The world finds itself in a precarious and terrifying place in 2017. For more than 70 years, the United States has been the dominant military power on the planet, and it will soon achieve a full-spectrum dominance over all life on Earth. As American peace activist A.J. Muste reportedly said:
"The problem after a war is with the victor. He thinks he has just proved that war and violence pay. Who will now teach him a lesson?"
And so after 70 years of military dominance, who will teach America a lesson? Who is even remotely positioned to reason with America? Whatever the rest of the world may do to mitigate the virtually unopposed dominance by the U.S. of our planet, the seeds of change come from within. Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick make the point several times, both in their book and in the series, that empires fall from within, and so if the world is to avoid the life-ending scenarios for which it seems destined, the American Empire must change, and the American people must be at the forefront of that change.
The myths of American exceptionalism, of America as the indispensable nation, are rooted in the notion that war and violence pay. And these myths are carefully cultivated by America's elite to validate U.S. actions around the world in service of its self interest, often to the extreme detriment of other peoples. But these myths are not true, and the great value of "The Untold History of the United States" is in the telling of a history that may yet allow desperately needed change to blossom. As Stone has himself said of current conditions in the U.S., "The power to smother the truth is enormous." Think that view is a bit overstated? Read the transcript in the next section of this page with Peter Kuznick titled the "Three Myths of American Exceptionalism", and then read this August, 2015, piece from the Wall Street Journal titled "Thank God for the Atom Bomb" for a glimpse of just how truth is systematically smothered by the elite and the mainstream media that represents it.
Oliver Stone offers his motivation for making the documentary series, and for the five-year project that created the companion book, and his words provide a fitting beginning to our exploration of this indispensable series:
"What I wanted, with my colleagues, rather than make another feature film, was to tell the American story in a way that has never been told before. There are many questions that you may not find answered here, but you will find questions raised that I hope will help make you more conscious. We are going to propose, among other things, a forgotten set of heroes, people who have suffered for their beliefs and have been lost to history because they did not conform. And we are going to de-bunk some of those heroes, not with malice, but by restating the facts. Unless we remind ourselves of the good we have lost, its not easy to imagine a better future. George Orwell once wrote, 'Who controls the past controls the future.' By showing you the patterns that have come to be that perhaps you have not noticed before, we will try to bring you back to the meaning of this country, and what so radically changed after World War II. This behaviour has brought us to where we are now. This film is designed to enhance democratic values and institutions in our country, to encourage real free debate. There have been some profound mistakes but we still have a chance, I strongly believe, to correct them. And that is why we have made this series. I dedicate this film to the younger generation denied a proper historical memory, and to those who follow."
"History has shown us the curve of the ball could have broken differently."
Many summaries of, and commentaries on, both the documentary series and the book can be found in a quick online search. This article from Alternet, titled "How America Became a Dangerous Empire" offers a very succinct summation of the "Untold History of the United States":
The chief point of the book and the series ... is that U.S. history could have gone in a very different and a much more positive direction if the United States had not locked itself on a course toward worldwide empire.
And Stone directly echoes that point when he says in the postscript of the concluding episode:
"We wisely resisted becoming a colonial empire, and most Americans would deny all imperial pretensions. Perhaps that is why we cling so doggedly to the myth of American exceptionalism, American uniqueness, benevolence, generosity. Maybe in that fanciful notion lies the seeds of American redemption, the hope that the United States will live up to that vision which seemed within grasp in 1944 when Wallace almost became president, or 1953 when Stalin died with a new U.S. president in office, or JFK and Khrushchev in 1963, or Bush and Gorbachev in '89, or Obama in 2008. History has shown us the curve of the ball could have broken differently. These moments will come again, in different form. Will we be ready?"
But, Oliver Stone? A documentary series on history by Oliver Stone? His reputation as a film maker provides for some an easy target for Stone the documentarian. These questions were put to him in an interview with Bob Woodruff. This is how he responded:
"The idea in drama is you cross over [into the character you're portraying]. In documentary its another ball game. You cannot put lines into people's mouths that are not set. This [the book and series] is a different approach to history, but at the same time I do think I have a gift. Peter [Professor Peter Kuznick] is doing the scholarship, he's doing the fact-checking, while I'm trying to get to that moment, what is really going on in Gorbachev's mind, or in Khrushchev's mind, or this moment of time with Truman. Not to say all power comes from the top down, but certainly a significant contributor to our time on earth is the power of these men - Truman vs Wallace, Roosevelt and Eisenhower, what they could do to us, they sent me to Vietnam. History is determined at the top, and what they do. That's not to say there are not bottom-up movements like Howard Zinn described, but our book [and series] is really based on the top-down.
Of course I'm going to be ridiculed, and this is the nature of - its a soft target. Oliver Stone writing history? All I can tell you is this book has been thoroughly fact-checked. Showtime, a major fact-check - they sent back on every chapter we did (there were ten chapters) two or three hundred pages of notes, which is great because it makes you reexamine everything you do. And then CBS Corporate law does its check. By the time we went to air we were far more accurate than History Channel, which I don't think goes through any kind of checking."
Before the reader dives into the chapters of the Series and the Book in the sub-pages of this section, below we provide our transcripts from two videos, one featuring the project's primary historian, Peter Kuznick, and the other featuring Oliver Stone. Both offer insight into the thinking of these men, and the driving issues that helped shape their vision of the work, as well as the issues facing America and the world.
Three Myths of American Exceptionalism
Within the overall and unifying myth of American exceptionalism, there is a series of supporting myths intended to validate that narrative. The Stone/Kuznick series, Untold History, does much to dispel the most egregious of these. Peter Kuznick is professor of history at American University; he is also Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University.Watch his lecture on the dropping of the Bomb on Nagasaki and Hiroshima.
In the video interview transcribed in full below, really, a monologue, Professor Kuznick identifies the three fundamental myths about World War II, of which most Americans are ignorant. Our transcribed text follows:
narrated by Professor Peter Kuznick...
"The first myth is that the United States won the war in Europe. But of course it was the Soviets who won the war in Europe. The second is that the Cold War started in World War II because of Soviet aggression - that narrative is completely wrong. The third is that the atomic bombs ended the Pacific war - the reality, as historians now understand, is that the atomic bomb had minimal impact, whereas the Soviet invasion convinced the Japanese that there was no chance for carrying on any longer.
In fact, American intelligence had been saying for months, beginning at least in April, that the Soviet invasion of Manchuria and Japan would lead to complete collapse of the Japanese military. Truman understood this quite well. Truman said he went to Potsdam to make sure that the Soviets were coming into the [Pacific] war. He got Stalin's agreement on July 16th. He writes in his journal, 'Stalin will be in the Jap war by August 15th. Finis Japs when that occurs.' He writes home to his wife Bess the next day that the Russians are coming in, we'll end the war a year sooner now, think of all the boys who won't be killed.
The Americans had broken the Japanese codes. We were intercepting their telegrams. Truman himself refers to the intercepted July 18th telegram as the 'telegram from the Jap Emperor asking for peace.' Truman knew full well that the Japanese were defeated, they were looking for a way to get out, they were trying to negotiate through the Soviets to help them get better surrender terms. The Soviet invasion, which begins at midnight on August 8th, completely undermines Japan's diplomatic strategy - which was to try to get the Soviets to help get better surrender terms - and it undermines Japan's military strategy, which was to wait for the American invasion, inflict heavy American casualties, and get better surrender terms that way.
"In being the first to use it [the atomic bomb], we had adopted an ethical standard common to the barbarians of the Dark Ages."
