Obama – Making Your Mind Up 107

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?


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107 thoughts on “Obama – Making Your Mind Up

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  • Gerard Mulholland

    There are so many questions worth asking and none answered.

    Let’s try just one set:

    Of all the tax dodging criminals who were nominated for places in the Obama Government, why did Timothy Geithner alone get approved?

    What gave him the chutpah to bluff it through in a blizzard and tsunami of shame?

    Who persuaded Obama to keep his confidence in a tax evader to be the chief tax collector, and why?

    Why did Obama keep his confidence in the man who personally intervened to maintain the law allowing the AIG rip-off conmen to keep their stolen goods?

    Remembering how Robert Maxwell got an unexpected State Funeral on the Mount of Olives and that all the world’s intelligence services use privately generated funds to finance their operations, does Mr Geithner’s being the only one of those nominees to share Rahm Emanuel’s ethnic, cultural and religious background have anything to do with it?

    Serving two masters is always a risky business for all concerned.

  • eddie

    You’re a bit premature aren’t you? He’s only been in office a few weeks and his focus has been on the economy. Ho Chi Minh was once asked if the French Revolution had made a difference to the world. He said it was “too soon to tell” – this response seems to be seen as witty and wise on the left yet you are judging Obama after only a few days. Your list of heroes puts you in with some dodgy company. Lloyd George and his links to appeasement and Zionism? Gladstone saving whores? By the way, Morris was a socialist. As for Carlyle, he was very unhappily married and a wag wrote that, “It was very good of God to let Carlyle and Mrs Carlyle marry one another, and so make only two people miserable and not four.”

  • eddie

    Yeah, excellent. Which makes you and Rush Limbaugh bedmates. I’ve always known that the far left and the far right were basically one and the same. And I have fairies living at the bottom of my garden. It’s a well known fact.

  • craig


    I have saved a few whores myself in my time. Gladstone was a great man. Lloyd George too, though he went downhill in his dotage which set in about 1920. With Carlyle, as with Gladstone, I can’t see why you are obsessed with people’s private lives. Have you read Carlyle? Morris was a socialist, but not in the state-ist sense the word implies now.

    I am not claiming any of these people was a flawless messiah. They were all human. If you can name a more benign set of political infulences, I should be fascinated to see them.

  • anticant

    What did you expect? As Hilaire Belloc wrote [“On a great Election”]:

    “The accursed power which stands on Privilege

    (And goes with Women, and Champagne and Bridge)

    Broke – and Democracy resumed her reign:

    (Which goes with Bridge, and Women and Champagne).”

    American presidents aren’t the most powerful men in the world; they are merely the most prominent glove-puppets.

  • KevinB


    It’s a bit much for someone who places his trust in a man who has taken nearly all his money from Wall Street,who has filled his administration with Goldman Sachs/Federal Reserve financiers to solve America’s financial woes (they being the ones responsible for causing them) and who has already reversed almost every pre-election promise he made by 180 degrees, to accuse others of being credulous.

    I suggest you take a serious look for those fairies. You’ll probably find them.

  • anticant

    As Ken Livingstone [among others]has said, if voting changed anything they’d have abolished it.

    Both the US mainstram parties are far more right wing than most European ones. And the scale of corrupt lobbying and bribery in Washington is such that it would be extremely difficult even for someone ostensibly committed to a clean-up as Obama actually to change things much.

    Until the mindless American love-in with Zionist extremism ends, there will be little progress towards genuine peace in the Middle East.

  • dreoilin

    There is only one American party, with two branches. As for Obama, I was trying not to rush to judgement, but I’ve been thinking just about everything that Craig has said. Especially about habeas corpus, Bagram, rendition, etc, and the non-prosecution of anyone in the Bush admin.

    “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.”

    I hadn’t realised that bit, and now I think even worse — of Obama. Do business with Karimov but avoid a photo. Typical US double standards (which have been making me sick for years.)

  • eddie


    Dickens, William Morris, George Orwell, Nelson Mandela, Atlee, Bevan, Michael Young, Nick Cohen, Christopher Hitchens to begin with. I was only teasing about your list. But then I am not a liberal. I don’t think many of your posters are either. As I say, they are closer to Rush Limbaugh than they think.

