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Stan Goff is a retired veteran of the U.S. Army Special Forces. During an active-duty career that spanned 1970 to 1996, he served with the elite Delta Force and Rangers, and in Vietnam, Guatemala, Grenada, El Salvador, Colombia, Peru, Somalia and Haiti....


Sowing the Seeds of Fascism in America

(Page 3)

The New Militarization of American Society

You are what you do.
—Jean Paul Sartre

Fascism traditionally employs either a master-race or master-culture narrative.  This narrative is reinforced for troops on the ground in Iraq by the circumstances.  The role of occupier is the role of dominator, and as the Stanford Prison Experiment proved dramatically, this dominator role very quickly translates into the dehumanization and objectification of the dominated.  On the ground, at the infantry level, wars of domination in every instance become race wars.

The dustup recently about a Marine singing a song (which was published on the Internet as a video), called “Hadji Girl,” in which he humorously describes killing Iraqi children to the raucous applause of his fellow Marines, was hardly a blip in the corporate media.

In American society right now, with the immigration hysteria fueled by faux populists like CNN’s execrable Lou Dobbs, there is a growing wave of xenophobia that has begun to legitimate vigilantism, like that of the Arizona Minutemen (supported even by the governor of California); and vigilantism is always a feature of fascism in periods before it decisively achieves state power.  The lines between the comic-opera militias parked along the Arizona border, the “libertarian” militias in the Midwest and the Aryan militias in the Idaho foothills are not terribly clear.  Timothy McVeigh could have easily related to all of them.

The social currents of racial/cultural supremacy are there.  The vigilantism is forming.  So two aspects of fascism are already falling into place.

Another aspect, and one that was formative of Timothy McVeigh, is economic destabilization.  Fascism can be described as a “middle class” phenomenon.  One can look at the emergence of the three most studied fascist governments, Mussolini’s Italy, Franco’s Spain and Hitler’s Germany, and in every case there was a privileged stratum of the working class that had been the beneficiaries of metropolitan capitalist development (courtesy of peripheral colonies) that rubbed shoulders socially with the professional and managerial sectors.  In times of instability, friction develops between fractions of this stratum.  Insecurity among the lower middle-classes creates anxiety and anger that can easily be directed by populist-sounding demagogues (Mussolini and Hitler actually claimed to be socialist, even as they strengthened the ruling classes in their own societies during militarization).  Those just above these fractious masses are caught between their anxiety at the turbulent resentments of the lower stratum and their fear that they themselves are only a paycheck away from joining them.  Leftist scholars have documented and explained this class dimension of fascism at some length.

Columbia University’s contribution to Answers-dot-com section on “fascism” notes:

While socialism (particularly Marxism) came into existence as a clearly formulated theory or program based on a specific interpretation of history, fascism introduced no systematic exposition of its ideology or purpose other than a negative reaction against socialist and democratic egalitarianism. The growth of democratic ideology and popular participation in politics in the 19th cent. was terrifying to some conservative elements in European society, and fascism grew out of the attempt to counter it by forming mass parties based largely on the middle classes and the petty bourgeoisie, exploiting their fear of political domination by the lower classes. [In the American South, this dread was aimed at blacks, and the bogeyman of black rule was repeatedly invoked, along with the black sexual satyr, to fuel anti-black pograms.—S.G.]  Forerunners of fascism, such as Georges Boulanger in France and Adolf Stker and Karl Lueger in Germany and Austria, in their efforts to gain political power played on people’s fears of revolution with its subsequent chaos, anarchy, and general insecurity. They appealed to nationalist sentiments and prejudices, exploited anti-Semitism, and portrayed themselves as champions of law, order, Christian morality, and the sanctity of private property.

In each of the European cases, the trigger bringing fascist demagogues to power was a profound economic crisis.  This is a tendency buried within an ever-expanding regime of capital accumulation, because the “logic of capital” inevitably comes into conflict with the “territorial logic of power” (David Harvey, “The New Imperialism,” Oxford Press, 2003).  The mobility of capital eventually liquidates or abandons all spaces, including living space, and this throws middle classes into both economic and psychological disorder.  They can break both ways: embracing a progressive path of “going through to the other side” of the crisis by creating new social models, or embracing the (often idealized and mythical) past.

