No Thanks, Obama: Deifying The President Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Dangerous

If nothing else, President Barack Obama has protected his place in the hearts and souls of American liberals during his last year in office.  With his celebrity-laden and unusually savvy social media presence, his easy sense of humor, and his charismatic speeches on behalf of his former rival and Secretary of State, he has reminded an ambiguous party why they turned out in historic numbers to vote him into office eight years ago.  Despite (or perhaps because of) unprecedented disapproval of their own presidential candidate and widespread panic at the election, Democrats’ approval of the president continues to rise.  No Democratic president since Kennedy has enjoyed this level of support from their own party.  What has been a running joke since the dawn of the primaries is actually supported in pubic opinion: in June, at least 67% of Democrats wanted a third term for Obama, and the number is presumably much higher now.

In America as in any imperial power, the head of state is a largely ceremonial position.  The importance of a president is at most their party, which (along with a donor base) decides who specifically to pull through the revolving door between business and politics to actually write laws and determine matters of policy.  Even in matters of military and foreign policy, the extent of their constitutional authority, the person elected has almost no influence (the terrifying threats of a President’s access to “nuclear codes” are a gross oversimplification; two additional officers are needed to launch a nuclear strike).  The President under capitalism is a performance artist who must be able to deliver a convincing enough performance to sell the state and its corporate beneficiaries to the public.  Personal actions or beliefs of such an actor are unknowable and insignificant, and I have no desire to analyze the morality of Barack Obama the Human Being.  He’s a talented salesman.  Those who quantify these things gave him an award for it.  I’ll leave it at that.

But, while a salesman is not of particular interest to the consumer, what is being sold here is of global importance.  Barack Obama the Entity, the body of advisors, strategists, donors, and appointees who hide behind that face that we all know and love, wields more power than perhaps any comparable organization in the world.  The executive branch of the United States government exerts its power on every human being in the world every day, and almost always does so malignantly.  So while the public (and in particular the left) adore Obama as a performance artist, they either accept or ignore the tremendous atrocities committed by those he represents.  By reducing a devastating political machine to the lovable character portrayed by an individual, they have depoliticized themselves and sacrificed their agency in a system that, if not reversed, will further devastate life on earth as we know it.  Especially as we enter an administration that signifies a turning point for radical politics, an engaged left is more crucial than ever.

Much has been made by the left over the dangers of “normalizing” a Trump presidency, with the implication that what is normal is acceptable.  In fact the only abnormality of Donald Trump is a matter of personal style.  The dangers he poses (and don’t get me wrong, he poses catastrophic dangers) are the same dangers we have faced for at least five presidencies, and they were normalized long ago.  The only course of survival for the massive populations threatened by American empire, and for the climate itself, is establishing that “normal” is unacceptable.  Nostalgia for the Obama regime, with its fraud, its mass deportations, and its global terrorism, will cripple any attempt to fight against Trump for a just world.  Regardless of rhetoric, President Obama is pushing the world into the same crises a President Trump promises.

The next time you feel like thanking Obama, pause to reflect on the politics he brought with him.  This is a very brief reminder of some of his administration’s greatest attacks on poor people, democracy, and the planet at large.

CAMPAIGN FINANCE

When the President took office, he had already sealed his fate in an unprecedented blanket of corporatism.  Obama’s presidential campaign was more expensive than any previous political campaign in human history, almost doubling any predecessors.  The vast bulk of this bubble came from two places: the financial industry, which had only months before collapsed the global economy through fraud and greed, and the tech industry.  The administration made sure these investors saw returns.  Leaked emails from Hillary Clinton’s campaign manager John Podesta, a former advisor and lobbyist to the President, show that CitiGroup chose most members of the President’s cabinet a month before the election.  Not surprisingly, Obama’s Justice Department (formerly headed by CitiGroup nominee Eric Holder) has consistently shielded CitiGroup from persecution in their repeated financial crimes throughout the administration.  Google, another major Obama donor, has enjoyed 471 private meetings at the White House in the administration’s first seven years.  It is not a stretch to imagine this has protected Google from significant punishment for its repeated violations of user privacy.  And the administration has spun the revolving door between politics and corporate powers; OpenSecrets found 816 Obama-nominated officials picked from private companies with an interest in national politics, including hundreds of registered lobbyists.

