Skip to main content

Trump's brutality is part of Obama's legacy now

by Jacob Bacharach

On Oct. 14, 2011, an order by Barack Obama resulted in the murder of Abdulrahman al-Awlaki, a 16-year-old American boy. Obama had ordered the execution of the boy’s father, also an American citizen, allegedly a member of the al-Qaeda network, two weeks before. Abdulrahman hadn’t seen his father in more than two years; he’d traveled abroad to search for him. We blew the kid up in a restaurant. When confronted by reporters, Obama’s press secretary, Robert Gibbs, glibly justified the extrajudicial killing of an American child: He should have had “a more responsible father.” Today, Donald Trump and his sycophants contend that the children of undocumented immigrants are the victims of their parents’ irresponsible law-breaking.

Like most ex-presidents in the last half century, Obama slid out of the White House and into a well-paid semi-retirement of remunerative speaking engagements and ineffectual good works. His and Hillary Clinton’s mutual antipathy was evident throughout the 2016 campaign. After her humiliation at the hands of Trump, a vulgar, racist dummy who continually questioned Obama’s citizenship and who ran in no small part because of his own public humiliation by the then-president at the 2011 White House Correspondents’ Association Dinner, Obama made a few desultory efforts to make nice with the new president-elect and then embraced the silence on current political affairs that is the decorous mark of modern post-presidencies. He emerged only last week, as word of the Trump administration’s vicious campaign to separate and imprison the children of migrants and asylum seekers in detention camps came to dominate national media coverage and caused real and widespread popular outrage.

[T]o watch those families broken apart in real time puts to us a very simple question,” Obama wrote on his Facebook page. “Are we a nation that accepts the cruelty of ripping children from their parents’ arms, or are we a nation that values families, and works to keep them together? Do we look away, or do we choose to see something of ourselves and our children?

There is some irony in hearing this from the same man who bragged, during the 2012 campaign, that he was “really good at killing people.” The claim was in reference to drone warfare, but Obama’s militarism was not confined to the occasional Hellfire missile, which the national security establishment and its media interlocutors treat as an antiseptic alternative to the messiness of conventional war. In 2011, in part due to the heavy lobbying of then-Secretary of State Hillary Clinton, the United States participated in a disastrous Euro-American campaign in Libya, destroying the government of Muammar Gaddafi, a leader who only a few years earlier had been feted for his active cooperation in national disarmament, and plunging Libya into the chaos of failed statehood, from which it has not recovered. Gaddafi was killed and possibly tortured to death. African migrants captured in Libya as they attempt to reach the Mediterranean and Europe have allegedly been sold—in open markets—as slaves.

In Syria, under Obama, the United States managed to support nearly every side in a multi-party civil war. By 2016, it was widely reported that militias armed by the Pentagon were openly battling militias armed by the CIA. The conflict has created one of the greatest refugee crises in modern history, as millions of people seek to escape a wrecked country and reach relative safety in Europe: men leaving wives and children; child siblings making deadly sea crossings without parents; a maze of fences, camps and varying levels of open hostility awaiting them no matter what routes they take. And we should not forget Yemen, where since 2015 the United States has supported and armed a Saudi campaign of terror bombing that has created a man-made famine and cholera epidemic, the scale of which could come to rival the Great Famine in Ukraine.

Compared to the actual madman that is Trump, Obama was a humanist, but then again, so was Thomas More, and look at how many heretics he burned at the stake. Throughout his career, Obama made use of rhetorical appeals to a broad, shared humanity, to the values of empathy, fellow-feeling and tolerance. In practice, his presidency was less liberal rebirth than liberal retrenchment, and he worked to formalize the very systems of brutality that Donald Trump and his evil coterie wield to such terrifying effect.

I was at Kelly’s Bar & Lounge in Pittsburgh’s East Liberty neighborhood when Obama was elected to his first term. The neighborhood had already begun to gentrify, although it would still be years before the $2,000-a-month apartments, restaurant valet signs, Pure Barre exercise studio and the Google flag flying over the old National Biscuit Co., where, during the St. Patrick’s Day Flood in 1936, my great-grandfather had worked for three straight days baking bread for the city. In the 1960s, an ill-conceived urban development plan hollowed out the neighborhood’s commercial core, and the city built a set of high-rise public housing complexes; the neighborhood developed a reputation for blight, which is to say that it became largely black.

The clientele at Kelly’s in 2008 was mostly white, comparatively well-to-do, liberal-ish. We could hear a dull roar from the neighborhood as the networks began to call the election, and then everyone went out into the street, residents and interlopers, and we all congratulated ourselves and each other, even those of us, like me, who stood far to the left of mainstream Democratic politics and viewed Obama’s occasionally high-flown rhetoric as decoration on an otherwise plain and tepid program of decidedly “centrist” reforms. America had soundly elected its first black president, and you can go to hell if that didn’t at least give you one night to smile and hope for the future.

