Monday, August 14, 2006

The day the enemy became 'Islamic fascists'


News from London Thursday morning that British intelligence agents had foiled a potential new terrorist plot in its advanced stages prompted the highest level security alert in the United States since 9/11, and brought trans-Atlantic travel to its knees.

It was a “stark reminder,” President Bush said in his first public reaction to the events, that “this nation is at war with Islamic fascists,” seeking to destroy freedom-loving societies.

At this dramatic moment, it was not “war with terrorism,” as the president characterized events shortly after the Sept. 11 attacks, or a “war on terror," as he has referred to it more commonly over time.

Instead, the war was now with “Islamic fascists” — a term that has rarely been used by the president before this week. Was it used in the heat of the moment, or was the president rolling out a new way of explaining U.S. policy — choosing new words to explain and solidify support?

The term is not new inside the Beltway. Washington’s neo-conservatives have bandied about “Islamo-fascist” and “Islamic fascism,” for months. And it's true that the president referred to the term at least once before, in a speech in October. But the president chose to use the expression pointedly at a key moment: the day after the arrests of British men of Pakistani ancestry in a plot to blow up trans-Atlantic airliners — and almost exactly three months before congressional elections.

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