September 26, 2003

Totalitarianism, Liberation, and Resistance

Patrick Lasswell has some eloquent words on the nature of totalitarianism.

There is no link between totalitarian government and efficiency, security, honesty, purity, simplicity, or holiness. There is no trade; you do not get benefit in exchange for fascism, socialism, holy rule, or anarchy. What you trade your freedom for is chains and promises; only the chains ever arrive.

Many survivors complain about the lack of stability once their chains are no longer there to support them. Some slaves never let themselves be freed. They insist that the promises were better than the reality they face. They will frequently try to kill the liberators, especially if they were privileged. It is much better, some feel, to be chained to the top of a mountain than walk freely as an equal.

And there you have the so-called Iraqi "resistance."

This dovetails nicely with what Christopher Hitchens wrote in his last essay for The Nation.

I suppose I can just about bear to watch the "inspections" pantomime a second time. But what I cannot bear is the sight of French and Russian diplomats posing and smirking with Naji Sabry, Iraq's foreign minister, or with Tariq Aziz. I used to know Naji and I know that two of his brothers, Mohammed and Shukri, were imprisoned and tortured by Saddam Hussein--in Mohammed's case, tortured to death. The son of Deputy Prime Minister Tariq Aziz was sentenced to twenty-two years of imprisonment last year; he has since been released and rearrested and released again, partly no doubt to show who is in charge. Another former friend of mine, Mazen Zahawi, was Saddam Hussein's interpreter until shortly after the Gulf War, when he was foully murdered and then denounced as a homosexual. I have known many regimes where stories of murder and disappearance are the common talk among the opposition; the Iraqi despotism is salient in that such horrors are also routine among its functionaries. Saddam Hussein likes to use as envoys the men he has morally destroyed; men who are sick with fear and humiliation, and whose families are hostages.

Posted by Michael J. Totten at September 26, 2003 11:51 PM
Comments

This is interesting to me; as someone who considers the Bush Administration to be a protofascist organization (i.e. one which would be comfortable damaging or ending democratic norms in the United States in order to maintain power), I am struck by how odd it is to see a liberal voice defend its actions in Iraq, as though it will treat the Iraqis any differently from how it seeks to treat us.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 08:49 AM

Yes, imagine if living in Baghdad ends up being similar to living in, say, Cleveland. The horror!

I've seen the posts at Democratic Underground and elsewhere comparing life in the US to Nazi Germany 1933, and I think all these comparisons do is diminish the depravity of the true totalitarian states. It's an offense to anyone who's lived in a totalitarian state (about 40% of the world) to say to them that their struggle was no different to that of US citizens in 2003.

Posted by: Peter G. at September 27, 2003 09:54 AM

BTW, that post was spun off of this post on my site and the converstation pat and I had in my comment section. So if you want more you can drop by. Cheers, Sean.

Posted by: sblafren at September 27, 2003 10:05 AM

Love the "proto" bit: Bush isn't Hitler, he's just the "proto-Hitler". Of course, I don't have to prove that in the real world, only in the ethereal proto-World based on the undisprovable proto-assumptions of my proto-analysis of where the proto-facts will inevitably lead us. Anyone for a meta-analysis of Bush as meta-Hitler?

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at September 27, 2003 10:49 AM

I see it as more, "Italy, 1930." There's still time to change things, but we have some idea of what's coming.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 12:44 PM

Kimmitt,

Perhaps you should consult Michael's prior post about the Left and Right talking past each other. If you truly believe Bush is a proto-Hitler, then I respectfully suggest that you know very little about Hitler.

Posted by: Ben at September 27, 2003 12:45 PM

Kimmitt,

When do you expect the American genocide to start up? Before or after the 2004 election?

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 27, 2003 01:03 PM

Kimmit,
I had the privlege to grow up behind the iron curtain and consequently I was exposed to a totalitarian system from a to z.
I can back my experience with experience of hundreds of people I know personally with similar backround. And my only conclusion about your comments, on this and other threads, is that you are either totally ignorant or a complete idiot or a liar with an agenda.

Posted by: marek at September 27, 2003 01:21 PM

Yeah, because it was Hitler that rose to power in Italy, so that must be who I'm talking about.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 27, 2003 03:18 PM

Kimmitt,

Sorry. Now I get it: Bush as Protolini. Now I'm convinced.

Posted by: Gabriel Gonzalez at September 27, 2003 03:36 PM

Kimmitt,

This is interesting to me; as someone who considers the Bush Administration to be a protofascist organization

What are you, some kind of proto-neo-krypto-pseudo-quasi-reasonable-facsimile-next-best-thing to-being-there-troll?

