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

  • ‘This is the real outrage’

    February 13, 2006

    ‘This is the real outrage’ by Tariq Ali for The Guardian, February 13, 2006

    Amid the cartoon furore, Danish imams ignore the tragedies suffered by Muslims across the world

    The latest round of culture wars does neither side any good. The western civilisational fundamentalists insist on seeing Muslims as the other—different, alien and morally evil. Jyllands-Posten published the cartoons in bad faith. Their aim was not to engage in debate but to provoke, and they succeeded. The same newspaper declined to print caricatures of Jesus. I am an atheist and do not know the meaning of the “religious pain” that is felt by believers of every cast when what they believe in is insulted. I am not insulted by billions of Christians, Muslims and Jews believing there is a God and praying to this nonexistent deity on a  …

  • Tariq Ali on the launch of TeleSUR English, the largest Latin American news channel

    September 3, 2014

    By Sophia Hussain

    Last week, Venezuela-based news channel TeleSUR launched its English language website, bringing the left-leaning perspectives of Latin America to new audiences and offering a corrective to the English news media.

    The site, which largely represents the views of state backers Argentina, Bolivia, Cuba, Nicaragua, Uruguay and Venezuela, has already published incisive reporting on Israeli offensive in Gaza. Tariq Ali, Verso author and New Left Review editor, has long been involved with TeleSUR and will host The World Today, an interview show to be broadcast four times a week.


    Addressing criticism that TeleSUR is a “mouthpiece of the Latin American left,” Ali told The Miami Herald that this is a hypocritical stance:


    The global corporate media is the mouthpiece for the system of the market — its political aims, its wars . .  …

  • Tariq Ali—Jottings on the Islam Quintet

    November 16, 2011

    Lahore: Fifties

    When I was growing up in Lahore the last thing that interested me was the history of Islam. No. That was for dullards, for wooden headed patriots, for boys in the grip of religious parents or mullahs. One of my young uncles had begun to sport a beard. He sought refuge in religion to atone for some sin he had committed. Imagined or real? I didn’t care.  He would arrive at our house. My parents who found him a complete bore would disappear to play tennis. I had to walk with him in the garden for long hours or so it seemed at the time. With a glow in his eyes, he used to tell tales of early Islam and the greatness of the first Caliphs. Not a word about the assassinations and why they happened or the  …