down their buildings [Referring to their mosque and school.] … and if anybody attempts to harm us in any way… we will take them down.”
As noted by Dean Obeidallah, this man “sounds no different from an ISIS terrorist wanting to kill people of other faiths in accordance with their own perverted interpretation of their religious faith.”
In December 2016 white supremacist Glendon Scott Crawford was sentenced to 30 years to life for trying to build a radioactive weapon to kill Muslim Americans. Crawford, a Navy Veteran and a member of the Ku Klux Klan, was an electrical engineer who has carried out extensive research on his radiation dispersal device designed to target a Muslim community.
In September 2016 three men known as “The Crusaders” were arrested for plotting to kill Muslim refugees in Kansas. Per the FBI, the three had been engaged in surveillance of the apartment complex where primarily Somalian Muslim refugees lived. The FBI also noted that the three spoke of dipping their bullets in pig’s blood before shooting the Muslims—which was reminiscent of a Trump’s campaign stump speech when he wrongly claimed that General Pershing had done the same when fighting in the Philippines.
All these are warning signs for the USA, and parallel criminal activities of fascist predecessors of Italy and Germany against the so-called undesirables – the Jews and gypsies.
It’s high time that the media start reporting on the threats by white supremacists and Christian radicals plotting to kill Muslim Americans and other religious minorities with the same intensity as when a Muslim suspect is involved. Otherwise, it won’t be too late when we shall all fall prey to an emerging fascism that the USA has never seen before.