The Obama Syndrome

Forthcoming from Verso, October 2010

A merciless dissection of Obama’s overseas escalation and domestic retreat …

What has really changed since Bush left the White House? Very little, argues Ali in The Obama Syndrome, apart from the mood music. The hopes aroused during Obama’s election campaign have rapidly receded. Following the financial crisis, the “reform” president bailed out Wall Street without getting anything in return. With Democratic Party leaders and representatives bought by the lobbying system, the healthcare reform bill was quickly eviscerated, public education delivered to the market and the big banks rewarded with light-touch regulation. Abroad, the “war on terror” continues: torture on a daily basis in Bagram, Iraq indefinitely occupied, Israel permanently appeased, and more troops and drone attacks in Af-Pak than under Bush. Obama’s failures are paving the way for a Republican surge, while his own supporters become increasingly despondent.

Tariq Ali in The Obama Syndrome:

“In Cairo, at West Point, at Oslo, Obama has treated the world to one uplifting homily after another, each address larded with every euphemism that White House speechwriters can muster to describe America’s glowing mission in the world: ‘Our country has borne a special burden in global affairs’; ‘Our cause is just, our resolve unwavering.’ The model for this variant of imperial presidency is Woodrow Wilson—no less pious a Christian, whose every second word was peace, democracy or self-determination, while his armies invaded Mexico, occupied Haiti and attacked Russia. But cant still goes a long way to satisfy those who yearn for it …”

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From the archive

  • GRITtv: Tariq Ali, Sonali Kolhatkar, and Voices from Ground Zero

    May 3, 2011

    “If the aim was to show us that state terror was more powerful than individual terrorists, we already knew that,” says Tariq Ali of the US special forces action that reportedly killed Osama bin Laden in Abbottabad, Pakistan. As Americans celebrated outside of the White House and gathered at Ground Zero to remember those lost, Tariq reminds us that bin Laden’s death will not make the US safer. read more

  • ‘Rereading: Works and Days by Hesiod’

    October 11, 2011

    ‘Rereading: Works and Days by Hesiod’, by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, October 7 2011

    I was in my mid-teens when someone gave me a copy of Pears Encyclopaedia of Myth and Legends as a birthday present. It sat on my shelves for many months before I looked at it. When I did, I couldn’t stop reading it. I became an obsessive. It was much more interesting than the boring old monotheistic religions with the single deity in the sky and his enforcers below. The Greek gods and goddesses, and their Egyptian and Indian equivalents (of which I knew very little at the time), were exciting characters, full of foibles and emotions far more closely associated with humans: love, sex, anger, jealousy. The main difference was that the gods were immortal. And yet even in ancient times there were sceptics who denied  …

  • ‘This is an Arab 1848. But US hegemony is only dented’

    February 23, 2011

    ‘This is an Arab 1848. But US hegemony is only dented’ by Tariq Ali for the Guardian, February 22 2011

    The refusal of the people to kiss or ignore the rod that has chastised them for so many decades has opened a new chapter in the history of the Arab nation. The absurd, if much vaunted, neocon notion that Arabs or Muslims were hostile to democracy has disappeared like parchment in fire.

    Those who promoted such ideas appear to the most unhappy: Israel and its lobbyists in Euro-America; the arms industry, hurriedly trying to sell as much while it can (the British prime minister acting as a merchant of death at the Abu Dhabi arms fair); and the beleaguered rulers of Saudi Arabia, wondering whether the disease will spread to their tyrannical kingdom. Until now they have provided refuge to  …