Barack Obama does not lie awake at night worrying what Craig Murray thinks of him. One day he will go to his grave without ever knowing what Craig Murray thought of him. But as an infinitesimal fraction of the spreading of views and information in the digital age, I thought I might tell you anyway.
I am not a socialist. I have to say that from time to time, because people imagine that I am, from my dislike of the abuse of power and wealth. But my view remains that organised socialism has generally turned out to be one of the nastier ways of concentrating power and wealth. I am a liberal. My political inspiration has come from Mill, Bright, Hobson, Gladstone, Lloyd George, Keynes and Grimond, from Paine, Cobbett and Carlyle, from Milton, Byron, Burns and William Morris. I am a radical. I am not a socialist.
The point of which disquisition is to explain to you why I was prepared to give Barack Obama the benefit of the doubt. Many of my fellow campaigners against war and for human rights, were writing him off after a couple of weeks.
“Give the man time”, I said.
I corresponded with Democrat friends in the US, who explained that, in trying to turn round the neoconservative juggernaut, Obama needed a critical mass of support. His aim was to capture people to his side. Many of those retained, who had served Bush, were careerists not ideologues. Their loyalty was to the Commander-in-Chief. With his authority allied to his charisma, Obama would align them to the new agenda. Give it time – the result would be the most powerful change in modern US history.
The problem is, to believe that someone is changing course, you do have to observe them putting some pressure on the tiller. I see none. On human rights, Obama’s government lawyers have continued seamlessly the positions adopted by the Bush administration in seeking to deny any rights before US courts for detainees in Guantanamo Bay, arguing that they are not legal persons in the US.
The US detention centre at Baghram airbase in Afghanistan, where prisoners have been subject to terrible deprivation and torture, and many have died, is being expanded to take another 244 prisoners. That appears to be the plan for closing Guantanamo Bay, and is one of the few things that could actually make life worse for the prisoners there.
Extraordinary rendition has not been stopped. And to quote just one of myriad cases, Obama continued the Bush administration’s efforts to have the details of the torture suffered by Binyam Mohammed kept secret by the puppet UK government, which complied, and the British courts – the latter thankfully having resisted.
There are to be no prosecutions of Bush administration officals or security service personnel for instituting or implementing the policy of torture worldwide. Which policy, as far as records of the law are concerned, was entirely dreamt up by Ms Lyndie England.
Obama ought to have encouraged prosecutions to deter from it happening again – except it appears not to have stopped. But there are not just to be no prosecutions – the truth is to be buried forever. It was under Obama that Binyan Mohammed was still held, with the complicity of Miliband, while he was pressured to sign a condition of release that he would not tell anyone about his torture. We still don’t know which basements Khalil Sheikh Mohammed was held in over three years and precisely what tortures he was subjected too. At the very least, we need a Truth and Reconciliation Commission on Torture and Extraordinary Rendition.
Those rendered to the unspeakable torture of Uzbekistan came on CIA flights from Baghram and from the secret prison at Szymano-Szczytny in Poland. Most if not all now lie in graves in the Kizyl Kum desert. The Americans must have lists of who they transported. We – and their relatives all over the World – don’t know their names.
In January, one of Obama’s first foreign policy initiatives was to send General Petraeus to Tashkent for talks with President Karimov, with a view to reopening the US airbase in Uzbekistan. Diplomatic talks continue. Interestingly, I hear from my Uzbek government moles that they have stalled over Karimov’s demand for a photoshoot with President Obama. That sounds crazy if you don’t know Karimov’s megalomania, and his desire to revive a faltering personality cult.
Hillary Clinton is resisting this strongly. She has nothing against an alliance with Karimov, opening the airbase, paying him a large subsidy and resuming the Bush policy of denying Karimov’s massive human rights abuses at the UN, OSCE and elsewhere. But she has made plain that she will not under any circumstances be pictured with Karimov, who boils opponents alive (literally). She doesn’t think Obama should do it either. But there is now a split over this issue in Washington between White House and State Department, with White House senior staff seeing no harm in a photocall with a man that 99.9% of Americans have never heard of, and who (this is a telling factor) is strongly allied with Israel.
The Uzbek policy particularly interests me, and is a subset of Obama’s disastrous Central Asian policy. In Afghanistan we have presided over massive increases in opium production, to exceed all previous levels by over 50%. The Karzai family and the majority of the Ministers and Governors of the government we installed, are deeply implicated in the industrial scale refining of opium into heroin and its export – much of it through neighbouring Uzbekistan and in collaboration with the Karimov family and their bagman Gafur Rakhimov.
What Obama expects to gain by a massive surge of Western troops into this mess is beyond me. Meantime he has actually increased the rate of air strikes into Pakistan, killing many scores of innocent civilians and contributing to the destabilisaton and growth of radical insurgency in that country.
Then we have economic policy.
I praised Obama’s initial economic stimulus bill for old-fashioned Keynesianism, creating jobs in a recession through public works. But it has now been followed up by Geithner’s Public-Private Investment Program. No wonder Wall Street cheered. It represents a huge transfer of money from the man in the street, not just to the wealthy, but specifically to the speculators.
The plan will bankroll private investment firms and guarantee them huge profits in return for buying failed home loans and securities from the banks at vastly inflated prices. Its name conceals the fact that it involves no private investment of any value, and certainly no private risk. It aims to get the whole speculative hedge fund casino back up and running.
But this is not any casino. This is an exclusive casino with a very tough door policy, where the high rollers can keep their winnings, but know that if they lose, their losses will be taken by force from all the little people who were not allowed into the casino. What fun!
Barack Obama will always have the benefit of not being George Bush. I like him for that. But then I like my cat for not being George Bush. Does he really represent the positive change for which Americans yearned? Will he fulfil the aspirations of his ethereal oratory?