Most of the American military leaders are on record saying that the atomic bombs were not necessary. In fact, six of America's seven five-star admirals and generals, who got their fifth star during the war, are on record as saying that the atomic bombs were either militarily unnecessary or morally reprehensible, or both, in most cases. And we're talking about people who weren't pacifists. We're talking about Admiral Leahey, who chaired the meetings of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, who was Truman's personal Chief of Staff; we're talking about Douglas MacArthur, who said the Japanese would have surrendered in May, happily, if we had told them we could keep the Emperor; General Dwight Eisenhower, who later becomes president, says '...the Japanese were defeated', that 'there was no reason to hit them with that damn thing' and that '...I hated to see my country be the first to use it.'; Chester Nimitz, General King, Hap Arnold, all on record, as well as a lot of other military leaders on record saying that the Japanese were defeated and there was no need to use the atomic bomb. Leahey says we were barbarians in doing so, he says 'we have adopted the ethical standards of the barbarians of the dark ages.'
But this is against the narrative that most Americans are completely unaware of. If you look at the intelligence reports - April, May, June, July - they made it very clear the Soviet invasion was going to end the war, and the Soviet invasion did. Prime Minister Suzuki was asked on August 10th why they had surrendered so quickly, he said '...the Soviets were taking Manchuria, they were taking Karafuto, next they'll be in Hokkaido, and if that happens the foundation of Japan is destroyed. We have to surrender while we can surrender to the Americans.'
What you have to realize is that the Americans had been fire-bombing Japanese cities ever since March. We'd wiped out, fire-bombed, over one hundred Japanese cities before Hiroshima and Nagasaki. Destruction reached 99.5 percent in the city of Toyama. Japanese leaders had accepted that the United States could wipe out Japanese cities, so the Japanese leaders didn't make a big difference if it was one plane with one bomb or two hundred planes with thousands of bombs. Hiroshima and Nagasaki were simply two more cities. The Soviet invasion - as the leaders knew it would - changed the equation and forced the Japanese surrender at that point.
Most Americans believe that the United States won the war in Europe. That's a pretty crazy notion if you've studied the war at all. For Americans, the narrative begins on December 7th, 1941, with the bombing of Pearl Harbour. Then there's a brief interlude when we go and take North Africa, and then we go up in Italy. And then the real war for Americans starts on June 6, 1944, with the D-Day invasion of Normandy. The reality of the war was that throughout most of the war the United States and the British were confronting ten German divisions combined while the Soviets throughout most of the war were confronting two hundred German divisions combined, and it was the Soviets who won the war. Churchill said the Red Army 'tore the guts out of the Nazi war machine.' The Nazis lost about six million on the Eastern Front, and about one million on the Western Front.
When I ask my students how many Americans died in World War II the median answer is about ninety thousand, only three hundred thousand off. When I ask them how many Soviets died in World War II the median answer I got was a hundred thousand, which means they were only twenty-seven million off! These young kids, smart as they may be, have no understanding what the Cold War was about, no idea what's going on in Ukraine now, they have no historical context to make sense out of that.
Do you know what twenty-seven million represents? After 9/11, where the United States lost around three thousand people, after which we've invaded country after country after country, wrecked havoc on the planet, to get revenge and find the perpetrators. Twenty-seven million is the equivalent of one 9/11 a day, every day, for 24 years. That's what the Soviets suffered in World War II. When President Kennedy said it was the equivalent of the entire United States east of Chicago having been destroyed, he was not exaggerating. The Soviet losses were unimaginable, the horrors of World War II were unimaginable. And of course as a result, they wanted a buffer zone between themselves and Germany - they'd been invaded twice by Germany through Eastern Europe in the previous twenty-five years.
The main demand the Soviets wanted after World War II was a buffer zone. During the war they wanted a couple of things. One thing they wanted was a second front. The United States promised - in fact in May of 1942 President Roosevelt asked Stalin to send over Foreign Minister Molotov and a top Soviet general to Washington. They met with Roosevelt and General Marshall, and at that meeting Roosevelt asks Marshall, 'can we open a second front before the end of 1942?' And Marshall says 'yes' and Eisenhower says 'yes' we should before the end of 1942. The Americans pledged to open up the second front. We don't open up the second front until June of 1944, largely because Churchill refused to go along. During that time the Soviets were bled to death on a massive scale. Then they turn the tide, they defeat the Germans, and the Germans are retreating ahead of the Red Army which is pushing toward Berlin. The American narrative from June 6th '44, the Americans marched to Berlin and won the war - that's not what happened.
The other myth about the war is that the Soviet Union started the Cold War during World War II because of Soviet aggression - the Soviet desire for territorial aggrandizement. What the Soviets wanted was a buffer zone, a buffer zone between themselves and Germany. They did not trust Germany after the war. The Americans had initially toyed with the idea of the Morgenthau Plan, which was to pastoralize Germany, de-industrialize Germany, never let Germany become a military and industrial power again. But the United States backed off of that notion.
So we look at how the Cold War really begins. Roosevelt's last telegram that he sent to Churchill said that these issues between the U.S. and the Soviets pop every day, and they all get resolved, let's not make a big deal of it, and the United States and the Soviet Union should remain friends in the post-war period. However, Truman, who had been vice-president for eighty-four days, during which time Roosevelt had spoken to him twice but never on anything of substance (one of the amazing facts of the war is that when Truman became president he did not even know the United States was building an atomic bomb - no one had high enough regard for Truman to tell him the United States was building the bomb). So Truman becomes president, and has to confront all these major issues and - in my opinion - gets them all wrong. The advice he gets is from people of whom Roosevelt had little regard, especially when it came to foreign policy.
The reality of the Cold War, the start of the Cold War, was that Truman reversed Roosevelt's policies towards the Soviets.
Truman's first day in office [is] April 13th. He meets with Molotov ten days later. By that time the whole mood of the relationship between the United States and the Soviet Union had been flipped. Whereas Roosevelt wanted the United States and the Soviet Union to collaborate in the post-war period - what [Roosevelt] actually said to Molotov is what we need in the post-war world is four policemen; the United States, the Soviet Union, Britain and China will together ensure world peace and stability - Truman accuses him and the Russians of having broken all of their wartime agreements, especially the Yalta agreements, especially over Poland, and Molotov is outraged by this. Truman accuses the Russians of having broken their agreements when the reality is that the Soviets were adhering to the Yalta agreements more than the Americans were. Truman's interpretation was wrong. Truman later backs off of that but at the time he bragged about giving them 'one-two to the jaw.' [Truman was forever trying to be the tough guy, the macho guy, to overcome a rather feminine upbringing. Clearly, as the primary advocate for U.S. foreign policy, Truman was was the wrong guy at the wrong time and place in history.] The reality of the Cold War, the start of the Cold War, was that Truman reversed Roosevelt's policies towards the Soviets. The other person we have to bring into this story is Henry Wallace.
One of the people who has been wiped out of the history books, written out and erased from history, is one of the most extraordinary Americans of the 20th century, Henry Wallace. Roosevelt appointed him Secretary of Agriculture in the New Deal administration. Arthur Schlesinger later said Henry Wallace was the best Secretary of Agriculture this country ever had. He turned the poverty of America's farmers into prosperity, and to massive production during the war - before the war, even, during the 1930s. When Roosevelt was going to run for a third term in 1940 he knew we were on the verge of war against fascism, and he wanted a leading anti-fascist on the ticket as vice president, and he choose Henry Wallace. The party bosses, however, didn't trust Wallace. Wallace was much too radical for their taste, so they opposed putting him on the ticket. Roosevelt wrote a remarkable letter to the Democratic Convention in 1940, in which he turned down the nomination for the presidency, and he said we already have one conservative, monied-nominated, Wall-Street-nominated party - the Republicans - if the Democrats aren't a liberal progressive party who stand for social justice and the right values then there's no reason for the party to exist, and I'm not going to run for president on such a ticket. Eleanor Roosevelt went to the floor of the convention, and convinced them he was serious, and they gave him Wallace on the ticket.