Giovanni Arrighi, writing in “Hegemony Unravelling” (New Left Review, March-April 2005), made the point that “[a]s Karl Polanyi pointed out long ago, with special reference to the overaccumulation crisis of the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries,  devastations of this kind inevitably call forth the ‘self-protection of society’ in both progressive and reactionary political form….”

That hasn’t happened in the United States ... yet.  The anxiety has been building, along with an increasingly precarious social existence in the ‘burbs, where car infrastructure is running into record oil prices, pension funds are being wiped out in strategic bankruptcies, and the household debt overhang is beginning to resemble a plank suspended over a canyon with a couple of nails.  Not coincidentally, militarization has been one of the processes that has postponed the inevitable.

The militarization of American society has gone on for some time (ever since World War II, to be exact), but this militarization—an aspect of fascism as well—has taken on a different character since the Bush administration lucked into 9/11.  Aside from the Straussian convictions about mythopoetic perception management (using cheap cinematic conventions), the practical result of the neocon core advisor group around this decaying-dynastic White House has been the accelerated militarization of economic, domestic and foreign policy.  Perception management, after all, including cynical constructions of the nation as the bulwark of good against evil, has been in the armamentarium of most governments.

The American economy has been using the military contracting system during decades of “deindustrialization” (moving offshore to exploit cheap labor) to create a surrogate export market for key industries.  The military has also long been used as a research and development subsidy vehicle for private corporations.  What the Bush administration has done that is unique is to prioritize unilateral military action in foreign policy at the expense of diplomatic maneuvering and consensus-building among the core capitalist metropoles, and to centralize population control measures at home under a more militarized system ... though the with “tactical” units has been in progress for decades and the Clinton administration paved the way for the exponential expansion of the domestic prison population.

Another unique feature of the Bush administration’s militarization program has been the private contracting of military and paramilitary operations to an alphabet soup of corporations, some led by ruling-caste veterans like Bill Perry and many led by the sketchiest characters crawling out of the rank and file of the military itself.  In Iraq, mercenaries are now the third-largest armed contingent on the ground, behind only the American armed forces and the Kurdish peshmerga.  There are roughly 25,000 of these “contractors” working in Iraq ... and they are almost completely immune from any law.

Last year, after a homemade video “escaped” (a la “Hadji Girl”... these folks seem to be proud of themselves) showing so-called security contractors in an SUV driving down an Iraqi highway with Elvis music blasting as they shot cars off the road for sport, the blogs began distributing it.  In December, the Washington Post finally ran a story on it.  Only then did the military even comment on the video, which they said they would investigate.  Nothing has come of this alleged investigation.  What did surface, however, once the media decided it was worth a closer look, is that this kind of colonial impunity is routinely exercised by contractors, who are little more than extremely well paid thugs, and is not covered by either Iraqi law or the U.S. Uniform Code of Military Justice.

Because the salaries of these contractors are routinely above $100,000 a year, with all expenses paid on site, the military itself, especially Special Operations, has had to steeply increase reenlistment bonuses ( some as high as $150,000 in a single lump sum), to partially stem the exodus of Special Ops troops into the lucrative world of corporate mercenaries.

This is a world unto itself, a culture obsessed with death, firearms and racial-purity doctrines.  One need only page through the periodicals of this subculture, the most widely circulated being Soldier of Fortune magazine, to find these preoccupations between the articles and ads like a toxic salad.  The glue holding them together is gun culture.  Gun culture is not an obscure fringe, but a very mainstream, widely popular subculture that taps directly into another key component of fascism:  martial masculinity.

Next Page: “There is a kind of interlocking directorate between white nationalists, gun culture, right-wing politicians, mercenary culture (like Soldier of Fortune), vigilante and militia movements, and elements within both Special Forces and—now—the privatized mercenary forces.  It is hyper-masculine, racialist, militaristic and networked.”

