Posted Under: Health Care,International,Obama,US Politics
Guest post by Chris Girffiths
It’s not been an easy summer for Barack Obama. This month has seen yet more shrieking from the right-wings as he attempts to introduce a ‘radical’ scheme to offer US Government-backed health insurance scheme so the poorest people can get medical treatment. Hardly trying to append “SR” to the “US”, is he? But even this moderate move is seen as groundbreaking by the American Right, so sure are they that public sector provision is unpatriotic and even treasonous. Against this backdrop – which looks a lot like a Confederate flag – Obama’s got his work cut out.
The Fox-News-backed protesters are right about one thing though: Obama is a fundamentalist. This is an unpopular sentiment with everyone who’s read those really moving autobiographies; and granted, Obama’s much more likeable than Bush – but let’s face it, he’s not exactly differing from the last President in foreign policy, is he? The occupation of Iraq goes on, more troops go to Afghanistan and the aims are never set out, although we all know it’s about geo-strategic resource issues (oil, to be blunt). Obama rightly criticises British imperialism through his account of his grandfather’s experiences at the hands of the British colonial administration in Kenya, but is happy to serve as Commander in Chief of the most far-reaching empire the world’s ever seen, one that continues to ignore the Geneva Convention and support despotic regimes like Saudi Arabia. This is at odds with the lazy journalistic line that George W Bush was somehow an aberration while Obama is a return to the non-interventionist America we knew and loved – plainly untrue, as the US has intervened in over fifty countries since 1945, overthrowing democracies when they got in the way of American interests.
Aside from directly waging war on underdeveloped countries and contributing to worsening human rights in Iraq, Obama sits atop an economic system designed to subjugate the global South, meaning that informally the continents of Asia, Africa and South America are effectively under colonial rule. The World Trade Organisation continues to campaign for removal of tariff barriers in the developing world, despite the fact that all the major industrialised nations got to where they are today by using tariffs. The International Monetary Fund and World Bank carry on making ‘aid’ loans conditional on privatisation, as if Bechtel and Haliburton hadn’t enriched themselves enough already, prising open the global South for business. Is Obama going to change any of this? Probably not: he believes in American exceptionalism every bit as much as his predecessors, writing in Foreign Affairs that the US is “called to provide visionary leadership”. As leader of the free world, shouldn’t he have given us all a vote on this?
Unfortunately, the journalistic profession and many others in the US and Europe are guilty of extreme sloppiness: they’ve relied on Obama’s own accounts of his political philosophy, heavily analysed his moving speeches, and rightly celebrated the historic occasion of the election of a black President, but failed to step back and consider his policies in any depth beyond whether he was doing enough to sort out the recession. His small number of policy changes are impressive as far as they go, but our biggest worry should be what stays the same: foreign conquest, exploitation and disregard for human rights. There might be a more likeable front-man in place but real change will only come if the people who carried him to power in the first place start holding him to account by using their powerful voice to call for the dismantling of American empire.