Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Support Our Annual Fund Drive! CounterPunch is entirely supported by our readers. Your donations pay for our small staff, tiny office, writers, designers, techies, bandwidth and servers. We don’t owe anything to advertisers, foundations, one-percenters or political parties. You are our only safety net. Please make a tax-deductible donation today.
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

The Lost Opportunities of Barack Obama

by ROBERT FANTINA

It was just three short years ago when much of the United States, and the rest of the world, thrilled to the idea of the ‘audacity of hope’ and ‘change we can believe in.’ After eight disastrous years of President George Bush, years of escalating poverty, war, fear and the hatred of the United States by much of the world, it seemed that a new day was about to dawn.

The man to usher in this Utopia was a young, African-American senator, a man who could galvanize a crowd with his moving, inspiring speeches. He promised a new beginning for the United States; voters, young and old, male and female, of all religious and ethnic groups, responded to his message.

Now, a year before the next presidential election, the hope and change that were promised are no more than tarnished political sound bites, the clever rhetoric of yet another politician in statesman’s clothing.

One can look at the continuation of two wars, the stalled economy, and the inequality of the tax structure that places the burden on the dwindling middle-class that can ill afford it, while the wealthy reduce their taxes through various advantages and loopholes.

And now, with the opportunity to show real world leadership, President Obama is prepared to once again cave in to the demands of special interests, at the expense of justice and humanity.

This week, Palestine will apply to become the 194th member country in the United Nations. The achievement of this goal would be profound. Palestine would then be in a position of power, not equal with Israel, but having a voice far louder than it has ever had before. Just a year ago, Mr. Obama said he looked forward to Palestine’s membership in the U.N. within the next year. That, of course, was before Israel slapped the U.S. in the face once again, and expanded settlements on disputed territory, thus shutting down the already long-pointless negotiations.  Palestine, with no leverage to force Israel to negotiate seriously, decided to go to the U.N.

This may appear to be part of the ‘Arab Spring,’ this time of uprisings against, and the overthrows of, repressive governments in the Middle East. Mr. Obama has hailed these revolutions as the democratic actions that they are: popular movements of people finally fed up with the horrific actions of their oppressors. And now, one would think, a true U.S. statesman would welcome and encourage Palestine’s bid for membership in the U.N. A nation that has been occupied for generations, whose citizens suffer cruelly at the hands of their oppressors, is seeking relief for its people. Isn’t the U.S. the world’s brightest beacon of human rights?

It is, if conditions are right. If the lobbyists and organizations that line the campaign coffers of the U.S.’s elected officials approve; if it will not alienate some vocal constituency; if it will produce photo ops that can be used in a future election, then the U.S. will always endorse any democratic movement for human rights.

Unfortunately, these conditions are not often met. South American countries that elect leftist presidents; Middle Eastern countries that elect leaders hostile to U.S.’s pets: these democratic movements must not be tolerated. Capitalist democracy that supports the needs of the rich over anyone else (thus following the U.S. model), and that doesn’t offend Israel, will always be endorsed. Any other version of democracy isn’t really, in the eyes of the U.S., democracy at all.

Can anyone imagine a United States where its leaders did what was right, rather than what was politically expedient? Where the safety nets for the poor were strengthened, even if it meant that the local CEO had to keep his or her Mercedes for two years, instead of just one? Where there was something more important than individual power?  Where ego took a back seat to service?

It is difficult to visualize such a United States. Many people believed, however naively, that the U.S. was on the verge of such an actuality as the inauguration of Mr. Obama approached, back in January of 2009. That seems, today, so long ago. While Mr. Obama cannot be blamed for all of the problems that continue to plague the country, he must take responsibility for many of them. For the first two years of his term, his party controlled both houses of Congress. During that time, his major achievement was a watered-down national health care policy, better, certainly, than what the U.S. had before, but a far cry from what other countries, such as Canada (where this writer resides), have. But costly, wasteful and useless wars were not ended; the infamous prison at Guantanamo Bay was not closed, although its population was reduced. The tax cuts that Mr. Bush gave to the wealthy were not removed, further sinking the country into economic ruin.

The hapless Mr. Obama seems to be like the prize-fighter who just doesn’t know how to use his strength. When the Republicans shriek ‘class warfare’ about a modest proposal to tax the wealthy at the same rate as the middle-class, Mr. Obama says barely a word in protest.  When Israel spits in the face of the U.S., expanding settlements in disputed territory against the expressed wishes of the U.S., Mr. Obama still continues to say, with a straight face, that a negotiated settlement between the Israelis and Palestinians is the only way to peace.

