Fascism Has Arrived
December 14, 2014
Fascism has arrived in the United States. And it has arrived in the form of torture.
With the release of the Senate’s report on the activities of the United States’ government after the attacks of 9/11, a report which makes its crystal clear that the United States not only engaged in but condoned and legitimated torture, a debate has arisen, ostensibly over the release of this report, but actually over the torture itself. But with the release of this report and the ensuing debate, it has become evident that fascism has arrived in the United States. Whether it will continue or not is the question.
But why call this “fascism?” Because the debate over torture is precisely the same debate that took place in Germany in the 1920s and 1930s before the rise of the fascists under the leadership of Adolf Hitler. That is, first, the “homeland” was perceived to be under attack and it needed to be defended. And, second, it was argued by the fascists that their situation was “exceptional” and because it was such a “decision” had to be taken to undertake extraordinary measures in defense of the homeland. With the aid of Carl Schmitt, this came to be known as “decisionism,” a concept by which Schmitt and others argued that there are times, “exceptional times,” when “decisions” must be made because the homeland is threatened by existential enemies and that these “decisions” could not be supported by legal, judicial, bureaucratic, or natural law reasons or reasoning. There are times, Schmitt argued, when action must be taken, extreme action taken, for which there is and can be no justification other than necessity. Concerns of justice, of natural law, of divine law, of humanity are, in such circumstances, irrelevant.
It seems to me that we in the United States have arrived at such a place. That is, those who defend the torturing that was undertaken have been making arguments like those made by Schmitt. The “homeland” is under attack and in these “exceptional’ circumstances actions must be undertaken that, in any other circumstances, could not be justified. This is what Vice President Cheney was talking about when he said that after 9/11 the United States “would have to go to the dark side.”
However, this is the root of fascism or the root from which fascism grows because it implies that it is the exercise of great and unjustifiable power, especially by a “leader” or “fuhrer,” that is at the heart of civilization. Thus, it is what Nietzsche called “the will to power” that lies at the heart of all great nations or civilizations. And once this step has been taken, it is easy to justify almost any exercise of power because “the exceptional” is rarely far away in the arena of politics as that arena is, Schmitt argued, characterized by the “friend/enemy” dichotomy. Those who think, and they are most often those identified as “liberals” in the current lingo, that the political world in amenable to reform via either economics [globalization] or ethics [civic mindedness] are sadly and dangerously mistaken. They are “pie in the sky” types who fail to see the political world and its requirements “realistically.”
Therefore, for the United States at this point, it becomes truly significant that those who engaged in, condoned, or facilitated the torturing be held responsible. Otherwise, the root of fascism will grow and spread unchecked. But it is a measure of how fascist we in the United States have become that almost nobody thinks this is likely to happen. In fact, many think, myself included, that those responsible for the torture will be both rewarded and honored for “their service.”