Dig last updated on Oct. 3, 2006

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By Socrates, October 4, 2006 at 10:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Note to the Editor: there is a difference between “Special Forces” and “Special Operations.” The former are mostly advisors who aid foreign military forces to overcome a foe the US gov’t doesn’t like (e.g., helping the Northern Alliance in Afghanistan overcome the Taliban). The latter include very highly skilled soldiers (the cream of the crop, e.g., Navy Seals) who conduct black-ops and other small focused missions, often involving slipping in and out of an area to “neutralize” a bite-size target undetected.

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By Dear Stan;, October 4, 2006 at 10:20 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

As felow Vetnam Combat veteran and former SFC thank you.  Would you mind telling me what Country you moved to and how is it.  I think it is time to leave myself with my family.

Second is Sowing the Seeds of Fascism In America a book if it is I would like to buy a copy.

Thank You,


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By Frances Greenfield, October 4, 2006 at 9:02 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone who has been the least bit observant can see for themselves that this isn’t just an “American” problem. It is an ugly problem in the whole of the “white” western society in general. 

I genuinely believe we are moving towards a fascist government, not only in the United States, but in all countries that are dominately white.

How sad for the world and most likely the end of civilization as we know it - fascism has been coming for a long time - it just needed the right people in the right places to institute it and to bring down the upon our collective heads Orwell’s “1984”

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By Colonel, October 4, 2006 at 8:52 am Link to this comment
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Goff wanders all over the lot, making some good points and some not so good. What he totally misses is that the “military facism” he deplores is a copy of the Israeli Defense Force mentalty. Further, the American military “facists” who Goff denounces are being used in Iraq and other regions of the Middle East primarily in the service of Israel, not U.S., interests.

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By 131488WOLF131488, October 4, 2006 at 8:47 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

So, Mr. Dig guy…are you FOR, or AGAINST???
You talk of being a veteran, so you must be of an age to have seen all the twisting of our laws and constitution, the degrading of uor land, our cities/towns/neighborhoods/SCHOOLS….our MORAL CHARACTER…all at the hands of the campaigns of those people out to DESTROY us, OUR CULTURE, AND our fine Nation…along with ALL EUROPE AND THE WORLD…You write as an authority on all this knowledge…WHAT SAY YOU??? Prey, or be preyed UPON???
  In The Awakening of White America…
                Wolf B’Shannon

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By Corporate Jesus, October 4, 2006 at 8:44 am Link to this comment
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  Got any room on your couch?

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By KISS, October 4, 2006 at 8:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

While Mr. Goff does mentor some thoughts that are stimulating, I must disagree on protecting our borders as being neo-fascist. We are living in a time when a radioactive bomb will fit into a suitcase and has capabilities to kill tens of thousands of people. This is not fantasy this is realistic. Is Amerika a fascist state…it seems those seeds are germinating quite well. Corporate take-over is a reality, ” What is good for the Corporations, is good for Amerika”, that is the theme in every city, county, state and federal governments through-out our land. Globalization is the new slang for One World Government that was warned about decades ago. While those that scoffed at the time are so very still now. The middle class is soon to be at an all time low and poverty is the largest growing segment of our society..with no end in sight. While we grow poorer corporation grow bigger and bigger, with the blessings of all our governments. But while my fellow man refuses to read and think why should it get beetter?

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By BoDo, October 4, 2006 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
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A quite well-reasoned, and well-written explication of the rise of fascism, whose results we saw last week in the Congressional acceptance of the end of habeas corpus, the handing over of all power to the executive, and, to our eternal national shame, the legalization of torture and rejection of the Geneva Conventions.  Unlike the earlier commenter, I don’t have the option of moving to another country, so now, though I witnessed 9/11 personally in New York City, I finally feel the fear that our fearful leaders have been demanding of us for five years now.

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By Stan, October 4, 2006 at 6:27 am Link to this comment
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Actually, I am a 24-year veteran of the Army, and retired holding the MOS of 18Z, Special Forces.  Career outline and bio available at wiki.

