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

 

 

 

 

Like What You’ve Read? Support CounterPunch
August 27, 2015
Sam Husseini
Foreign Policy, Sanders-Style: Backing Saudi Intervention
Brad Evans – Henry A. Giroux
Self-Plagiarism and the Politics of Character Assassination: the Case of Zygmunt Bauman
Peter Lee
Making Sense of China’s Stock Market Meltdown
Paul Craig Roberts
Wall Street and the Matrix: Where is Neo When We Need Him?
Kerry Emanuel
The Real Lesson of Katrina: the Worst is Yet to Come
Dave Lindorff
Why Wall Street Reporting is a Joke
Pepe Escobar
Brave (Miserable) New Normal World
Ramzy Baroud
‘Islamic State’ Pretence and the Upcoming Wars in Libya
Paul Edwards
Capitalism Delenda Est
Norman Pollack
The Political Culture of Rape in America: Further Thoughts on the St. Paul’s School Case
Stephen Lendman
The Monied Interests That Run America
Pedro Aibéo
Democratizing Finance (With Bitcoin?)
Alfredo Acedo
Climate Change and Capitalism: Challenges of the COP21 Paris and Climate Movements
August 26, 2015
Paul Street
Overworked and Out of Time: a Democracy Issue
Sharmini Peries - Michael Hudson
Behind the Market Crash: the Smoke and Mirrors of Corporate Buybacks
David Mihalyfy
Reform Higher Ed? Treat Badmin Like Bankers
Ruth Hopkins
Police Shootings in Indian Country: Justice or Else!
Gary Leupp
ISIL Advances While Its Foes Cannot Unite
Fred Gardner
The Psychiatrist’s Bible: Defining ‘Marijuana Use Disorder’
Yorgos Mitralias
The Catastrophic International Consequences of the Capitulation of Syriza and the Criminal Responsibility of Mr. Tsipras
Walter Brasch
Katrina: a 10-Year Review
Jim Connolly
Seven Questions and Seven Answers: a Sandernista Makes Reasonable Predictions About the 2016 Contest for the Democratic Presidential Nomination
Pedro Aibéo
Selling Austerity to Finland
Franklin Lamb
Heritage Destruction in Syria is a War Crime
Binoy Kampmark
Tourism’s Disaster Temptation: the Case of Nepal
Jeffrey D. Pugh
Trial by Fire for Ecuador’s President Correa
Vacy Vlanza
A Palestinian Novel Par Excellence
Alvaro Huerta
Confessions of an ‘Anchor Baby’: Open Letter to President Donald Trump
August 25, 2015
Gary Leupp
Why Donald Trump is So Scary
Jonathan Cook
Israel’s Thug at the UN
Steve Early
How “Brother” Bernie is Making Labor’s Day
Carl Finamore
An Affordable Housing Victory: High-End San Francisco Development Implodes
Henry Giroux – Chuck Mertz
The Spectacle of American Violence and the Cure for Donald Trump
Robert Eisinger
Trivializing Anti-Semitism
Brian Platt
It is Time We Discussed Abolishing the Police
Alexander Reid Ross
Trump the Fascist
Nicola Perugini - Neve Gordon
Mohammed Allan at the Door of the Israeli Supreme Court
Ted Rall
The United States of Stupidity
Heather Gray
A Message to American Mothers About Sex in the Military
Jo Leinen – Andreas Bummel
How to Democratize the UN
Lawrence Davidson
The Iran Agreement and Israel’s Claim to Speak for the Jews
Mark Hand
A Well Pad Next to Every 3-Car Garage: Suburban Sprawl Collides with Texas Frack Jobs
John Laforge
U.S. Bows Out After Plowshares Conviction is Vacated: Appeals Court Ill-Informed on Nuclear Overkill
Norman Pollack
Gender Freedom and Sexual Liberation: The St. Paul’s School Case
Kathy Kelly
Let It Shine