Insight with Tariq Ali: The Obama Syndrome

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The week following one of the worst Democrat defeats in recent history seemed the perfect opportunity to discuss novelist and International commentator Tariq Ali‘s new book The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad.

The midterm polls, which gave the Republicans over 60 more seats in the House of Representatives and almost a majority in the Senate, have been interpreted as a backlash against Obama’s presidency.

Talking to Marwan Bishara, senior political analyst at Al Jazeera at the Frontline Club on Tuesday Tariq Ali said that the central thesis of his book is that, much to the disappointment of many of his Democrat supporters, little has changed in the White House since Obama moved in two years ago.

On civil liberties prisons at Guantanamo Bay and Bagram, Afghanistan have not been shut down, as promised, Tariq Ali pointed out. Also, Wall Street had not been tamed in any way and the desire among many Americans for health care reform, widespread even in the Reagan years, remains unfulfilled as Obama “caved in” to the pharmaceutical and insurance lobbyists.

In foreign policy, Tariq Ali claimed the picture was much the same: Bush’s policies in Afghanistan remain in place and Obama had always supported the troop surge, despite some influential doubters in the higher echelons of the military. Furthermore, “more predator drones have attacked inside Pakistan in the two years of the Obama presidency than all of Bush’s six years” he said.

“I never trust what politicians say…it is what they do that matters,” said Tariq Ali who was also asked: “surely he is better than Bush”?

“Well…he is better looking…and more intelligent…but that is about it,” he replied.

By Sarah Gibbons

The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad is published by Verso.