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
The New Militarization of American Society
You are what you do.
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:
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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