Obama vocally opposed the Supreme Court’s 2010 decision Citizens United vs FEC, which removed restrictions on political spending by Super PACs (invariably fronts for billionaires and corporations).  But he has benefited from the decision more than any other politician in history, running the first campaign ever to top $1 billion (in coordination with its Super PACs) in 2012.  The Democratic establishment has been trying to undermine the actually democratic elements of their party since the 1930s, when the New Deal’s diverse coalition of workers swept into control.  But it has been under Obama that the Democrats finally became the choice party of the capitalist elite.  This transformation has been so incredibly unpopular and so destructive to every element of the party’s usual base that despite outspending Republicans by nearly $500 million, the elites were not able to secure the presidency for their candidate this year.

BANK BAILOUTS

Obama was elected on the heels of a massive economic crisis, caused entirely by major banks and financial institutions outright lying about the risks of their investments in order to increase profit, enabled by decades of deregulation.  This crash cost middle class and working class Americans trillions ($3.4 trillion gone from retirement accounts alone), and has left more Americans in poverty than at any point since the Great Depression.  The crisis also flattened global markets, with the most severe effect on the world’s poor: though no analysis has been made on the crash’s death toll, a 1% decrease in global employment can predict 37,000 deaths, which means at least tens of thousands of people died due to the 2008 collapse.  Facing overwhelming public anticapitalist rage unseen for generations, the financial industry poured their money into the candidate they knew would become the next president.

The state had several options in handling the financial crisis and preventing its recurrence.  It could have demanded full reparations from those whose gambling and fraud cost working people their savings, and guaranteed that those reparations went directly to those in need, who could in turn spend them and salvage the functional sectors of the economy.  It could have seized the assets of corporations and used them for public work projects to eliminate unemployment.  It could have separated commercial banks from investment banks, in the model of the Glass Steagall Act that, from 1933 to 1999, prevented the inherently reckless world of investment banking from dominating the economy.  At the very least it could have made sure the brutal law of laissez-faire capitalism was universally applied and allowed the banks to sink into the disaster they plunged everyone else into.

The Obama administration did the opposite.  Banks were charged small fines, large parts of which were never collected by the state on the pretence that they would be given directly to suffering homeowners (so far, most have not).  Obama’s Federal Reserve Bank actually gave investment banks (all of which were on the verge of bankruptcy due to their own criminality) trillions of dollars ($29 trillion in promised investments, which is almost twice the country’s actual GDP), then manipulated available statistics to make it seem as though the banks would pay the public money back.  The only regulations the administration backed were in the Dodd Frank Act, which gutted small banks while actually increasing the portion of the GDP controlled by the few deemed “too big to fail.”  In a much smaller instance of savings and loans fraud, even the Reagan administration made sure that 839 bankers were arrested; after the most costly case of fraud in modern history, Obama has arrested only 1.

Occupy Wall Street Protestors March Down New York's Fifth Avenue
Occupy Wall Street, the movement demanding state action on inequality after the financial crisis, was widely portrayed as naive.

While the President claims to have fixed the economy, virtually all growth under his watch has been in the predatory industries he has protected.  Unemployment has shrunk but underemployment continues to climb, and the cost of living is growing as wages remain stagnant.  Inequality in wealth, income, and standard of living, already at catastrophic levels, has only increased.  Despite coming to power in a moment where the public would have actually supported radical action against the ruling economic class, Obama leaves that class more powerful than he found it, and his legacy will be the avoidable economic crashes that will become the norm in our absurd extreme of post-capitalist excess.