His election came as a relief. I am not too cynical to say so. It is hard to recall now in this hypersaturated Trump era just how mad and untethered the Bush years were. By the time the 2008 race rolled around, Bush’s popularity was in irrevocable decline, his wars largely accepted as failures, the catastrophe of Hurricane Katrina still top of mind. But for much of his presidency, a grim, jingoistic national unity prevailed. There were liberal blogs, and the ineffectual sarcasm of “The Daily Show,” but that was scant opposition, and even the vast antiwar marches in the run-up to the Iraq war swiftly melted away in favor of cable news’ music videos of “Shock & Awe” bombing.

The gaudy insanity of Trump’s campaign seems unprecedented until you look up photos of pasty Midwesterners in the middle of the ’04 Republican National Convention blinged out with patriotic swag and purple bandages as part of that season’s conspiracy theory—that John Kerry had faked a war injury to earn a decoration. Dick Cheney shot a man in the face and faced no consequences; his victim apologized to him! Guantanamo. Abu Ghraib. Heckuva job, Brownie. The financial crisis. It was relentless and mad-making.

Obama felt like a salve, if not a cure. He was reasoned and articulate. His abilities as a great American speechmaker were overrated, but he was still a talented orator. He’d prevailed in a primary race infected by the Clinton campaign’s scurrilous resort to innuendo about his race and origin, and he whipped John McCain, an aging and seemingly unbalanced Senator who was and remains bizarrely beloved by American political journalists. It felt as if it might at least herald a reversion to the mean, a return to the smaller-bore politics of the 1990s; perhaps, due to the discrediting of market liberalism by the rapid succession of early-2000s corporate accounting scandals and the subprime collapse, there might even be a way to claw back some of the vicious attacks on the social welfare system by the neoliberal Clintonites of that decade. Perhaps we might successfully agitate for dismantling the poisonous security and intelligence apparatuses that metastasized under Bush and Cheney.

Instead, Obama largely set about organizing them. Obama would later be criticized, often from the left—I am guilty of it myself—for his seeming diffidence, and defended, often from the center-right that composes the majority of the Democratic Party, as having been almost entirely hamstrung by a Congress controlled by an insane and deeply racist GOP. Both the criticism and the defense give him too little credit as one of the great bureaucratic rationalizers of the modern era, taking the slapdash and ad hoc excesses of the prior decade and normalizing them. Obama’s infamous “look forward, not backward” dictum regarding any criminal prosecutions of Bush-era war criminals and finance-industry crooks was neither the feckless attitude of a weak leader nor the misguided ecumenicism of a would-be peacemaker in a partisan age; it was something more akin to the efficiency-minded corporate fixer who loves the product but wants to reorganize the back office.

Even before the 2010 midterms ushered in a powerfully intransigent Republican legislative majority, it was clear that Obama preferred executive management. He arrogated to himself all of the powers of prior presidents, including the even-more-unfettered war-making authority conferred upon George W. Bush by the machinations of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld, and the cooperation of a foolish and supine Congress. He took a special personal interest in drone warfare, putting himself in sole charge of the so-called disposition matrix—the infamous kill list—in an unsubtle signal that the president alone held this literal power of life and death. He made some conciliatory gestures toward immigrant communities, DACA (Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals) most notably, but these were firmly undergirded by the guiding post-Third Way principles of the meritocratic, corporatist Democratic establishment: namely, that only the deserving are deserving.

He simultaneously and quietly organized ICE, a fascist reimagining of the old Immigration and Naturalization Service (along with parts of the old Customs Service and Federal Protective Service) dreamed up during the creation of the equally spooky and Big-Brotherish Department of Homeland Security. He deported more people than any prior president.

Obama’s most famous public utterance may have been his declaration at the 2004 Democratic convention that “there is not a liberal America and a conservative America—there is the United States of America.” He went on to ding “pundits” for dividing American into “red states” and “blue states.” In the intervening years, a popular map shading red-to-blue, demonstrating that the majority of the country’s land area is “purple,” has become popular among the sorts of people who believe in common-sense solutions and work for think tanks and op-ed pages. But the only real purple America is its imperial presidency, and if we are not simply to survive the present crisis and pray for another Obama-like figure to calmly restore order to agencies and policies that should not exist in the first place, then we must actually engage with his legacy, which despite a few admirable moments, largely consists of solidifying and centralizing the vast executive power he promptly handed over to Trump.

