Thursday, 5 May 2011

Brand Obama - the Warrior President.

Obama has fulfilled a campaign promise in killing Osama bin Laden. Brand Obama can go 'Warrior President' now, with his citizenship finally confirmed, it seems he shouldn’t have much trouble in fending off a Republican candidacy or even an entry by Donald Trump into next year’s electoral bout. At the same time the Middle East is being swept up in revolutionary fervour, with the US supporting the Gulf Cooperation Council in it’s repression of the uprising in Bahrain. American gulags like Guantanamo Bay are still open for business and there is little possibility of closing down the kidnapping-and-torture ring in the near future. It might have been better to have held the man for trial, alongside Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, for 9/11 and other atrocities. But that would have led to a protracted battle in court, with the potential for serious questions of American conduct in recent years and this would have reopened the rift in American politics. Unity and national pride might be useful in subduing the American people before a harsh austerity can be imposed.

Noam Chomsky predicted that the Obama administration would recycle the policies of the last half of the Bush years, which were considerably moderate when compared with the first term. The bailouts and bombing of Pakistan were the early signs of this, in spite of this conservatives resorted to labelling Brand Obama "socialist". The important changes came in form, the rhetoric changed along with the way policy was delivered and the limits of what can be done in the US has been challenged significantly in this way. The most important change being that there is now a black family in the White House, a house built by slaves, which really does widen the perimeters of what is possible in the US. Though under Obama there has still been US support for the blockade on Gaza, the bombing of Pakistan, the coup in Honduras and the assault on Haiti by the IMF. There has only been a lukewarm return for liberal interventionism. Along with a no-fly zone over Libya also came a subtle pass for Gaddafi on human rights and the Libyan bankers have been made exempt from the sanctions.

We have seen the return of the old "crazies" in the media since Osama bin Laden was wasted. Most notably of all is Dick Cheney, an ultra-nationalist if there ever was one, has come out in support of the President's decision. It was under Cheney that policies of war and torture were furthered to an appalling extent. Andy Card reappeared on Newsnight to inform us that the raid went well as a result of planning. He also emphasised that it was "tough, courageous decisions" that Presidents have to make, which Mr Card would no doubt extend to the kidnapping and torture of "enemy combatants". The uniform praise for Obama reaches as far as George W Bush. The basic message of the Bushites has been defensive of past actions, criminals like John Yoo have claimed the death of Osama bin Laden justifies torture in all circumstances. Now the extremist wing of the GOP no longer have to fall back on the feeble line that torture is justifiable because there has yet to be another terror attack on US soil.

This is reason for the whitewash for Bush, who effectively allowed Osama bin Laden to escape from Afghanistan in 2001. The administration also failed to leap on the opportunity to divide the Jihadist movement by extraditing Osama bin Laden rather than executing the invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq – which have increased the threat of terrorism significantly. Instead there is talk of "courage" and "justice", as if these values are best expressed in war and assassination. Revenge would be the best word for it! If Obama had bombed the compound, the lives of Pakistani intelligence forces and soldiers could have been jeopardised. Not that the US has ever shown any concern for killing Pakistanis in bombing raids. Under Obama there have been six times as many drone strikes as there were under Bush, in fact Barack Obama picked up where Bush left off on his third day in office and the victims of these attacks are mostly civilian. The continued bombing of Pakistan was not enough for conservatives, he was still too soft for them. 

Assassination is no more an aberration in American history than the use of violence to achieve political goals in general. As Benjamin reminds us, every advance of civilisation is an advance in barbarism as well as emancipation. The recent action undertaken in Abbottabad by Obama is standard practice for the US government. Not always carried out by Americans personally. There is Ngo Dinh Diem, who ran South Vietnam, in a typically oppressive manner, and then in 1963 he was assassinated on orders from Washington. The attempt to kill Gaddafi in Libya, which has been overshadowed, is a similar demonstration of a willingness to kill in the American establishment. Assassination is not a method reserved to dispatch the monsters from this world. At the peak of COINTELPRO Fred Hampton was murdered, the same apparatus has tried to assassinate Fidel Castro 638 times and succeeded in killing Che Guevara in 1967. The willingness to kill is an important qualification for all American Presidential hopefuls, whether it is in war or in America's prisons.

The ultra-Rightist campaign of vilification, fear-mongering and baiting of all kinds, has been successful in fuelling the rise of the Tea Party and forcing compromise in the White House. The aim was to stamp out any currents in Obama policy which might have progressive outcomes – from health-care to the stimulus. The death of Osama bin Laden might signal the end of easy targets for the RightGlenn Beck, which might contribute to the inability of the Republican machine to attack Obama in damaging ways every week and put forward a more capable figure. It would seem that the Obama administration may have a lot more in common with Bill Clinton than Jimmy Carter.

It has been said that a second term might not be secure for Obama, after all George Bush won the Persian Gulf War and then was humiliated because of a U-turn on taxes. There are important differences between the election in 1992 and the one coming up in 2012. Though there is just as much, if not more, disinformation and fear-mongering going on today as there was in 1992. George HW Bush represented a third-term for Ronald Reagan, which is what John McCain would represent for George W Bush, whereas Barack Obama was elected as he represented a clean break with the Bush era. The Persian Gulf War may have been a victory for the US, Bush was criticised by neoconservatives for not taking out Saddam. The neocons have no grounds to attack Obama as Guantanamo Bay is still open, the war in Afghanistan is ongoing; there have been air-strikes against Gaddafi and Osama bin laden is dead. Obama is about to initiate a series of harsh spending cuts and the Bush tax-cuts have been renewed, it would seem there is little the Republicans have to offer for Corporate America.


Anonymous said...

Your delusional if you think that Obama is going to just slide into a reelection next year. He has lost a lot support from moderates, without whom he cannot win.

J.T. White said...

It is true that the support for Obama amongst moderates has waned, as he abandoned centre-right liberal politics and moved further to the hard right, the effect of which has made the Tea Party look a lot bigger than it is. The Republicans typically win elections when voters are apathetic and the turn-out is low, which is a real possibility in 2012 and probably the only way that the GOP could take the White House.

The killing of bin Laden, combined with spending cuts and the renewal of Bush tax-cuts, could win over the "crazies" and probably has won over the elites already. And I can't imagine many moderates defecting from the Democrats to the Republicans. The GOP has very little to offer them, just a more extreme version of what Obama has to offer. Obama is a safe-bet in a sense and he has brought about important ideological changes.