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No real change at all—Tariq Ali debates Obama with Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo on the BBC's This Week

Kaitlin Staudt27 May 2011

Tariq Ali appeared on the BBC's This Week last night in conversation with Andrew Neil, Diane Abbott and Michael Portillo. Debating ideas that were originally published in Tariq's book, The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad, they discussed that, despite appearances to the contrary, very little has actually changed since Bush has left the White House. 

Asking at what price democracy when both political parties operate in exactly the same way, Tariq questioned the deeper problems facing the current  political climate in America:

One of the most striking things about Obama’s period in office so far is the continuity with the Bush administration not simply in terms of foreign policy but in keeping a security state at home, and carrying on with Guantanamo, and the attacks on civil liberties and the economic policies. American liberals were drooling when Obama first entered the White House, less so now. In Iraq, despite the promises, American troops are going to stay on the ground confined to six huge military bases for eternity, or unless a new insurrection gets rid of them. In Afghanistan, Pakistan the war has actually been escalated. Under Obama there have been more drone attacks on Pakistan than there were in the preceding five years of the previous admin. The recent attack on Libya shows an addiction to war that is extremely unhealthy but once again marks continuities.

Given that Obama’s campaign was largely funded by Wall Street it was always an error to imagine that regulation was going to be the order of the day. Despite the financial crisis of 2008 which has wrecked the United States, the rich continue to prosper, the poor continue to suffer.

Asked to comment on the symb0lism at work behind Obama's being the first black president of the United States, Tariq states:

An astonishing figure at the present in the United States [is] that the number of young African Americans incarcerated in the prison system is exactly the same as the number of slaves in 1850 before the Civil War. So having a black person in the White House is not going to change the systemic oppression of African Americans in that country, Obama or no Obama... I think the fact that you have a black family in a white house built by slaves is important and symbolic, but that's it. The symbolism is now over, it's done. The next time it won't be so symbolic. And there will be a next time no doubt.

Visit the BBC to watch This Week on iPlayer.

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