Wallace was an extraordinary vice president. In 1941, when Henry Luce declared that the 20th century must be the "American Century", that the United States will dominate the world, Wallace countered that. He said the 20th century must be the century of the common man, and he called for a world-wide people's revolution; he said we have to end colonialism, end imperialism, end economic exploitation, spread the fruits of science and industry all over the planet. And he said the U.S. and the Soviets had to play the leader role in creating that future.
Wallace was enormously popular, but he had a lot of enemies. His enemies included the Southern segregationists because he was a leading spokesman for black civil rights. His enemies included the misogynists because he was a leading spokesman for women's rights. They included the business community because he was a leading spokesman for labor rights. They included the British and French because he was a leading critic of British and French colonialism. Wallace actually said that America's fascists are those people who think that Wall Street comes first and the American people come second. Now we call them Democrats or Republicans but Wallace got it right - those were America's fascists.
When Roosevelt was running for re-election for a fourth term in 1944, the party bosses ganged up on him and said we want Wallace off the ticket. They called it Pauley's Coup (Treasurer of the party, California oil millionaire, who said he went into politics when he realized it was cheaper to elect a new Congress than it was to buy up the old one, later gets indicted) to try to get Wallace off the ticket. The problem was that Wallace was the second most popular man in America, after Roosevelt. The night the Democratic Convention started, July 20 '44, Gallup releases a poll in which they ask potential voters who they wanted on the ticket for vice president. Two percent favoured Harry Truman, while sixty-five percent said they wanted Henry Wallace. How were the party bosses going to control the convention to get Truman on the ticket and not Wallace? They had the whole thing fixed from the beginning.
But that night, Wallace made the seconding speech for Roosevelt. The place went wild in a spontaneous demonstration that went on for almost an hour. In the middle of it, Senator Claude Pepper from Florida realized that if he could get to the microphone and get Wallace's name in nomination that night, they would defy the bosses, sweep the convention, and get Wallace back on the ticket. He fought his way through the crowd. Mayor Calley and the other bosses see what's going on an the scream to adjourn the convention, there's a fire hazard. Sam Jackson, who was chairing it, had orders not to let Wallace get nominated, said I have a motion to adjourn. A small number said "aye" but everybody booms out "nay". Jackson says, motion carried meeting adjourned. Pepper was literally five feet from the microphone. Had Pepper gotten five more feet to the microphone, Wallace would have been back on the ticket as vice president, become president on April 12th 1945 instead of Harry Truman, there would have been no atomic bombings in World War II, and very possibly no Cold War.
Perhaps the most appalling thing about the atomic bombings was that Truman knowingly set the United States on a glide path to ending all life on the planet.
Wallace was the exact opposite of Harry Truman in every way. He stays on in the cabinet, for Roosevelt, as Secretary of Commerce, and from that position he wages a fight against Truman's Cold War policies and nuclear policies for more than a year from inside until Truman fires him in September of 1946. Wallace is one of the great voices of American democracy who has been lost to history.
The other thing that's appalling - perhaps the most appalling thing about the atomic bombings of 1945 - was not simply that they killed hundreds of thousands of innocent people, overwhelmingly women and children, but that Truman knowingly set the United States on a glide path to ending all life on the planet. Truman writes in his memoirs (the first day he was briefed on the bomb, April 13th, Jimmy Byrnes flew up from South Carolina and told him that this was not just a more powerful weapon we were developing, but...) 'great enough to destroy the whole world.' Truman got a similar briefing on April 25th from Secretary of War Stimson and General Groves, and comments that maybe we shouldn't use this because it could destroy the world.
In 1954, under Project Sundial, American leaders were actually contemplating building a single bomb that was seven hundred thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb.
At Potsdam Truman got word of how incredibly powerful the bomb test at Alamogordo was, the Trinity test, and he writes in his journal that night 'we've discovered the most terrible weapon in history...this may be the fire of destruction prophesied in the Euphrates Valley era after Noah and his fabulous ark.' Truman understood, this was not just a bigger bomb, a more powerful bomb, this is potentially the fire of destruction, this could potentially end all life on the planet. Robert Oppenheimer, the scientific head of the Los Alamos laboratory during the Manhattan Project, understood this too, as did Leo Szilard, Einstein and many other scientists. Oppenheimer briefed policy makers on May 31st at the Interim Committee meeting that within three years we would likely have weapons up to seven thousand times as powerful as the bomb that was going to be dropped on Hiroshima. The policy makers, the leaders knew that. In fact, in 1954, under Project Sundial, American leaders were actually contemplating building a single bomb that was seven hundred thousand times as powerful as the Hiroshima bomb. There were scientists who testified at Congressional hearings about this - the insanity of the nuclear arms race was that by the mid-80s we had the equivalent of 1.5 million Hiroshima bombs, seventy thousand weapons - that we even contemplated building one bomb that was going to be half of that alone. This was a period of absolute insanity.
Many people think that with the end of the Cold War the nuclear threat disappeared, somehow it was abated. That's not true at all. I see among young people a lot of concern about global warming and climate change, and that is admirable. But I also see that the nuclear threat has dropped off of their radar. The reality right now is that the United States is in a very dangerous confrontation, provoking Russia and China in ways that are dangerous, unnecessary and counterproductive. The Americans knew, or should have known, that this policy toward Ukraine of trying to bring Ukraine into the European Western camp, and breaking it off from Russia, that the Russians were going to respond just the way they did. It was totally predictable, in the same sense as the provocation in Afghanistan - Brzezinski was thrilled in 1979 when the Soviets invaded Afghanistan, and we deliberately provoked that, and he said 'great, now we've given the Soviets their own Vietnam.' The same thing happened following the Russian intervention following the coup that occurred in Ukraine. Putin's behaviour was totally predictable there - Ukraine represents fundamental national security interests to Russia. There is no way they're going to allow the United States to simply move in and take over, because what the U.S. was demanding was that the Ukrainians link themselves to the Western camp. You have to put this into context, you have to see this through the eyes of the Russians.
In 1990, when Gorbachev gave permission to unify Germany, he was promised by the George H.W. Bush administration that NATO would not expand one thumbs-width to the east. What has NATO done? It has taken in twelve more countries, including former parts of the Soviet Union. It has expanded right up to Russia's door step. Under George W. Bush we considered actually incorporating Georgia and Ukraine into NATO. The U.S. policy on Russia's border has been very provocative - increasing NATO troop commitments, conducting military exercises, bringing the missile defence facilities onto Romanian soil, promising to do so on Polish soil by 2018. This to Russia is a complete provocation. Through Russian eyes, U.S. policy has been a series of provocations ever since 1918, but certainly since the end of the Cold War. Its a very very dangerous game that we're playing.
We're also playing a dangerous game with China. In November of 2011, Hillary Clinton wrote an article in Foreign Policy Magazine entitled "America's Pacific Century" in which she says we've got to rebalance, we've got to pivot, forget about the Middle East which is becoming less relevant to the United States, and focus our attention on Asia, because China represents the major threat to the United States. And so what Obama [did], in conjunction with Clinton, was not only to reposition and rebalance America's forces to the Pacific, but also to increase arms sales to all the countries surrounding China - basically the same kind of containment policy the United States had toward the Soviet Union during the Cold War we've had toward China in recent years. We're selling arms to all those countries [and] we're conducting joint military exercises with those countries. We're acting very provocatively, and how is China responding? They're responding with their own belligerence and not backing down. They're developing bases on these strips of land in the South China Sea, accepting their own hard line. This is a disastrous policy. We're heading toward confrontation with both Russia and China.
