A very incisive article by John Pilger was brought to my attention (thanks again @rodolfob): “Power, Illusion, and America’s Last Taboo,” Dissident Voice, September 2nd, 2009. It is the written version of an address by Pilger this summer in San Francisco, presented in the video above. Here are some of my favourite passages from the piece (resisting the temptation to copy and paste the whole, given that this is one of the sharpest pieces I have read on Obama and the American “left” in a while — see more examples below):
I learned that the United States had won World War Two on its own and now led the “free world” as the “chosen” society. It was only much later when I read Walter Lippmann’s Public Opinion that I understood something of the power of emotions attached to false ideas and bad history. Historians call this “exceptionalism” — the notion that the United States has a divine right to bring what it calls liberty to the rest of humanity….a very old refrain; the French and British created and celebrated their own “civilizing mission” while imposing colonial regimes that denied basic civil liberties….However, the power of the American message is different. Whereas the Europeans were proud imperialists, Americans are trained to deny their imperialism.
Americanism is an ideology that is unique because its main element is its denial that it is an ideology.
Barack Obama is the embodiment of this “ism”. Since Obama was elected, leading liberals have talked about America returning to its true status as a “nation of moral ideals” — the words of Paul Krugman in the New York Times. In the San Francisco Chronicle columnist Mark Morford wrote that, “spiritually advanced people regard the new president as ‘a Lightworker’ . . . who can help usher in a new way of being on the planet.” Tell that to an Afghan child whose family has been blown away by Obama’s bombs, or a Pakistani child whose family are among the 700 civilians killed by Obama’s drones.
Obama’s is the myth that is America’s last taboo. His most consistent theme was never change; it was power.
The clever young man who recently made it to the White House is a very fine hypnotist, partly because it is so extraordinary to see an African-American at the pinnacle of power in the land of slavery. However, this is the 21st century, and race — together with gender and even class — can be very seductive tools of propaganda. For what matters, above race and gender, is the class one serves.
In his book, Dreams From My Father, Obama refers to the job he took after he graduated from Columbia University in 1983. He describes his employer as “a consulting house to multinational corporations.” For some reason, he does not say who his employer was or what he did there. The employer was Business International Corporation, which has a long history of providing cover for the CIA with covert action, and infiltrating unions and the left.
During his brief period in the Senate, Obama voted to continue the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan. He voted for the Patriot Act. He refused to support a bill for single-payer health care. He supported the death penalty. As a presidential candidate, he received more corporate backing than John McCain.
On this blog you can find more articles critical of Obama in the same vein as above, including this rough edit of the close approximation of the messages of Obama and McCain and how, together, they seem patterned on George Orwell’s two-minute hate in 1984:
- Automatic Replay: “Two” Imperialist Speeches from the One Party State
- America’s New Counterinsurgency Doll: On Store Shelves this January 20
- Yes You Can. Yes You Did.
- A Shift Toward the Center (of Fascism)
- Pragmatism in the “Shitstem” and Singing for Obama
- Obama as Intermission for Gaza: Mass Murder Hits the Pause Button
- Noam Chomsky: Obama’s position on Gaza is “approximately the Bush position”
- Message to Obama: From an Undefeated Hamas
- Zombie Humanitarians: It’s Obama’s Human Terrain System Now
- Who Is Still Running the World? An “Anthropologically Unjust” Reality
- Fidel: Obama, the “Empire’s Hypocrite” (1.4)
- Spectroscopic Survey of Imperial (De)formations: A Wholly Dispassionate and Disinterested Report from the Links
From other blogs and newspapers, in no particular order:
- Obama the imperialist: Change? In foreign policy, hardly. The new president is in the classic liberal interventionist mould — Richard Seymour, The Guardian, Tuesday 27 January 2009.
- Obama: Less Imperialist, More Imperial — Ben Trott, ZNet, July 26, 2008.
- Barack Obama: Faithful Tool of U.S. Imperialism and Empire – The Black Commentator – Keeping It Real — Larry Pinkey.
