Distorting Fascism to Demonize Iran

By ISMAEL HOSSEIN-ZADEH Counterpunch 11/29/07

In their frantic drive to pave the way for a military strike against Iran, leading figures in the neoconservative pro-Israel lobby have embarked on a vicious campaign of demonizing that country by comparing it with the early years of Nazi Germany and its President, Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, with Hitler.

These champions of war and militarism are the same trigger happy characters who helped orchestrate the criminal war against Iraq on the basis of ghastly lies and criminal fabrications of evidence. Instead of being held responsible for all of the grisly lies and evidence manufacturing, they are let loose to once again beat the drums of war-this time against Iran.

Top among these civilian militarists are Norm Podhoretz, a senior foreign policy adviser to the Republican frontrunner Rudy Giuliani, Connecticut Senator Joseph Lieberman, and the leader of Israel’s Likud Party Benjamin Netanyahu. These are part of the leading members of the “war party” that include, among others, Vice President Dick Cheney in the White House and Elliot Abrams in the State Department.

Podhoretz’s wild charges of fascism against Ahmadinejad, Iran, and Islam-at times bordering on delirium and self-parody-are unabashedly spelled out in his recently published book, “World War IV: the Long Struggle against Islamofascism.” Although Elliot Cohen was the original author of the concept of World War IV, Norman Podhoretz has been the major popularizer of the concept. Describing the Cold War as World War III, he sets out to explain both the rationale for the projected World War IV and the strategies to win it.

To explain the “looming world conflagration” that is allegedly predicated on the conduct of militant Islam, he begins by asserting that “the malignant force of radical Islamism” has as its objective “to conquer our land” and to destroy “everything good for which America stands.” After a long and discursive detailing of how and why Islam is incompatible with progress and modernization, and how it therefore poses a serious threat to Western values, he then argues that, “to fend off the menace of militant Islam,” the United States needs to resolutely engage in a long, drawn out war in the Muslim world that can be called World War IV.[1]

Benjamin Netanyahu has also frequently called upon the Bush administration to launch a military strike against Iran on the grounds that, “like Nazi Germany,” it is a menace to world peace: “It’s 1938 and Iran is Germany. And Iran is racing to arm itself with atomic bombs. . . . Believe him [Ahmadinejad] and stop him. . . . This is what we must do. Everything else pales before this.” While the Iranian president “denies the Holocaust,” Netanyahu said, “he is preparing another Holocaust for the Jewish state.”[2]

Senator Lieberman’s characterization of Ahmadinejad as being another Hitler is somewhat subtle and indirect: “I’m proud that I co-sponsored that bipartisan resolution calling for regime change in Iran because there are some leaders you can’t negotiate with. Look at what Ahmadinejad has said. History reminds us in the case of Hitler and Osama bin Laden that they said exactly what they ultimately did. . . . We need to be working with people in Iran, who hate this government, to help them overthrow it.”[3]

Anyone even faintly familiar with the socio-economic and historical characteristics of fascism would dismiss these wild accusations and characterizations of Iran as bogus. Ahmadinejad differs from Hitler on a number of major grounds.

To begin with, Ahmadinejad is known as a grassroots leader or fighter, not an agent or collaborator of big business, as would be the case with fascist or fascistic figures and characters. Indeed, he came to power by challenging and running against the presidential candidate of big business, whereas fascist leaders like Hitler or Mussolini were promoted by big business.

Second, Hitler represented an expansionist imperial power. By contrast, Ahmadinejad (and the Iranian government in general) represent an anti-imperialist challenge or force in the Middle East that harbors no expansionist ambitions or territorial claims.

Third, Hitler was an unrivaled and unchallenged dictator. He had complete monopoly of power; not only commanding the German armed forces, but also controlling all the branches of government and, indeed, the entire German society. By contrast, Ahmadinejad is not a dictator; he is an elected president without much power. The real power rests with the “Supreme Leader,” Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, who is commander in chief of all of Iran’s armed forces. Khamenei has the final say on all major foreign policy issues.

Ahmadinejad is also constantly and relentlessly challenged by both the parliament and the Judiciary. For example, the legislature rejected more than two-thirds of his recommendations for ministers, which meant that it took nearly a year before his cabinet was fully staffed.

As intelligent and educated individuals, Lieberman, Podhoretz, Netanyahu and their neoconservative cohorts must certainly be aware of these glaring differences between Hitler and Ahmadinejad, or between today’s Iran and the late 1930s Nazi Germany.

So, why are they disregarding such obvious differences and deliberately obfuscating the historic characteristics of fascism?

The answer is clear: they want to justify another war of aggression, a military strike against Iran.

The more fundamental question, however, is why do they want to attack Iran?

The answer, in a nutshell, is that the pro-Israel lobby is determined to eliminate any and all obstacles to the continued occupation of the Palestinian land. And since the lobby views Iran as one of those obstacle, it is therefore driven to demonize that country as the next target of a military strike. All other publicly stated or implied reasons such as national interests, democratic ideals, Iran’s nuclear technology, and the like are simply harebrained pretexts for achieving this overriding goal.

There are, of course, additional factors or forces behind the drive to attack Iran. For example, President Bush and the neoconservative handlers of his administration hope that, by accusing Iran of arming the Iraqi insurgents, they can blame their disastrous failure in Iraq on Iran. They also hope that by expanding the war to Iran they can stifle or preempt calls for accountability and/or impeachment of those responsible for the illegal war on Iraq.