The American Empire has in many ways been a disaster for humanity.
China, unfortunately, is following in the footsteps of the British Empire and the American Empire, enacting the same zero-sum game and belligerency that has messed up the world so badly under the American Empire. Look at the world now. What are the fruits of the American Empire, Pax Americana. Now, the richest sixty-two people in the world have more wealth than the poorest 3.6 billion. The American Empire has in many ways been a disaster for humanity - since 1980, the United States has bombed, invaded fourteen different Islamic countries.
To continue this policy of confrontation with Russia and China spells the possibility of a new confrontation and a new possibility of war. And what do we know about nuclear war? We know that even a limited nuclear war between Pakistan and India - and we came very close to that little more than a decade ago - one in which even a hundred nuclear weapons were used, its estimated that that could kill up to two billion people and cause a partial nuclear winter that could last for a decade. Do people have any understanding what would happen if there was a larger scale nuclear war? The likelihood of full-scale nuclear winter and the ending of all life on the planet would realize the policy that Truman put into effect back in 1945 with the atomic bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. It would bring down the final curtain, not only on mankind, but all life on the planet.
by Professor Peter Kuznick, Published on May 22nd, 2016
Oliver Stone - The TYT Interviews
The documentary series and book, "The Untold History of the United States", provide the context for The Young Turks' interviews of Oliver Stone, which can be found here and here. In the preamble to the discussion, Stone says that the entire project emerged from an initial interest in Henry Wallace, and how the atomic bomb came to become a primary instrument of American foreign policy.
Cenk Uygur: Your life, your career, this series, I think are all intertwined in a lot of ways. You mentioned Wallace, and Wallace is a character in American history that a lot of people are not familiar with, so can you tell us about who he is?
Oliver Stone: He's a visionary. He was vice president of the United States, he was Secretary of Agriculture in the New Deal. Roosevelt said of him, "There's no one more American than Henry Wallace." He was a man of the soil. He reversed the disastrous agricultural policies of the pre-New Deal, and he became the chief of the Economic Mobilization Board during the war and then vice president, so he was a very strong man - outspoken, visionary, mystic - and he was considered outside the backroom politics, too naive for the tastes of the party bosses, who vetoed him in the '44 convention, which is very little talked about. Harry Truman emerged from that, though he was by far less popular - Wallace was the Democratic voters' choice, 65 percent on the eve of the convention, and Truman had about 2 percent of the popular support.
Uygur: It reminds me of what's happening today. The voters are almost always more liberal than the representatives in Washington. They want the more liberal choice, [yet] the power brokers go with the conservative choice.
The reason the Japanese surrendered was because of the Russian invasion of Manchuria, which was going on simultaneously.
Stone: We see that all the time, and we reference that [in the series] several times. We see that all throughout the seventy years since 1940. Wallace leads to a bigger issue, and that's the atomic bomb. That's when I grew up, I was born the year after it was dropped, and I was born the week he was fired. The bomb in '45 was dropped on Japan and of course in all the history books that my children read, and that I read, and the American people believe really without qualification, that we bombed Japan because they were fanatics, and that we would save American lives. That's been repeated and repeated. So Peter [Kuznick] is a nuclear expert at American University. He's studied this for years, he goes to Japan, and we document this thoroughly and we come up with a different conclusion. That certainly was a factor, but the reason the Japanese surrendered was because of the Russian invasion of Japan [Japanese held Manchuria] which was going on simultaneously.
Uygur: So was it to send a message to the Soviets?
Stone: Yes. Most serious scholars of history would acknowledge that. If you do the research you know it. Its not disputable.
Uygur: So Henry Wallace, clearly given his past positions, would not have done that.
Wallace talked about a world-wide revolution, the common people's revolution, where World War II would bring a new era of peace.
Stone: Well, we don't believe so. You never can tell, but Henry Wallace was a humanitarian, he delivered a great speech in 1941 where he talked about the century of the common man, as opposed to the American century which was the opposite point of view - that was Henry Luce's view [owner of Time and Life magazines]. Wallace talked about a world-wide revolution, the common people's revolution, where World War II (this was Roosevelt's vision very much so) would bring a new era of peace, moving away from the British Empire, which Roosevelt was not very fond of. Very few people remember that in World War II, although Roosevelt was an ally with Winston Churchill, he had a significant amount of distrust for the motives of Churchill. Churchill did not want to open a second front in Europe to help Russia until later, and he was going about re-acquiring his empire; we show how was moving back to Greece through the Mediterranean, back to India, back to Singapore, all this to re-acquire the wealth of the British Empire.
Uygur: What's interesting is that we have view of FDR as the "lion" of progressives, which in a lot of ways he was, but Henry Wallace was to the left of him, and was put on the ticket originally to appease real lefties. The reason why I'm blown away by that is that in the current context FDR wouldn't come anywhere near electable in a Democratic primary today, and I don't think Ronald Reagan would be electable in a democratic primary today. What's amazing about this story, not just the Showtime series, not just the book, but our real untold history of the United States is how much the spectrum has shifted to the right, not in terms of where the people stand...but Washington keeps going further and further right wing. Why do you think that is?
Stone: Money. Wall Street. The bond market. Militarization of American society. The military-industrial-complex. Its an old story and unfortunately a sad one, because right after World War II when the Republican Congress comes back in '46 they're vehemently against Roosevelt...because he'd changed the rules of the game. He brought regulation in, stronger government in, we're supposed to play by the fair rules; Roosevelt himself came from a rich family...a traitor to his class...and I like Roosevelt for that. But there's been a destabilization and a move against his policies ever since the Truman era. Truman defended Roosevelt, although he was not of the same mental [capacity] and power; he made some very bad decisions. I think Roosevelt would have supported the United Nations and had he lived longer would have really fought for this peace. Roosevelt was tired when he allowed Truman to be pushed in on him; he was a tired man and he didn't resist, and that's of course one of those tragedies in history you see all the time - one of those little moments. And that's the point of the book, because it happens again and again. There are moments in time where you get a progressive, a man with a vision, whether its a Henry Wallace or a John Kennedy - after the missile crisis - or a McGovern, or a Gorbachev and a moment with Reagan at Reykjavik, or another moment in 1989 when George Bush (41) comes into office and Gorbachev is still there and is offering him a full partnership, I mean a real partnership to end this madness, this war, this military-industrial-complex, which had destroyed the Russian economy by the way. And what does Bush Sr. do? He blows it. Its a sad moment. Because he invades Panama within a few months and then he invades Iraq 1 with false intelligence again, before the son did it.
Uygur: Its interesting how much these decisions matter, because if Henry Wallace, for example, is the vice president when Roosevelt passes away instead of Harry Truman, there is some chance that there are several hundred thousand Japanese who don't die - civilians! - among other things. And in modern times, Gore vs Bush, I find it inconceivable that Al Gore would have invaded Iraq, when Iraq did not attack us - several hundred thousand Iraqis would be alive today - again, civilians! So history matters so much, and that's why we both think its so important. So when we get up to the present day, if you watch current media, Obama is a wild-eyed liberal, socialist, maoist Fox News calls him. What's your view on him? Is he a real progressive?
Essentially the Pentagon is achieving, and by 2020 will have achieved, full-spectrum dominance over the entire Earth.
