America moves on

Tom Engelhardt

The wave - and make no mistake, it's a global one - has just crashed on our shores, soaking our imperial masters. It's a sight for sore eyes.

It's been a long time since we've seen an election like mid-term 2006. After all, it's a truism of our politics that Americans are almost never driven to the polls by foreign policy issues, no less by a single one that dominates everything else, no less by a catastrophic war (and the presidential approval ratings that go with it).

This strange phenomenon has been building since the moment, in May 2003, that George W. Bush stood under that White-House-prepared "Mission Accomplished" banner on the USS Abraham Lincoln and declared "major combat operations have ended."

"In the context of the history of great imperial powers, how remarkably quickly this has happened."

That "Top Gun" stunt - when a cocky President helped pilot an S-3B Viking sub-reconnaissance Naval jet onto a carrier deck and emerged into the golden glow of "magic hour light" (as his handlers then called it) - was meant to give him the necessary victory photos to launch his 2004 presidential re-election campaign.

As it turned out, that moment was but the first "milestone" on the path to Iraqi, and finally electoral, hell. Within mere months, those photos would prove useless for anyone but left-liberal bloggers. By now, they seem like artifacts from another age.

On the way to the present "precipice" (or are we already over the edge?), there have been other memorable "milestones" - from the President's July 2003 petulant "bring 'em on" taunt to Iraq's then forming insurgency to the Vice President's June 2005 "last throes" gaffe. All such statements have, by now, turned to dust in American mouths.

In the context of the history of great imperial powers, how remarkably quickly this has happened. An American President, ruling the last superpower on this or any other planet, and his party have been driven willy-nilly into global and domestic retreat a mere three-plus years after launching the invasion of their dreams, the one that was meant to start them on the path to controlling the planet - and by one of the more ragtag minority rebellions imaginable.

I'm speaking here, of course, of the Sunni insurgency in Iraq, of perhaps 15,000 relatively lightly armed rebels whose main weapons have been the roadside bomb and the sniper's bullet. What a grim, bizarre spectacle it's been.

But let's back up a moment. After such an election, a bit of history, however quick and potted, is in order.

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