When I wrote about Bush's use of the term "Islamic Fascists" a couple of weeks ago, it was a curious phrase – one that had errors worth discussing.
Now, it appears, it is more than a slogan. It is a political strategy. The Bush Administration seems to have decided to convince the people that “Republican” means “anti-Fascists”, while “Democrat” means “appeaser.” If they can get the American people to see the issue in these terms, there is no doubt that the people will choose “anti-Fascists” over “Appeasers”, and the Republicans keep their political monopoly for another two years.
Are they right?
The True Enemy
I do not write about political strategy. I write about what is true and what is false, what is good and what is evil.
In that earlier post on “Islamic Fascism” I argued that the Bush Administration does not know who are true enemy is. As a result, it cannot effectively fight that enemy.
The true enemy is not “Islamic fascists.” The true enemy is "militant theocracy" –the doctrine that it is morally permissible to do harm to others based solely on finding an interpretation of scripture that justifies this harm. After all, what is scripture but a list of that which it is morally permissible to do?
In an interview with MSNBC, Bush called the current conflict “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st Century.” He may well be right. We can pick up the paper every day and see another set of stories – at home and abroad – telling of the harms that those who accept the ideology of militant theocracy have inflicted on their neighbors. Until the doctrine of militant theocracy is defeated, we will continue to read about people being killed, maimed, and otherwise harmed in the name of God.
The Most Destructive Weapon of Mass Destruction
Yet, we are being foolish if we think that the most destructive weapons these militant theocrats have available – the most destructive weapons they seek to control – are biological, chemical, or nuclear weapons.
There is another weapon out there more powerful than all of these, and this is the weapon that militant theocrats ultimately want to get their hands on.
This most powerful weapon is known as the law.
Once the militant theocrat has gained control of the law, then he can add the police, the courts, and the prisons to his “Army of God.” With these tools at his disposal, he can inflict harms on a scale that would require several nuclear weapons to replicate.
Let us look at one example; that of prohibiting women from getting an education. We can easily see how cutting off a hand or blinding a person does that person harm. Denying a person an education is far more harmful than either of these.
It is axiomatic that a person cannot make a fully informed decision unless she has access to information. An individual who is denied access to information must depend on others to make her decisions for her – others who do have access to that information. Countries that deny women an education are countries where women are being made fully dependent on men to decide things for them. They are virtual slaves – a type of slavery that does not require whips. The only thing it requires is a bunch of militant theocrats controlling the flow of information.
Those who have the power to control the flow of information, to decide what is printed and what is not, have the power to manipulate the people through their decisions on what the people are going to be allowed to know and, where the leaders care nothing about truth, by controlling what the people are allowed to believe.
This is just one example where militant theocrats can do far more damage by statute than they can do with any type of biological, chemical, or nuclear weapon.
In fact, if we look at the term “Islamic fascists,” we see some hidden recognition of the fact that militant theocracy is the real enemy – that the real ideology we need to fight is the ideology that one can justify harm to others by appeal to scripture.
These ‘Islamic fascists’ are using their improvised explosive devices only as a means to an end. The ultimate end – the end we need most to prevent – is to get into a position where they can put away these improvised explosives and use the tools of the state instead – to use the police, the courts, and the prisons to enforce their will. The ultimate end, then, is militant theocracy -- the power to use statutes rather than bombs on those who will not willingly follow their interpretation of scripture.
The Philosophical Foundation
So, if this is indeed “the decisive ideological struggle of the 21st century,” what, pray tell, is the Bush Administration doing to oppose the doctrine of militant theocracy?
Well, actually, Bush supports the doctrine of militant theocracy. His entire Administration is a record of defending actions harmful to others based on nothing more substantial than, “The Bible tells me to.”
The enemy can find all of the philosophical support they need to justify their actions simply by looking at Bush and using him as a role model. President Bush said on June 28, 2002, “We need commonsense judges who understand that our rights were derived from God. Those are the kind of judges I intend to put on the bench." When he said this he was defending the fundamental principle that most Islamic militant theocrats advocate -- the idea that all true law comes from Allah and the only judges that should be allowed are those that enforce Sharia law. This is all that militant theocrats want -- for judges to enforce their interpretation of scripture.
Bush cannot fight this enemy because Bush shares their underlying philosophy – the doctrine of militant theocracy – the idea that ‘law’ and ‘scripture’ are two words for the same thing (at least, in the ideal state).
Also, militant theocrats are the first to scream, "religious persecution!" when they encounter opposition. When people protested the Afghanistan Government’s quest to execute Abdul Rahman who converted to Christianity, the Afghans were immediately shouting that any attempt to prevent them from executing this person counts as religious bigotry. “You are guilty of religious persecution because you are not willing to permit us to freely exercise our religious practice of executing those who convert to Christianity.”
We see the backwards thinking of these people, where executing somebody who converts to Christianity is not religious persecution, while preventing the execution does count as persecution.
It is like arguing that somebody is a religious bigot if they dared to protest the Nazi attempt to rid their lands of Jews. If we were to think of this idea that the Arians are the “master race” as a religion, militant theocrats in this religion would argue that interfering with the Holocaust is religious persecution, because one is prohibiting the Nazis from following their religious practice of exterminating all non-Arians.
As is the case with all things, one person’s right to practice his religion ends where another person’s nose begins. People are free to decide for themselves when to pray, how to pray, what foods to eat, when to work, when to rest, when to scatter stones, when to gather stones together, and whatnot. However, no person shall use scripture to justify doing harm to others. The freedom of religion ends where the life, limb, liberty, and livelihood of other citizens begins.
The Bush Administration’s strategy for the next two months is to get people to see a world divided up into three camps: the “Islamic fascists,” the “anti-Fascists” who love Bush and wish that he and his associates could rule the country forever, and the “appeasers” who are morally and intellectually ‘confused’ to the point that it would be foolish to trust them with anything resembling political power.
If they succeed, then clearly people are going to support “anti-Fascists” over “appeasers.”
An alternative proposal is to get people to understand that the enemy is much more accuratly identified using the term “militant theocracy.” The advocates of militant theocracy are people who, by definition, think that God gave them the authority to force their interpretation of scripture on everybody else, by whatever means their God allows. The advocates of militant theocracy argue, “Our religion commands that we are the masters and you are the servants. Freedom of religion means that you would be violating our rights if you do not agree to let us be masters, as our religion commands, and if you do not agree to be our servants.”
The question is: Will the public come to describe the enemy as "Islamic fascists?" or can they be made to understand that the real threat to freedom is "militant theocracy?" The answer will determine whether we have any hope of making real progress against that enemy.