Johan Galtung on President Obama

For those of you who missed it, Johan Galtung voiced his discontent with President Obama in an interview with Democracy Now’s Amy Goodman last week (September 16).  Galtung described Obama as a man with “megalomaniac” tendencies who hasn’t kept any of his campaign promises and who doesn’t deserve the support of those who stomped for him in 2008.

AMY GOODMAN: What is your assessment of President Obama?

JOHAN GALTUNG: I have never believed in him. Never. I have lots of editorials and things written in the election year. I think that I sense something slightly megalomaniac in him, which is disturbing. The idea of being able to unite all of the US, just as he unites skin colors and faiths and origins in his body, and for that reason, leaning over backwards to negotiate with the Republicans and taking on Republican points, whereupon the Republicans vote no. Now, maybe the Republicans will now change from being a “no” party to some couple of “maybe” or “yeses,” maybe. But in the meantime, he has lost the support of the people who are voting for him. If I had been working like mad in 2008 to get him elected, because of some beauties in his rhetoric, and had experienced what I have experienced now, I would not work for the midterm elections.

AMY GOODMAN: What do you think he has gone back on, in terms of his promises?

JOHAN GALTUNG: Practically speaking, everything. Guantánamo is still there. Rendition is still there. There is the saying that no torture should take place; I haven’t seen the mechanism to ensure that that’s the case. The withdrawal from Iraq, with 50,000 remaining. Stepping up, escalating the war in Afghanistan. And as we know, whatever withdraws from Iraq essentially goes to Afghanistan instead.

I think it’s very contrary to the kind of thing that he was exuding, including the nuclear point. What kind of thing is this, to get rid of old-fashioned weapons with the Russians and then arguing for $180 billion to modernize the nukes—$100 billion for the weapons carriers, $80 billion for new warheads? What kind of nuclear-free world is this? He should have had the decency, when Norway made the mistake of giving him the Nobel Peace Prize, of saying, “I graciously, gratefully decline. I haven’t earned it yet. Let’s come back when possibly I have earned it.” He didn’t say that, and dispensed with the prize money in a disgraceful way.

AMY GOODMAN: How?

JOHAN GALTUNG: To all kinds of irrelevant organizations. He didn’t even give it to US peace organizations. Let me just mention one: the American Friends Service Committee, which is a fantastic organization doing marvelous work all over the world. Could have given the whole thing to them.

You’ll notice that Galtung’s argument evolves around foreign policy while at the same time criticizing Obama for “leaning over backwards” to Republicans. This assertion, however, is based on Obama’s handling of domestic matters (such as health care reform). Though Galtung’s discontent with Obama might be warranted, he tends to interpret everything political through a lens of foreign policy. By stating that those who worked “like mad” for Obama in 2008 shouldn’t work for him in 2010 — based on the points mentioned by Galtung — Galtung takes it for granted that these voters supported Obama because of some “beauties in his rhetoric” on matters of foreign policy, and that his record on these issues disqualify him from their continued support (note to Galtung: Obama isn’t on the ballot, and many Democrats aren’t exactly highlighting their ties to Obama on the campaign trail).

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