Illusions perdues

Editorial note: If you have not yet read our mission statement above, please do so in order that you can put our blogs in context. 

14 December 2012

The rumour going round the media mills today is that US Democrat President Barack Obama is lining up former Republican Senator Chuck Hagel to replace Leon Pancetta as Defence Secretary in his new cabinet.

If true, this comes as no surprise to Antigone1984 and others with long memories.

Obama was elected president for the first time on 4 November 2008 after his “Yes we can” audacity-of-hype campaign.  He took office, replacing Republican President George W. Bush, on 20 January 2009.

Yet even before he took his seat in the Oval Office Antigone1984  had gotten the measure of him.

That is why we wrote a letter to the London Guardian on 27 November 2008 – less than a month after the presidential poll:

“You report (November 26) that Obama supplants Bush. However, plus ça change, plus c’est la même  chose. Obama has re-appointed Republican Defence Secretary [Robert] Gates to intensify the war in Afghanistan and Pakistan. He has picked the Israel-biased party-machine conservative Hillary Clinton as Secretary of State. He has appointed a bunch of former Clintonites, including ex-Reagan adviser Larry Summers, as presidential aides. He is even reported to want a security official linked to water-boarding as head of the CIA. Already the promises on environment and health spending are being toned down. So much for the hope and change promised on the campaign trail by the president-elect. And he is not yet even in office. It’s all over with Obama before he’s even started. We can already make out his epitaph in the words that Tacitus used of Galba: “omnium consensu capax imperii nisi imperasset” [ “Everyone agreed that he would make a good Emperor –  until he actually became Emperor”].”

Needless to say, our letter was not published. The Obama hype machine was operating at full throttle in those heady post-election days. No doubt of any kind was allowed to cloud the blue skies of euphoria. The commentariat on both sides of the pond – most of them hard-bitten hacks that ought to have been long inured to hyperbole – took leave of their senses. This was the beginning of a new dawn, a Golden Age, Shangri-La on the Potomac. One London journalist lost his mind. “The tectonic plates have shifted,” he screamed, “the world will never be the same again.”


Antigone1984 has a hard-and-fast rule when it comes to assessing the credibility of politicians: ignore what they say, judge them by what they do.

Not long after Obama did take office, on 4 June 2009 he made what was purported to be a seminal speech in Cairo. Entitled “A New Beginning”, it was supposed to mend fences between the US and the Arab world.

“I have come here to seek a new beginning between the United States and Muslims around the world; one based upon mutual interest and mutual respect; and one based upon the truth that America and Islam are not exclusive, and need not be in competition. Instead, they overlap, and share common principles – principles of justice and progress; tolerance and the dignity of all human beings,” said the President.

He then added:

Of course, recognizing our common humanity is only the beginning of our task. Words alone cannot meet the needs of our people. These needs will be met only if we act boldly in the years ahead.”

You said it, brother.

He went on:

Let there be no doubt: the situation for the Palestinian people is intolerable. America will not turn our backs on the legitimate Palestinian aspiration for dignity, opportunity, and a state of their own.”

The Cairo speech, which seemed to exude empathy with the plight of displaced Palestinians, went down a treat in the Arab street. It was undoubtedly a key factor in the largely incomprehensible award of the Nobel Peace Prize to Obama later that year.

[Awarding the prize to a commander-in-chief in the process of waging two major wars in Iraq and Afghanistan did raise some eyebrows, it has to be said. But then again the Nobel Peace Committee has form in this connection. Henry Kissinger was a previous winner, as was Menachem Begin.]

After the speech in Cairo, however, it was back to business as usual. America concentrated on waging its wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, adding Pakistan to the battleground,  while the Arab-Israeli conflict ground on without remission precisely as it had done since 1948.

Worse was to come, however.

On 31 October 2011, against the wishes of the United States and Israel, UNESCO (the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization) voted overwhelmingly to accept Palestine as a member. The United States promptedly cut off its funding for UNESCO.

And that was not the end of it.

In the United Nations General Assembly on 29 November 2012, 188 of the 193 UN member states voted on a motion to accept Palestine as a state with non-member observer status. The motion was adopted by 138 votes to 9 with 41 abstentions. The motion was opposed by the United States and Israel, yet despite months of hard lobbying worldwide for a no vote, they managed to seduce only one other top-table country (Canada) into the nay camp.

Hypocrisy? Hard to think of any other word for it.

Let it not be thought that Antigone1984 is alone in focusing a cold critical eye on Obama’s achievements. In a TV interview during Obama’s first term, Noam Chomsky, the elder statesman of liberal America, maintained that Obama was worse than George W. Bush. And only last month in Paris Perry Anderson,  the radical historian who has edited Britain’s New Left Review for half a century, said that you could not slip a cigarette paper between the policies of Bush and Obama.

Naturally, views of this kind do not command the attention of the conventional mass media, subservient as they are to the powers that be.

Let us make it abundantly clear, all the same, that it gives us no pleasure  whatever to be writing this prognostic obituary of Obama’s next term in office.

Had Obama Mark I shown in office a modicum of the radicalism that he had promised on the campaign trail, we would not have been backward in coming forward to acknowledge it.

But no.  It was not to be.

And now here we go again.

As we said in our latest reports on Obama’s second coming as president,  America – and the world – deserves better.


For our reports on the 2012 US presidential poll, check out:

A plague o’both your houses!

Et alors?

“The greatest nation on earth”

Clouds over Obama


 You might perhaps care to view some of our earlier posts.  For instance:

1. Why? or How? That is the question (3 Jan 2012)

2. Partitocracy v. Democracy (20 July 2012)

3. The shoddiest possible goods at the highest possible prices (2 Feb 2012)

4. Capitalism in practice  (4 July 2012) 

5.Ladder  (21 June 2012)

 6. A tale of two cities (1)  (6 June 2012)

 7. A tale of two cities (2)  (7 June 2012)

 8. Where’s the beef? Ontology and tinned meat (31 Jan 2012)

Every so often we shall change this sample of previously published posts.


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