Obama’s Oval Office speech: A cowardly cover-up of BP’s crimes

by Barry Grey, WSWS

President Obama’s Oval Office speech Tuesday night on the Gulf oil disaster was a cowardly exercise in evasion and cover-up that could have been written by the publicity department of BP.

The 18-minute speech, coming on the 57th day of the worst environmental catastrophe in US history, provided no concrete assessment of the causes of the oil spill or the dimensions of the crisis—in terms of damage either to the ecosystem or the economy.

The speech represented a complete capitulation to BP and corporate power. Anyone who expected that Obama would use the occasion to provide the American people with an honest accounting of the disaster and the culpability of BP had to be sorely disappointed.

Given only hours before a scheduled White House meeting with top BP executives, the speech made absolutely clear that the Obama administration takes its marching orders from the corporate-financial oligarchy. In his response to the Gulf disaster, Obama has adopted the same approach as he did to the criminal actions of Wall Street that threw the US and the world into the deepest economic crisis since the Great Depression. No one is to be held accountable and nothing is to be done that challenges the basic interests of the financial aristocracy.

In his speech, Obama made no clear condemnation of BP’s actions, either before or after the April 20 blowout of the Deepwater Horizon oil rig that took the lives of 11 workers and sent millions of gallons of oil spewing into the Gulf of Mexico.

He made no mention of the latest shocking revelations of BP’s systematic violations of safety procedures in the run-up to the explosion that sank the rig—violations that were part of the company’s policy of cutting corners in order to save time and money and boost profits.

He did not even note the new estimates released that day by government scientists placing the oil flow rate at 35,000 to 60,000 gallons a day—the latest evidence of BP’s consistent policy of lying about the crisis.

Nor was there any mention of a criminal investigation into BP—something that was floated two weeks ago by the administration and has since been dropped.

Obama devoted exactly four short sentences and less than a minute to the explosion on the Deepwater Horizon rig, omitting anything that could be damaging to BP. For example, he failed to note that the company’s blowout preventer, supposedly the failsafe barrier against an oil gusher, failed to operate.

“Because there has never been a leak this size at this depth,” he continued, “stopping it has tested the limits of human technology.”

This is a miserable and dishonest attempt to place the disaster outside of any direct responsibility on the part of BP. The issue is not the supposed limits of human technology, but the fact that BP had no plan in place to deal with a blowout.

Obama proceeded to tout his desultory and incompetent response to the spill, stating, “As a result of these efforts, we’ve directed BP to mobilize additional equipment and technology. And in the coming weeks and days, these efforts should capture up to 90 percent of the oil leaking out of the well. This is until the company finishes drilling a relief well later in the summer that’s expected to stop the leak completely.”

Where did the figure of 90 percent containment come from? From BP!

Obama presented the claims of the company, including full stoppage of the leak by late summer, as though they were to be trusted. This is after BP has given incorrect and false information from day one of the disaster—information which Obama and his subordinates have uncritically accepted and passed on to the public.

Obama was silent on BP’s record of deceit—beginning with its claim after April 20 that there was no oil leak, followed by its fraudulent estimates of 1,000 barrels a day and then 5,000 barrels. Nor did he mention the company’s defiance of the Environmental Protection Agency’s call for it to stop pumping the toxic oil dispersant Corexit into the Gulf. Or its policy of blocking the media from gaining access to polluted beaches and marshlands.

As his speech made clear, the administration will continue to disseminate BP’s lies.

“But make no mistake,” Obama said, “We will fight this spill with everything we’ve got and for as long as it takes. We will make BP pay for the damage their company has caused. And we will do whatever’s necessary to help the Gulf Coast and its people recover from this tragedy.”

These are generalities that one could drive a truck through. This is a disaster whose total costs in economic and environmental destruction rise to the hundreds of billions and even trillions of dollars. But Obama was careful to give no figures for the cost of the oil blowout to date, the projected losses to the tourism and fishing industries, the hundreds of thousands of jobs wiped out—rendering his pledge to “make BP pay” and “do whatever’s necessary” empty and without any credibility.