DEPORTATION

While the administration has been extremely lax about criminals whose actions devastate millions around the world, criminals whose crimes are entirely victimless have seen an extremely punitive state under Obama.  He laughed off the even the concept of marijuana legalization, despite (or perhaps because of) a staggering 12 million nonviolent drug arrests during his presidency, with black and Latino people 10 times more likely than white people to be arrested for drug possession.  Despite his claims to value justice reform and his condolences to the victims of police violence, his State Department expanded the Bush-era policy of police militarization, overseeing the sale of billions of dollars in military equipment to local police departments (including more than 80,000 assault rifles, making his calls for gun control ludicrous).  But by far the most insidious part of Obama’s police state is its deportation campaign.

Since 2007, every year has seen more net migration from the United States to Mexico than the reverse, and the Mexican-born US population has been in steady decline.  If widely reported, this statistical reality would entirely undermine claims like those of the president elect that illegal invaders are taking over the country.  It’s good news all around; if reported it would sooth the completely incorrect but politically powerful fear that Mexicans are taking American jobs, and in most cases it means a reunification of families torn apart by NAFTA (the trade deal that demolished rural agriculture in Mexico and gave millions of workers no choice but to head to the US for work).  But it threatens agro-corporations in the United States, which profit tremendously from exploiting immigrant labor.  So these businesses have pressured Obama’s Department of Homeland Security to embark on a rule of terror, and the Department has more than complied.

The business model of agro-corporations is a simple formula for indentured servitude: hire undocumented immigrants to do manual labor, and ignore the legal protections afforded to workers in the United States (minimum wage, fair hours, protection from toxic substances, protection from sexual violence, etc.).  The immigrants can not protest to the state, because their presence in the country is illegal.  Complaining brings a high risk of deportation.  They also have an extremely difficult time returning to Mexico; they are likely to be arrested at the highly militarized border, and face criminal charges and imprisonment before deportation.  This business model relies on a racist press that will keep public fear of “illegal aliens” high, to prevent human beings’ natural empathy from kicking in and resolving the obvious injustice.  It also relies on a police state enthusiastically arresting undocumented US residents at the demands of their former employers.

Obama’s presidency has been characterized by raids on undocumented communities, by mass arrests, and by mass deportations.  The President has given Homeland Security (and in particular the brutal Immigration and Customs Enforcement) unprecedented authority, and they have used it to become a devastating whip in a system of 21st century slavery.  The ICE, under Obama, has arrested and deported 2.5 million undocumented immigrants.  This is more than any previous president, and almost as many as all previous deportations combined.  Some of these people are deported quickly, but most spend months or even years in private prisons.  These prisons sell prisoner labor back to the same companies that were initially exploiting the labor.  Farm workers who had already been earning far less than minimum wage find themselves forced to work the same fields without any payment, and some die from neglect.   Americans frightened by the president elect’s calls for mass deportation don’t understand that he could never match the atrocities committed against immigrants by the Obama administration.  As Trump himself admitted last week on CBS, he doesn’t expect to deport more than 2 million people.  As Arizona anti-deportation organizer Marina Franco told the Intercept, “For many of us, Trump’s America was already here.”

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Child detainees sleep in an improvised prison in Brownsville, Texas, awaiting deportation.

On a smaller but no less atrocious scale, Obama’s deportation war also encompasses refugees from his administration’s own violence.  Since a CIA-orchestrated and State Department-backed coup in Honduras in 2009 to overthrow the leftist government of Manuel Zelaya, a far-right violent regime has terrorized the country, cultivating organized crime and slaughtering dissidents with death squads.  Tens of thousands of refugees have fled north, including many unaccompanied children.  Virtually all have been refused asylum.  10,412 Central American children, without parents or guardians, (too young to become part of ICE’s agro-slavery complex) have been forced to leave the United States and return to their countries of origin, where at least 83 have since been killed.  While Obama has been praised for surpassing his goal of 10,000 Syrian refugees settled in the country, it is important to note that 12,500 of the 5 million refugees (and 11 million displaced people) is a despicably low threshold for praise, especially considering the administration’s major role in instigating the crisis destroying their homeland, which I will discuss next.