Apologists for the Obama administration will point out that he was in every way a better man and a better president, which is accidentally damning with faint praise. He was better and smarter, but he wasn’t wise, and he wasn’t humble. He believed in the power of the presidency, and we are living with the consequences.

Source, links:


 Image result for obama drones

Comments

Popular posts from this blog

It's definite: Elizabeth Warren is the female Obama, can't be trusted

globinfo freexchange

One year from the 2020 US presidential election, things start to become clearer day by day. In the US political scene, we can now recognize the authentic progressives from the fakes, and certainly, from the establishment neoliberal centrists. 
In the presidential-candidates level we can now identify only Bernie Sanders and Tulsi Gabbard as the ones who are willing to fight the establishment and try to implement progressive, anti-imperialist policies. After her latest position, concerning the military coup in Bolivia against the democratically elected Evo Morales, Elizabeth Warren could be considered a pseudo-progressive, equal to a female Barack Obama. Therefore, progressives definitely can't trust her.
Warren tweeted:
The Bolivian people deserve free and fair elections, as soon as possible. Bolivia's interim leadership must limit itself to preparing for an early, legitimate election. Bolivia's security forces must protect demonstrators, not commit …

It's now or never: the first step for a Sanders/Corbyn synchronization in power must be done on 12 December in UK

This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity for the global working class
by system failure
Two years ago, we wondered whether a US government under Bernie Sanders, together with a UK government under Jeremy Corbyn, could mark a decisive victory against neoliberalism. Whether it could mark the beginning of the end of the Reagan/Thatcher awful legacy.

It seems that the time has come for the first step towards this prospect.

The oncoming UK general election on Thursday 12 December 2019, will be the most critical for decades, especially for the global working class. The outcome will determine to a significant degree, whether the capitalist West will change course away from the destructive neoliberalism, towards a form of Democratic Socialism. A new model that will resurrect the social state, while at the same time, will seriously deal with the great environmental challenges, defying big interests and rejecting the for-profit-wars model.



As we already pointed out, the whole Brexit issue is pri…

Latest WikiLeaks revelation and its treatment by the mainstream press explicitly demonstrate why the imperialists are determined to eliminate Julian Assange

globinfo freexchange
On November, 23, WikiLeaks published an e-mail, sent by a member of an OPCW fact-finding mission to Syria to his superiors, in which he expresses his gravest concern over intentional bias introduced to a redacted version of the report he co-authored.
The Organisation for the Prohibition of Chemical Weapons sent a team of experts to investigate allegations that a chemical attack took place in the Syrian city of Douma on the 7th of April 2018. The author of the e-mail was a member of that team and claims the redacted preliminary version of the report, misrepresents the facts he and his colleagues discovered on the ground. The e-mail is dated 22nd of June. It is addressed to Robert Fairweather, Chief of Cabinet, and forwarded to his deputy Aamir Shouket and members of the fact-finding mission to Douma.  


In short, the OPCW whistleblower actually claims that the report has been somehow altered. And it was done in a way to fit the scenario, according to which, the Assa…

Mainstream media pro-Johnson propaganda gets into full swing

by Craig Murray
We are now under election broadcasting rules.

Ian Austin left the Labour Party nine months ago. He was then appointed by the Tories as Prime Ministerial Trade Envoy to Israel. As of yesterday, he is neither a MP nor a candidate for election. He is a minor politician who achieved only the most junior ministerial rank, PUSS, and for only seven months. He is best known for heckling Jeremy Corbyn while Jeremy Corbyn was delivering the official Labour response to the Chilcot Report on the illegal invasion of Iraq, shouting “Sit down and shut up” and “You stupid disgrace” at Corbyn for criticising the war.
We are now under election broadcasting rules. How and why was Ian Austin invited onto the BBC Radio 4 Today programme today? He left the Labour Party six months ago, and has been a huge critic of Corbyn. It is hardly a surprise that the Tory’s Trade Envoy to Israel advises people to vote Tory. So who initiated Ian Austin’s appearance on the BBC Today programme, and why? It…

LIVE: Bolivians resist military coup in La Paz

Fears for an assassination attempt against Evo Morales

BREAKING
Independent journalist, Ben Norton, tweeted that he has been informed about a possible assassination attempt against the Bolivian president Evo Morales. According to Norton:
          Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

Sources are telling me they are afraid that Bolivia's elected President Evo Morales might be killed tonight in the right-wing coup.

