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(DV) Leupp: The Fascist View of Public Intellectuals







“Such a Fuss…Inexcusable!”
The Fascist View of Public Intellectuals

by Gary Leupp
May 25, 2005

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A recent column by Thomas Patrick Carroll in David Horowitz’s Front Page Magazine is well worth reading. In “Bush, Blair and the Plan for War” the former officer in the Clandestine Service of the CIA attacks the “appalling unsophisticated” reaction of the British people to the publication of the secret July 2002 British government memo. You know, the one proving that “intelligence and facts were being fixed around the policy” of invasion and occupation months before Bush assured Congress that he’d still made no decision to go to war and that war should always be the last resort. 

Carroll finds it “simply inexcusable for opinion makers and public intellectuals” to make “such a fuss” about the memo, thus implying that the intelligentsia generally should just get over their concern with mere truth. What they ought to do, he implies, is trust the State to pursue its objectives using a mix of truth and untruth, and when the untruths are uncovered, shrug them off as something their betters had to concoct in order to realize their wise strategic objectives.

I doubt that Carroll expects his words to much affect those “opinion makers and public intellectuals” making the fuss. One recalls Joseph Goebbels’ words: “There was no point in seeking to convert the intellectuals. For intellectuals would never be converted…” That doesn’t mean some won’t be intimidated; the Goebbels’ quote continues: “…and would anyway always yield to the stronger, and this will always be ‘the man in the street.’” The Nazi was speaking of Germany and his party’s rise to power by a careful wooing of those men in the street.

In our times, in the USA, the Fox-fed pious frightened masses might well, even if they read about the damning memo, dismiss it as an irrelevant historical detail. “At least we’ve overthrown a dictator!” they’ll say. The fascists might be right so far as the intelligentsia is concerned; the inclination of many “opinion makers and public intellectuals” is actually not to make much of a fuss. Rather, they just keep their heads low and hope the madness our times (from an illegal war to demands for “creationism” in our schools) blows over and doesn’t directly affect them.

Anyway I recommend the Front Page piece because it conveys with such candor the Goebbels-like mindset driving neocon foreign policy. Key passages:

It is simply inexcusable for opinion makers and public intellectuals (e.g., those who made such a fuss about the “revelations” in the Downing Street memo) not to grasp the strategic imperatives behind what we are doing in Iraq and elsewhere. It’s certainly okay to disagree with our strategy, but for supposedly sophisticated commentators to miss the entire point and continue raving about WMD and UN sanctions is simply beyond the pale. Regardless of whether they support or oppose the Bush Doctrine and attendant strategies, critics have a responsibility to acknowledge those strategies and the goal of a new Middle East toward which they are driving.

The decision to invade Iraq was made as part of a broad strategy to shift the balance of power in the Islamic world, a strategy that will be playing out for years to come. Unfortunately, the voters and opinion makers who turned against Blair because of the Downing Street memo don’t understand that.

So it’s okay to disagree with “our [sic] strategy,” but not to expose, condemn and analyze the fixing of facts surrounding it -- which Carroll indignantly (and contradictorily) insists doesn’t involve any lying.  Intellectual criticism of the fixing is just “beyond the pale.” Unacceptable. Carroll grudgingly acknowledges that some may still “oppose the Bush Doctrine and attendant strategies” (whatever the latter might be) but should at least acknowledge their goal: “to shift the balance of power in the Islamic world.” The objective is to change, as Carroll puts it elsewhere in the article, “the poisonous social/political environment in the Middle East that enabled violent Islamist ideology to flourish.”

In other words, “responsible” opinion makers should agree that (1) the social/political environment throughout the Middle East and maybe “the Islamic world” in general is indeed “poisonous”; (2) that a “shift” in the “balance of power” throughout the Islamic world is a fine thing; and (3) to “keep raving” about the huge disconnect between what Bush said to get support for the Iraq War (and for wars “for years to come”) and the actual facts is to damage this noble world-transforming cause. Carroll wants us to “understand” these things.