WAR

The one area that even diehard Obama apologists voice their disappointment with the President is his military doctrine, though they quickly write it off as Congressional aggression or some impossibly complex quagmire.  “Disappointment” is something of an understatement.  At the time of the 2008 election, the country was buried in two of the least popular wars it ever fought, and courageous investigative journalism had revealed how deep the net of war-mongering lies from the Republican administration really was.  Obama gained widespread support for his campaign by pledging “On my first day in office, I will give the military a new mission: ending this war.”  He became the first president since Nixon to win due to anti-war sentiment (a telling precedent).  His victory was widely considered a victory for peace, so much so that he received the Nobel Peace Prize just a few months later (joining the ranks of proud American militarists like Henry Kissinger and Teddy Roosevelt).  But his administration has been without question the most violent and imperialist regime since the end of the Cold War.

Ethically, legally, and practically, the two wars (Iraq and Afghanistan) he inherited from the Bush administration are nowhere near as complicated as they are portrayed.  American presence in either country constitutes a war of aggression and violates international law.  No force in either country poses or posed a threat to the United States, and neither country (contrary to media and state insinuations) was in any way involved in the 9/11 attacks.  The violent insurgencies that have been used as justification for continued intervention are the direct result of the American invasions that killed over a million people, and the idea that US troops are reducing violence is preposterous.  The only acceptable or legal thing for President Obama to have done was to completely and unconditionally remove all US forces from both countries immediately upon assuming the presidency (which is within his power as Commander in Chief) and pay both countries enormous reparations for the massive crimes they sustained.

The Obama administration did the exact opposite.  Enthusiastically bowing to the military industrial complex, they tripled the number of troops invading Afghanistan from 32,000 in 2007 to 96,000 in 2010.  Violence in Afghanistan has increased since the Bush era, creating a major refugee crisis, and despite Obama’s repeated claims that combat missions have ended, tens of thousands of troops remain there indefinitely.  They completed the Bush mission of installing a religiously conservative government generous with oil contracts in Iraq, and briefly withdrew troops in 2011 (though military aid and airstrikes on behalf of the government continued covertly).  In 2014, as new insurgencies threatened US control of Iraqi resources, Obama launched the fourth US invasion of the country in 25 years.  The administration justified this attack by pushing fear of ISIS, a militia that came to power after the US deposed Saddam Hussein, which is primarily armed by US puppet states Saudi Arabia and Qatar using American weapons, sold to them by the State Department.

Not only did Obama exacerbate Bush’s wars, his administration started several of their own.  The only one to come under any widespread scrutiny in the United States was the brutal attack on Libya.  Claiming to support a popular revolution, the administration launched major air strikes in the country in 2011, killing thousands and overthrowing leftist dictator Muammar Gaddafi.  The US-backed rebels quickly plunged into sectarian conflict (including campaigns of ethnic cleansing), and the US has continued bombardment of the country ever since, again relying ISIS-based fears.  Violence from Libya has also flowed into other North African countries, prompting even more US intervention.  While public outcry has focused on US ambassadors killed in a protest in Benghazi, leaked emails from Secretary of State Hillary Clinton contain far more notable and terrible revelations largely ignored by the pro-war media.  The invasion was not inspired by rebels but planned, in conjunction with other NATO leaders, after a currency dispute with the Gaddafi government months earlier.  The emails also confirmed the long-standing suspicion of human rights groups: widely reported claims of Gaddafi’s war crimes, such as mass rape, were fabricated by the Obama administration.

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Leaked emails show that the Obama administration was aware of the genocide against black Libyans as it was committed by the rebels they continue to support.