- Putting Black Faces on Imperial Policies — Glen Ford, Dissident Voice, February 14, 2007.
- Obama will still pursue US imperialism – CPP — GMA NEWS TV, November 8, 2008.
- US Senator Barack Obama and the war in Iraq — Tom Eley, World Socialist Web Site, 13 February 2007.
- The Humanitarian Imperialist: Obama and Genocide — Binoy Kampmark, Scoop, 9 December 2008.
- Zimbabwe: Obama a Prisoner of U.S. Foreign Policy Mindset — Tichaona Zindoga, The Herald, 25 March 2009.
- Zimbabwe: Obama – Wolf in Sheepskins — Alexander Kanengoni, The Herald, 6 August 2009.
- The Imperialism You Can Believe In — Baltische Rundschau, July 12, 2008.
5 thoughts on “Obama as Opiate: Imperialism Denies Itself as Imperialism”
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I think you bring up some interesting points about President Obama. I think that he needs to be more informed before entering into another mission that will be equated to nation building. Afghanistan is chaos. It needs a strong central government but can that ever happen. Historically the country has been run by tribal forces when not governed by some outside empire.
One of the things President Obama needs to do is stop making speeches, sit his ass in the Oval Office and come up with some clear goals in Afghanistan. In June they decided to not deal with drug eradication. 2008 saw on 3percent eradicated at such a high cost. Now they are turning to hearts and minds which did so well for us in Viet Nam. Whomever is making the policy and decisions when it comes to Afghanistan needs to study some history and learn many empires have tried to change Afghanistan but none have succeeded. The answer I believe lies in the people. They need to want to change their country. They are the ones that need to build the schools and hospitals. They are the ones that need to stop growing opium and start growing something else, this will be the hardest since it pays so much (our problem in Colombia) and with Iran’s high opium addiction it will the toughest goal in front of US, NATO and Afghan forces.
I hope that someone does some things right before we are sucked into another war that saps the American will and energy
Excellent points, thanks. You may be too late on that last point, “before we are sucked into another war that saps the American will and energy.”
Speaking of Obama as Opiate, Obama tried demoralizing the G20 protesters when it became apparent that the opiate had lost its glow.
G-20 Protests Too Abstract to Make a Difference
Obama calls upon his vast experience as a community organizer who worked on behalf of a CIA front to tell protesters how to protest. Yay! Thank God for the liberal blogosphere, right? Otherwise, this might have simply languished as an obscure interview in an obscure local paper, but now it’s splashed all over the internet, vastly increasing the reach of this patently obvious attempt to suppress dissent before it starts.
It also appeared on Alternet and a few other “A-list” liberal websites where it brought forth the predictable reaction from liberal aesthetes whose ideal of organization is Robert’s Rules of Order.
For a group that rejects the claim that they have “drunk the Kool-Aid”, they certainly behave like a cult of personality. Who else but a member of the cult of the Great Leader could possibly believe there was nothing self-serving about this preemptive criticism of the G20 protests? Apparently, according to the great community organizer, we’re to focus on “local issues” in our own community. Translated, that means that everyone should stay home and not organize around issues of global justice.
Right on target Nullifidian. I especially like how you highlighted the paradox of the “community organizer” (did we ever find out which community he organized?), the same one who jettisoned an actual community leader, Rev. Jeremiah Wright, as soon as the latter began to speak the unofficial truths that could embarrass the campaign to make Obama the center of the campaign. Lots of otherwise more lucid, critical minds should have seen this coming.
It’s great to see Michael Moore getting lambasted from the left for a change, because he has consistently backed candidates such as Kerry and Obama in spite of all his claims to have misgivings, doing his part to prop up the one party state while producing snarky pseudo-documentaries that showcase his quipping skills (Che Guevara trembled at injustice, Moore chuckles at the ironies of injustice). Personally, I am not aware of how Moore has done anything with the vast revenues his movies have pulled in, other than to enhance his own media company. If anyone knows better, please set me straight.
Anyway, it’s a great coincidence that you posted just today. I was going to email you to find out where you have been, your presence online has been missed.
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