But how to understand what he means with this reference to a “poisonous” environment? If that environment exists throughout the Middle East, it must stretch from Morocco to Iran and maybe beyond, a zone of many different social and political environments. The only thing that characterizes the geographical region as a whole is the preponderance of Islamic believers, who have many different interpretations of what Islam and political “Islamism” might entail. What’s implied here (and Condoleezza Rice has implied this before too) is that Islam itself is the problem, and that Islamic societies must be reformed or challenged by a “good” Judeo-Christian America using such devices as are currently operative in Iraq. But that proposition, subtly conveyed from Bush’s power base to the American public, is as venomous as any circulating in Middle Eastern discourse. It’s an insult to over a billion Muslims. In any case it’s only a political tool, a use of ethnic prejudice to abet a basically irreligious imperialist program.

What does “a shift in the balance of power” in the Middle East mean? Power passing from one Muslim country to another? From Iran to the U.S. client-state Iraq? From “Islamist” regimes to secular ones? Given that the U.S. has indifferently done business with all kinds of governments in majority-Muslim states for a long time, and recently targeted the most secular of Arab countries while duplicitously depicting it as a citadel of fundamentalist Islam, I can only imagine that this “shift” doesn’t refer to a movement within the Muslim world so much as to an audacious power-play of the U.S. as its economic position in the world declines. Muslims lose power in Southwest Asia; the U.S. acquires military bases, contracts, control of the flow of oil, and strategic advantages over Europe and China well into what some call the “New American Century.” (Compare the “Thousand Year Reich.”)

That’s the principal hoped-for power shift. But the architects of change cannot say that too openly while hundreds of American soldiers are dying and the polls are saying the people don’t think the war worth it. You can’t justify the policy by the facts because the facts are incriminating. The other planned power shift involves the only non-majority Muslim state in the region: Israel. It’s no accident that Carroll cites a “perfect example of an opinion leader” who in contrast to the public intellectuals he derides, takes “seriously” his “responsibility” to “support…. America’s strategy in Iraq and beyond.”  Efraim Halevy, former chief of Israel’s Mossad, recently stated:

I believe that for the U.S. to be able to reap the benefits of its very bold policies in the Middle East, it will be necessary for successive presidents to maintain a formidable military presence in the region for quite some time to come. The U.S. has set in motion a sea change in the entire region and we are only witnessing the preliminary phases of this change… the U.S. must stay the course.

The Israeli government much appreciates a new balance of power in which its own desires for regional change are backed up by “a formidable military presence” of its American champion in Iraq and elsewhere. The Israeli project, always faced with challenges, will on the basis of demographic change alone become more vulnerable in the next few decades of the New American Century. Should some drastic measures be needed to preserve its specifically ethnic character, a supportive U.S. military presence in the region would indeed be helpful.

Policy is being fixed around the facts of corporate America’s insatiable lust for profits, desire to control world oil supply, and to maintain Israel as a key ally facing interminable Arab rejection. Think tanks and websites on board the imperial program carefully package facts and talking points and broadcast them to their audiences, confident that the evolving fascist-tinged fundamentalist religious fanaticism will drown out the dissident voices of fussy intellectuals and allow them to proceed. Towards more war on Islam and the world, and in the hopes of the most delirious among them, even towards Armageddon.

So ask your local opinion maker or public intellectual to speak out against the poisonous environment that these fascists strive to create, sometimes even representing their envisioned environment as one of “academic freedom.” Better yet, become a public intellectual yourself and make a fuss about what Goebbels’ latter-day students want us to believe are our (American) “strategic imperatives.” But let us not let this significant news story about the “smoking gun memo” be ignored as some badly hope it will be.

Gary Leupp is a Professor of History, and Adjunct Professor of Comparative Religion, at Tufts University and author of numerous works on Japanese history. He can be reached at:   


Other Articles by Gary Leupp

* Bolton’s Proudest Moment: Breaking the UN’s Anti-Zionist Resolution
* Maoist and Muslim Insurgencies in the Philippines 

* Jefferson, Mao, and the Revolution in Nepal