A less discussed war crime is Obama’s ongoing and unprecedented global assassination campaign.  I have written about his drone bombings in Afghanistan, Pakistan, Yemen, Iraq, Syria, Libya, Algeria, Mali, and Somalia (along with drone assassinations, he has also launched full bombardment campaigns in Syria, Somalia, Yemen, and Nigeria).  Since I wrote that, secret drone strikes have been revealed in Cameroon, Niger, Djibouti, Eritrea, and Burkina Faso.  While the administration claims these attacks are surgical strikes on terrorist leaders, every independent review finds that the overwhelming majority of the thousands of drone victims are innocent civilians, and that administration statistics are meaningless lies.  Even Obama’s most popular foreign policy moment, the death of Osama bin Laden, was blatant criminal brutality.  It says volumes about the American left that there was almost no protest after Navy SEALs murdered a man and his family without even attempting to capture him and allow him to stand trial for the still unclear charges he faced (read the typically brilliant response by Noam Chomsky for more).  Obama’s forces travel the world killing without regard to sovereignty or international law (or domestic law, for that matter, considering Congress has never any of these acts of war).

No less insidious is his policy of arming brutal regimes.  While support for human rights abusers is nothing new in American foreign policy, no administration has been as extravagant in its war profiteering as this one.  Obama’s State Department made record sales of arms around the world.  This includes nearly $100 billion in arms deals with Saudi Arabia, by far the most violent and repressive religious dictatorship in the world;  nearly $30 billion with Israel despite the globally condemned occupation and bombing of Palestine; $11 billion with Qatar, which is second only to Saudi Arabia in its direct funding of religious militants including ISIS; at least $8 billion with the military junta that slaughters dissidents in Egypt; at least $5 billion with Turkey, despite their attempted genocide of Kurds throughout the region; $3 billion with India despite their little-discussed state massacres of homeless people and Muslims; billions in arms deals and direct military support to Colombia, where US soldiers and contractors are accused of raping over 50 children in their campaign against leftist guerillas.  The administration also backed various government takeovers.  While more information will likely surface over the next number of decades (as it always does in covert policy), we know of a coup in Honduras, an attempted coup in Bolivia, a coup in the Maldives, a rigged election in Haiti, and various former CIA strongmen installed in governments throughout Central Africa.

But all of this pales in comparison to what will be the foreign policy legacy of the Obama administration: a re-escalation of tension with Russia.  Taking advantage of Russia’s economic meltdown to topple the only comparable global superpower, Obama’s foreign policy has centered around anti-Russian policy unseen since the end of the Cold War.  He created a trillion dollar program to expand the nuclear arsenal, reversing more than two decades of slow but critical disarmament and vastly increasing the chance of apocalyptic nuclear war (either intentional or, more likely, accidental).  He pushed NATO to make increasingly aggressive movements against Russia that provoked Putin’s invasion of Crimea in 2014.  And just days before the election of a substantially less aggressive presidential candidate, he and other NATO mobilized 300,000 troops near the Russian border.  Most disgustingly, his administration has, in the model of Vietnam, engaged in a brutal proxy war with Russia in Syria to topple the Russian-backed government there.  By funnelling weapons to various competing rebel groups (including Al Qaeda factions), backing the invading Turkish army as well as their primary enemy, the Kurds, and by launching air strikes against Syrian troops and civilians, the administration has guaranteed that the country will be consumed by conflict for many years to come.  The US has played an essential and unacceptable role in the conflict, which has claimed 470,000 lives and dislocated millions, with no purpose beyond antagonizing Russia.

APTOPIX Turkey Syria
US bomb exploding in Syria.

INFORMATION

A large part of the reason Obama has largely avoided criticism for his war crimes is the fact that his administration has fought tooth and to suppress critical journalists and whistleblowers.  There can be no greater crime in a democracy than suppression of the press.  However, Obama’s regime is notable for its extreme use of the Espionage Act of 1917, originally crafted to silence any critics of America’s senseless involvement in World War I, which operates under the bizarre premise that critical journalists are likely enemy spies.  The Department of Justice has used the Act to persecute critical journalists more in the past eight years than in all of previous history combined.  The administration has fought against and blatantly ignored Freedom of Information Act requests and banned contact between reporters and government officials.  Obama has targeted journalists from Fox News to the New York Times, threatening to imprison Pulitzer Prize winner James Risen for refusing to surrender a source.  He pressured the Supreme Court to ignore calls for appeal by Jeffrey Sterling, who has been imprisoned since 2011 for leaking details of a CIA attempt to sabotage the Iran Nuclear Deal.  He has stood by the ongoing torture of Chelsea Manning, who in 2012 leaked virtually everything we know about the Iraq War.  And he continues to treat Edward Snowden and Julian Assange, the two most significant whistleblowers alive, as international terrorists.

