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Obama presidency: Between hope and reality

By Joseph A. Kechichian

Hope. Yes We Can. First black president of the United States. Police killings. At least 258 black citizens in 2016 alone, 39 of whom unarmed. Few indictments. Fewer found guilty. Token imprisoned. Several dismissed from law-enforcement ranks. Black Lives Matter. They should. But not in America. Guns. Binghamton, New York (13 killed); Ft. Hood, Texas (13); Tucson, Arizona (6); Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut (27). Many more. No gun control. Business preferences. Wall Street. February 2009, $787 billion (Dh2.89 trillion) economic package [American Recovery and Reinvestment Act]. To help needy bankers. Timothy Geithner, of Lehman Brothers fame and US President Barack Obama’s Treasury Secretary, buys two trillion dollars in depreciated real estate assets. More support for General Motors and Chrysler. Adds to George W. Bush bailouts. Debt ceiling tops $19 trillion in 2016. Economic prosperity. Income inequality. Fast-food workers strike. Nationwide. Pope Francis prays for end of inequality in US and trickle-down economics. President acknowledges that this is the “defining challenge of our time”. G20, G8, G7, G2, G1. G zero. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act (Obamacare), hopes to cover up to 30 millions among the uninsured. Twenty million are covered in cozy business deals. Another 30 million are left uninsured. Fresh funding for embryonic stem cell research. Strict guidelines. Perhaps. State Children’s Health Insurance Programme covers four million uninsured children. Maybe. A city upon a hill. Nobel Peace Prize. Devalued. Opposed Patriot Act before 2009. Signs its renewal. Authorises government agents to perform extensive and in-depth searches on American citizens without search warrants. Argues that renewal protects the US from terrorist attacks. Increases roaming wiretaps and government searches of all records. Every imaginable one. Chelsea Manning. Edward Snowden. Jeffrey Sterling. A shining city upon a hill. New Era in US foreign relations with Muslim World. Ankara speech. Cairo “New Beginning” allocution. Muslim world optimistic about his middle name (Hussain) and Muslim father. His heart, many believe, is open to mutual concerns. “Al Salamu Alaykum,” he intones and lectures: “It’s easier to blame others than to look inward. It’s easier to see what is different about someone than to find the things we share. But we should choose the right path, not just the easy path … We have the power to make the world we seek, but only if we have the courage to make a new beginning.” Someone in the Cairo audience shouts: “Barack Obama, we love you.” Promises to close Guantanamo Bay prison. Congress says no. Pledges to “personally pursue” Palestinian-Israeli peace and takes public stance against plans by the government of Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu to build new Jewish colonies in Occupied Territories. Netanyahu chastises US president. The White House increases military assistance to Israel — nearly $40 billion over next 10 years. Probably more. Obama affirms that he will withdraw from Iraq and invests billions in Afghanistan and Pakistan. Iraq bombings continue. Afghanistan bombings persist. Pakistan airspace is violated. Develops kill lists. In Yemen. Somalia. American exceptionalism. Drones. Shining drones upon a hill. Osama Bin Laden. Anwar Al Awlaki. Predator. DCS (Defence Clandestine Service). Condemns Iranian government actions towards 2009 protesters. Affirms that “the violence perpetrated against them is outrageous. We see it and we condemn it”. Seeks a nuclear deal and signs one in 2015 after roller-coaster negotiations. Hopes accord will prevent Iran from producing nuclear weapons. Adds to regional instability. Dismisses blowback generated by Iranian militia deployments throughout Arab World. In Iraq, Syria, Lebanon, Yemen and elsewhere. Washington ignores Iranian expansion. “The time has come for [Syrian] President Bashar Al Assad to step aside (August 18, 2011). Authorises CIA and military to train anti-Al Assad rebels. Abandons them in October 2015. Identifies a “red line” [use of chemical weapons]. Promptly dumps his own pledge. Brokers fresh deals with Iran and Russia. Goes after Daesh (the self-proclaimed Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant) with Russian President Vladimir Putin. Selectively. Russia deploys troops in Syria after occupying parts of Ukraine (Crimea). Obama allows Putin to jump back on world stage. Allegations of Russian interferences in US presidential elections draw shy responses. Plans to reset ties with Moscow come to naught. Promises to “make the world free from nuclear weapons” in a 2009 Prague speech are forgotten. Visits Hiroshima where he declares that nuclear arms demand a “moral revolution”. Approves $350 billion to update US nuclear arsenal and develops space fence at Kwajalein (Marshall Islands). Ends Nasa’s human spaceflights. Favours funding for eventual manned mission to Mars. Devastates visions. A class act. Has dignity. Undeniable intelligence. Has sense of humour. Like all community workers. Succeeded by Donald Trump. – (Courtesy–Gulf News)

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