President Obama: The Race for the Imperial Legacy
President Obama is racing forward to establish his
imperial legacy throughout Russia, Asia and Latin
last two years he has accelerated the buildup of his
military nuclear arsenal on the frontiers of Russia.
The Pentagon has designed a high tech anti-missile
system to undermine Russian defenses.
- In Latin America, Obama has shed his shallow
pretense of tolerating the center—left electoral
regimes. Instead he is has joined with rabid
authoritarian neo-liberals in Argentina; met with
the judges and politicians engineering the overthrow
of the current Brazilian government; and encouraged
the emerging far right-wing regimes in Peru under
Keiko Fujimori and Colombia under President Santos.
Obama has clearly escalated a military build-up
threatening China’s principle waterways in the South
China Sea. Obama encouraged aggressive and violent
separatist groupings in Hong Kong, Tibet, Xingjian
and Taiwan. Obama invites Beijing billionaires to
relocate a trillion dollars in assets to the
‘laundry machines’ of North America, Europe and
Asia. Meanwhile he has actively blocked China’s
long-planned commercial ‘silk route’ across Myanmar
and west Asia.
Middle East, President Obama joined with Saudi
Arabia as Riyadh escalated its brutal war and
blockade in Yemen. He directed Kenya and other
African predator states to attack Somalia. He has
continued to back mercenary armies invading Syria
while collaborating with the Turkish dictator,
Erdogan, as Turkish troops bomb Kurdish, Syrian and
Iraqi fighters who are engaged on the front lines
against Islamist terrorism.
Obama and his minions have consistently groveled
before the Jewish State and its US Fifth Column,
massively increasing US ‘tribute’ to Tel Aviv.
Meanwhile, Israel continues to seize thousands of
acres of Palestinian land murdering and arresting
thousands of Palestinians, from young children to
regime is desperate to overcome the consequences of
his political, military and economic failures of the
past six years and establish the US as the
uncontested global economic and military power.
stage, Obama’s supreme goal is to leave an enduring
legacy, where he will have: (1) surrounded and
weakened Russia and China; (2) re-converted Latin
America into an authoritarian free-trade backyard
for US plunder; (3) turned the Middle East and North
Africa into a bloody playpen for Arab and Jewish
dictators bent on brutalizing whole nations and
turning millions into refugees to flood Europe and
‘legacy’ is established, our ‘Historic Black
President’ can boast that he has dragged our ‘great
nation’ into more wars for longer periods of time,
costing more diverse human lives and creating more
desperate refugees than any previous US President,
all the while polarizing and impoverishing the great
mass of working Americans. He will, indeed, set a
‘high bar’ for his incumbent replacement, Madame
Hilary Clinton to leap over and even expand.
the promise of an Obama legacy and avoid premature
judgements, it is best to briefly recall the
failures of his first 6 years and reflect on his
current inspired quest for a ‘place in history’.
Fear, Loathing, and Retreat
shameless bailout of Wall Street contrasted sharply
with the desires and sentiments of the vast majority
of Americans who had elected him. This was a
historic moment of great fear and loathing where
scores of millions of Americans demanded the federal
government reign in the financial criminals, stop
the downward spiral of household bankruptcies and
home foreclosures and recovery America’s working
economy. After a brief honeymoon following his
‘historic election’, the ‘historic’ President Obama
turned his back on the wishes of the people and
transferred trillions of public money to ‘bailout’
the banks and financial centers on Wall Street.
satisfied with betraying the American workers and
the beleaguered middle class, Obama reneged on his
campaign promises to end the war(s) in the Middle
East by increasing the US troop presence and
expanding his drone-assassination warfare against
Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya, Somalia and Syria.
re-invaded Afghanistan, fought and retreated in
defeat. The Taliban advanced. The US expanded its
training of the puppet Iraqi army, which collapsed
on its first encounters with the Islamic State.
Washington retreated again. Regime change in Libya,
Egypt and Somalia created predator-mercenary states
without any semblance of US control and dominance.
become both a master of military defeats and
Western Hemisphere, a continent of independent Latin
American governments had emerged to challenge US
supremacy. The ‘Historic President’ Obama was
dismissed as a clueless hack of the US Empire who
lacked any rapport with governments south of the
Panama Canal. While trade and investment flourished
between Latin America and Asia; Washington fell
behind. Regional political and economic agreements
expanded, but Obama was left without allies.
clumsy attempts at US-backed ‘regime change’ were
defeated in Venezuela and elsewhere. Only the small,
corrupt narco-state of Honduras fell into Obama’s
orbit with the Hillary Clinton-engineered overthrow
of its elected populist-nationalist president.
Russia expanded and flourished as commodities
boomed, wealth expanded and demand for Chinese
Obama had no legacy.