“Because of our efforts,” Obama boasted, “millions of gallons of oil have already been removed from the water through burning, skimming and other collection methods. Over five-and-a-half million feet of boom has been laid across the water to block and absorb the approaching oil.”

This hyping of what is universally seen as an incompetent, disorganized and wholly inadequate response by the government and BP is an insult to the intelligence of the American people. The very morning of Obama’s speech, the New York Times published a lengthy front-page article under the headline: “Efforts to Repel Gulf Spill Are Described as Chaotic.”

Obama went on to assure the victims of the Gulf spill, “As the cleanup continues, we will offer whatever additional resources and assistance our coastal states may need… But we have to recognize that despite our best efforts, oil has already caused damage to our coastline and its wildlife. And sadly, no matter how effective our response is, there will be more oil and more damage before this siege is done. That’s why the second thing we’re focused on is the recovery and restoration of the Gulf Coast.”

Again, the vaguest of generalities, which are belied by the refusal of the government to allocate to date anything near the needed resources or take any action that challenges BP’s property and profits. To seriously approach the “recovery and restoration” of the Gulf Coast would require the seizure of BP’s assets and the nationalization of the oil industry under the democratic control of the working population.

“Tomorrow,” Obama declared, “I will meet with the chairman of BP and inform him that he is to set aside whatever resources are required to compensate the workers and business owners who have been harmed as a result of the company’s recklessness. And this fund will not be controlled by BP. In order to ensure that all legitimate claims are paid out in a fair and timely manner, the account must and will be administered by an independent third party.”

Again—no numbers! “Whatever resources are required” is a generality that can be twisted to suit the needs of whoever is calling the shots, and despite Obama’s talk of an “independent third party” to administer a compensation fund, those setting policy will be BP, the oil industry as a whole, and Wall Street.

Likewise the phrase “all legitimate claims.” Who is to determine which claims are legitimate? This is a formula for denying adequate compensation to tens of thousands of workers whose jobs are being wiped out by the Gulf disaster.

“The third part of our response plan,” Obama continued, “is the steps we’re taking to ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again. A few months ago, I approved a proposal to consider new, limited offshore drilling under the assurance that it would be absolutely safe—that the proper technology would be in place and the necessary precautions taken.

“That obviously was not the case in the Deepwater Horizon rig, and I want to know why… And so I’ve established a National Commission to understand the causes of this disaster and offer recommendations on what additional safety and environmental standards we need to put in place.”

Obama’s promise to “ensure that a disaster like this does not happen again” lacks any credibility. As does his pose of bewilderment as to the causes of the Deepwater Horizon explosion.

By now a mountain of facts have emerged proving that the cause of the explosion was the company’s disregard for safety, driven by its drive for profit. And it is well established that the government, including under Obama, facilitated this by allowing the company to regulate itself.

Given the servile defense of corporate profiteering by the administration, both political parties and all branches and levels of the government, there is no doubt that the conditions for further disasters in the future will continue to prevail.

Indeed, the real mandate of the National Commission (which is co-chaired by a board member of Conoco-Phillips), as indicated previously by Obama himself is to quickly come up with a proposal for token safety improvements so as to resume deep-water drilling in the Gulf and elsewhere.

Obama repeated his mantra of “coming together” as a nation—“workers and entrepreneurs, scientists and citizens, the public and private sectors.” In other words, mounting no popular opposition to the corporate criminals and holding none of them accountable for their crimes.

In a final insult to the intelligence of the American people, he dragged in God at the end of his remarks, declaring that “we pray that a hand may guide us through the storm towards a brighter day.”

Obama’s performance was the speech of an individual and a government that are under the thumb of BP and the corporate-financial elite as a whole. It reeked of servility and cowardice before big business and contempt for the public.

It made clear that nothing will be done to compensate the vast majority of workers and small businessmen whose jobs and livelihoods are being wiped out by the Gulf spill.

