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Righting historical wrongs


When Barack Obama was sworn in as President of the United States of America in January 2009, there was a tremendous outpouring of goodwill all around the globe. Hopes and expectations were sky high, both in the USA and in the world at large for a new American dispensation.

Not only was Obama the first black occupant of the White House with all the implications for the state of racial relations in his country, but his energetic campaign, which had mobilized millions of young people, generated hopes for the future.{{more}}

Economic revival from the gloom of the economic crash under the watch of his warmongering predecessors, an end to the wars in the Middle East which were killing and maiming thousands of America’s sons and daughters, as well as crippling the economy, an end to the outdated policy of trying to isolate Cuba, justice and respect for immigrants and America’s non-white population, a deepening of relations with the Caribbean and domestic issues such as health care for all — all these seemed very much on the cards.

In retrospect, some of those hopes may have been unrealistic, given the political realities of the USA’s domestic situation and global developments. Perhaps no US president since Abraham Lincoln has faced such opposition, hostility and even disrespect. Coinciding with the rise of the right-wing ‘Tea Party’ wing of the Republican party, it can also be said that this new obstructionism was rooted in racism.

In time, therefore, the failure to deliver led to disappointment with Obama, feelings that he was not being decisive enough. In the Caribbean, in particular, the dreams of strengthened relations did not materialize; the odious practice of deportations even increased under a black President and the hoped-for assistance never came.

The whole of Obama’s first term passed with his health care legislation being his major achievement. On the downside, the withdrawal from the wars in the Middle East was followed by re-engagement; Isis, Al-Shabab and Boko Haram exposed their murderous fangs; blacks faced police killings at an alarming rate and Obama’s democrats lost control of Congress. He seemed to be going out with a limp.

But, fortunately, there are sure signs of a resurgence and fightback. The US economy is improving after the disaster of the Bush years; Obama has remained firm on his health care policy; he has initiated immigration reform; and he is, at last, delivering on the promise of new relations with Cuba. This is no lame duck president.

The events of the last week or so – the unprecedented meeting with President Raul Castro, the normalization process being put in train, the action to ask Congress to end the unjustified designation of Cuba as a sponsor of international terrorism, the promise of a nuclear treaty with Iran – all seem to vindicate the early hopes.

Obama is giving US foreign policy a new lease on life, cleaning up the mess left by a succession of US presidents, righting historical wrongs, and not squandering his golden opportunity. He deserves our support for his courage and foresight.