At a recent White House press briefing, Bush’s press secretary Scott McClellan said:

We are waging a comprehensive war on terrorism. You heard the President talk earlier today […] about our strategy for taking the fight to the enemy, staying on the offensive, and working to spread freedom and democracy […]. Freedom is a powerful force for defeating an ideology such as the one that the terrorists espouse. […] As the President said, free nations are peaceful societies. And that’s why it’s so important that we continue to support the advance of freedom, because that’s how you ultimately defeat the ideology of hatred and oppression that terrorists espouse.

Now, it may not be fair to quibble with the pronouncements of a mindless mouthpiece, but this is the mindless mouthpiece of the President of the United States. He must be held to high standards of public service – I mean, we need to at least try.

So I ask: if “free nations are peaceful societies,” why are we “taking the fight to the enemy” and “staying on the offensive”? Is the idea that if we fight really hard now, things will be really peaceful later? – that if we accept not being free right now, we’ll be much freer some time later… like, after the war is over… if it ever is over?

For Ur-Fascism there is no struggle for life but, rather, life is lived for struggle. Thus pacifism is trafficking with the enemy. It is bad because life is permanent warfare. This, however, brings about an Armageddon complex. Since enemies have to be defeated, there must be a final battle, after which the movement will have control of the world. But such a “final solution” implies a further era of peace, a Golden Age, which contradicts the principle of permanent war. No fascist leader has ever succeeded in solving this predicament.

Umberto Eco, “Ur-Fascism”, New York Review of Books, 22 June 1995, pp.12-15

It must also be pointed out that freedom is not a “powerful force,” just as love is not a powerful force. Where does this idea of the power of freedom come from? Freedom does not have any power. Armies have power, but armies are not free; countries have power, but not in proportion to their freedom.

There seems to be a fundamental, sophomoric – hilarious, really – misunderstanding here about the nature of freedom. By definition, freedom cannot be imposed on people. People are free when stuff isn’t being imposed on them.

I suppose that Mr. Bush really means that Iraqis, Iranians, Afghanis, etc. are not free now, and that by eliminating the despots running those countries we can bring their freedom back. (This might actually be a good idea! – but not if it’s executed with the ferocity and mendacity that have characterized this adminstration’s efforts to date.) He doesn’t want to say, “We have come to depose your government and replace it with our own,” so he speaks of freedom as if it were a force of nature or the work of a god: powerful, inevitable, benevolent, and impersonal. This imagery diverts our attention from “the man behind the curtain.” And, like everything else Dubya has ever said, it is a lie.

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