Another driving force behind the plan to attack Iran is the armaments lobby and the powerful Pentagon contractors who view the extension of war to Iran as an unmistakable expansion of their economic fortunes. President Bush’s neoconservative policies of war and militarism have been a boon for the arms industry and related businesses of war profiteering.

It is obvious, then, that the major forces behind the war juggernaut against Iran are driven not by the interests of the American people or “national interests,” as the champions of war and militarism claim, but by some powerful special interests that converge on war and political convulsion in the Middle East: the economic interests of the armaments lobby and the geopolitical interests of the pro-Israel lobby.

Since the interests of these two highly influential forces converge on war and international conflicts in the Middle East, they often play into each others hand in their pursuit of war and militarism in the region. More importantly, however, they also coordinate their politics and/or policy agendas to influence U.S. foreign in the area.[4]

Although there is no formal alliance between these two powerful forces, their collaboration can often be seen through their identical views of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East. Institutionally, this de facto collaboration is carried out through a number of militaristic think tanks such as Project for the New American Century, the American Enterprise Institute, Jewish Institute for National Security Affairs, Center for Security Policy, Middle East Media Research Institute, Middle East Forum, Washington Institute for Near East Policy, and National Institute for Public Policy.

A closer look at the records of these militaristic think tanks shows that they are set up to essentially serve as institutional fronts to camouflage the dubious relationship between the Pentagon, its major contractors, and the Israeli lobby, on the one hand, and the war-mongering neoconservative politicians, on the other. Major components of the Bush administration’s foreign policy, including the war on Iraq and the plans to strike Iran, have been designed largely at the drawing boards of these think thanks.[5]

It is ironic-indeed, tragic-that hardline Zionist leaders, who constantly (and rightly so) remind us to not forget the atrocities of fascism, so callously distort the socio-economic and historical characteristics of fascism in order to use it in the service of their short-sighted and misguided agenda for the Middle East. They hope-in vain-that they can permanently keep the occupation of the Palestinian land by force, and that by destroying Iran and/or other opponents of occupation the Palestinian question would somehow go away. Yet, as the late Albert Einstein put it, peace can be achieved only by understanding, not force.

Calling Ahmadinejad and/or Iran fascist is even more ironic (it is, in fact, a perfect case of chutzpah) in light of the fact that the expansionist policies of unilateral aggression promoted by the leading figures of Neoconservatism are more akin to Hitler’s policies of unprovoked invasion of other countries than is Iran’s foreign policy, which respects the sovereignty of its neighbors and harbors no territorial ambition or military aggression against any country.

Neoconservative champions of war and militarism often use terms and adjectives such as fascist or Hitler to characterize opponents of US-Israeli policies in the Middle East in order to justify their agenda of “regime change” in the region. Such wanton or opportunistic use of political rhetoric for nefarious political purposes represents a gross misreading of social structures and historical developments.

Fascism cannot be defined or characterized capriciously; it is a specific historical category that evolves out of particular socio-economic circumstances or structures. It cannot be haphazardly applied to any socio-economic system or political leader that is at odds with the neoconservative agenda of regime change in the Middle East.

Nor can fascism be reduced to the “sins” of political personas and individual leaders of Nazi Germany, or the pathological problems of Hitler’s mind. While simplistic or obfuscationist judgments of this sort may succeed in dressing in the uniform of Adolf Hitler the horrific acts that the capitalist system can occasionally perform, such reductionist judgments would not be very useful for the purposes of averting social conditions that may lead to the recurrence of fascism.

Hitler was not any more responsible for the rise of fascism in Europe than is President George W. Bush for the rise of neoconservative militarists in the United States, or for the control of U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East by the representatives of the military-industrial-Likud interests.

Some friendly critics attribute the aggressive militaristic policies of militant Zionism to the traumatic memories of fascism and the attendant brutalities that were committed against Jewish people. Thus, political commentator Jim Lobe writes, for example, “the horrific experience of European Jewry in the twentieth century, culminating as it did with the Nazi Holocaust, is critical to understanding the neoconservative mindset.”[6]

While this may explain radical Zionists’ “mindset” and their policies of unilateral militarism, it does not justify their plans of war and “regime change” in the Middle East. Palestinians and other Arab/Muslim people had nothing to do with the Nazi Holocaust. That these peoples have been subjected to horrendous punishment for the crimes committed by others simply defies logic-let alone any sense of justice.

Hard-line Zionist ideologues like Lieberman, Podhoretz, Netanyahu and their cohorts in the misguided pro-Israel lobby, who sloppily coin terminologies such as Hitler or fascism in reference to the opponents of their policies of aggression, are misrepresenting fascism, drawing wrong lessons from it, and punishing the wrong people for its crimes. With friends like these fanatical Zionists, the Jewish people need no enemies!

Ismael Hossein-zadeh is a professor of economics at Drake University, Des Moines, Iowa. He is the author of the newly published book, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism. His Web page is http://www.cbpa.drake.edu/hossein-zadeh


[1] Norman Podhoretz, “World War IV: How It Started, What It Means, and Why We Have to Win,” Commentary (September 2004).

[2] Evan Derkacz, “Netanyahu cries: “Hitler! Hitler! Hitler!” alternet.org (Posted on November 17, 2006).

[3] Joseph Lieberman in Connecticut 2006 Senate general campaign Debate,

[4] Ismael Hossein-zadeh, The Political Economy of U.S. Militarism (Palgrave-Macmillan 2007).

[5] Ibid.

[6] Jim Lobe, “New Book Attacks Neo-Cons from the Right,” commondreams.org (August 5, 2004).