Dr Cornel West – a historian, philosopher and social activist on issues of race, poverty and The Empire – is one of former US President Barack Obama’s fiercest critics. He has criticised his one time Brother Barack Obama on just about everything – from how he handled the financial crisis, his black identity and his foreign policy.
And his criticism may well have merit. Ejike Obineme, in TruthOut, wrote: “Obama’s track record, especially in terms of his foreign policy, is clear. The Obama administration has substantially expanded drone warfare, deported more than 2.5 million immigrants, modernized the surveillance state and enriched multinational financial institutions in ways his predecessors could have only dreamed. He did all this with charismatic smiles and well-timed platitudes loaded with perfunctory, heartfelt promises of progress and diversity”.
In an interview with www.salon.com in 2011, West said:
“…The thing is he posed as a progressive and turned out to be counterfeit. We ended up with a Wall Street presidency, a drone presidency, a national security presidency. The torturers go free. The Wall Street executives go free. The war crimes in the Middle East, especially now in Gaza, the war criminals go free. And yet, you know, he acted as if he was both a progressive and as if he was concerned about the issues of serious injustice and inequality and it turned out that he’s just another neoliberal centrist with a smile and with a nice rhetorical flair. And that’s a very sad moment in the history of the nation because we are—we’re an empire in decline. Our culture is in increasing decay. Our school systems are in deep trouble. Our political system is dysfunctional. Our leaders are more and more bought off with legalized bribery and normalized corruption in Congress and too much of our civil life. You would think that we needed somebody—a Lincoln-like figure who could revive some democratic spirit and democratic possibility.
“And we ended up with a brown-faced Clinton. Another opportunist. Another neoliberal opportunist. It’s like, “Oh, no, don’t tell me that!” I tell you this, because I got hit hard years ago, but everywhere I go now, it’s “Brother West, I see what you were saying. Brother West, you were right. Your language was harsh and it was difficult to take, but you turned out to be absolutely right.” And, of course with Ferguson, you get it reconfirmed even among the people within his own circle now, you see. It’s a sad thing. It’s like you’re looking for John Coltrane and you get Kenny G in brown skin”. https://www.salon.com/2014/08/24/cornel_west_he_posed_as_a_progressive_and_turned_out_to_be_counterfeit_we_ended_up_with_a_wall_street_presidency_a_drone_presidency/
In an article published in 2017 in the Guardian on the legacy of Obama, West wrote:
“Eight years ago the world was on the brink of a grand celebration: the inauguration of a brilliant and charismatic black president of the United States of America. Today we are on the edge of an abyss: the installation of a mendacious and cathartic white president who will replace him.
““Mainstream media and academia failed to highlight these painful truths linked to Obama. Instead, most well-paid pundits on TV and radio celebrated the Obama brand. And most black spokespeople shamelessly defended Obama’s silences and crimes in the name of racial symbolism and their own careerism. How hypocritical to see them now speak truth to white power when most went mute in the face of black power. Their moral authority is weak and their newfound militancy is shallow.” https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2017/jan/09/barack-obama-legacy-presidency
Today Obama is in South Africa delivering a speech at former President Nelson Mandela’s centenary lecture. Many have asked if Obama is the right man to be delivering such a speech in light of the US administration’s human rights violations which included the torture of innocent Muslims, the drone strikes on innocent civilians, the death of innocent Palestinians, US police brutality against black youth which led to the Black Lives Matter movement; and how can we ever forget Hillary Clinton’s “We came, we saw, he died,” she joked when told of news reports of Libya’s Muammar Gaddafi’s death by an aide in between formal interviews. https://www.counterpunch.org/2016/10/21/hillary-clinton-and-the-brutal-murder-of-qaddafi/
The irony of the man who killed one of Mandela’s closest comrades delivering a speech in the icon’s honour.