Shortly after Obama was inaugurated, I wrote a commentary that was quite critical of his economic team, which was composed of the very people who had created the financial crisis in the first place. I ended the commentary by suggesting that the age of Obama was starting to sound more like ‘meet the new boss, same as the old boss’ than ‘a change is gonna come’.
But disillusioned as I’d become about his domestic agenda, I still hoped that Obama would shine on foreign policy – that he might truly turn the ungainly ship of Empire around and return it to port. After all, it’s quite clear that America is following a long line of Imperial mistakes before it, vitiating itself with ever more military adventures, while provoking the ire of subjugated peoples, who are increasingly fighting back, weakening America like Lilliputians tying down Gulliver.
But here, again, Obama has either caved to his corporate masters, or is showing his own true colors. He hasn’t extracted us from either of the costly wars we’re mired in; he’s escalated our involvement, apparently heeding the specious advice to ‘listen to the commanders on the ground’. Those commanders not surprisingly say what such men have always said, everywhere, throughout history: give us more men and arms and we’ll get the job done. Because their only tool is the hammer of military might, they perceive everything as a nail that must be struck repeatedly.
Obama’s taken the Bush position that suspects can be held indefinitely without trial at our new Guantanamo, Bagram Air Force base.
His administration has decided to continue the Bush policy of rendition, wherein suspects are picked up the world over and sent to ‘friendly regimes’ for questioning. The administration reassured the public that this policy would be closely monitored to prevent ‘prisoner abuse’. The entire purpose of rendition is to move a suspect to a country that has more brutal interrogation methods than our own! It’s extra-legal government-executed kidnapping that completely undermines American verbiage about ‘respecting the rule of law’.
Then Obama refused to do anything more than lightly slap Israel’s wrist when that country once again threw gasoline on the fire by confiscating more land, tearing down more Palestinian housing, and going on a spree of new settlement building. The Palestinians have wisely refused to negotiate with Israel until this madness stops, but Obama is offering no carrot, and more importantly no stick, to compel the Israelis. Even George Bush senior was tougher on them, once suggesting that he would cease supporting loan guarantees for Israel if they didn’t stop building.
President Obama is going to Copenhagen for climate talks, it’s true, and on the environment he is clearly a better president than either Bush was, but it’s still too little, too late. The massive public-works projects in renewable energy that this administration could have spent the stimulus money on have been largely swapped for bureaucratic expansion and conventional highway construction. His approach is more fiddling while Rome burns, than ‘change we can believe in’.
White house visitor logs show that our president is eschewing meetings with progressive voices on health coverage, the economy, the environment, and economic justice, meeting instead with corporate interests and their lobbyists on these very subjects. Sound familiar?
And this week, Mr. Obama topped it all. Our newly-minted Nobel Prize winner’s administration stated that the United States has decided to maintain the Bush administration's refusal to sign an international treaty banning land mines.
But that makes sense: not only does America spend more on defense-related matters than all other countries on earth combined, but it’s also the biggest arms dealer, the biggest supplier of weapons of destruction, both mass and individual, on our planet as well.
Frankly, I’m disgusted. Far from being instruments of seismic change, Obama’s policies support the status quo with an almost slavish fealty. I can’t for the life of me understand the hysterical comparisons of Obama to Stalin and Hitler on the right. These must be engendered by racism, pure and simple, because far from being on the radical fringe, Mr. Obama appears to be a middle of the road, bought-and-paid-for tool of corporate America, offering us a sort of ‘Bush Light’ foreign and domestic policy.
At the end of the day, the man who wrote the brilliant, touching and humane ‘Dreams from my father’, and promised us sweeping change, has sold out himself, and all those who believed in him. But it’s our fault; for once again we wanted, needed to believe that this country could change, even though all of its institutions, from the legislative, executive and judicial branches to its ‘free’ press, are now basically appendages of multi-national corporations.