The Palestinian’s latest effort for justice will, in all likelihood, be rebuffed at the Security Council, where the U.S. has vowed to veto it. But it will be accepted by the General Assembly, which will not provide the same advantages as recognition by the Security Council, but will still be a game-changer for the Middle East.  The U.S., of course, will once again be on the wrong side of justice and human rights. But the powerful lobbyists will be pleased, and in twenty-first century America, that is one of the only constituencies that counts. The other important constituency can be found at your local country club, enjoying its various amenities.

Robert Fantina is author of ‘Desertion and the American Soldier: 1776–2006

 

 

 

 

Robert Fantina’s latest book is Empire, Racism and Genocide: a History of US Foreign Policy (Red Pill Press).

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine

minimag-edit

September 29, 2016
Robert Fisk
The Butcher of Qana: Shimon Peres Was No Peacemaker
James Rose
Politics in the Echo Chamber: How Trump Becomes President
Russell Mokhiber
The Corporate Vice Grip on the Presidential Debates
Daniel Kato
Rethinking the Race over Race: What Clinton Should do Now About ‘Super-Predators’
Peter Certo
Clinton’s Awkward Stumbles on Trade
Fran Shor
Demonizing the Green Party Vote
Rev. William Alberts
Trump’s Road Rage to the White House
Luke O'Brien
Because We Couldn’t Have Sanders, You’ll Get Trump
Michael J. Sainato
How the Payday Loan Industry is Obstructing Reform
Robert Fantina
You Can’t Have War Without Racism
Gregory Barrett
Bad Theater at the United Nations (Starring Kerry, Power, and Obama
James A Haught
The Long, Long Journey to Female Equality
Thomas Knapp
US Military Aid: Thai-ed to Torture
Jack Smith
Must They be Enemies? Russia, Putin and the US
Gilbert Mercier
Clinton vs Trump: Lesser of Two Evils or the Devil You Know
Tom H. Hastings
Manifesting the Worst Old Norms
George Ella Lyon
This Just in From Rancho Politico
September 28, 2016
Eric Draitser
Stop Trump! Stop Clinton!! Stop the Madness (and Let Me Get Off)!
Ted Rall
The Thrilla at Hofstra: How Trump Won the Debate
Robert Fisk
Cliché and Banality at the Debates: Trump and Clinton on the Middle East
Patrick Cockburn
Cracks in the Kingdom: Saudi Arabia Rocked by Financial Strains
Lowell Flanders
Donald Trump, Islamophobia and Immigrants
Shane Burley
Defining the Alt Right and the New American Fascism
Jan Oberg
Ukraine as the Border of NATO Expansion
Ramzy Baroud
Ban Ki-Moon’s Legacy in Palestine: Failure in Words and Deeds
Gareth Porter
How We Could End the Permanent War State
Sam Husseini
Debate Night’s Biggest Lie Was Told by Lester Holt
Laura Carlsen
Ayotzinapa’s Message to the World: Organize!
Binoy Kampmark
The Triumph of Momentum: Re-Electing Jeremy Corbyn
David Macaray
When the Saints Go Marching In
Seth Oelbaum
All Black Lives Will Never Matter for Clinton and Trump
Adam Parsons
Standing in Solidarity for a Humanity Without Borders
Cesar Chelala
The Trump Bubble
September 27, 2016
Louisa Willcox
The Tribal Fight for Nature: From the Grizzly to the Black Snake of the Dakota Pipeline
Paul Street
The Roots are in the System: Charlotte and Beyond
Jeffrey St. Clair
Idiot Winds at Hofstra: Notes on the Not-So-Great Debate
Mark Harris
Clinton, Trump, and the Death of Idealism
Mike Whitney
Putin Ups the Ante: Ceasefire Sabotage Triggers Major Offensive in Aleppo
Anthony DiMaggio
The Debates as Democratic Façade: Voter “Rationality” in American Elections
Binoy Kampmark
Punishing the Punished: the Torments of Chelsea Manning
Paul Buhle
Why “Snowden” is Important (or How Kafka Foresaw the Juggernaut State)
Jack Rasmus
Hillary’s Ghosts
Brian Cloughley
Billions Down the Afghan Drain
Lawrence Davidson
True Believers and the U.S. Election
Matt Peppe
Taking a Knee: Resisting Enforced Patriotism
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail
[i]
[i]
[i]
[i]