Stone: No. Right now I think Obama is a manager of a wounded empire, and he's committed himself, with his cabinet, to maintain the empire. And not only maintain it, I'd go further: that behind the scenes he's been very effective to keep us very strong militarily. Essentially the Pentagon is achieving, and by 2020 will have achieved, full-spectrum dominance over the entire Earth. And I think the Chinese know this and the Russians know it - I think this is a very interesting and dangerous time. We're looking at what they call a triple-canopy global shield, where we would have an electronic warfare beyond belief, that would fry or melt any kind of resistance, and basically from satellites from space would be able to hone in on targets that are the size of a bush or a terrorist in the Yemen or wherever the enemy was conceived to be. It would be a strangely Orwellian world that has never been seen before.
Whenever a country achieves dominance, superiority, as we did with the atomic bomb, that's what gave us the "right" to do what we did - we had the monopoly on the weapon for three years. But history proves, every empire proves, that you never have dominance of a weapon for very long.
Uygur: Its true, but back then I think that at least we used the weapon for some good purposes, setting up the United Nations, pushing for human rights, the Marshall Plan.
Stone: The atomic bomb had nothing to do with the United Nations, it was going to be set up anyway. Roosevelt was definitely for it, and it was his dream not to have another war. Whether Churchill believed in it or not, or was just paying lip-service to it we don't know, because maybe Churchill was saying, 'we can't trust the Russians from day one'.
Uygur: All I'm saying is that with the power we had for whatever reason at the time, we at least used it to establish some really great things in the world.
Stone: The Marshall Plan had many good aspects, and some bad aspects.
Uygur: Now we use our dominance to say 'we're number one' and 'you do what we tell you" ' and we don't have to follow international law. To me it seems we're doing the exact opposite of what we did in that era where we set up the United Nations.
The myth persists today that America won the war at D-Day - its not true.
Stone: "Exact opposite" is a big word. You have to go into the details because before the Cold War there was a period, definitely, of feeling each other out. The British played a very significant role - Churchill's speech at Fulton kicks off another level, a quantum leap in the Cold War. Stalin very much wanted to maintain the wartime alliance because: a) the country was impoverished and b) they wanted the dollars, they wanted the reparations from the United States, the United States was the richest country. But Russia had significant industry because they had fought back against the Nazis and they had won the war - they had help from us, absolutely, but they fought 200 German divisions while we were fighting 10. Five million of the six million Germans killed came on the Eastern Front, and they lost roughly 27 million killed, whereas the U.S. casualty rate was about four hundred thousand. It was a significant difference. And we did not open the second front until D-Day in June of '44, which was essentially very late in the game when the Russians were already sweeping Eastern Europe up. The myth persists that America won the war at D-Day - its not true.
Sometimes its the trivia of now that betrays us so we don't see the significant event.
What's interesting is if you see the Russian advance across Eastern Europe, going on all through '44, and then in June we go to D-Day, we take a limited amount of casualties - they're significant, they sacrificed, its a huge armada - but a month after D-Day Henry Wallace goes to Chicago and is kicked off the ticket by a bunch of political thugs. Now, if you look at American history, you'd say, well, D-Day in June '44, everyone talks about that, the Russians prior to '44 - nothing - Wallace, July '44 - no mention. So where are the world events? Where is the fulcrum in the world? When it happens we don't see it, sometimes, and that's what's beautiful about studying history and that's what the value of it is. Sometimes its the trivia of now that betrays us so we don't see the significant event. D-Day is a prefect example.
Uygur: When you get beyond the trivia of the present day, what do you see?
Stone: We have to start by studying our past. In this book [and documentary series] Peter Kuznick and I call into question most of the significant myths that have grown up around America.
Uygur: Those myths, that you mentioned in the clip we played, that they affect today. How do they affect today?
Stone: Every single war that we've gotten into since the Second World War has been unnecessary in our opinion. Its led to enormous dislocations in our system, our domestic economy, as well as our infrastructure. We have 800 bases in almost every country who'll make a treaty with us in the world, more than 130 countries. We have alliances, treaties - right now, I don't know if you notice it or not, Obama's first trip was to Myanmar because he is basically trying to contain China. Containment again, containing the Chinese threat. Now China's all of a sudden a threat. This is a big issue because China has one oversees base, and has never historically gone far outside its own territory on foreign aggression. Its always had problems internally, like every country, but has essentially played by rather traditional rules - for centuries now, China has a long history. So, whether China is allowed to become the new Soviet Union, in our minds, becomes an interesting point that controls your economy, our lives today, and whether we go to war with China, because as I pointed out earlier, there is a new space dimension to this thing, and cyber warfare - and the Chinese are good at it, and they are doing their bit to make their own space program fly.
Uygur: We are in constant search of an enemy - we must have an enemy.
Stone: Gorbachev was a saviour, he was offering so much. It was so misunderstood at the time, not really presented correctly. 'We won the Cold War' was our take away. We'd won the Cold War, so as a result after 1989 we felt we were in a new position. If you study the 1990s, which are fascinating, we keep pressing our advantage, we keep looking for NATO bases, NATO goes east, NATO circles Russia, which was the old concept, Russia was always concerned about having security buffer states, having friendly governments around it.
Uygur: I'm interested in the machinery. Obama comes into office and he's against signature strikes. At some point he turns. What happens? How do they somebody like Barack Obama to accept signature strikes?
Stone: I know that Richard Clark and people like that might say that he was surrounded by security entrepreneurs on 'terror entrepreneurs' as Brzezinski called it, people who were in front of you every day - its like brainwashing in the Manchurian Candidate - talking about you imminent assassination, or security threats in various countries to American personnel, you live in that world and it does affect you. Or, you can argue, if you think back to the campaign, and this was very disappointing to me, he promised he would take public money to run, and some moment - he would have beaten McCain, it was destined to be in my mind, it was idealistic choice, he'd beaten Hillary Clinton, that was the main issue, she was pro-Iraq War, he had spoken out against it, he was our candidate - then he said he was not going to take the public option. He was going to go private, he would get more money - he took Wall Street money, he took Big Pharma money, he took General Electric money, the whole game perhaps changed there, because he never made any kind of move on Wall Street. And for the pharmaceutical companies, with the Obama Health Plan, the pharmaceutical companies are going to very well.
As I said before, I think Obama is a very good manager. I think he was very serious when he said during the Romney debate America was going to remain the most powerful, indispensable nation, that he was going to manage it, that he was going to get us out of these ridiculous land wars in Asia and the Near East, and that he was going to put the emphasis now, not on bayonets or battleships, he was going to put the emphasis on cyber, electronic control of the universe - full-spectrum dominance - air, land sea, space, space, cyber. And I think by going to Burma right away he makes that point to the Chinese, and I think this is going to become dangerous.
Uygur: You did go to Vietnam.
Stone: I went there for a mixture of reasons, but certainly I did believe in fighting communism. My father had raised me that way. Essentially I believed in what we were doing, and I didn't change like Ron Kovic - I made a movie called Born of the Fourth of July about Ron having been paralyzed, changed his beliefs and he became a huge protestor against the war. It didn't happen like that for me, it was much more gradual. I had changed, in the 70s especially, with Nixon's Watergate and with the revelations of the Church Committee about the CIA, and I started to see another world I had not noticed. For the first thirty-five years of my life lets say I was hypnotized, in a bit of a walking sleep. But what I saw in Vietnam was pretty shameful and disgusting, I did not see the side of America that I believed. I wasn't naive but it was ugly, what we saw, and the war was ugly.
Uygur: I wonder if that has something to do with it. All the guys who didn't go to war became Republican warmongers, and all the guys who did, and actually saw what war is like, came out much more progressive.