There is nothing "proto" about your dopiness.

Posted by: HA at September 27, 2003 04:39 PM

marek:
Shared your experience. Second your comment.

Posted by: Katherine at September 27, 2003 05:34 PM

Machiavelli got a bad rap. It is critical to remember that he described the conditions that brought about the rapid fall of the Baathist Party of Iraq hundreds of years ago. They built their state with a hard shell and most effort went to the shell. Once the shell was broken the process that prepared the shell softened the inside. Saddam tried to build an internal resistance structure without losing power, a set of conflicting goals that was definitionally doomed to failure.

I suppose that if you spent a considerable amount of effort ignoring the Second Amendment, it would be easy to confuse George W. Bush with Hitler, or for that matter with the Easter Bunny, Rubik's Cube, or the Spanish Inquisition. (Nobody Expects the Spanish Inquisition!) Checks and balances are built into the fabric of the culture of the United States of America as well as the Constitution.

One of the reasons self-important jerks love to ignore the existance of cultures in the United States is because by ignoring them, they can dismiss their otherwise obvious health and importance. We may not be producing Mozart, but neither is Austria lately. Our cultures have produced Stevie Ray Vaughn and the most meaningful freedom anywhere. Oh, and we share. I could be wrong, Bush could be a proto-Easter Bunny.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 27, 2003 08:01 PM

It's an offense to anyone who's lived in a totalitarian state (about 40% of the world) to say to them that their struggle was no different to that of US citizens in 2003.

Oh, but it's exciting for US citizens in 2003 to believe that they, too, are involved in a life-or-death struggle against fascism. If they have to distort reality just a bit to get that excitement - if they have to, for example, believe in the death camps that Ashcroft is erecting in Colorado for "dissidents", or that Karl Rove is plotting to cancel the next presidential election - well, that's just the price you have to pay to make sure your ideology, your thoughts, and your commitments are properly serving your emotional needs.

Grumble. I sympathize, really. It is dull sometimes being an American. But aren't there enough devils on the planet to battle without making more up, just so you can call yourself a "dissident" risk-free and without leaving the comfort of your keyboard?

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at September 28, 2003 01:27 AM

MJT, Kimmit, GG:

By this reasoning, Totten is the proto-Bush! Kimmit is the proto-Arafat! Gabe is the proto-Limbaugh! I'm the proto-Yoda!

Posted by: slimedog at September 28, 2003 09:34 AM

Posted by Peter G. at September 27, 2003 09:54 AM

> I think all these comparisons do is diminish
> the depravity of the true totalitarian states.
> It's an offense to anyone who's lived in a
> totalitarian state (about 40% of the world) to
> say to them that their struggle was no
> different to that of US citizens in 2003.

Here here... and as someone who is an American because his family had to flee Europe because of real (rather than imagined) totalitarianism, thank you...

Posted by: Thomas at September 28, 2003 09:53 AM

The reason you had an America to flee to is that Americans like me cared (probably too much and probably at the drop of a hat) to keep it free.

I have no patience or toleration for leaders who seek to erode American political freedoms or damage American political institutions. None.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 11:49 AM

Oh, Kimmitt. America isn't free because of ideological extremists like you. America is free because the vast middle of American society agrees on the fundamentals of freedom. It's societal, not political. But you should feel free to think that it's mostly because of people like you (always on the right side).

Posted by: Brian O'Connell at September 28, 2003 12:13 PM

Posted by Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 11:49 AM

> The reason you had an America to flee to is
> that Americans like me cared (probably too much
> and probably at the drop of a hat) to keep it
> free.

Doubtful. I've read your posts and I think it would not be unfair to say that you are the type of American who does not see the value in America. You look to other countries, that do not have classical liberal values, as guides.

I know this is a special country and it has a good influence on the world because I’m familiar with the rest of the world. Better than even the other democracies (such as in Europe) who are anti-liberal and blinded by envy...

I realize that moderate conservatives and moderate liberals (like Michael) are the people that understand the value in America. I believe it is safe to say they help keep it free more so than paranoids who believe their political opponents are ‘proto-fascists’ (a secular crypto way of saying ‘evil’)... Actually, whipping yourself into such delusions makes you much more likely to be a dangerous influence because in your flawed world view the other side is so bad, it would excuse bad (anti-democratic) behavior on your part/side because you'd be protecting America (in your mind)...

