In November 2009 Australian journalist and filmmaker John Pilger received the 2009 Sydney Peace Prize at a ceremony at the Sydney Opera House. In a lecture as worth watching as Harold Pinter’s Nobel Prize acceptance speech, Pilger points out an uncomfortable truth about the American president:
It doesn’t matter who is president ”“ George Bush or Barack Obama. Indeed, Obama has stepped up Bush’s wars and started his own war in Pakistan. Like Bush, he is threatening Iran, a country Hillary Clinton said she was prepared to “annihilate”. Iran’s crime is its independence. Having thrown out America’s favourite dictator, the Shah, Iran is the only resource-rich Muslim country beyond American control. It doesn’t occupy anyone else’s land and hasn’t attacked any country – unlike Israel, which is nuclear-armed and dominates and divides the Middle East on America’s behalf.
In Australia, we are not told this. It’s taboo. Instead, we dutifully celebrate the illusion of Obama, the global celebrity, the marketing dream. Like Calvin Klein, brand Obama offers the riske thrill of a new image attractive to liberal sensibilities, if not to the Afghan children he bombs.
This is modern propaganda in action, using a kind of reverse racism ”“ the same way it deploys gender and class as seductive tools. In Barack Obama’s case, what matters is not his race or his fine words, but the class and power he serves.
Pilger’s article on Obama as brand and the success with which the American people were led to believe Obama would oppose Bush’s policies reminds us that
In his first 100 days, Obama has excused torture, opposed habeas corpus and demanded more secret government. He has kept Bush’s gulag intact and at least 17,000 prisoners beyond the reach of justice. On 24 April, his lawyers won an appeal that ruled Guantanamo Bay prisoners were not “persons”, and therefore had no right not to be tortured. His national intelligence director, Admiral Dennis Blair, says he believes torture works. One of his senior US intelligence officials in Latin America is accused of covering up the torture of an American nun in Guatemala in 1989; another is a Pinochet apologist. As Daniel Ellsberg has pointed out, the US experienced a military coup under Bush, whose secretary of “defence”, Robert Gates, along with the same warmaking officials, has been retained by Obama.
Why has the liberal left who supported Obama ceded the streets to the Tea Party? What happened to groups like “United for Peace and Justice” organizing millions in the streets of major US cities?