Stone: Well, General Petraeus never saw combat. And Michael Hastings told me there's a bit of controversy about that. He wrote his great counter-insurgency program, proposals, that made him intellectually famous, about Vietnam, in which he said 'if we do this thing we have to get the press on our side, because perception is more important than reality'. That's essentially the thesis he wrote, and of course he lived up that level in the way he handled Iraq and Afghanistan, above all. But Afghanistan, he corned Obama into this thing and told Obama he could do this.
Stone: [on critics of his work] These people have always existed for me, they've always been attacking my films, especially after JFK, especially after JFK. But if you look at the American history story, whether its a Wallace or a McGovern, Kennedy after a certain point, or Roosevelt for that matter, they get attacked sight unseen. If you go back to Woodrow Wilson, which starts the book - our American empire starts with the Spanish-American war - as early as 1919, after Wilson has entered the war, he's throwing people out of the country, he's prosecuting people for espionage. In 1917, when we entered the war, he practiced a huge amount of censorship. There were boards, so-called early loyalty boards, to watch the American people because they really didn't want to get into World War I. That was a huge commitment on our part and essentially World War I breeds World War II. And Eugene Debbs, who was one of our heroes, one of the great socialist - a candidate for president - went to jail for six years for speaking out against the war.
Uygur: So do you feel that in some way the good guys are destined to be persecuted and criticized by the establishment?
Stone: Well maybe you're doing something right. On this book we've been attacked by a bunch of Cold War right-wingers, going back to the Stalinist - its all Stalin's fault. By pointing the finger at Stalin and Russia you cover up so much in American policy. You can say, 'the enemy is there' - he was a despot, and did horrible things, but he kept his word on international treaties until we started to break them. We get into that in the book. The whole point about it is, once you have a foreign enemy, an Orwellian figure, you put all your emphasis on that, and I think essentially after World War II America was terrified of the Russian Revolution. Wilson, in 1919 sent American troops into Siberia - he joined the British, he joined fifteen other countries - to destroy the Russian Revolution. So from the get-go Churchill's famous quote, 'Bolshevism should be strangled in its cradle', haunted the Soviets. They never did trust Churchill. And then ironically at the end of his life Churchill said, 'Stalin never broke his word to me; he said he wouldn't go into Greece, and he didn't.' And we show this because its important, and Churchill is saying this about his most hated enemy.
It does lead you to this conclusion, that a lot of the Republican issue with enemies abroad is keeping Labor controlled here in the United States.
And the point I want to make is this: because we were terrified of communism, and you see it again and again, the whole reason so much of the Republican party and American businessmen supported Hitler, and fascism - not only Hitler but Spain in 1936, Franco, and Mussolini was very popular in America in the 20s and early 30s, William Randolph Hurst was very pro-fascist - because they were terrified of the spectre of communism. And Trotsky was making statements about international communism - Stalin didn't care about socialism, he didn't care about communism, he cared about power, he corrupted the movement. But the whole United States reaction leads to this great hatred for the Soviet Union until Roosevelt recognizes the Soviet Union in 1933. The capitalist binge has reached an end by the end of the 1920s, and we have this great depression, people are unemployed on a massive level, unknown in our history, and here we are with labor revolts - from the 1870s on the U.S. is riven with strikes - so they're always worried about U.S. workers raising their wages. That's a big issue, by the way, throughout history. So Stalin was a gift-horse because after World War II you could point to the communists as bad, and because the labor unions were involved in bettering their wages, a lot of them were called communists - some of them were sympathetic to it, certainly. But the U.S. business interests took power back after the war - there were more strikes during World War II than there ever were in American history. It does lead to this conclusion, that a lot of the Republican issue with enemies abroad is keeping Labor controlled here in the United States.
Reagan did the most to destroy the labor unions in this modern era and Reagan is a key figure in history because he took America deeper to the right, and it stayed there for thirty-two years. 1980 is a pivotal moment. His whole attitude about labor unions and regulation - deregulate the United States. And Reagan set the Cold War back twenty years because he was saying things like the 'evil empire', he was saying the Soviets in every military capacity have outdone the United States, we were in more danger than ever were since Pearl Harbour. Reagan is the most anti-union buster and the most anti-Soviet hater. He was raised on a diet of being a pitch man for General Electric, as well as an informer against the communists as the head of the Screen Actors' Guild (SAG).
Stone: [on his works] My life is a progress, a pilgrim's progress. I learned a lot from movies, as I said I think I was asleep for a lot of my life, because of my background, my conditioning. And I think through each movie I learned more and more. And by doing these political movies, like Nixon or W and certainly JFK, as well as Salvador - by traveling to Central America and hanging out with the people who were actually getting killed by these death squads, and of course Reagan had a lot to do with re-ignited the right-wing in Central America - that over the course of that time I've learned more than I knew before and I have to leave something behind, so that was the motivation to do this [series and book]. Only at the college level can you get this kind of education, and the most serious scholars would back this book.
Uygur: Stalingrad. I knew the importance of that, generally speaking, to World War II, but I didn't know the depth of what had happened there...
Stone: It was the turning point of World War II, no question about it. At Moscow they turned back the Germans but it wasn't the same thing as Stalingrad. The Germans threw everything they had at that - General Paulus and the Sixth Army - and the Soviets took enormous casualties, civilian and military. [The Soviets] drove them back, took two and a half months, it was in January of '43 when that happened, finally. And that was exactly the turning point in the war, because from that point on Churchill and Roosevelt knew things had changed. Before, everybody was running from the Germans; after that, slowly - it took many more battles in the Soviet Union, Kursk and the tank battle - but the Russians peeled back the Germans, inch by inch [and] millions of men were killed. The German army was chewed up in Eastern Europe - 6 millions Germans were killed there, 1 million on the Western Front, with that kind of enormity as you describe it. And President Kennedy was, after Roosevelt, the first American president to acknowledge what you just said, about the Soviet sacrifice during World War II, in 1963 just before he died.
Uygur: The theme I get from Untold History of the United States is opportunity lost.
Stone: 'Lost' is the key word. Tragedy. The road not taken. And I think the history series is done with love, I mean in the sense that this is the country I very much loved when I was young, and at my age I have to ask what the hell happened. Where did we go wrong. [In the Prequel] we start in 1900 with McKinley-Bryant election, which is about imperialism abroad, and McKinley wins of course, a Republican. But with Wilson, its an interesting story because he was a Democrat, a reformist Democrat, and he did a lot of good things. However, his entry into World War I was questionable, it has to be re-examined, because World War I was about empire between the French and the German empire and the British empire, which was the dominant empire in the world. The British empire was like us, now. They controlled everything, and the Germans were coming along and beating them in a lot of ways, so there was a tremendous rivalry, but it was a petty war in the way it began - it didn't have to be. But Wilson got sucked into it, partly, we believe, and we showed it, the Morgan Bank had huge loans out to England and minor loans out to Germany. That banking element sucked us into the British sector [to protect the Bank's exposure] more and more until Wilson, who had run on the ticket of not going to war for a second term in 1916 actually went, and was very aggressive in prosecuting the war. We made the difference in World War I, but we couldn't prevent the Europeans from cutting up the world once again and going back to their imperialism and colonialism, their control over third-world countries. Which is what it was about, if we were a democracy and truly believed in freedom, but Wilson had a racist element, as you know, not only with the blacks in America but also abroad - he ignored Africans, he ignored Asians, he ignored the small guys.
Uygur: The monied interests is what was fascinating to me.
Stone: Money! Getting the loans, getting the money back, from England. And when they couldn't pay we made sure that Germany gave the money to England and France, and they'd give it back to us [Morgan Bank].
