The Lost Opportunities of Barack Obama


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





October 08, 2015
Michael Horton
Why is the US Aiding and Enabling Saudi Arabia’s Genocidal War in Yemen?
Ben Debney
Guns, Trump and Mental Illness
Pepe Escobar
The NATO-Russia Face Off in Syria
Yoav Litvin
Israeli Occupation for Dummies
Lawrence Davidson
Deep Poverty in America: the On-Going Tradition of Not Caring
Thomas Knapp
War Party’s New Line: Vladimir Putin is Why We Can’t Have Nice Things
Brandon Jordan
Sowing the Seeds of War in Uruguay
Binoy Kampmark
Imperilled by Unfree Trade: the TPP on Environment and Labor
John McMurtry
The Canadian Elections: Cover-Up and Steal (Again)
Anthony Papa
Coming Home: an Open Letter to 6,000 Soon-to-be-Released Drug War Prisoners From an Ex-Con
Ramzy Baroud
Listen to Syrians: The Media Jackals and the People’s Narrative
Norman Pollack
Heart of Darkness: A Two-Way Street
Gilbert Mercier
Will Russia, Iran, Hezbollah and Iraqi Shiite Militias Defeat ISIS in Syria and Iraq?
John Stanton
Vietnam 2.0 and California Dreamin’ in Ukraine
William John Cox
The Pornography of Hatred
October 07, 2015
Nancy Scheper-Hughes
Witness to a Troubled Saint-Making: Junipero Serra and the Theology of Failure
Luciana Bohne
The Double-Speak of American Civilian Humanitarianism
Joyce Nelson
TPP: Big Pharma’s Big Deal
Jonathan Cook
Israel Lights the Touchpaper at Al-Aqsa Again
Joseph Natoli
The Wreckage in Sight We Fail To See
Piero Gleijeses
Cuba’s Jorge Risquet: the Brother I Never Had
Andrew Stewart
Do #BlackLivesMatter to Dunkin’ Donuts?
Rajesh Makwana
#GlobalGoals? The Truth About Poverty and How to Address It
Joan Berezin
Elections 2016: A New Opening or Business as Usual?
Dave Randle
The Man Who Sold Motown to the World
Adam Bartley
“Shameless”: Hillary Clinton, Human Rights and China
Binoy Kampmark
The Killings in Oregon: Business as Usual
Harvey Wasserman
Why Bernie and Hillary Must Address America’s Dying Nuke Reactors
Tom H. Hastings
Unarmed Cops and a Can-do Culture of Nonviolence
October 06, 2015
Vijay Prashad
Afghanistan, the Terrible War: Money for Nothing
Mike Whitney
How Putin will Win in Syria
Paul Street
Yes, There is an Imperialist Ruling Class
Paul Craig Roberts
American Vice
Kathy Kelly
Bombing Hospitals: 22 People Killed by US Airstrike on Doctors Without Borders Hospital in Kunduz, Afghanistan
Ron Jacobs
Patti Smith and the Beauty of Memory
David Macaray
Coal Executive Finally Brought Up on Criminal Charges
Norman Pollack
Cold War Rhetoric: The Kept Intelligentsia
Cecil Brown
The Firing This Time: School Shootings and James Baldwin’s Final Message
Roger Annis
The Canadian Election and the Global Climate Crisis
W. T. Whitney
Why is the US Government Persecuting IFCO/Pastors for Peace Humanitarian Organization?
Jesse Jackson
Alabama’s New Jim Crow Far From Subtle
Joe Ramsey
After Umpqua: Does America Have a Gun Problem….or a Dying Capitalist Empire Problem?
Murray Dobbin
Rise Up, Precariat! Cheap Labour is Over
October 05, 2015
Michael Hudson
Parasites in the Body Economic: the Disasters of Neoliberalism
Patrick Cockburn
Why We Should Welcome Russia’s Entry Into Syrian War