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





More articles by:

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

March 21, 2018
Paul Street
Time is Running Out: Who Will Protect Our Wrecked Democracy from the American Oligarchy?
Mel Goodman
The Great Myth of the So-Called “Adults in the Room”
Chris Floyd
Stumbling Blocks: Tim Kaine and the Bipartisan Abettors of Atrocity
Eric Draitser
The Political Repression of the Radical Left in Crimea
Patrick Cockburn
Erdogan Threatens Wider War Against the Kurds
John Steppling
It is Us
Thomas Knapp
Death Penalty for Drug Dealers? Be Careful What You Wish for, President Trump
Manuel García, Jr.
Why I Am a Leftist (Vietnam War)
Isaac Christiansen
A Left Critique of Russiagate
Howard Gregory
The Unemployment Rate is an Inadequate Reporter of U.S. Economic Health
Ramzy Baroud
Who Wants to Kill Palestinian Prime Minister Rami Hamdallah?
Roy Morrison
Trouble Ahead: The Trump Administration at Home and Abroad
Roger Hayden
Too Many Dead Grizzlies
George Wuerthner
The Lessons of the Battle to Save the Ancient Forests of French Pete
Binoy Kampmark
Fictional Free Trade and Permanent Protectionism: Donald Trump’s Economic Orthodoxy
Rivera Sun
Think Outside the Protest Box
March 20, 2018
Jonathan Cook
US Smooths Israel’s Path to Annexing West Bank
Jeffrey St. Clair
How They Sold the Iraq War
Chris Busby
Cancer, George Monbiot and Nuclear Weapons Test Fallout
Nick Alexandrov
Washington’s Invasion of Iraq at Fifteen
David Mattson
Wyoming Plans to Slaughter Grizzly Bears
Paul Edwards
My Lai and the Bad Apples Scam
Julian Vigo
The Privatization of Water and the Impoverishment of the Global South
Mir Alikhan
Trump and Pompeo on Three Issues: Paris, Iran and North Korea
Seiji Yamada
Preparing For Nuclear War is Useless
Gary Leupp
Brennan, Venality and Turpitude
Martha Rosenberg
Why There’s a Boycott of Ben & Jerry’s on World Water Day, March 22
John Pilger
Skripal Case: a Carefully-Constructed Drama?
March 19, 2018
Henry Heller
The Moment of Trump
John Davis
Pristine Buildings, Tarnished Architect
Uri Avnery
The Fake Enemy
Patrick Cockburn
The Fall of Afrin and the Next Phase of the Syrian War
Nick Pemberton
The Democrats Can’t Save Us
Nomi Prins 
Jared Kushner, RIP: a Political Obituary for the President’s Son-in-Law
Georgina Downs
The Double Standards and Hypocrisy of the UK Government Over the ‘Nerve Agent’ Spy Poisoning
Dean Baker
Trump and the Federal Reserve
Colin Todhunter
The Strategy of Tension Towards Russia and the Push to Nuclear War
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
US Empire on Decline
Ralph Nader
Ahoy America, Give Trump a Taste of His Own Medicine Starting on Trump Imitation Day
Robert Dodge
Eliminate Nuclear Weapons by Divesting from Them
Laura Finley
Shame on You, Katy Perry
Weekend Edition
March 16, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Michael Uhl
The Tip of the Iceberg: My Lai Fifty Years On
Bruce E. Levine
School Shootings: Who to Listen to Instead of Mainstream Shrinks
Mel Goodman
Caveat Emptor: MSNBC and CNN Use CIA Apologists for False Commentary
Paul Street
The Obama Presidency Gets Some Early High Historiography