Recovery: Obama’s Lost Legacy
the road to establishing his ‘legacy’ with the
US-financed coup in Ukraine, spearheaded by the
first bona fide Nazi militia since WWII. After
celebrating the violent ‘regime change’ against
Ukraine’s elected government, Obama’s new
oligarch-puppet regime and its ethno-nationalist
army have been a disaster, losing control of the
industrialized Donbas region to ethnic Russian
rebels and completely losing the strategic Crimea
when the population overwhelmingly voted to re-join
Russia after 50 years. Meanwhile, the
oligarch-‘president’ Poroshenko and his fellow
puppets have pilfered several billion dollars in
‘aid’ from the EU… all in pursuit of the Obama
slapped devastating economic sanctions against
Russia for its role in the Crimean referendum and
its support for the millions of Russian speakers in
Donbas, and in the process forced the European Union
to make major trade sacrifices. For their role in
creating a real “American legacy” for Mr. Obama, the
Germans, French and the other twenty-eight countries
have sacrificed billions of Euros in trade and
investments – alienating large sectors of their own
agricultural and manufacturing economy.
regime placed nuclear weapons on the Polish border
with Russia, pointed at the Russian heartland.
Estonians, Lithuanians and Latvians joined Obama’s
military exercises stationing US ships and attack
aircraft in the Baltic Sea threatening Russia’s
Obama’s Legacy in Latin America
regime intensified its efforts to re-establish
supremacy with the demise of the center-left regimes
following elections in late 2013 to the present.
‘legacy’ in Latin America is based on the return to
power of neo-liberal elites in the region. Their
successful elections were the result of several
factors, including: (1) the rise of right-wing
economic power in Latin America; (2) the decay and
corruption of political power within the Left; 3)
incapacity of the Left to develop its own
independent mass media to challenge the media
monopoly of the right; and (4) the failure of
center-left regimes to diversify their economy and
develop growth outside the boundaries defined by the
dominant capitalist sectors.
regime worked closely with the political-business
elite, organizing the political campaigns and
controlling key economic policies even during the
center-Left governments. The Left regimes had
financed, subsidized and rewarded right-wing
business interests in agro-mineral industries,
banking, and the media as well as in manufacturing
As long as
worldwide demand for primary materials was strong,
the Center-Left governments had plenty of room to
adjust their social spending for workers while
accommodating business interests. When demand and
prices fell, budget deficits forced the Center-Left
to cut back on social spending for the masses as
well as subsidies for the business elite. In
response, the business sector organized a full-scale
attack on the government – in defense of elite
power. The Center-Left failed to counter the growing
power and position of their business elite
business elite launched a full-scale propaganda war
via its captive mass media – focusing on real or
imagined corruption scandals discrediting
Center-Left politicians. The Left lacked its own
effective mass media to answer the Right’s
accusations, having failed to democratize the
corporate media monopolies.
Center-Left parties adopted the elite’s technique of
financing political campaigns – namely, through
bribes, contract concessions, patronage other deal
making with billionaire private and state
contractors. The center-Left imagined it could
compete with the free-market right-wing in financing
campaigns and candidates via swindlers – and not
through class struggle. This was a game they could
however, mobilized their allies within police,
judicial and public institutions to prosecute and
disqualify the Center-Left for committing the same
crimes the Right had evaded.
Center-Left did not mobilize the workers and
employees to establish even minimal controls over
the elite and assume some managerial power. They
thought they could compete with the Right on its own
terms, through shady business and chicanery.
Center-Left relied on financing its administration
and policies through the commodity boom in demand
for its natural resources – overlooking the
fundamental instability and volatility of the global
commodity market. While the Right openly condemned
the ‘weakness of the Center-Left’ – in private, it
pursued policies even more dependent on overseas
speculators and narrow elites.
Argentina, as the economy declined, the leadership
of the right-wing, led by Mauricio Marci, launched a
successful presidential campaign involving the mass
media, banks, middle class voters and agro-mining
elites. Immediately upon taking power, the Macri
regime cut social services for workers and the lower
middle class, slashing their living standards and
lay off thousands of government employees. Obama saw
Macri as his kind of legacy savior and viewed
Argentina as the new center of US power in Latin
America – with plans for more regime change in
Brazil, Venezuela and throughout the region.
the Center-Left Workers’ Party (PT) faced a massive
attack on its power base by the extreme right-wing
parties. Corruption scandals rocked the entire
spectrum of the political class, but the PT was most
heavily implicated by massive fraud in Brazil’s huge
national oil company, Petrobras. The PT regime’s
troubles intensified as the country entered a
recession with the drop in demand for its
agro-mining exports. Growing fiscal deficits
compounded the regime’s problems. The Brazilian hard
Right mobilized its entire apparatus of elite power
– the courts, judges, police and intelligence
agencies – in a bid to overthrow the PT government
and impose an authoritarian neo-liberal regime
seizing all financial, business and productive
Center-Left had never been very left, if at all.