But thanks agian, Truthdig.

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By malcolmartin, October 4, 2006 at 6:25 am Link to this comment
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Much like Charles Darwin’s immutable truths regarding of the origins and evolution of life, Karl Marx guided us through the reasons capitalism was born, why it would thrive and dominate for a time, and how its inherent contradictions condemn it to be replaced by a superior economic system called socialism. Marx’s brilliant science-based vision can no longer be challenged on the facts. It has and is going to continue to unfold just as he forecast. Capitalism is doomed.

So now as capitalism enters its final stages, gasping desperately for life-giving profit, politically a nearly seamless transition to fascism is taking place in the US, just as Mr. Goff states. The trappings of bourgeois democracy are a brake on profits and so they are being shredded. The Constitution and its Bill of Rights are being rendered meaningless by presidential signing statements and the theory of the unitary executive, extraordinary rendition, government surveillance programs and the like. Programs based on democratic principles like the public schools, Social Security, Medicare, affirmative action and welfare are being starved to death. The mass media and electoral machinery and both major political parties are now fully under the control of those in power. Bloodless coups in 2000 and 2004 installed George W. Bush in the White House and no future election will remove the candidate of the ruling class from power.

It would take a team of psychoanalysts to catalogue the many and varied mental pathologies of George W. Bush and his henchmen in the U.S. government. The point to keep in mind is that in this time and in this place the capitalist system needed people in power capable of carrying out insane and grotesquely inhumane policies, up to and including the coming nuclear strike on Iran.

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By Miguel, October 4, 2006 at 6:22 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

‘Bukko in Australia’ paints a scary picture for the future of America. My hope is that he/she is wrong. Never the less, I’m staying right where I am, outside of the USA.

Maybe, if I live long enough, I’ll return, with others, to help rebuild America. Hopefully to help bring back the country I was born in to what it was meant to be.

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By rabblerowzer, October 4, 2006 at 5:45 am Link to this comment
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Republican voters fear the Foley scandal threatens their party’s control of government, so don’t hold your breath waiting for them to do any house cleaning. For Republicans, control is the main thing, and in fact the only thing. They don’t care that their party rigs elections to win, they don’t care that their party lied us into war, and they don’t care that their party has given Bush dictatorial powers.

Lust for control and power is the unifying force that binds billionaires and food-stamp republicans together. Lust for control, power and dominance over others is the psychological imperative that drives all republicans, from the richest to the poorest. That irresistible craving for dominance is their defining characteristic.

Every republican is “Ming the Merciless.”

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By atheist mom, October 4, 2006 at 5:15 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

My husband and I are about to move our family out of the USA also. Ironically, we’re moving to Germany, which offers a better quality of life all around. I’m fifty, and things have never looked so bad here in my life.

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By oneyedjack, October 4, 2006 at 4:26 am Link to this comment
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Very good observation Bukko.  You’re right of course, it will get a lot worse before it gets better…if it ever gets better.

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By Bukko in Australia, October 4, 2006 at 1:59 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This is a well-reasoned, if somewhat psychologially deep and Freudian, look at the danger of fascism in the U.S. The American government has already moved a long way toward economic fascism, when the power of the state is used for the benefit of business, not the people. One of the reasons I left the U.S. was that I fear the rise of everyday fascism, as pointed out by this article.

Sorry to slag the troops, but I worry that they’ll be used to ride herd over the American people when the U.S. finally has to admit it has lost the war in Iraq. When the soldiers, airmen and Marines straggle home in defeat, in the midst of the coming depression, they’re going to want somewhere to vent their wrath. Whipped up by the rabid right-wing media, it will be easy to turn their anger on the “liberals who helped the terrorists.”

Jobless soldiers, mercenaries from Blackwater and other companies who are already being used for security inside the U.S., plus the angry downtrodden white men who carry guns and grudges, will have no trouble breaking the bones of any protesters who rally against government policies. Environmental groups, labor strikers, Democrats and anyone else who opposes the right, will be violently crushed.

America, you’re slipping into a long, dark night. Good luck.

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