“Let me be clear,” says Obama, and, as with George Bush’s rapid eye movements when he was telling a lie, you know the forty-fourth president is on the brink of some absurdity.
“Now let me be clear,” he told the Russians on his recent trip. “America will not seek to impose any system of government on any other country, nor would we presume to choose which party or individual should run a country…. America will never impose a security arrangement on another country.”
And they sneer at Sarah Palin for her rhetorical absurdities? More from Obama in Moscow, as he presses forward with the Clinton/Bush policy of NATO expansion, ringing Russia with missile bases: “And let me be clear: NATO seeks collaboration with Russia, not confrontation.” The last guy in the White House to be that clear was Nixon, who tossed in “perfectly” as a bonus.
It was even worse in Ghana, where Obama used his podium to lecture the whole of Africa on the correct moral and political path to a better future. Of course, this was really aimed at those same folks back home who thrilled to Obama’s strictures on the campaign trail, using Father’s Day a year ago to tell black dads–only black dads–to shape up.
“Africa’s future is up to Africans,” he said in Accra. For an educated man in the twenty-first century, not to mention one with some knowledge of Africa’s history, that’s easily as ludicrous as Palin’s supposed ignorance of Africa’s status as a continent. (I say “supposed” because that Palin blooper turned out to be a hoax.) Africa’s future is to a pervasive extent up to the World Bank, the IMF, international mining and oil companies, the US Congress (which, for example, gives cotton subsidies to domestic corporate farmers, duly savaging the cotton economies of Burkina Faso, Benin, Mali and Chad).
Was it Africans who forced privatizations in Zambia beginning in the late 1990s, in which 257 of 280 businesses left the public sector? A fine piece in Le Monde diplomatique by Jean-Christophe Servant (available at counterpunch.org) describes how nearly 100,000 lost their jobs. Servant cites a report on the privatization by John Lungu and Alastair Frazer, which establishes that the sale “was orchestrated by the International Financial Institutions (IFIs)–including the World Bank and the International Monetary Fund…. ZCCM’s privatization was carried out with a complete lack of transparency, no debate in parliament, and with one-sided contracts which few of us have ever seen…. It has never profited the inhabitants of the Copperbelt. Nor its environment.” Servant also cites Edith Nawakwi, Zambia’s former finance minister, who oversaw the privatizations. She recalls, “We were told by advisers, who included the IMF and the World Bank, that…if we privatized, we would be able to access debt relief, and this was a huge carrot in front of us–like waving medicine in front of a dying woman. We had no option.” The “reforms” devastated Zambia.
“With better governance,” Obama proclaimed in Accra, “I have no doubt that Africa holds the promise of a broader base of prosperity…. The continent is rich in natural resources. And from cellphone entrepreneurs to small farmers, Africans have shown the capacity and commitment to create their own opportunities.” Yes, Africa is rich in resources, including coltan, essential for military and civil applications such as capacitors for cellphones like the BlackBerry Obama carries around. Eighty percent of the world’s coltan reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo. The race for coltan has put international companies like US-based Cabot Corp and OM Group, and Germany’s HC Starck, at the terminus of a hugely profitable extractive process in which mercenary armies supervise the mining, with presidents and ministers bribed and thousands of people slaughtered.
“No business,” Obama told Africans, “wants to invest in a place where the government skims 20 percent off the top…or the head of the port authority is corrupt. No person wants to live in a society where the rule of law gives way to the rule of brutality and bribery. That is not democracy, that is tyranny, even if occasionally you sprinkle an election in there. And now is the time for that style of governance to end.”
Wrong, wrong, wrong. Precisely the welcoming climate that business–meaning big US and transnational corporations like Exxon, Shell-BP and mining companies–requires is a compliant host government to sign over the concessions (and be rewarded with the 20 percent skim) and corrupt officials to transmit the necessary bribes, thus providing the all-important fig leaf protecting companies from prosecution under the Foreign Corrupt Practices Act of 1977. The last thing these businesses want is the “rule of law” or “democracy,” in any vital version of these terms.
Amid his endless homages to clarity and blunt speech, and to the proper assumption of “responsibility,” Obama flees clarity whenever it involves unpleasant shouldering of responsibility by the US government, whether in the guise of international corporations, multilateral institutions under US control, agencies like USAID and the National Endowment for Democracy, and/or US armed forces operating overtly and covertly around the world.
Obama flees responsibility also, as do his die-hard liberal-progressive fans, including columnists like Maureen Dowd and Frank Rich, so implacable against tyranny and war in the Bush years. Has either of them deigned to mention Obama’s continuation of Bush’s policies on enemy combatants, eavesdropping or war? In three out of twenty-four columns from Rich since January 20; in one out of forty-three from Dowd. In the nick of time, along comes Palin to announce her resignation as Alaska’s governor, duly eliciting a savage column from the courageous Rich; no fewer than three back to back from Dowd. Anything to change the subject from Wall Street’s sermonizing serf in the White House. Thank you, Sarah!