POSTED RESPONSE TO A COLUMN BY JOHANN HARI IN THE INDEPENDENT
Yes, absolutely, the secret prisons in Afghanistan, and those in other places, cast a grim shadow across Obama’s smiling face.
I believe that decisions like keeping America’s torture gulag operating abroad are the greatest source of people's disappointment with Obama.
But I'm afraid people were being unrealistic to expect much else.
America is an empire, not a dreamy "shining city on a hill," but a rather brutal society which feels entitled to run the affairs of others in all parts of the planet.
It does this through a combination of its immense economic and military might.
America’s own population lives under a version of Social Darwinism, as relatively few people abroad fully appreciate. There is relatively little sympathy or patience for the concerns of foreigners, a simple but brutal fact.
The American establishment – the intelligence industry, the Pentagon, the defense contractors, and the huge multi-national corporations – do quite literally form a government within a government.
That is not a left-wing fantasy or a slightly paranoid delusion – after all, it was a Republican president and former general, Eisenhower, who first sounded the warning. It is the ineluctable result of this stupendously wealthy and largely unaccountable set of institutions.
A great many dark and devious men hold high positions in this establishment, and they have billions at their disposal plus a general population which is passive in accepting their actions.
Think only of the pointless holocaust in Vietnam. Countless billions wasted, an estimated 3 million Vietnamese murdered in an orgy of killing, and a devaluation of the dollar afterwards to help pay the bill. All of it done for nothing more than the fears and prejudices of that establishment.
The last American President who truly challenged that establishment died on November 22, 1963.
Obama wants to be the elementary civics-class textbook version of a president, the kind of president which the establishment tolerates from either party, not end up being either driven from office in shame or worse.
To talk with genuine expectations about change of any real consequence today in America is utterly naïve. It’s just about as meaningful as talking about change in the France of the late eighteenth century with its dukes and cardinals and princes, whose carriages simply thumped over the bodies of peasants who happened to be in their way.
Yes, a revolution did happen then, but try that in an empire with a military establishment pushing two million, all armed with unbelievably powerful weapons and a set of at least fourteen intelligence services which spy on every phone call and e-mail and even check the books you read at the library.
The French Revolution will never be repeated, and the pathetic American libertarians who naively believe that holding on to their beloved rifles and pistols secures their freedom surely only bring a quiet chuckle from those who know better.