But despite their intense secrecy, the administration has also shown an unprecedented readiness to violate privacy.  Under Obama, the National Security Agency vastly increased its warrant-free surveillance of the internet, collecting information on millions of people.  Obama’s close relation with major tech companies has given the NSA access to information collected and saved by Google, Facebook, YouTube, Skype, and Apple.  In the name of counter-terrorism, people around the world must now fear a high powered collusion of state spies and tech giants with practically unlimited access to their information.  And the impact is even more severe on foreigners; while espionage on Americans theoretically has to be authorized by a secret FISA Court, there are no such protections on people in other countries, and in countries such as Mexico and Afghanistan the NSA saves 100% of all communications.  Obama has even spied on at least 35 other national leaders, most famously German Chancellor Angela Merkel.  And although Obama began his term promising to close the “black sites” where the CIA infamously hold and torture suspects without trial, the illegal US prison camp in Guantanamo Bay, Cuba remains open.  On a larger scale, Obama has supplemented the highly-scrutinized CIA prisons by outsourcing illegal detentions to foreign governments with looser human rights protections.

ENVIRONMENT

All of this will prove irrelevant, however, if the most sinister legacy of the Obama administration plays out the way almost all climate scientists predict that it must.  Barack Obama will ultimately go down in history as a president who swept into office with control of both Houses of Congress and a substantial margin of popular support and still allowed the global climate to fall through a catastrophic threshold.  While liberal apologists blame this on a decisive Republican consensus that the world does not deserve protection, in truth the Obama administration is as enthusiastically anti-climate as the pundits and Congressmen who more overtly ignore data on the planet’s survival.  The rate at which industrial gases are raising the global temperature continues to outpace even the most disturbing predictions, and the world must now face what professional understater (and shameless oil profiteer) Al Gore called an inconvenient truth.  Carbon emissions will melt the ice caps, displace hundreds of millions, acidify the oceans and kill the algae that provide breathable oxygen to the planet, and shatter millennia-old weather patterns that make everything from agriculture to biodiversity possible.

The only way to mitigate this long-predictable consequence of industrialization is an immediate and unconditional switch to renewable energy (including public carbon-free transportation) and to oil-free sustainable agriculture (already successfully implemented in Cuba), and a movement of mass reforestation to remove already existing carbon from the atmosphere.  The conventional liberal approach of gradualism is no better than the absurd conservative denial.  Without actual reversal of climate trends, the melted polar ice caps will be wreaking their destruction in just over thirty years.  The Paris Climate Agreement, heralded as Obama’s great climate accomplishment, was so conservative even the New York Times acknowledged its failure, and 132 developing countries were so frustrated by its futilities they staged a walkout from negotiation.  But Obama’s administration is worse than well-intentioned moderates who call for incremental and ineffective steps to prevent climate change.  They have actually taken substantial measures to accelerate the disaster.

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Even after the Deepwater Horizon disaster, Obama expanded domestic oil production more than any other president, especially focusing on offshore drilling in previously protected areas.

In 2010, with minimal opposition from a still-enamored left, the administration approved of plans to lease massive regions of the Atlantic and Arctic oceans, previously protected by environmental regulations, to oil companies.  He carried out the plan in spite of the fact that the worst oil spill in American history took place only two weeks later directly because of unregulated offshore drilling.  Thanks to his offshore oil expansions, and his government’s engagement in dangerous fracking, Obama has increased American oil production more than any other president (it had actually been in decline under Clinton and Bush), so much so that in 2014 the US became the world’s largest producer of oil.  The administration has also maintained hundreds of billions in taxpayer subsidies for agro-corporations, oil giants, and arms manufacturers, the most polluting industries in the world.  By the end of his presidency, the average American had an ecological footprint of 8.3 global hectares per capita, the maximum sustainable capacity is 2.1 at most.  Every year of his presidency US emissions have increased.  Americans, as they have for over a century, have by far the highest ecological footprint per capita of any people in the world.  While China does have a higher net carbon footprint, this in fact is primarily caused by producing goods for American consumption.  The US is leading the world into an irreversible crisis, and it is cemented by the president’s neoliberal foreign policy of global free trade.