  • MJ

    Yeah, speak for yourself eddie. For the record I voted Lib Dem last time.

    Glad to see Craig’s initial infatuation with Obama has waned. We knew where we were with Bush. He looked and sounded like the gangster that he is. Obama’s different that respect. As an articulate and educated orator he’s more of a throwback to the 19th century tradition of US presidents. Apart from that, well yes, thanks for the reminder Craig:

    “Meet the new boss

    Same as the old boss”

    (One of the great rock lyrics of all time, so simple and so true).

    There be be the odd difference though. As a protege of Brzezinski expect more of an emphasis on war with Russia as the key to controlling the Eurasian land mass (hence the intensification of the war in Afghanistan at the expense of Iraq).

  • Selma

    I was disappointed to see the old lie about socialism in an otherwise good article.

    Just because the state capitalist USSR claimed to be socialist does not mean that it was just as the claim by the western capitalist states to be democracies does not mean that they are.

    Put simply socialism is economic democracy not of the representative sort but of the delegatory and participatory kind! This is the socilism of Marx and Engles as espoused in the seminal work Das Capital, a stunning work of both historical and economic insight and importance. Perhaps you should add them to your list.

    p.s I was glad to see Morris in there as his News from Nowhere is probably one of the best socialist depictions that I have read.

  • Daniel Hoffmann-Gill

    Too soon to tell and hopping on an anti-Obama wagon is useless at best and a fit of pique at worst.

    At least you waited a bit, most people did it far sooner.

    I’d love to see you or anyone else manage to lead a nation, the amount of compromise involved is quite huge and as a diplomat I thought you’d know that.

    But what are blogs for if it’s not blue sky thinking by people who’ll never be in charge of anything.

  • sabretache

    “if voting changed anything they’d have abolished it.”

    I’m no Ken Livingstone Fan, but that little gem is right on the button, as is Antican’s ‘glove puppet’.

    The ‘Deep State’ arbiters of US policy and power could see perfectly well that their interests required a ‘re-branding’ of America. A Bernaysian transformation of appearances for the gullible that would leave the substance largely unchanged. Enter a thoroughly vetted Obama. It is not surprising that Wall St – the embodiment of those interests – supported his campaign disproportionately. He is their man, bought and paid for, no less than was GWB in his day.

    Visible politics is little more than distracting theatre put on to absorb the energies of the Eddies of this world and to give them the soothing illusion of influence.

  • craig


    Certainly too soon to judge result, but I think we can get a fair idea of direction. Anyway, I genuinely hope that you are proved right.

  • MJ

    Too soon to tell?

    An administration packed with dual-citizen Zionist psychotics; the climbdown over his Guantanemo pledge; the deafening silence over Gaza and the Freeman affair; the escalation of the killing in Afghanistan; the shovelling of yet more tax-payers’ billions into the back pockets of crooks.

    How much time do you need?

  • eddie

    MJ I hadn’t realised that voting Lib Dem makes you a liberal. How interesting.

    It almost sounds like you preferred Bush – do you need a pantomime villain that you can hiss and boo at and unite your people behind you? Did Bush make you feel safe in your black and white view of the world? This is exactly what the Iranian theocrats feel. They don’t like Obama because he is appealing directly to their people who are desperate for a better relationship with the “Great Satan”. Without an enemy to unite against the regime has no focus and no purpose.

    Daniel, how true. All these words expended on nothing. “When all is said and done a lot more is said than done”. It’s one of my favourite sayings and should be a reproach to all of us who waste time on these places. Selma, what did Marx say about changing the world? “The philosophers have only interpreted the world, in various ways. The point, however, is to change it”. He certainly did, but not in a way he would have liked, perhaps.

  • MJ

    “I hadn’t realised that voting Lib Dem makes you a liberal”

    You probably didn’t realise either that being a liberal can sometimes lead you to voting Lib Dem.

    Unless there is a demonstrable change in policies then yes, I probably would prefer Bush because of the congruence between the man and the deeds.

    The Iranian response to Obama has been cautiously welcoming. Given that they receive almost daily threats of annihilation from Israel one can perhaps understand the caution.

