There is a hue and cry coursing through the more ardent supporters of President Bush's Iraq policy and it's mostly a matter of disturbed semantics.

It seems those supporters, including Bush himself, Rumsfeld (naturally) and U.S. Sen. Rick Santorum (more naturally), have pounced on the term "fascism" to be the easiest way to popularly press their suit for "staying the course" in Iraq.

Their sense of history is most disappointing. From Rumsfeld most of all, who is the only one of this misinformed trio to have lived during an era when democracy actually faced a do-or-die challenge from fascism.

George W. was born almost a year after the end of World War II, and Mr. Santorum, well, was born in 1958, when the "fascist" threat of the day was receding even in Argentina.

Now, the president wants to see Republicans re-elected in November, naturally. Rumsfeld wants to keep his job and Mr. Santorum has anything but a free walk back to the Senate.

But "Islamic fascism" as the president, his secretary of state and our junior U.S. senator point out as the bogeyman of the hour is more than over the top -- it's disingenuous.

Fascism was born in the poorly constructed Treaty of Versailles in 1919 and the depression that swept the civilized world in the late 1920s and early 1930s. It was a violent reaction to the failure of democratic government to meet nations' needs.

Jihadism is violence for violence's sake against the very success of democracy and capitalism, and the attempt to impose purely religious law on secular society.


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But the term "fascism" as used by a desperate Republican administration also has a more draconian side. That message: To disagree with the White House policy in Iraq borders on treason in this nation's ongoing war against terror.

That's nonsense. To disagree openly and freely with national policy is the very essence of democracy. It's what separates us from the Jihadists, and if you like, from "fascists" wherever they may be lurking these days.

Somewhere in the bowels of the White House, someone has sold the president, his key advisers and Mr. Santorum a bill of goods that says taking these tacks is the key to victory in November.

But the message is tainted with falsehoods and desperation. The terrorist threat is serious and deadly -- but disagreement with how the government should meet that threat is not analogous with Prime Minister Neville Chamberlain's acquiescence to Nazi Germany's claims in Czechoslovakia in 1938.

That comparison sells the American voters short. And they're tired of that.