Posted by: Thomas at September 28, 2003 12:59 PM

Kimmitt - the freedom fighter,

Perhaps you should take a short break from your crusade and make sure you know who and what the enemies are. I'm not convinced that you know yet how to distinguish between a terrorist and a freedom fighter, and between a democracy/republic and a nascent fascist or a totalitarian regime.

You can start with some tolerance - perhaps a toleration will result.

Posted by: marek at September 28, 2003 01:05 PM

No tolerance for lies that pull us into wars. No tolerance for burning US intelligence assets as a revenge game. No tolerance for warrantless, secret searches without probable cause or oversight. No tolerance for men held without charges or access to counsel.

No tolerance for fascism. None.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 02:37 PM

Kimmet - You are a tautologist's wet-dream. As such I have exactly this much time for you. And no more.

Posted by: Stephen Meyer at September 28, 2003 03:06 PM

Kimmitt: No tolerance for fascism. None.

You wish we left that fascist bastard in the Middle East alone. You have no credibility on this subject.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 28, 2003 03:11 PM

Enough time for an ad hominem attack, but not enough time to address the points raised -- in short, you have the same amount of time a conservative generally has when confronted with a viewpoint different from his own? So?

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 03:11 PM

Actually Kimmit, I've lunched with Michael on any number of occasions and my experience is that he will give me time to articulate a viewpoint different from his own as long as that viewpoint is defensible.

There is an important discussion point in your morass of intolerance: what obligation do free people have to criminals trying to undermine their freedom? What due process is owed to those who circumvent our legal processes with hostile intent?

I have a great deal of empathy for those who seek to enter the United States with the intention of participation in the Republic, the vast majority of illegal immigrants. I have rather less sympathy for those who enter with the intention of destroying the Republic. This is a very grey area not specificly covered by the constitution or by meaningful legislation. This needs to be addressed.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 28, 2003 03:55 PM

what obligation do free people have to criminals trying to undermine their freedom? What due process is owed to those who circumvent our legal processes with hostile intent?

In other words, no person suspected of terrorist intentions or ties has any civil or human rights. This cannot stand; we have the same obligation as always -- to prove that those accused of a crime are guilty of it, rather than merely assert it, then hand the government unlimited powers without oversight.

You wish we left that fascist bastard in the Middle East alone. You have no credibility on this subject.

I want to make this absolutely clear -- you believe that it is appropriate to lie to the American public, burn spooks, and replace the idea of civil debate with endless accusations of amity with murderers, so long as the process is somehow related to fighting a war against a foreign dictator?

America matters more to me than Iraq.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 04:30 PM

America matters more to me than Iraq.

I am a citizen of the world as much as a citizen of the United States. It is nevertheless true that I am more concerned with my own countrymen than with foreigners, but not by much, and I actually try to resist this tendency in myself.

Go ahead and say I'm a starry-eyed liberal utopian idealist if you will. Or, if you're so inclined, you can call me a Bush Tool. I'd rather that than put my body between a fascist dictator and the liberators.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 28, 2003 05:22 PM

As a Canadian who believes to live beside the US is the gift of a benevolent deity, I am left speechless by Americans like Kimmitt who clearly despise their country but have convinced themselves they are its' ultimate patriots. It's the oldest totalitarian trick in the book.

Micheal, don't resist that tendency too hard. No one else in the world is returning you the favour.

Posted by: Peter Burnet at September 28, 2003 05:40 PM

Again, anyone who does not agree with your policy toward Iraq hates America. Do you hacks ever come up with a new argument? Does it even occur to you how you poison the national discourse when you speak like this?

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 06:51 PM

Kimmit:

"This is interesting to me; as someone who considers the Bush Administration to be a protofascist organization
...
Does it even occur to you how you poison the national discourse when you speak like this?"

Obviously not, Pot meet kettle.

Posted by: lancer at September 28, 2003 07:09 PM

That would make sense if I didn't then support my allegation. What the pro-war folks do is accuse anyone who does not support their foreign policy of first hating America, then being a supporter of the Saddam regime.

If one could find in my resume or writings an ongoing theme of desire for America to be harmed or for Saddam's welfare, then one could support said contention. But I lay out, consistently, why believe that the President and his adminstration display consistent fascist tendencies -- and the only response I get from this board is ad hominem attacks regarding how if I did not support the President's war, I have no right to criticize his domestic agenda.

Because, at the end of the day, folks who support this war really seem to believe that anyone who disagrees with them either hates America or supports the Ba'athist regime. The idea that one could simply have different opinions on how to handle the ongoing and intractible problems which foreign policy routinely presents is not countenenced. Therefore, there is no issue (to them) of poisoning the debate, since it is either unpatriotic or inhuman to discuss the issue in the first place.