  • Jon

    @Daniel Hoffmann-Gill: whilst I’m probably situated somewhat to the political left of Craig, his piece perfectly illustrates the ‘two sides to the same coin’ problem of US politics (not unlike the situation we have in the UK, I’d suggest).

    I am one of those who was cynical about Obama to start with. I smiled in hopelessness at the neocon voter base who genuinely thought America was going to start “experimenting with socialism”, and was furious at ordinary democrats who inadvertently propagandised for him by treating him like he was the Promised One, or Martin Luther bloody King.

    I am intrigued at your defence of Obama – it seems that despite his demonstrated militarism, his surrounding himself with financiers and Zionists, and even his doing a deal with Hillary Clinton despite her lurch to the neoconservative right – you think he just he needs to “compromise” a bit, or maybe be given a bit more time?

    The only reason I can think of for your criticism of Craig is that you disagree with his broad assessment on militarism, Zionism, the Middle East, social inequality and so forth, and you think that the US establishment, across Clinton, Bush, Obama, and Clinton again, have these things about right.

  • eddie


    MJ perhaps you should take this test to see if you really are a liberal. The questions are rubbish but I haven’t got time to devise one that would really test your liberal credentials. Thanks for being honest about Bush – it confirms my view that many of you are obsessively anti-American at all costs and prefer their villains to be clear cut. As for Israel, isn’t Iran delivering daily threats in the same vein?

  • MJ

    “it confirms my view that many of you are obsessively anti-American”

    I’m certainly not anti-American. I’m pro-American in that I admire the American constitution and the Bill of Rights. My problem is that that once great nation has been hijacked by a bunch of criminals and its constitution and Bill of Rights effectively torn up. Only Ron Paul seems to speak for the America of old.

    “isn’t Iran delivering daily threats in the same vein?”


  • MJ

    By the way eddie I took that test. The result was:

    You scored 22

    Congratulations! You are a liberal: you annoy New Labour just by being there

    How true!

  • Craig


    Particularly silly test. But I did it to keep you happy, and answered each question honestly. I scored

    You scored 22

    Congratulations! You are a liberal: you annoy New Labour just by being there. Why don’t you condemn a little more, and understand a little less? Oh – it’s all to do with your upbringing. Ever vigilant on human rights, you champion the underclass around the dinner table. Let’s just hope your kids don’t have to mix with them.

    Well, it’s certainly right about the annoying New Labour bit.

  • jives

    A Bildeberger-tastic administration.

    Expect few changes other than superficial ones…

    It’s the media-age.

    Simulacra abounds.

  • eddie

    I scored 15 so presumably the difference is significant!

    With regard to Iran, I suggest you read this speech from President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad – as far as I am aware his views have not changed for thirty years or more. Describing Israel as a bridegehead and calling for the ” annihilation of the Zionist regime” is a threat to destroy Israel as far as I am concerned, unless you disagree?


  • John D. Monkey


    I have always had doubts about whether Obama really represents such a big change. He could not have been elected (and let’s not forget that he only got 53%, not a “landslide”, and most white people voted for McCain) if he REALLY represented a different approach. He was just a fair bit better than the alternative of a 72 year old guy and a crazy lady from Alaska.

    The obsession of the media with representing him as “different” simply or mainly because he is half African-American was always lazy journalism.

    I also doubt whether any US president has the will or the means to change anything fundamental in the eight years they can have, still less in under three months.

    “Whichever politician you vote for, the government remains in power” is about as pithy a summary of politics as you can get.

    So I will personally reserve judgement for maybe 18 months or two years but won’t expect him to do anything major. “Rendition” and torture will continue. Support for Israel come what may will continue. Afghanistan will continue.

    Plus ca change…

  • eddie

    I’d be interested also to see proof of your “daily threats” to Iran claim. As far as I am aware, Israel has threatened to attack plants in Iran that are involved in Iran’s ongoing attempts to create nuclear weapons. In the light of the disturbing contents of the second link below this seems legitimate to me. However, I wonder if you have seen Shimon Peres’ recent message to the Iranian people? It is remarkably conciliatory – “when the current regime in Iran is calling for the destruction of Israel, we call for Iran to prosper”.



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