Former Ambassador, Human Rights Activist
Obama was a massive disappointment. Promise of economic change proved empty. It is difficult now to recall what a big emphasis in campaigning he placed on civil liberties, including ending torture and closing Guantanamo. What we got was the opposite. There was no proper legal process for Guantanamo detainees. Those responsible for the policy of torture were promoted and protected. The only CIA officer jailed over torture was John Kiriakou for blowing the whistle on it. Obama’s War on Whistleblowers has been the fiercest in US history. There is no doubt that in Obama’s USA, Daniel Ellsberg would have gone to jail for a very long time. The surveillance state has extended its reach still further, while execution by drone is so routine as to pass without notice. Between dornes, bombs and troops on the ground often as “advisers” or “trainers”, there has not been a single day in Obama’s eight years in which US forces have not killed a Muslim in a Muslim country.
Yet a year from now we are very likely to conclude that things have got much worse since Obama. I fully expect Clinton to be elected. What was for me most interesting about the various WikiLeaks releases was not the mesh of sleaze and corruption. There is no doubt that Hillary was peddling influence in exchange for massive donations to the Clinton Foundation and fees and gifts to Bill and herself, and that the Clintons were able to access the resources of their “Charity” for personal use through a variety of subterfuges, quite probably legal. I knew all of that. Anybody who had not already worked out that the same Saudis who have top western politicians in their pockets are also funding ISIS, is a fool. I have been saying it for years.
No, what particularly interested me was the hundreds of examples, day to day, of the close media collusion with the Clinton camp. The leaking to Hilary in advance in advance of debate questions, and the planting of questions for Trump, was but the tip of the iceberg. What the emails reveal is a huge slew of journalists who are actively in the Clinton camp. Of course politicians and journalists engage in a certain degree of mutual schmoozing – though less than you might imagine. Of course politicians are often sources. But the sense of collaborative purpose in the relationship of the Clinton camp with the mainstream media that comes through the emails is striking.
It is of course a wonderful irony that the mainstream media failed to then report on the WikiLeaks emails in any meaningful or proportionate way. The gulf between the way the election looks on mainstream media and social media is massive – otherwise Clinton would be 20 points ahead. I expect the mainstream media to come out on top on this occasion and get their woman in, just.
Like most people this side of the Atlantic, I prefer Clinton’s slightly more state interventionist approach to health, social care and of course gun control. But abroad she is an extreme hawk, and I genuinely fear she will foolishly push confrontation with Russia over Syria, and could end the détente with Iran. Civil liberties does not register with Clinton at all, and we can expect the security state to redouble.
Trump is of course much harder to read. I suspect in office he would be just as corrupt as Clinton. I fear he would pander to the Republican right on questions of state spending and economic intervention. But there is every indication that in foreign policy he may be a great deal more sensible, reducing the US military profile abroad and attempting a more pragmatic relationship with Russia. There are few votes to be won by his more pacific stance, so I am inclined to think it is genuine, at least at the moment.
But there is much we recognise about Trump – the right wing populism, the battening on the economic travails of the poor caused by neo-liberalism and the vast wealth inequality of society, and shamelessly blaming the poverty on immigrants. This is a nasty, racist trick, which has firmly taken hold in much of England as with Trump supporters. It is unforgivable. Whether Trump really intends to build a wall on the border with Mexico I can’t tell – he probably meant it when he first said it. The border is not exactly unguarded. He seems to have rowed back from the desire to ban Muslims. But Trump’s willingness to appeal to dog-whistle racism ought to disqualify him from serious consideration for high office.
Yet the WikiLeaks emails cast a bright light on the other side of that coin – the Clinton camp’s blatant manipulation of identity politics. This goes beyond the stupidity of the appeal that women should vote for somebody merely because they happen to be of the same sex. The cynicism of the approach to blacks and Hispanics and the manipulation of these voting blocs is chilling to me. The WikiLeaks emails leave you unconvinced that black lives matter to Hillary. Black votes do.
So, by this time tomorrow we will know who the new President will be. Probably Hillary, but either way it will be somebody of whom most Americans strongly disapprove. They are voting on the basis of which candidate they wish to punish most by making them lose. Both options are awful. My advice to my American friends is to refuse to be co-opted into expressing a fake approval of either of these horrors, and vote Green for Jill Stein.
Sikunder Burnes Master of the Great Game
Signed first editions are now available direct from this blog! You can leave a message naming the dedication you want. Sold at cover price of £25 including p&p for UK delivery or £29 for overseas delivery. Ideal Christmas presents!!