Uygur: That's a perfect example of the Untold History, because we were told that after World War I we crushed the Germans too much, and that led to a backlash and that led to Hitler. But what we certainly weren't told was that part of the reason we crushed the Germans and demanded so much money from them was because the American bankers had lent the money to the British and the British wanted it from the Germans, since they had won, so they could repay the American bankers. To what degree was that the determining factor in us getting into World War I, and in what we did in extracting the money? How did the bankers get Wilson to do everything they wanted?
Stone: There are pressures. Wilson was divided, because America was half German, so he had a lot of voters there, so he couldn't go to war against Germany. He had to provoke it. He had things like the Lusitania, which was lied about at first, very much like the Tonkin Gulf resolution; they said we had no arms on board but there were arms going to England. Bryant tried to stay out the war - he was Secretary of State - but Wilson definitely wanted to go in. They investigated the issue of profiteering [so-called "Merchants of Death", with the findings released in the Nye Report] in World War I, it was a huge issue in the United States in the 1930s, and they found that these people had profiteered, and there were suggestions of an income tax on the war profiteers of about 98 percent. It never came to be because at that point we were facing the pressures of fascism and World War II so unfortunately we never really dealt with it, because people made money in World War II, as well. There was a lot of labor strikes, there was a lot of issues about money all throughout that war.
The moment Roosevelt dies Churchill is working hard to change the alliance and he gets Truman to fall into the British camp. Two weeks later Truman is insulting the Russian Foreign Minister.
But the United States basically entered into a new world after World War I. We became a world player, not the dominant one, but the richest one. England remained the dominant player - if you look at the map in Chapter Two [of the series] about the British Empire that goes all the way to Singapore, India, Suez, Greece, that becomes the real playground. Winston Churchill is trying to preserve the British Empire, and he goes to great lengths to do it, and as a result its the Russians who fight the Germans on the Eastern Front, doing most of the fighting, because Churchill was busy trying to keep hold of the Balkans, and trying to get back into his empire in the East. Very interesting story, geopolitically. Roosevelt is very suspicious of Churchill, he's very divided, and he puts out a warm hand to Stalin, and there is a relationship - an alliance - between us and the Soviet Union. The moment Roosevelt dies Churchill is working hard to change the alliance, and he gets Truman, who is a small, narrow-minded man - not a bad man, but certainly narrow-minded - to fall into the British camp, and take this strong anti-Soviet stance two weeks after Roosevelt dies. In two weeks he's insulting the Russian Foreign Minister. There are three things you don't learn in school;
One, that the Japanese economy was devastated, devastated by the war. People wanted to surrender, they were starving. Transportation, ports most everything was destroyed.
Two, that the Japanese wanted to surrender, and Truman knew this. We'd broken their codes, we knew they were sending cables to the Japanese ambassador in Moscow, looking for terms with the Russians, trying to make a deal with them.
Three, what people in America don't ever learn is that the Soviets invaded Japan, in Manchuria, and destroyed the Kwangtung Army, on August 9, which is when the second bomb was dropped. And the Japanese were terrified of the Russians, and that had the most impact on them for surrender, because they'd already been bombed by to smithereens. They didn't really know the difference between an atomic bomb and the fire-bombing of Tokyo.
All these factors that we don't really learn in school so we can't make informed judgements. But we did not have to use the atomic bomb. We used it because we built it, we spent a fortune in doing it and we wanted to see if it worked, and we wanted to send a message to the Soviets more than the Japanese, that you better not screw around in the Far East, we're the boss now, and Truman played it that way.
Uygur: Truman, after watching the Series, comes across to me as George W. Bush.
Stone: I agree with you totally. We made that illusion, specifically. I didn't know much of this history either when I was younger, and when Bush said he admired Truman more than any other president of the previous century, next to Reagan maybe, my alarms went off and I said there must be something wrong with Truman.
Uygur: Truman comes across as a simple guy, easily swayed by the more conservative right-wing forces in his government [anti-Soviet forces] and wants to prove himself, full of bluster, insecure, not sure he's up to the job. People who don't have real inner strength go out of their way to fake strength by attacking and bullying, and you saw that I think in Truman, and I think you saw that in George W. Bush.
Stone: But go back to Wilson, because Wilson was a strong man, he had a strong centre. He took on the League of Nations, he fought to the death for it. He also hated communism, he didn't like Lenin, he though Lenin was an anarchist, a revolutionary who would change the world, he was most scared of the communists taking over the labor unions in the United States, and the labor strikes from Seattle to Boston - event the Boston police went out in 1919. There were the Palmer Raids, the Red Raids. He broke all the laws that the United States was supposed to stand for, so there were these vigilante roundups of communists, labor agitators. People were deported!
Uygur: To go back to this idea of the bankers pushing us into World War I, as I watch the whole twelve parts, one of the themes that popped out at me, is that American interests are really American business interests. And in the first prequel of the Series Smedley Butler actually says this. Tell us about Smedley Butler.
Stone: He was one of the most decorated marines - two Medals of Honour - and he was in seven or eight countries from China to Nicaragua to Honduras. He was a hero. He fought in the Boxer Rebellion in 1899. But he woke up one day and he realized that he was serving the interests of Brown Brothers Harriman, Standard Oil, and he started to feel bad about the treatment we were handing out to the locals in these countries. He wrote about it, "War is a Racket", which is a wonderful book. He said 'Al Capone's a big shot in the gangster world, he runs three counties; I ran seven countries, I ran interference for big business.' During the Bonus March of the 1933, when the veterans of World War I went to Washington to get paid, they were broke, depressed, no jobs, a hopeless army, Butler helped organized them and made very eloquent demands. They were run out of town by Douglas MacArther, Doug Patton and Dwight Eisenhower, who was the aid to MacArthur. That was the first instance of American troops fighting each other on our own home ground since the Civil War.
Business. We can go on and on about business. The New Deal itself is a very interesting thing to me because after there's a tremendous surge, and then about 1943, 44, right around Stalingrad, we started to get more conservative. All these businessmen that are running the country that are basically enjoying this good ride, they don't really have to compete, they're being guaranteed, they're worried about the depression coming back, so there's this movement, its a very subtle movement. They get rid of Henry Wallace, for example, the conservative Democrats who are all big business guys, and they work their way back to that '46, '47, '48 period which is crucial in American history - that's when they get the power back! That '46 Congress, that's when they get back in, the Republicans, they hate the New Deal. They all want to destroy the New Deal, '48 Nixon came in and hated the New Deal, all those people wanted to get rid of it. And you see that mentality. Eisenhower, although he maintained some of it, he was heavily influenced by big business. As you know we became in the 1950s much more corporate - a signal of was on television when you started to see Ronald Reagan selling General Electric. The legislation under Eisenhower was anti-New Deal, and then it finally culminated with Reagan in 1988, he was an avowed anti-New Dealer. And that's what we've seen in this country, we have not seen progressive legislation since the 1930s.
Its funny, because World War II, we won it and we were supposed to have been the big hero, but took the fruits of victory and instead of sharing it with the world - we did the Marshall Plan, its true, but of course most of that money flowed back to us - we didn't help Russia. Roosevelt had made a very important promise to Stalin that reparations would be sent his way. Along with England, he'd get 50-50 on a $20 billion reparations deal. The moment Truman got into office he even brought back the lend-lease ships from Russia. He brought them back. He didn't want them to have anything!
Uygur: As I look at all that, though, I'm worried that FDR was the exception [Stone: "and Kennedy"], and that money washes over us in powerful tides. And so I'm worried about our ability to win in the long run. The Supreme Court says you're allowed to put money in politics, money is speech, and then a wide-scale assault on our democracy begins, again. Growing up, I thought maybe we had solved it, that maybe democracy could work. So do you get discouraged as you look at our history?
