ne of the cleverest films I have seen is Groundhog
, in which Bill Murray plays a TV weatherman who finds himself stuck
in time. At first he deludes himself that the same day and the same people and
the same circumstances offer new opportunities. Finally, his naivety and false
hope desert him and he realizes the truth of his predicament and escapes. Is this
a parable for the age of Obama?
Having campaigned with Change you can believe in, President-elect
Barack Obama has named his A-team. They include Hillary Clinton, who voted to
attack Iraq without reading the intelligence assessment and has since threatened
to totally obliterate Iran on behalf of a foreign power, Israel.
During his primary campaign, Obama referred repeatedly to Clintons lies
about her political record. When he appointed her secretary of state, he called
her my dear friend.
Obamas slogan is now continuity. His secretary of defense
will be Robert Gates, who serves the lawless, blood-soaked Bush regime as secretary
of defense, which means secretary of war (America last had to defend itself
when the British invaded in 1812). Gates wants no date set for an Iraq withdrawal
and well north of 20,000 troops to be sent to Afghanistan. He also
wants America to build a completely new nuclear arsenal, including tactical
nuclear weapons that blur the distinction with conventional weapons.
Another product of continuity is Obamas first choice for
CIA chief, John Brennan, who shares responsibility for the systematic kidnapping
and torturing of people, known as extraordinary rendition. Obama
has assigned Madeleine Albright to report on how to strengthen US leadership
in responding to genocide. Albright, as secretary of state, was largely
responsible for the siege of Iraq in the 1990s, described by the UNs Denis
Halliday as genocide.
There is more continuity in Obamas appointment of officials who will
deal with the economic piracy that brought down Wall Street and impoverished
millions. As in Bill Murrays nightmare, they are the same officials who
caused it. For example, Lawrence Summers will run the National Economic Council.
As treasury secretary, according to the New York Times, he championed
the law that deregulated derivatives, the... instruments aka toxic assets
that have spread financial losses [and] refused to heed critics who warned
of dangers to come.
There is logic here. Contrary to myth, Obamas campaign was funded largely
by rapacious capital, such as Citigroup and others responsible for the sub-prime
mortgage scandal, whose victims were mostly African Americans and other poor
Is this a grand betrayal? Obama has never hidden his record as a man of a system
described by Martin Luther King as the greatest purveyor of violence in
the world today. Obamas dalliance as a soft critic of the disaster
in Iraq was in line with most Establishment opinion that it was dumb.
His fans include the war criminals Tony Blair, who has hailed his
appointments, and Henry Kissinger, who describes the appointment of Hillary
Clinton as outstanding. One of John McCains principal advisers,
Max Boot, who is on the Republican Partys far right, said: I am
gobsmacked by these appointments. [They] could just as easily have come
from a President McCain.
Obamas victory is historic, not only because he will be the first black
president, but because he tapped in to a great popular movement among Americas
minorities and the young outside the Democratic Party. In 2006 Latinos, the
countrys largest minority, took America by surprise when they poured into
the cities to protest against George W Bushs draconian immigration laws.
They chanted: Si, se puede! (Yes we can!), a slogan
Obama later claimed as his own. His secretary for homeland security is Janet
Napolitano who, as governor of Arizona, made her name by stoking hostility against
Latino immigrants. She has militarized her states border with Mexico and
supported the building of a hideous wall, similar to the one dividing occupied
On election eve, reported Gallup, most Obama supporters were engaged
but deeply pessimistic about the countrys future direction.
My guess is that many people knew what was coming, but hoped for the best. In
exploiting this hope, Obama has all but neutered the antiwar movement that is
historically allied to the Democrats. After all, who can argue with the symbol
of the first black president in this country of slavery, regardless of whether
he is a warmonger? As Noam Chomsky has pointed out, Obama is a brand
like none other, having won the highest advertising campaign accolade and attracted
unprecedented sums of money. The brand will sell for a while. He will close
Guantanamo Bay, whose inmates represent less than one per cent of Americas
27,000 ghost prisoners. He will continue to make stirring, platitudinous
speeches, but the tears will dry as people understand that President Obama is
the latest manager of an ideological machine that transcends electoral power.
Asked what his supporters would do when reality intruded, Stephen Walt, an Obama
adviser, said: They have nowhere else to go.
Not yet. If there is a happy ending to the Groundhog Day of repeated wars and
plunder, it may well be found in the very mass movement whose enthusiasts registered
voters and knocked on doors and brought Obama to power. Will they now be satisfied
as spectators to the cynicism of continuity? In less than three
months, millions of angry Americans have been politicized by the spectacle of
billions of dollars of handouts to Wall Street as they struggle to save their
jobs and homes. It as if seeds have begun to sprout beneath the political snow.
And history, like Groundhog Day, can repeat itself. Few predicted the epoch-making
events of the 1960s and the speed with which they happened. As a beneficiary
of that time, Obama should know that when the blinkers are removed, anything