Ceremonies of the Horsemen
Oh, the wind, the wind is blowing,
through the graves the wind is blowing,
freedom soon will come;
then we'll come from the shadows. - The Partisan
What kind of world would greet Robert Gates' appointment as Secretary of Defense as a happy news item? Regrettably, this one. That's the true Bush legacy: diminished expectation, and delight and surprise at achieving debased, small victories that have to be handed to us.
I don't mean that we shouldn't take the good with the bad when we find it. But the good we can find is not as satisfying, enduring or as just as the good we should be able to make for ourselves. So yes, we'll accept the gift of Donald's Rumsfeld's overdue resignation, yet Rumsfeld instead deserves to receive the revolt of our conscience and the judgement of the dead. American and international law ought to deliver humanity's verdict, and that they won't or they can't is why we're expected to dance in the streets when heads are made to roll for our pleasure.
But this is a hydra-headed beast, and none of its heads are irreplaceable. With familiarity it may seem otherwise, which strengthens the illusion of revolution at every changing of the guards. But a palace guards' change is a ceremonial event, which once meant more than nothing, and now means less. Now, it's for the tourists.
For five years there have been worries that the Bush crowd would do more than merely steal elections; they would do away with them altogether. But this is to misunderestimate the nature of late American fascism, which still needs the sustaining fantasies of liberty and representative democracy. Gains by the gentler, junior partners of the Washington Consensus serve this end, and present the impression of change while changing nothing. (I anticipate more tragicomic found-humour in the spectacle of "yellow-dog" Democrats justifying a now uncloseted bipartisan agenda.)
The neocons have served their purpose, and probably outlived their usefulness, which is why men like Perle and Ledeen are doing a shameless volte-face on Iraq. They have been a shock to the system of America, and to Americans who hadn't realize what kind of system America had. It's been a five-year plan of radicalism, and perhaps now comes two years of something like stability. But not a rollback. Most Democrats don't have the interest in or the stomach for the fight, and many of them voted with the Republicans for tyrannical and bloody-minded measures that are not going anywhere, except burrowing deeper into the American routine.
By the way, don't miss this Associated Press story, "Startling findings in probe of Tillman's death". ("One investigator told the Tillmans that it hadn't been ruled out that Tillman was shot by an American sniper or deliberately murdered by his own men.")