Royal Love-Fest: Ratings Will Grow When Harry Meets Obama. Journalism Won’t.


Grab your buckets people, two of the world’s most advantaged people have sat down for one of the world’s most potentially vomituous interviews, and the results are, well, we’ll have to wait until later tonight to find out.

Earlier this month, Prince Harry of Great Britain sat down for a one-on-one with former US president Barack Obama. The adventure was funded by the BBC, a media organisation with a strong focus on trying to make itself appear reputable.

Beyond a few small snippets released to media where the two men smile at each other, bat eyelids and make way too many awkward jokes, we don’t really know whether Prince Harry subjected one of the world’s greatest war criminals to a serious grilling.

Former US president Barack Obama.
Former US president Barack Obama.

The interview will be aired today, December 27, the time when you release poorly crafted news that you don’t want people to actually consume. In any event, in anticipation of a regal love-fest, here’s some facts about Obama’s time in office that probably won’t come out during the interview.


In office

In 2009, President Barack Obama won the Nobel Peace Prize. He had this to say:

“Throughout history, the Nobel Peace Prize has not just been used to honor specific achievement; it’s also been used as a means to give momentum to a set of causes. And that is why I will accept this award as a call to action — a call for all nations to confront the common challenges of the 21st century.”

One of those common challenges, said Obama, included reducing and eliminating nuclear weapons. And yet, as he entered his final year in office, Obama’s administration committed more than $1 trillion (that’s a thousand billion dollars) over three decades to reviving atomic arsenals to make them laser-guided and thus more accurate.

Obama also attacked numerous other nations the US wasn’t at war with, mostly by drone (including Somalia, Afghanistan, Pakistan and Yemen) and at record rates.

new matilda, drone
A US Predator Drone. (IMAGE: Wikipedia).

Drone strikes actually began under George W. Bush in 2002. Bush ordered about 50 drone strikes during his presidency which, the US claims, killed about “296 terrorists” and around “195 civillians”.

Obama ordered more than 500, but managed to keep his official murder numbers comparatively low (the US claims Obama killed more than 3,000 terrorists and only 400 or so innocent civilians) by pretending that any male of military age killed in a drone strike was an enemy combatant… unless someone proved (posthumously) otherwise.

As a rough guide, The Intercept reported that between January 2012 and February 2013 US airstrikes “killed more than 200 people. Of those, only 35 were the intended targets. During one five-month period of the operation, according to the documents, nearly 90 percent of the people killed in airstrikes were not the intended targets.” You can read more about the drone program here.

On immigration, Obama was no better than Bush. Indeed he was quite a bit worse.

While there understandable anger over Donald Trump’s campaign statements that he would deport illegals (mostly Mexicans), during Obama’s administration he actually put that rhetoric into action, deporting more people than all the 20th century presidents before him, combined.

US president Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)
US president Donald Trump. (IMAGE: Gage Skidmore, Flickr)

And it wasn’t just Mexicans – Obama deported hundreds of children of Cambodian refugees, a brutal war sparked in part by US intervention in south East Asia. He also detained and deported entire families who sought asylum in the US from violence in Central America, despite initial reviews finding many of the claims were legitimate.

Obama also promised to close the illegal detention camp at Guantanamo Bay. When he left office eight years later, it remained open. He did issue an executive order ceasing the practice of torture, but failed to change laws to prevent the transfer of prisoners to nations that still do. He also refused to prosecute any American officials with prior involvement in torture.

In 2011, the US led the attacks on Libya, destablising the country and leading to its collapse. Obama’s Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton celebrated the public mob execution of leader Muammar Gaddafi with the line, ‘We came, we saw, he died’.

In 2014, after a botched execution in Oklahoma in which Clayton Lockett came to, writhed on the execution table and took 43 minutes to die, Obama declared publicly it was time for the nation to ask itself some “difficult and profound questions”. He directed his Attorney General to review federal legislation around capital punishment. The review went nowhere, and Obama dropped the issue from his agenda.

During his presidency, just over 300 people were executed in the United States – one of the worst records on earth.

Obama also made multiple promises to tackle gun violence during his presidency. With one year left in office, the number of mass shootings in the US was eight times that of his predecessor’s entire term (162 under Obama, 20 under Bush).

On Indigenous rights, Obama was also a coward. Like Australia, the US implemented a practice of removing Native American children from their families, with the aim of eradicating their culture.

Former US president Barack Obama.
Former US president Barack Obama.

Reports Sarah Maddison in The Conversation: “ … the US government has made a formal apology for these practices. But the Apology to Native Peoples of the United States has never been read aloud by any elected official.

“Instead, it was signed into law by President Barack Obama, buried on page 45 of the 67-page Defense Appropriations Act 2010. The act is primarily concerned with the purchase of weapons and its signing was closed to the public. What’s more, there was no official White House announcement about it.”

But Obama did look after himself, and his mates. After the Wall Street collapse that sparked a global financial meltdown, Obama’s administration failed to prosecute a single senior Wall Street banker. Instead, once out of office, Obama joined the Wall Street speaking circuit, earning about $1.2 million for three speeches in just a few months this year.

But even that sort of income apparently isn’t enough – in retirement Obama also receives an annual pension in excess of $200,000, along with hundreds of thousands more in expenses for staff, office space and security. He also received $383,535 from his time as a Senator in Illinois.

Obama’s net worth today is somewhere around $12.2 million. Prince Harry’s net worth is estimated to be up to $40 million.

Enjoy their interview tonight.

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Chris Graham is the publisher and editor of New Matilda. He is the former founding managing editor of the National Indigenous Times and Tracker magazine. In more than three decades of journalism he's had his home and office raided by the Australian Federal Police; he's been arrested and briefly jailed in Israel; he's reported from a swag in Outback Australia on and off for years. Chris has worked across multiple mediums including print, radio and film. His proudest achievement is serving as an Associate producer on John Pilger's 2013 film Utopia. He's also won a few journalism awards along the way in both the US and Australia, including a Walkley Award, a Walkley High Commendation and two Human Rights Awards. Since late 2021, Chris has been battling various serious heart and lung conditions. He's begun the process of quietly planning a "gentle exit" after "tying up a few loose ends" in 2024 and 2025. So watch this space.