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

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘The Colour Khaki’

    January 1, 2003

    ‘The Colour Khaki’ by Tariq Ali for New Left Review, Jan-Feb 2003

    Now each day is fair and balmy,

    Everywhere you look, the army.

    Ustad Daman (1959)

    On 19 September 2001, General Pervaiz Musharraf went on TV to inform the people of Pakistan that their country would be standing shoulder to shoulder with the United States in its bombardment of Afghanistan. Visibly pale, blinking and sweating, he looked like a man who had just signed his own death warrant. The installation of the Taliban regime in Kabul had been the Pakistan Army’s only foreign-policy success. In 1978, the US had famously turned to the country’s military dictator General Zia-ul-Haq when it needed a proxy to manage its jihad against the radical pro-Soviet regime in Afghanistan. In what followed, the Pakistan Inter-Services Intelligence became an army within an army,  …

  • Tariq Ali’s speech at the National Demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

    August 13, 2014

    Here is a video of Tariq Ali’s speech at the largest UK demonstration for Gaza on 8th August, London.

  • ‘Daughter of the West’

    December 13, 2007

    ‘Daughter of the West’ by Tariq Ali for The London Review of Books, December 13, 2007

    Arranged marriages can be a messy business. Designed principally as a means of accumulating wealth, circumventing undesirable flirtations or transcending clandestine love affairs, they often don’t work. Where both parties are known to loathe each other, only a rash parent, desensitised by the thought of short-term gain, will continue with the process knowing full well that it will end in misery and possibly violence. That this is equally true in political life became clear in the recent attempt by Washington to tie Benazir Bhutto to Pervez Musharraf.

    The single, strong parent in this case was a desperate State Department—with John Negroponte as the ghoulish go-between and Gordon Brown as the blushing bridesmaid—fearful that if it did not push this through both parties  …