The Bush administration's May, 2002 lawless detention of U.S. citizen Jose Padilla -- on U.S. soil -- was, as I recounted in my book, the first incident which really prompted me to begin concluding that things were going terribly awry in our country. The administration declared Padilla an "enemy combatant," put him in a military prison, and refused to charge him with any crime or even allow him access to a lawyer or anyone else. He stayed in a black hole, kept by his own government, for the next three-and-a-half-years with no charges of any kind ever asserted against him and with the administration insisting on the right to detain him (and any other American citizen) indefinitely -- all based solely on the secret, unchallengeable say-so of the President that he was an "enemy combatant."
1921, from It. partito nazionale fascista, the anti-communist political movement organized 1919 under Benito Mussolini (1883-1945); from It. fascio "group, association," lit. "bundle." Fasci "groups of men organized for political purposes" had been a feature of Sicily since c.1895; the 20c. sense probably infl. by the Roman fasces (q.v.) which became the party symbol. Fascism, also 1921, was originally used in Eng. 1920 in its It. form, fascismo. Applied to similar groups in Germany from 1923.
"By 2050—earlier, probably—all real knowledge of Oldspeak will have disappeared. The whole literature of the past will have been destroyed. Chaucer, Shakespeare, Milton, Byron—they'll exist only in Newspeak versions, not merely changed into something different, but actually contradictory of what they used to be. Even the literature of the Party will change. Even the slogans will change. How could you have a slogan like "freedom is slavery" when the concept of freedom has been abolished? The whole climate of thought will be different. In fact there will be no thought, as we understand it now. Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think. Orthodoxy is unconsciousness"
George Orwell, 1984
Of course, the United States is not vulnerable to the violent, total closing-down of the system that followed Mussolini's march on Rome or Hitler's roundup of political prisoners. Our democratic habits are too resilient, and our military and judiciary too independent, for any kind of scenario like that.
Rather, as other critics are noting, our experiment in democracy could be closed down by a process of erosion.
I think it’s a mistake to think that George Bush somehow embodies the [Christian dominionist] movement. I think there’s a great deal of frustration with Bush, remember, on the issue of immigration, and there is a tension, an uneasy alliance between these corporate interests and this radical movement, and I think, you know, we should also say, as Robert Paxton points out in his book, Anatomy of Fascism, that fascist movements always build alliances with conservative or industrial interests, and oftentimes these alliances are not seamless. But on the issue of immigration, Bush sided with the corporations, who want illegal immigrants for cheap labor. There’s a huge nativist element, a huge hostility towards immigrants within the movement, and that angered the Christian right.
I think they’re going to go searching for another candidate -- maybe Brownback, I don't know -- who they feel -- I mean, it boils down to the fact that they feel Bush was not radical enough. And they’re going to go searching for a candidate that is going to swing further right, further towards the radical agenda that they have at their core.
When Alberto Gonzales takes his seat before the Senate Judiciary Committee today for hearings to confirm whether he will become attorney general of the United States, Americans will bid farewell to that comforting story line. The senators are likely to give full legitimacy to a path that the Bush administration set the country on more than three years ago, a path that has transformed the United States from a country that condemned torture and forbade its use to one that practices torture routinely. Through a process of redefinition largely overseen by Mr. Gonzales himself, a practice that was once a clear and abhorrent violation of the law has become in effect the law of the land.
At least since Watergate, Americans have come to take for granted a certain story line of scandal, in which revelation is followed by investigation, adjudication and expiation. Together, Congress and the courts investigate high-level wrongdoing and place it in a carefully constructed narrative, in which crimes are charted, malfeasance is explicated and punishment is apportioned as the final step in the journey back to order, justice and propriety.
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