November 8, 2006

Like History


by Chris Maynard

Don Rumsfeld was both the youngest U.S. Secretary of Defense, and, thirty years later, the oldest.

Never having seen a tax dollar that didn’t beg to be in the military budget, Rummy was even quicker to dodge responsibility than he was to take credit. Although he claimed to be deeply affected by military deaths in Iraq, he nonetheless used an automatic signature machine for about 1000 letters of condolence sent to casualties’ next of kin.


In October, three weeks before the midterm election, President Bush and Secretary Rumsfeld stuck out their chins at the new U.S. Air Force Memorial in Virginia, approaching what the White House was hoping would be another cakewalk.

Even though this picture is less than a month old, it brings up that sense of unreality that always accompanies a file photo, as if storage on a computer server itself changes the facts of the image. Yet the facts themselves are never more than comparisons, little checks against our memories.

Given yesterday’s election results, does the picture look more planned than before? Does it seem like they are actually looking at something, or just giving the cameras a right profile? Do the tough-guy squints reflect a care on our behalf? Or was it just overly bright in the autumn sunshine?

In October, we winced at shot after shot of graying guys in dark suits who had started wars for their own gain and blithely trashed the Constitution because they could.

Back then they were current events; suddenly they’re looking a lot more like history.

(image:  Haraz N. Ghanbari/A.P.  U.S. Air Force Memorial dedication. Arlington, VA, October 14, 2006. Via Yahoo News)

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Michael Shaw
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