The Obama Syndrome by Tariq Ali

In Extracts on 29 September 2011 at 6:40 pm

Chapter 2


Two years since the White House changed hands, how has the American empire altered? Under the Bush administration it was widely believed, in both mainstream opinion and much of the amnesiac section of the left, that the United States had fallen under an aberrant regime, the product of a virtual coup d’état by a coterie of right-wing fanatics—alternatively, ultra-reactionary corporations—who had hijacked American democracy for policies of unprecedented aggression in the Middle East. In reaction, the election to the presidency of a mixed-race Democrat who vowed to heal America’s wounds at home and restore its reputation abroad was greeted with a wave of ideological euphoria not seen since the days of Kennedy. Once again, America could show its true face—purposeful but peaceful; firm but generous; humane, respectful, multicultural—to the world. Naturally, with the makings of a Lincoln or a Roosevelt for our time in him, the country’s new young ruler would have to make compromises, as any statesman must. But at least the shameful interlude of Republican swagger and criminality was over. Bush and Cheney had broken the continuity of a multilateral American leadership that had served the country well throughout the Cold War and after. Obama would now restore it.

Rarely has self-interested mythology—or well-meaning gullibility—been more quickly exposed. There was no fundamental break in foreign policy, as opposed to diplomatic mood music, between the Bush One, Clinton, and Bush Two administrations; there has been none between the Bush and Obama regimes. The strategic goals and imperatives of the US imperium remain the same, as do its principal theaters and means of operation. Even before the collapse of the USSR, the Carter Doctrine—the con- struction of another democratic pillar of human rights—had defined the greater Middle East as the central battlefield for the imposition of American power around the world. It is enough to look at each of its sectors to see that Obama is the offspring of Bush, as Bush the son was of Clinton and Clinton of Bush the father, as so many appropriately biblical begettings. Obama’s line toward Israel would be manifest even before he took office. On December 27, 2008, the Israeli Defense Force launched an all-out air and ground assault on the population of Gaza. Bombing, burning, killing continued without interruption for twenty-two days, during which time the president-elect uttered not a syllable of reproof. By prearrangement, Tel Aviv called off its blitz shortly before his inauguration on January 20, 2009, not to spoil the party. By then Obama had picked the ultra-Zionist Doberman from Chicago, Rahm Emanuel, a former volunteer for the IDF, as his chief of staff. Once installed, Obama, like every US president, called for peace between the two suffering peoples of the Holy Land, and again, like every predecessor, for Palestinians to recognize Israel and for Israel to stop building settlements in the territories it seized in 1967. Within a week of the president’s speech in Cairo pledging opposition to further settlements, the Netanyahu coalition was extending Jewish properties in East Jeru- salem with impunity. By the autumn, Secretary of State Clinton was congratulating Netanyahu on the “unprecedented concessions” his government had made. She was asked by Mark Landler of the New York Times, at a press conference in Jerusalem, “Madame Secretary, when you were here in March on the first visit, you issued a strong statement condemning the demolition of housing units in East Jerusalem. Yet, that demolition has continued unabated, and indeed, a few days ago, the mayor of the city of Jerusalem issued a new order for demolition. How would you characterize this policy today?” She did not deign to reply.

A month earlier, the UN fact-finding mission set up to look at the invasion of Gaza had reported that the IDF had not always acted by the book, though naturally rocket attacks by Hamas had provoked their actions. Chaired by one of the most notorious time-servers of “international justice,” the South African judge Richard Goldstone, a prosecutor at the preorchestrated Hague Tribunal on Yugoslavia and a self-professed Zionist, the mission’s complaints against Israel could hardly have been feebler, in startling contrast to the testimony they heard in Gaza, which was made available on their Web site.  Even so, unaccustomed to establishment criticism of any kind, Tel Aviv reacted with dudgeon, and so Washington instructed its client at the head of the…

Upcoming Tariq Ali Events

October 17, 2011

UCL Darwin Lecture Theatre


Tariq Ali in conversation with Professor Ted Honderich about the Arab Spring, the US response and who will reshape the Arab world:its people, or the US?
Long standing editor of New Left Review, writer & filmaker, Tariq Ali’s latest book is The Obama Syndrome. Ted Honderich specialises in determinism, freedom and terrorism at UCL.

For further details please visit:

October 18, 2011

Bishopsgate Institute

THE OBAMA SYNDROME: Tariq Ali in conversation with Bonnie Greer

As the high expectations surrounding Barack Obama’s election subside and his administration grapples with an historic midterm defeat, Tariq Ali in conversation with Bonnie Greer, takes a timely look atObama and his notion of ‘reform’. Can US politics ever escape a slant towards Republicanism and are Obama’s domestic and international policies actually surrenders to the establishment?

For further details please visit:

October 21, 2011

University of Bristol

THE STATE OF WORLD POLITICS: Tariq Ali comments on world politics

Tariq Ali is one of our leading writers and commentators on international politics. In this special presentation, he will range widely over world politics, from the state of the UK economy, to the uprisings in the Middle East, protests in Greece and the UK, the potential break up of Britain and the failure of Obama. A typically pugnacious and erudite lecture is promised from one of our most engaging and passionate speakers.

For further details please visit:




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