Friday, January 11, 2008

Close Guantánamo Day + Fascism's Features

Guantanamo Bay PrisonThe ACLU has designated today Close Guantánamo Day. It's the 6-year anniversary of the arrival of the first "War on Terror" prisoners there.

Although some of the Republican presidential candidates think it should be expanded, or that it's better than the horrible prisons in the US, I don't think it'd be too hard to make a case that it's one of the blights--abominations--on humanity, and one of many such facilities run by the US that ought to be shut down immediately.


You can access the ACLU's site here. People are urged to wear orange in solidarity with the prisoners. You can choose to do so any day, though, and most importantly, let the presidential candidates and your Congresspeople know you want the US to get its act together, repeal the Military Commissions Act, restore Habeas Corpus, and shut this place down.

Digby's Hullabaloo pointed me to the talking dog, which has been interviewing lawyers and others defending some of the people imprisoned there. They're worth checking out.


Also, I want to call attention to: Dorothea Dieckmann's excellent novel, Guantanamo, published in translation (by Tim Mohr) last year by Soft Skull Press. It is receiving considerable acclaim. The New Yorker's positive blurb is here.


Speaking of Guantánamo and what this country has become, a while ago on this blog I posted Dr. Lawrence Britt's "14 Defining Characteristics of Fascism," which originally appeared in the journal Free Inquiry and was later posted on other sites and blogs. When I'd posted it elsewhere, questions arose less about its validity (what really constitutes "fascism" and whether as a political system it is coherent across different governments and historical periods) than about its author, so I wrote the journal directly, and the editor (at that time) confirmed that Britt (or someone under the pseudonym) had written the article. As a basic checklist for various understandings of what a "fascist" government might look like, I think it works, and today, when people across the web and world are calling attention to national disgrace known as Guantánamo (the prisoner detention facility there, that is), I thought I'd repost the list simply because since it first appeared, our government and society have increasingly approximated Britt's bareboned list (though, let me add, some were present even before the stolen election of 2000 or the 9/11 tragedy).

1. Powerful and Continuing Nationalism (cf. government, media and public rhetoric since 2001 in the USA)
2. Disdain for the Recognition of Human Rights (Legalized torture, Guantánamo, Abu Ghraib, extraordinary renditions, Hurricane Katrina aftermath, etc.)
3. Identification of Enemies/Scapegoats as a Unifying Cause - (Anti-Arab, anti-Muslim, anti-immigrant discourses, racism, anti-liberal and anti-progressive, anti-union rhetoric, etc.)
4. Supremacy of the Military (rising military expenditures, borrowing to pay for illegal wars, "Commander in Chief" as a general title fort he president, St. General Petraeus, etc.)
5. Rampant Sexism (SCOTUS ruling on "partial-birth" abortions, anti-abortion and anti-female bodily autonomy activism, sexism and homophobia in the corporate media and culture, etc.)
6. Controlled Mass Media (self-censoring corporate mass media, hyperpatriotism among media elites and spokespeople, etc.)
7. Obsession with National Security (War on Terror, warrantless wiretapping, datamining of Americans' private information, Department of Homeland Security, etc.)
8. Religion and Government are Intertwined (Faith-based governance and government, destruction of the Church-State wall, proselytization in the military and at military academies, etc.)
9. Corporate Power is Protected (Revolving door for government-business, corporate socialism, telecom amnesty, etc.)
10. Labor Power is Suppressed (Anti-union activism, legislation and litigation, stacking of the National Labor Relations Board, "make work" legislation, etc.)
11. Disdain for Intellectuals and the Arts (less of issue, in part because of self-censorship, widespread privatization of the arts, and the longstanding societal lack of interest in the arts and humanities)
12. Obsession with Crime and Punishment (self-explanatory, though it doesn't apply when it involves the administration and its cronies)
13. Rampant Cronyism and Corruption (Abramafia, Coalition Provisional Authority in Iraq, no-bid contracts to Halliburton, etc.)
14. Fraudulent Elections (2000, 2002, 2004, 2005, bogus voter fraud charges, Diebold and other voting machine companies' shenanigans, etc.)

You could easily identify more elements of "fascism" that are present in the contemporary US, such as the authoritarian "Leader Cultism" of the Right, and so on, that aren't on this list. The present government isn't fascist so much as it incorporates numerous elements of fascist regimes, within the larger, flexible framework of what passes for (remains of) our Constitutional system.

We should ask the presidential candidates directly how they might reverse most of these aspects of our system today. Given #6, it's unlikely anyone in our "conventional" media would ever do so....

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