The speech was part of a three-day public relations campaign, including a two-day tour of the Gulf and Wednesday’s White House meeting with BP’s chairman and CEO, designed to cover up the preparations for a filthy deal with BP. That deal will likely include a temporary delay by BP in paying out billions in shareholder dividends and the setting up of an escrow fund that will limit the company’s liabilities to a small fraction of the real cost of the disaster for which it is responsible.

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11 Responses

  1. How much more will Americans take?

  2. If the people of this country had an ounce of guts, that fuckstain would have to get himself a Popemobile.

    Along with practically everybody else in Congress.

    There’s just gotta be a Hell.

  3. Jan,
    Americans will not take much more. Unfortunately, it is the wrong Americans preparing to take direct action against the U.S. government. One must listen closely to the likes of Alex Jones, who rails against the multinationals and the New World Order as if he were a socialist organizer. However, he, and those like him, never offer ideas regarding what would be done with the vast accumulations of surplus capital held by those companies, or who would control the ongoing operations of those companies once they were dissuaded from their goals of creating a New World Order. Moreover, fundamental to the ideology espoused by Jones and his ilk is the hatred for “illegal immigrants” (racism), a reverence for the Founding Fathers (nationalism), a complete revision of history (Marx and Lenin were financed by international banking), the suppression of competing views, the blessing of God on their endeavors, the special ability to uniquely see social connections where others cannot, the support for domestic militias, and a passionate desire to return to the good days of unfettered capitalism. These prophets draw no distinction between progressivism and conservatism, or between socialism and fascism, using such words interchangeably.

    If you do not recognize this pattern, let me put it bluntly. It is incipient fascism, containing kernels or truth to mislead the public, but by offering no real solutions to the problem of the private control of accumulated surplus capital, the movement is easily manipulated by the very interests it seeks to destroy. Just as the tea parties started as real populist outrage, but were quickly turned to promoting corporate interests, so too will be the the movement the far right is building with through Jones and his info-warriors and their allies. The result will be the complete suppression of all political and civil rights for all Americans, at the least. At worst, the fascists will rise to power, with one aim, to eliminate all progressive forces and secular thought in the United States and seize back lost industrial power through military conquest. We know this story well, having paid the price in blood to defeat such movements in the mid-twentieth century. Unhappily, they are a decade ahead of progressives in organization and ideology.

  4. You and I are certainly on the same page when it comes to alex jones. The man’s job is to simultaniously embarass the members of the Truth movement to the general public while keeping as many of them inactive and terrified at the same time.

    Then he does something a little more devious.

    Alex Jones’ association with the libertarians Ron Paul and his son Rand. The Libertarian Party is the epitome of the neoliberal economic agenda. and since it is this agenda that is behind what is happening to this country and the rest of the world, what Jones has actually done is convince a number of people to condemn the acts of the False Flag attacks while adopting their socio-economic ideology of free market crony capitalism.

    I mean think about it… Rand Paul’s ONLY qualification for the office he is about to be rewarded with… is his father. That’s oligarchy. And that is what Jones does. He placated the dissenters and the young idealists and the angry while keeping them terrified of an all-powerful government system that is, in Alex Jones’ world, always ready to impose martial law and round us up and put us in work camps.

    All the while Alex Jones makes his money off advertising, selling videos, and other BS from his website.

    So, we are certainly on the same page there.

  5. Not too long ago, Kurt Nimmo, one of A.J.’s boys, retracted a story about the H1N1 flu pandemic that turned out to be totally ‘true’ and valid. What does this tell you about these guys??

    If a member of the government can contact Alex Jones and tell either himself or one of his people that they’ll take action if a story is left up on the website, and then it gets retracted without valid reason other than ‘fear’ of the reprisal by the government, then what’s the point??

    It took us a long time to finally realize that MSM wasn’t worth the powder it would take to puffball it off the face of the earth, and now, we’re finding that we have a lot of gate keepers online doing the same exact censorship of real news and valid information.