Under Presidents Lula and Rousseff (2003-2016), the
powerful mining and agricultural elites flourished;
banking, investment and multi-national enterprises
prospered. The Center-Left made some paternalistic
concessions to the lowest income classes, and
increased wages for labor and farm workers. But the
PT relegated labor to the background while it signed
business agreements and granted tax concessions to
capital. It failed to engage Brazilian workers in
was never engaged in any struggle with a genuine
leftist government pressing business for structural
changes. Nevertheless, the Right sought to
eliminates even the most superficial reforms. It
would accept nothing short of total control,
including: the privatization of the major national
oil company, the reduction of wages, pensions and
transport subsidies and a slashing of social
programs. The Brazilian Right-wing coup – a fake
impeachment organized by indicted crooks – is
designed to vastly re-concentrate wealth, and
re-establish the power of business, while plunging
millions into poverty and repressing the principal
organized mass movements. In Brazil, the
elite-controlled media, courts and politicians act
as judge, jury and jailers – against a center-left
regime which had never taken control over the major
institutions of elite power.
Obama and the Axis of his Legacy
rightists join police to control the multitudes and
seize power, re-establishing deep ties among Brazil,
Washington and Argentina. They will then move toward
the neo-liberal re-conquest of all Latin America.
Against this new wave, it must be understood that
Obama’s Latin American legacy is too recent, too
hasty and too disjointed – the new Right exhibits
the same or even worse features of the recently
Marci borrows $15 billion at 8% interest, when the
economy is fracturing, employment is collapsing,
exports and worldwide demand is declining. At the
same time, President Mauricio Marci’s cabinet is
plagued by major financial scandals ‘a la Panama
Papers’. The entire political party-trade
union-employed working class is profoundly
disenchanted with Marci’s minority rule.
may not turn out to be Obama’s enduring Latin
Legacy: While Macri may open the door for a brief
Washington take-over, the results will be
catastrophic and the future, given Argentina’s
recent history of popular street uprisings, is
Brazil, the impeachment/coup will result in new and
more numerous investigations with trials of
post-impeachment politicians and a deepening
economic crisis. Brazil’s Vice-President, who turned
against Rouseff, now faces corruption charges, as do
his supporters. The prolonged confrontation
precludes any basic continuity. The right-wing
regime’s policy of slashing wages, pensions and
poverty ‘baskets’ will detonate large-scale
confrontations with the polarized population.
Obama’s ‘legacy’ will be a brief episode –
celebrating the ouster of the Workers’ Party
President followed by a long period of instability
regimes in Venezuela, Colombia and Peru will be part
of Obama’s ‘legacy’ but to what lasting end?
Venezuelan right-wing congress – dubbed the MUD –
seeks to overthrow the elected president. It demands
the release of several right-wing assassins from
prison, the privatization of the oil industry, and a
deep cut in social programs (health and education).
They would reduce employees’ wages and eliminate
food subsidies. The MUD has no competent plan or
capacity to grow the oil economy and overcome
chronic food shortages. The MUD would merely replace
the Left’s subsidized economy with massive price
increases for basic commodities — reducing domestic
consumption to a fraction of its current level. In
other words, the right-wing offensive may defeat the
Chavista left but it will not stabilize Venezuela or
develop a viable neo-liberal alternative. Any new
right-wing regime will deteriorate rapidly and the
chronic problem of criminal violence will exceed the
current levels. The alliance between Washington and
Venezuela’s far right will hardly support Obama’s
claim to a historic legacy. More likely, it will
serve as another example of a failed right wing
state unable to replace a weakening left regime.
circumstances can be found among other ‘emerging’
Colombia, the current right-wing President Santos
talks to the FARC guerrillas, but also accommodates
the paramilitary death squads. His talks of peace
settlements and social reform are linked to the
genocidal right, led by the former President Uribe.
Meanwhile, the economy stagnates with oil and metal
prices collapsing on the world market. Colombian
living standards have declined and the promise of a
right-wing revival grows dim. The US-Colombian
alliance may undercut the FARC but the right-wing
does not offer any prospect for modernizing the
economy or stabilizing the society.
in Peru, the right-wing wins votes and embraces free
markets, but growth declines, investments and
profits dry up and mass disenchantment grows among
the poor promising street conflicts.