I don't buy that line of reasoning.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 07:45 PM

Kimmit:

I'm not sure which posts are the most effective retorts to your comments - the ones that try to take you seriously or the ones that mock you. I have no doubt in the sincerity of your beliefs, but when they are refuted so effectively or parodied so relentlessly you might at the very least begin to reconsider your absolute moral superiority. Even allowing for the skewed audience of a weblog, do you really think you are the sole voice of reason here? Is everyone else really a supporter of or apologist for fascism?

Ultimately, I think Thomas made the best call. You and the people that think like you are more dangerous than the current administration. Because you demonize them so much, you are more likely to favor an "ends justifies the means" approach and excuse behavior that you would ordinarily never consider. Howard Dean will never get my vote as long as people like you are associated with his campaign.

Tim

Posted by: Tim at September 28, 2003 08:03 PM

Posted by Kimmitt at September 28, 2003 07:45 PM

Kimmitt, I'm not talking just about the war in Iraq. I'm talking about a wide range of your comments on many subjects. In a sense, for you to focus on the Iraq war angle is something of a distortion / straw man.

Also, your points have hardly gone unchallenged. Your ideological blinders are thick enough to allow you to believe your points were not refuted, but that is your opinion... but neither mine or that of many others.

Thomas

Posted by: Thomas at September 28, 2003 09:09 PM

"It's an offense to anyone who's lived in a totalitarian state (about 40% of the world) to say to them that their struggle was no different to that of US citizens in 2003."

Someone at Natl Review wrote a great essay calling this equivalence as bad as Holocaust denial, because to make it you have to deny the brutal realities of the actual Nazi regime.

Posted by: Yehudit at September 28, 2003 09:25 PM

Yehudit,

That someone was Jonah Goldberg. Indeed, calling Bush a Nazi is Holocaust denial.

Posted by: Michael J. Totten at September 28, 2003 10:29 PM

Kimmit,

"In other words, no person suspected of terrorist intentions or ties has any civil or human rights. "

No, in other words that question mark was the beginning of a dialogue, not an irrevocable statement of principle. In other words when I stated, "This needs to be addressed.", I was not in fact stating, "This is the only form of address that can ever be accepted." It must cause you physical pain to consider the possibility that others would engage in dialogue not steeped in your particular choice of dogma.

The tone many of us see in your posts is an intolerant and intractable adherance to an idealistic viewpoint that is myopic in it's ideals. The ability to freely discuss the merits of an idea without badgering or abuse is what most of us use our First Amendment rights for. To be able to discuss and consider ideas in a civil fashion is essential to achieving better understanding.

While you are running around, screaming and flapping your arms, it is difficult for us to come up with a better way of handling the problem that is upsetting to us all. You see, problems are not solved by going to a rally and getting your opinions drowned out by a bunch of drums and chants. Problems are solved by considering options, reviewing their applicability, and explaining to effective people the steps that must be taken.

By the way, if you do not want to be patronized, stop acting like a petulant child.

Posted by: Patrick Lasswell at September 28, 2003 10:53 PM

Is everyone else really a supporter of or apologist for fascism?

It seems like many of the other folks here are disturbingly comfortable with the erosion of American liberties.

Yes, the folks who frequent a pro-war blog call into question my patriotism, human decency, or any number of other qualities when I disagree with them, and they do so consistently. That appears to be how the pro-Iraq-war crowd works; some of them claim that they're willing to discuss the issue and that the national discourse needs to include dissent, but when pressed, they consistently adhere to the orthodoxy that anyone who did not believe the Iraq war to be appropriate policy either wishes for America to fail or is somehow an apologist for Saddam's regime.

You say you won't support Howard Dean because you don't like his fellow travelers. I'm sorry that you feel that way, but if we are judging people based on who shares their outlooks, I think you need to take a look around at who your friends are. We all have our tastes, I suppose.

Posted by: Kimmitt at September 29, 2003 01:41 AM

Kimmitt, when you state that people who equate dissent with treason are guilty of a logical fallacy, you are absolutely correct. Unfortunately for you, the VAST majority of your posts are riddled with fallacies as well. Red herrings, straw men, and lately, hasty generalizations are the hallmarks of your contributions here. When confronted with your failures, you then resort to claiming that it's an ad hominem -- but an ad hominem is to attack you personally, not your arguments. Your argmentation is usually exceptionally weak. It deserves all the attacks it gets.

