Friday, 6 February 2009

Comrade Obama


Day’s into the new administration of Barak Obama and a picture is beginning to emerge of business as usual; if the following extract of a statement released by the White House is anything to go by.

"Obama and Biden will refocus American resources on the greatest threat to our security, the resurgence of al Qaeda and the Taliban in Afghanistan and Pakistan. They will increase our troop levels in Afghanistan, press our allies in NATO to do the same, and dedicate more resources to revitalize Afghanistan's economic development."

So there you have it; a very clear statement of their intentions, that we're going to concentrate on the war. And in fact by the end of this year there'll be an additional 60,000 American troops in Afghanistan. And there's no indication the strikes, the air strikes that are killing civilians are going to stop.

Obama – No real Change

In a lead article in the January addition of the Socialist Standard, John Bissett writes in the opening paragraphs – “Judging by ubiquitous media-generated euphoria that greeted the Barak Obama victory in the US presidential election, you could be forgiven for thinking that the class struggle has ended in the USA. Across the globe, the world media intimated that this was a the dawn of a new age and hundreds of millions of workers breathed a sigh of relief, convinced President Obama will now undo all the wrongdoings carried out by President Bush and generally improve the quality of their lives and the safety of the Plant.”

It’s a new down. It’s a new day declared the Socialist Unity blog site, as if an African/American messiah the expected deliverer had just arrived. Its lead post continued: “Don’t underestimate the significance of President Obama assuming office. The electors of America put in George W Bush’s place someone promising greater social justice, more compassion, more intelligence and less war.”
Did I hear you say give me strength? Well what can I say, the author of that post Andy Newman a nice chap, who I have crossed swords with on a number of memorable occasions seems to be like many others on the so-called left, under the illusion that somehow Comrade Obama, is going to work miracles, as if the inauguration of the 44th President was a wonderful occurrence, a marvellous event, manifesting a divine act of deliverance, and just to bring home my point the same commentator made the following conjectures. “The contrast between Tony Blair taking office in 1997 is striking. The first move of the incoming New Labour administration was to deregulate the Bank of England, moving government economic policy even further towards neo-liberalism than had been the case under the outgoing Conservative government of John Major. Careful warnings that the New Labour government would stick to the previous Tory governments spending limits were designed to stress continuity and dampen expectations. But Obama’s first act has been to freeze military trials at Guantanamo bay, and the election pledge to close the prison camp at the base is certain to be kept.”

Now not wishing to be seen as deliberately attacking Andy Newman, who is after all a member of the Respect National Council and leading member of Swindon Stop the War, but I feel that some constructed criticism should always be offered when an opponent’s position is way off the mark and questions asked. Some are beginning to wonder if Obama will make Afghanistan his war. And if so will Swindon Stop the war continue to hold a naming the dead ceremony, along with the release of balloons, in addition to reading the names, rank and regiment of each British soldier or airman, along with the date and place of their death. My opinion is the same as it was last year to this event, it’s bad enough that Blear and Brown have and still send young people to slaughter for capitalist causes that are not theirs, it must be a priority always to campaign against the workers being used for cannon fodder and against the slaughter of other workers but not with acts of ritual, characteristic of religious ceremonies. It will of course be interesting to see what initiatives are advanced in opposition to the war in the coming year when Obama sets in motion a military “surge” of Afghanistan.

Behind the talk of limited objectives are plans to dispense with the pretence of "nation-building" and the establishment of democracy and, in Obama's own words, engage in "more effective military action."

As Obama's secretary of defence, Robert Gates, told the Senate Armed Services Committee on January 27 in a statement dripping with cynicism, "This is going to be a long slog, and frankly, my view is that we need to be very careful about the nature of the goals we set for ourselves in Afghanistan. If we set ourselves the objective of creating some sort of Central Asian Valhalla over there, we will lose, because nobody in the world has that kind of time, patience and money."

In other words, the much expanded US military force will concentrate its efforts on drowning the insurgency in blood, whatever the cost in Afghan and Pakistani lives and US troop casualties. This was already indicated when the US launched a new missile strike inside Pakistan within days of Obama's inauguration that killed 19 Pakistani civilians.

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