Following the lead of Ronald Reagan and Bill Clinton, and the far-right philosophical footsteps of Milton Friedman, Obama has pushed for Free Trade Agreements between the US and its allies.  Theoretically supporting some ideal of international liberalism and freedom, these agreements eliminate state influence on trade, effectively surrendering democratic control of economic issues to multinational (American based) corporations.  While FTAs (most famously, Clinton’s NAFTA) have devastating effects on workers’ rights and on sovereignty, and are perhaps the single most influential element in the election of Donald Trump, often overlooked is their elimination of environmental regulation.  FTAs allow US companies to outsource their labor and production to countries with weaker environmental protections, while still reaping profits from American consumers. In fact, many FTAs have provisions that specifically allow corporations to sue a country if their environmental protections hurt that corporation’s profitability.  Obama succeeded in installing such deals with Colombia, Jordan, South Korea, Peru, and enthusiastically defends the 16 pre-existing FTAs.  More significantly he has been the primary advocate for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP), Trans-Atlantic Trade and Investment Partnership (TTIP), and the Trade in Services Agreement (TiSA).

These deals, which include dozens of countries in Asia, Latin America, and the European Union, were largely ignored until WikiLeaks revealed the details of their secret and corporate-driven negotiation in the summer of 2015.  Leaked details revealed the extent of the deals’ environmental provisions, and detailed the Investor-State Dispute Settlement (ISDS) process they entail, which obligates signatories to craft environmental policy to maximize corporate profitability and even requires states to suppress protests relating to environmental issues or face massive lawsuits.  What Obama was trying to institute on more than 60 countries was a system where corporate greed overrides democracy at the expense of the planet itself.  In one of the strangest ironies of our endlessly contradictory era, the election of Donald Trump, a billionaire who claimed global warming is a Chinese hoax, marked the greatest climate victory of the Obama era.  Trump’s insincere but resonant anti-free trade rhetoric was a key part of his success in former Democratic blocs, and the overwhelming and bipartisan opposition to free trade his victory signified finally convinced the Obama administration to stop his unpopular lame duck push for the TPP a week after the election.

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In one of his last acts as President, Obama promised to evict the thousands of protestors blocking the Dakota Access Pipeline from crossing the Missouri River at the Standing Rock Reservation.

Examining the crimes of the Obama administration does not imply that we can become complicit in whatever monstrosities Donald Trump and his rogue’s gallery engage in.  The left has a responsibility to oppose imperialism, violence, and oppression in all its forms, and there is little doubt that the next four years will not go quietly.  But for the same reasons, the left must resist the last two months of the Obama presidency.  We must acknowledge that the past eight years have been marked by unprecedented corporatism, by brutal and criminal state violence against the most vulnerable people in our country and in the world, by a despotic suppression of dissent, and by a suicidal attack on the environment.  To survive the urgent crises of the 21st century, the left has no choice but to unconditionally condemn capitalism and liberalism and reject their proponents.

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One thought on “No Thanks, Obama: Deifying The President Isn’t Just Wrong, It’s Dangerous

  1. Thank you again for a valuable reminder to look behind the curtain. This section on banks caught my eye– You wrote: In a much smaller instance of savings and loans fraud, even the Reagan administration made sure that 839 bankers were arrested; after the most costly case of fraud in modern history, Obama has arrested only 1.

    It puts Elizabeth Warren’s castigation of Wells Fargo’s John Stumpf in perspective. If she truly were a powerful member of the democratic party, she could do much more than public wrist slapping if she wanted to. But she didn’t.

    Do we all need to become Republicans since that party seems actually ready to talk about reform/revisioning?

    Like

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