Barack Obama, the new President of the United States, has taken up office on a wave of euphoria. His election campaign and media sound-bites certainly struck a chord among the people of the United States, who desire and hunger for a complete change of direction, not just from the discredited Bush regime but from previous regimes over many decades.
Obama’s appeal is that he appears to many millions of citizens to be fresh, untainted by the old corrupt politics of Washington and the powerful economic forces that control politics and the institutions of the state. He made a deliberate play for the people, making a virtue of the fact that he was an outsider, a man of the people, the only candidate opposed to the Democratic Party establishment—in fact an anti-establishment politician.
His appeal was one of unity—national unity to rally all the political forces of the country in its hour of need as the economic crisis deepens. He appealed to workers and employers to come together to share the burden, and called for the unity of black, white and brown. Certainly unity of the people is essential if progress is to be made, no matter what country you live and struggle in.
But as the Obama election campaign gathered pace, his steady movement to the right was discernible. Setting out his political pitch to secure the nomination, addressing working people, youth and women, ensured a flow of money into his campaign coffers in the form of small donations; but towards the end his rhetoric softened, and the corporate donations began to flow in thick and fast.
Obama is a clever and very articulate establishment politician. He has touched and expressed what many people feel is wrong with the United States but are not too sure how it should be fixed. He manufactured his coalition well, appearing to be both anti-establishment and pro-establishment simultaneously.
Before his inauguration and since, he has appointed to his government people very much from the political class of Washington. There is no-one around the cabinet table who fundamentally challenges the status quo. This is not some closet radical conspiracy.
There is a strong influence of zionism and a very pro-Israel feel to the senior people around him. There can be no doubt that the Israeli invasion of Gaza was given the go-ahead by Obama and his advisers. They set out the time scale for how long the Israeli government had to complete its task.
There have always been two main currents in the American establishment. One believed that American strategic political, economic and military interests could be protected and enhanced only by American military might and which intervened accordingly around the globe. (Bush was not an aberration.) The other current believed that they should use their economic muscle and their control over global financial and regulatory bodies to achieve the same goal but, if required, would use a combination of both. This was most recently reflected in the policies of the Clinton government.
Some of Obama’s closest and most senior advisers are from the Clinton period. One of the most ideologically driven from the hard right is the Polish-American Zbigniew Brzezinski, one of the chief Cold War ideologues of the Reagan regime. One certainly needs to take a second look when such individuals are in a position of influence, or when Henry Kissinger endorses and welcomes a candidate’s election.
If Obama was serious about making changes in how the United States relates to the rest of the world, or about a more equitable society, then a more rigorous clean-out and the appointment of new blood would have been a signal. This does not appears to be the case.
His presidential orders in relation to abortion and stem-cell research are important in themselves and are welcome. Many in the corporate and the scientific worlds saw Bush’s restrictions as a throwback to a more backward period. And certainly the closing down of the Guantánamo torture camp is to be welcomed as a small but important step forward. The question, however, is whether he will outlaw all the methods of torture instituted by the Bush government.
Obama may personally be a decent individual, but he has surrounded himself with as dangerous a parcel of rogues as is to be found in any cabinet or collection of advisers. One of the great dangers of this new cabal in the White House is that they may appear to be less threatening, and the simple fact that Obama is not Bush may lull progressive forces into a false sense of a new dawn. As US forces slink out of Iraq, battered and beaten, Obama wishes to continue the war of occupation in Afghanistan and the bombing raids into Pakistan.
While Bush was busy with his “war on terror,” the oppressed masses in what they arrogantly call their own back yard have been busily removing one pro-US regime after another. Given the make-up of the Obama cabinet, the transformation now under way in Latin America will increasingly become the focus of this “new” regime in Washington.
For Obama to convince the majority of the people of the world that the United States has put old ways behind it and that it has truly moved in a different direction, a lot more is required of him before he earns that trust. The establishment in Europe and all those forces in the mass media that support the US position but under Bush were too embarrassed have been able to step back out into the light and bask in the reflected glory of Obama’s election.
Now is the time for progressive forces to rally and to show their support to progressive forces within the United States itself. They will need our support if they are to push Obama to deliver on his free-flowing rhetoric and to resist corporate America’s grab for the public purse.
The world badly needs a progressive US president. The jury is a long way from giving a positive verdict on the new tenant in the White House while the representatives of the financial-military-industrial complex guard the doors.