‘legacy’ in Latin America has followed a series of
brutal victories, which have no capacity to
re-impose a stable ‘new order’ of free markets and
free elections. The initial wave of favorable
investments and lucrative concessions will fail to
revive and recalibrate a new growth dynamics.
ominously, Obama relied on mass murder to replace an
elected leftist-nationalist president in Honduras
and imposed a regime of terror against the poor and
indigenous population. Meanwhile, illicit offshore
handouts reward speculators in Argentina.
legacy in Latin America reflects an entire spectrum
from illicit right-wing coups to oust the elected
governments in Brazil and Venezuela, to elected
authoritarian presidents in Peru and Colombia with
historic links to death squads and multi-million
dollar overseas accounts.
contemporary ‘Latin American legacy’ reeks of gross
electoral manipulation preparing the ground for
bloody class wars.
Obama’s Legacy in the Ukraine, Yemen, and Syria
regime thought it could manage widespread conflicts,
uprisings and wars to advance its global supremacy.
end, Obama spent billions of dollars in weapons and
propaganda arming Neo-Nazi para-military troops to
seize power in Ukraine. A grotesque, brutal gang of
oligarchs (and disgraced, foreign fugitives – like
the ousted Georgian leader, Mikhail Saakashvili)
served Washington in the puppet Kiev regime.
Critics, journalists, jurists and citizens are being
assassinated. The economy has collapsed; prices
skyrocket; incomes declined by half; unemployment
tripled and millions have sought refuge abroad. Wars
raged between Russian ethnic citizen armies in the
Donbas and the puppet Kiev regime. The people of
Crimea voted to rejoin Russia. Meanwhile, economic
sanctions against trade with Russia have exacerbated
shortages for the people of Ukraine.
Obama’s stewardship the Ukraine became a
world-class… basket case: so much for his European
legacy. He can rightly claim credit for imposing a
thoroughly retrograde regime of Klepto-capitalism
with no redeeming feature.
embraced Saudi Arabia’s war against Yemen –
destroying the life and cities of the poorest nation
in the Middle East. Obama’s ‘legacy’ in Yemen stands
for the systematic obliteration of a sovereign
people: Obama performs his tricks for billionaire
Saudi despots while savaging the innocent. To the
Israelis in Palestine and the Saudis in Yemen, Obama
pays homage to the criminals responsible for
millions of shattered lives.
What of the
Obama ‘legacy’ in Syria and Libya? How many million
Africans and Arabs have been murdered or fled on
rotten boats in destitution. Only the rankest gang
of corrupt media pundits in the US media can pretend
this gangster President should evade a war crimes
regime has pursued wars of unremitting destruction.
It has forged partnerships with terrorists and death
squads as it seeks short-term imperial victories,
which end in dismal failures.
imperial legacy of this ‘historic’ president is
a mirage of pillage, squalor and destruction.
The effect of his political lies has even begun
register here among the American public: Who
trusts the US Congress and the President? And in
Europe, who trusts Obama’s European partners as
they eagerly pushed for wars in the Middle East
and North Africa and now fear and loathe the
millions of their victims—refugees fleeing to
the cities of Europe, with the drowned corpses
of uprooted communities spoiling their beaches?
pushed for wars and the Europeans receive the
victims — with fear and disgust.
victories are temporary, blighted and reversed.
bombed Afghanistan yesterday and now flees
allies are again plundering Latin America but
face imminent ouster via popular uprisings.
terrorized and fragmented Syria yesterday but
lost elections the day after.
threatens China’s economy while eagerly buying
Obama legacy began as a failed military and
economic offensive accompanying a profound social
crisis. During his final year in office, Obama tries
to forge alliances with the dregs of the hard right
to save his legacy. His brief advance into this
sordid world of neo-liberals, neo-Nazis and Saudi
despots is a prelude to more retreat and chaos.
public celebration of the right turn in Asia, Latin
America, Europe and the Middle East applauds the
most retrograde alignment of forces in modern times:
Saudis and Israelis; Egyptian generals and Libyan
jihadis; neo-Ottoman Turks with Ukrainian
gangster-oligarchs. Regime changes in Argentina and
Brazil encourage Obama to claim vindication of his
‘moment’ of imperial truth is brief, all too brief.
Everywhere, we witness the rapid rise of imperial
success followed by a series of debacles.
Latin America capitalist profiteers plunge into wild
financial adventures, theft and chaos. In the Middle
East, the US stands on the crumbling palaces of a
moribund Saudi regime. The much-proclaimed imperial
advances are based on grand theft everywhere, from
Egypt and Turkey to the Ukraine.
stated: the US formula for a successful legacy is
failing at the precise moment that it claims
success! Obama and the Right have created a world of
chaos and disintegration. Obama and his legions, the
US and Europe have no future in peace or war,
election or defeats.
There is no
imperial legacy for the ‘historic’ President Obama!
Petras is a Bartle Professor (Emeritus) of Sociology
at Binghamton University, New York.http://petras.lahaine.org/