This is a full-fronted imperialist attack on democracy. It is a blatant attempt to recolonize Latin America and overthrow all efforts at progress. — Ben Norton (@BenjaminNorton) November 10, 2019
Updates

EU giving cover to the military coup that just took place in Bolivia. Neither the EU nor the US support democracy. The people of Bolivia already expressed their “democratic will” by re-electing Evo Morales. A right wing US-backed coup stole that from them, this is disgusting https://t.co/qamCSvYmz9— Rania Khalek (@RaniaKhalek)…

Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών: Στην υπηρεσία της Ουάσινγκτον

του Ανδρέα Κοσιάρη
Ο Οργανισμός Αμερικανικών Κρατών, που εξέδωσε την έκθεση για την εκλογική αναμέτρηση στη Βολιβία, η οποία «δικαιολόγησε» το πραξικόπημα εναντίον του Έβο Μοράλες, είναι στη θεωρία ένας ουδέτερος οργανισμός κρατών. Στην πραγματικότητα όμως έχει μακρά ιστορία υποστήριξης των επεμβάσεων των ΗΠΑ στη Λατινική Αμερική, και σήμερα χρηματοδοτείται κατά πλειοψηφία από τα ταμεία του αμερικανικού κράτους. 
Παρά την ίδρυσή του το 1948 με σκοπό την «προώθηση της ειρήνης και τη διευθέτηση διαφωνιών μεταξύ των κρατών-μελών», ήταν μάλλον από την αρχή όργανο της αντικομμουνιστικής εξωτερικής πολιτικής των ΗΠΑ.

Ο ΟΑΚ υπήρξε σιωπηλός ή και στήριξε όλες ανεξαιρέτως τις αμερικανικές επεμβάσεις στη Λατινική Αμερική, είτε αυτές λάμβαναν τη μορφή εισβολής, όπως στην Κούβα το 1961, είτε τη μορφή στήριξης σε πραξικοπήματα και δικτατορικά καθεστώτα, όπως στη Χιλή το 1973 (και στην Αργεντινή, τη Βολιβία, τη Γουατεμάλα, τη Νικαράγουα, την Αϊτή, τον Παναμά, τη Βραζιλία, την Παραγουάη και τον Ισημ…

Nos oponemos al golpe

Declaración de Noam Chomsky y Vijay Prashad
En Bolivia se está gestando un golpe de Estado contra el gobierno electo liderado por Evo Morales. Sectores de la policía han dicho abiertamente que están dispuestos a permitir que grupos de milicias fascistas ataquen el palacio presidencial en La Paz. La situación es muy grave.

Evo Morales ha invitado a los cuatro principales partidos a sentarse y conversar sobre el camino a seguir para la democracia boliviana. Ha pedido el establecimiento de un diálogo para evitar el regreso de los días de las dictaduras militares y los gobiernos oligárquicos. Morales ha hecho un llamado a las Naciones Unidas, a la Organización de los Estados Americanos (OEA), al Vaticano y a otros más para que contribuyan a encontrar el camino para alejarse del golpe.

El golpe es promovido por la oligarquía boliviana que está enojada por la cuarta elección que sus partidos pierden frente el Movimiento al Socialismo. La oligarquía cuenta con el total apoyo del gobierno de los…

Here's why Bernie could end up being better than even FDR

globinfo freexchange

In his speeches, Bernie Sanders frequently refers to the 32nd president of the United States, Franklin D. Roosevelt (FDR), and his New Deal program that helped millions of Americans after the 1929 Wall Street crash. Sanders and other progressives are proposing a similar program adjusted to the modern environmental challenges. The Green New Deal has now become a popular vision, especially among young Americans. Around it, the progressives are aiming to build a whole new model beyond destructive neoliberalism and even obsolete capitalism.

Many would argue that this is quite an extremely optimistic view. That Sanders is just an old-school moderate Social-Democrat who will only manage to revive some typical social policies of the past, and that's it. He will never manage to seriously challenge the current power structure, which, indeed, has grown enormously, controlling nearly every aspect of the political and economic life.

Yet Sanders already managed to achieve …

Bolivian UN ambassador: “racist elite” engineered coup to restore neoliberalism in Bolivia

Democracy Now!
Thousands marched across Bolivia Monday to demand the resignation of Jeanine Áñez, the right-wing senator who declared herself president of Bolivia last week after longtime socialist President Evo Morales resigned under pressure from the military. 
The coup d’état has thrown Bolivia into crisis, with violence across the country leaving at least 23 dead. On Friday, the military gunned down nine pro-Morales protesters outside Cochabamba, where indigenous people took to the streets again on Monday. Thousands more marched to the presidential palace in La Paz. 
The wave of protests are condemning the spike in anti-indigenous violence under interim President Áñez and demanding the return of Evo Morales. Áñez has a history of using racist, anti-indigenous language, and last week she issued a decree protecting the military from prosecution for violent acts and said that Morales would face prosecution if he returned to Bolivia. 
Morales is Bolivia’s first indigenous president, a…