    So I concur about Alex Jones and his site. They only serve to profit off the chaos, not stand as a irrefutable source of information on how to defeat the INCIPIENT FASCIST state we are in now.

    Proto-fascism didn’t just generate itself. It had a lot of help in these blogs. Way too much gate keeping and not enough calling a treasonous pile of crap exactly what he or she is.

    thanks, Willy! and the other gent who posted about this.

  6. That speech was a total farce, just like the testimony of this little shit Tony Hayward. Obama just said such general comments that he could’ve phoned it in. I wanted a who, what, when and how this cleanup was going to get organized, what would be done to stop the damn leak and how were the people of the Gulf going to live through this financially and how is their health going to hold up. And he talked about nothing that had any detail. It was stuff we already knew. I voted for this asshole in the primary and general election-but please don’t hold that against me! All he has done is break every promise he ever made. He certainly doesn’t care for humanity as he claims or he’d get something done about this. I could scream every time I see that feed of that oil gushing out with no end in sight.

  7. [...] President can personally demand a corporation must sequester funds <$20 bn!> at his say-so): http://willyloman.wordpress.com/2010/06/16/obama%E2%80%99s-oval-office-speech-a-cowardly-cover-up-of… “Liberal” Democrats demand flotilla ‘terrorists’ be denied entry into U.S.: [...]

  8. notice he says 11 people lost their lives.. some of the most sacrificial moments in history lost 11 lives.. look at how many 11′s appear in 9/11

    also, curiously it happened on 4/20, hitler birthday as well..
    just a thought

  9. They are giving you the “run around” and stalling, because: The Corexit that has been poured on the oil in thousands of tonnes in spite of protests against it due to being less efficient as a dispersant than at least four other dispersants, is a neuro-toxin, a nerve-poison. It is deadly in doses of 2.6 p.p.million. Blended in oil it is 11 times MORE toxic. WHY was Corexit chosen? The sun will evaporate it along with the other fumes,the domineering winds will carry it over America – where it will meet with the chem-trails Aluminium,Barium,Strontium etc.etc that are in the skies deposited through 3 decades. Any qualified guesses as to the health and environmental issues rising from this situation? Is the health of the peoble only interesting when it can be exploited? Why did your president not tell the people this? And why can your president not arrange for 1000 sand-pumping ships to come and vacuum the huge underwater oil blops?????

  10. In a stunning revelation, Credo Mutwa, official historian
    for the Zulu people foretold the Gulf oil disaster four months before it
    happened. In a notice sent out from a conference he was addressing he
    implies a coming oil apocolypse before 2011. However, he would not
    elaborate, much to the frustration of the attendees…. Credo just said:

    “it’s no asteroid, comet, plaque, … just OIL.”

    “Dear people, mind there is a big anaconda under the surface here… This disaster is done on purpose by more or less the same elite that was behind 9-11! Beware the bringers of false gifts…” Randell (CropCircleConnector.com)

    Do you remember a similar event in your lifetime? In fact I can only think of one other event that has trully shocked me in my life time and that was 9/11, another unprecedented event. It is my personal opinion that we have here the most serious problem on the planet short of nuclear war. This is the ‘Nuclear war’ that the ‘Criminal Cabal’ failed to bring about. Using some engineering language, “The well bore structure is compromised “Down hole”, and this I am sad to say is serious beyond measure!

    http://projectavalon.net/The_BP_Deepwater_Horizon_Macondo_Well_Blowout_and_what_we_are_facing_in_the_Gulf.pdf

  11. Credo Mutwa–what a name! Sounds like there’s magic in it–the foretelling kind, for sure.

    Wish I had some of the action kind in mine. Some of that Voodoo, maybe–something along those lines–because there’s a growing list of people I’d like to put a spell on.

    Maybe I’ll get me a book, go out in the shed and practice–see what happens.

    Anyway, quite a long read you put down there, Rob. I’m going to get to it next time it rains, though. Thanks.

    r ap

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