Now, that aside, I'd honestly be interested in seeing if you can successfully draw the analogy between comtemporary US politics and 1930 Italy. It's not enough to merely claim that the analogy holds; the burden is on you to demonstrate that analogy.

Posted by: Phil Smith at September 29, 2003 08:22 AM

I wouldn't vote for Howard Dean because he is pro-Saddam.

Posted by: d-rod at September 29, 2003 08:26 AM

Kimmit:

Since I have never mentioned those two sites, how on earth could you describe them as friends of mine? In fact, I've never visited the first site, and rarely view the second.

I guess that's really beside the point. Making unsubstantiated charges seems to be your trademark. The irony is apparently lost on you. You make the "guilt by association" charge in the same post that you complain about unfair treatment. Do you not see the hypocrisy in this?

Yes, we all have our tastes. The fact that yours are so easily parodied doesn't seem to make you stop and think for one second. Keep adhering to that orthodoxy of yours - it makes for great comedy!

Tim

Posted by: Tim at September 29, 2003 08:33 PM

I read this and thought it interesting so I cut and pasted it...
-----

A post by The Elder at Fraters Libertas demonstrates beautifully how dishonest and downright stupid the loony left’s Bush=Hitler nonsense really is:

A true appreciation of the scale and scope of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazis should give pause to those who label Bush 'Hitler' and call Ashcroft a Nazi. I believe that it is insulting to the memories of the victims of the Nazi regime to use those labels with so little thought. If Bush were like Hitler, post 9/11 events would have unfolded quite a bit differently. Muslims would have been beaten in the streets of the US, some to death. Mosques would have burned. Muslim shops would have been looted. Legislation would have been passed stripping Muslims of all rights and within months camps would have been built. Muslim men, women, and children would begin to disappear into them never to be seen again. The Democratic party would have been outlawed along with all other political parties and most of its leaders killed or sent to camps. The media would be taken over and run by the state and any attempts at dissent ruthlessly crushed. Michael Moore would not be writing books. He would have been strangled with piano wire and left hanging from a meat hook (a heavy duty, reinforced meat hook to be sure). A vicious war would have been waged against all Muslim nations. Kabul, Tehran, Baghdad, Damascus, and Riyadh (for starters) would have been turned to sand. All oil fields in the Middle East would have been occupied. Citizens in Iraq, Iran, Syria, Saudi Arabia, and Afghanistan would be bombed, brutalized, driven from their homes, and eventually killed to make room for the repopulation of those regions by Texans (Bush's volk). I could go on and on with this but you get my point.

Posted by: Thomas at September 30, 2003 02:05 PM

Kimmitt said, "It seems like many of the other folks here are disturbingly comfortable with the erosion of American liberties." I, for one, would be interested in hearing the specifics. Which of your liberties have been eroded by the Bush administration? (I suspect that the answer is "none" for you and almost everybody else). In the event some liberties have been eroded, what alternatives existed that were not pursued?

Balancing liberty vs. security is complicated, to say the least. Actions were taken by the Bush Administration and Congress to make investigation of terrorist acts less cumbersome, but the actions of the government are still subject to judicial review. It seems to me that in light of present realities, this is a rather moderate measure to enhance security. Very likely the steps taken will pass constitutional muster. After all, "the Constitution is not a suicide pact."

Posted by: Ben at September 30, 2003 07:18 PM

the orthodoxy that anyone who did not believe the Iraq war to be appropriate policy either wishes for America to fail

Kimmit, you didn't say "I do not believe the Iraq war to be appropriate policy", did you? You said "the Bush administration [is] a proto-Fascist organization". Do you really think these statements are equivalent? Do you believe that people here would disagree with the first proposition in the same tone that they have expressed disagreement with the second, or mocked someone who made the first statement in the way that you have been mocked for making the second?

(For all I know, some of the commenters do agree with the first statement, while still finding the second eminently worthy of mockery and scorn. Such a position would not be logically inconsistent.)

Posted by: jeanne a e devoto at September 30, 2003 08:10 PM

I said it once and I will say it again, Kimmett is an Idealogue blinded by some kind of Hatred. Remember Kimmett, "Hate is not a Family Value", would not be surprised if you actually had that bumper sticker. But your blind hatred has lead you down a very sorry path, a very sad existence. Once that will become almost suicidal should Bush win in 2004.

As a bit of advice, you may need to seek some help.

Notice how Kimmett never ever answers people who have lived in Fascist countries. It is like the Left who never answer me, when I talk about coming from nothing to something, because of how great America is.

They stick their head in the sand.

Seek help for your anger Kimmett.

Posted by: James Stephenson at October 1, 2003 08:01 AM



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