Republicans Target 'Islamic Fascism'
Wednesday, August 30, 2006; 1:44 PM
WASHINGTON -- President Bush in recent days has recast the global war on terror into a "war against Islamic fascism." Fascism, in fact, seems to be the new buzz word for Republicans in an election season dominated by an unpopular war in Iraq.
Bush used the term earlier this month in talking about the arrest of suspected terrorists in Britain, and spoke of "Islamic fascists" in a later speech in Green Bay, Wis. Spokesman Tony Snow has used variations on the phrase at White House press briefings.
Sen. Rick Santorum, R-Pa., in a tough re-election fight, drew parallels on Monday between World War II and the current war against "Islamic fascism," saying they both require fighting a common foe in multiple countries. It's a phrase Santorum has been using for months.
And Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld on Tuesday took it a step further in a speech to an American Legion convention in Salt Lake City, accusing critics of the administration's Iraq and anti-terrorism policies of trying to appease "a new type of fascism."
White House aides and outside Republican strategists said the new description is an attempt to more clearly identify the ideology that motivates many organized terrorist groups, representing a shift in emphasis from the general to the specific.
The White House on Wednesday announced Bush would elaborate on this theme in a series of speeches beginning Thursday at the American Legion convention in Salt Lake City and running through his address to the U.N. General Assembly on Sept. 19.
"The key is that all of this violence and all of the threats are part of one single ideological struggle, a struggle between the forces of freedom and moderation, and the forces of tyranny and extremism," White House spokeswoman Dana Perino told reporters traveling with Bush aboard Air Force One.
Depicting the struggle as one against Islamic fascists is "an appropriate definition of the war that we're in," said GOP pollster Ed Goeas. "I think it's effective in that it definitively defines the enemy in a way that we can't because they're not in uniforms."
But Muslim groups have cried foul. Bush's use of the phrase "contributes to a rising level of hostility to Islam and the American-Muslim community," complained Parvez Ahmed, chairman of the Council on American-Islamic Relations.
Conservative commentators have long talked about "Islamo-fascism," and Bush's phrase was a slightly toned-down variation on that theme.
Dennis Ross, a Mideast adviser to both the first Bush and Clinton administrations and now the director of the Washington Institute for Near East Policy, said he would have chosen different words.
"The `war on terror' has always been a misnomer, because terrorism is an instrument, it's not an ideology. So I would always have preferred it to be called the `war with radical Islam,' not with Islam but with `radical Islam,'" Ross said.