Stone: I do, but as we also said in Chapter 10, history has shown us that the curve of the ball can break differently. Every time you think you know what's gonna happen, it doesn't happen that way. Who could have predicted the Khrushchev might have made a deal, that they called off this war. I mean I do think the world should have ended in 1962, honestly. Its been substantiated even by this establishment historian, Dallek, who has written a new book on Kennedy, where he makes the point of how vicious our military and Pentagon was by 1960. It got built up, Truman had started this national security state, but Eisenhower, from '52 to '60, built it up from 3,000 nuclear weapons to 23,000, and then he went to 30,000 in the budgeting cycle. We were armed to the teeth. And it was a first option, in other words Eisenhower said, 'let's try to use nuclear weapons as a first strike so that we don't have to get into wars because people will be terrified of us.' We had so much superiority over the Soviets that when young John Kennedy comes into office, he's facing a mountain - I mean, you have no idea of the odds. The generals were openly disrespectful of him, and you can see that in this establishment book by Dallek, they're undercutting him at every chance they get, from the Bay of Pigs to Laos to Vietnam and, of course, in Cuba. Kennedy is not stupid, he has character, he fights them, he fights them from day one, its not like the last year only, he fights. Its a losing battle in the end, but he did get us out of a horrible moment in time. We really knew we could win, we could wipe out the Soviet Union AND we could sustain their reaction - in other words, we could take that loss, the Dr. Strangelove thing, how many casualties do you have to take. Kennedy thought they were nuts, because their thought was, if you don't do it now they're gonna build. And they did. After the Cuban crisis they went up to parity, practically, in the '70s. This is why Reagan was going on about we're weak now, although we were building more than they were still. The point I'm trying to make is that fear and paranoia really launch us into these buildups, but we had reached a place in 1962 when it was the end of the world, and they're saying 'we can take them now.' Take them now and we can withstand the retaliation, which is the same attitude we have now because if you look very closely at the map, we have seven thousand weapons and the Russians have eight thousand but theirs are not a precise as ours. We're all over the place. Our NATO - Bush cut a deal with Gorbachev, but of course Clinton and Bush, the son, broke it - but NATO is expanding right to the borders of Russia. And we keep talking in the newspaper how the Russians are trying to get back some of the alliances with these border countries - that's the point of Stalin and Roosevelt were talking about. Stalin wanted border security for the Soviet Union, and he deserved it, he'd fought a huge war to get it. Now, we're taking back those countries to our side, and we put in [missile defence systems] and basically we have a first strike ability and we could wipe them out. Whether we do or not, that depends. If its not Obama, maybe its another president, like Bush, who comes along. Its a scary world.
Uygur: Obama and JFK are an interesting contrast. As you see JFK stand up to the military in Cuba, Obama has largely not stood up to the military. In the beginning he says we're not going to do signature strikes on drone strikes. A signature strike is where we literally have no idea who we're bombing. At some point Obama gives in. Is it just that he has a weaker character than Kennedy?
We know we can attack and get away with it...the United States is the primary military threat to the world.
Stone: No, a stronger establishment. He made a deal somewhere along the line, he understood the situation. If you're a president you have military people and security people, always around you, they focus you. Your life is under threat, our country's under threat, you're always under threat. You have to start thinking along these lines, security and protection, because you can't argue that issue in politics, to lessen your protection, you can't win. But its more than the drones. We have full-spectrum dominance. Obama's in charge of an empire that is beyond the means of anyone has seen before, beyond Britain, beyond Rome, we are everywhere. He talked about cutting infantry strength back - minor stuff - we have lily pads all over the world, little jump off spots like Diego Garcia to all over the Pacific Ocean, ringing China, he's declared an Asia Pivot, we have NATO on the borders of Russia, we have surveillance from space with the possibility of drones from space, and we have a major cyber-warfare program, and we have air sea and land dominance - total dominance - we are armed to the teeth. We have ten times the budget of China and yet we're talking about China as a threat, which is why we have to do this Asia Pivot. And Russia still, we have all these bases ringing Russia. This is a world that has gone mad. We have dominance and, of course, what's scary is that we know we can attack and get away with it. We know we can attack and get away with it. We're at that position if we start to decline, or if some other empire starts to economically rise, like China - they're not interested, I don't think, in military dominance, they're interested in economic dominance, they want prosperity, they know prosperity worked for America - the United States is the primary military threat to the world. And with these new weapons, just imagine George W. Bush visiting us again, or worse.
Uygur: One thing is clear, money has grown more systemic. Now you can't get elected unless you take money from corporations, PAC money, special interest money. They've found a way to change the rules so no one can win unless they take legalized bribes. We got the change candidate, the hope candidate. It was Obama, and things didn't change. Is there any hope under this system that you could possibly get an FDR?
Stone: There's things that happen that we haven't thought about. Who would have predicted that the Berlin Wall would come down peacefully, that Gorbachev would see the madness of this race and say 'enough, it doesn't work for our economy.' Its not going to work for our economy either. I have a feeling that we're really fucking ourselves in a deep way. I think its going to come from within - it always does, empires always fall from within, the character, the economics, the expense, the waste, the politics. Things like the government shutdown is endemic of this - something's gone wrong - we're too powerful. The gerrymandering, there seems to a white supremacist thing going on, all these white republicans are so angry because they know they're going to lose to the blacks and the Mexicans and the Asians that are coming into the country. Fix the elections, rig the elections.
Uygur: Another thing I got from Untold History, you see the CIA doing all the regime change in Africa, in the Middle East, in Latin America, 1953 in Iran - pivotal - toppling their democracy. Then I see JFK, Martin Luther King and Robert Kennedy all killed. The CIA, that did this abroad on a regular basis, couldn't possibly do it at home?
Stone: I think we made that point in the JFK movie is 1991, that they were trained for it. Fletcher Prouty talked to me about this, 'we did this abroad, we did this very well.' ... I think Greece, 1947 '49, is a very crucial first intervention because that's where Truman makes his Truman Doctrine, that's where he sends $400 million to Greece and Turkey, and sends the first non-combat advisors, all this to replace the British effort to keep Greece going. Britain had invaded Athens in 1944 after the communists had liberated Greece from the Nazis. The British dive-bombed the streets of Athens; it was a big deal for Greece because that was the lynch-pin to the Middle East as well as to the Far East. So getting Greece back was a major issue for Churchill, and when he faltered in the winter of '46 '7 the U.S. went in there. That was the biggest first commitment, that was the first signal that this was a cold war going on, after the atomic bomb.
Uygur: As I see the CIA do decapitation strikes on the leaders of those other countries, and I see the three most progressive leaders that America had, who stood up for the American people, also, in a sense, get decapitated, JFK,RFK and Martin Luther King...
Stone: I can't say about Martin Luther King because I don't know that the CIA was involved, and then I think there was a tremendous amount of racism that he was up against, as well as he went against the Vietnam War, so he hit on the three monsters - racism, poverty and militarism.
Uygur: That's the thing. When he took on race, he wasn't killed, yet, and poverty. But when he went up against the war, he gets assassinated.
Stone: I wouldn't go there, yet. With the autopsy and ballistic evidence with Kennedy, no question. No question that there were two shooters, at the least, and more than that. And with the Robert Kennedy case, the autopsy, and the bullets, the amount of shots heard, the eyewitnesses, its still amazing to me that we could fall for that bullshit about Sirhan Sirhan. But JFK, I cannot stand reading the establishment press saying, of course, Oswald is the assassin. ... That's the arrogance of America. That's our blindness. If you read our media today...we always assume whenever a situation arises we have to solve it, that we're in charge...whether its Fiji or Afghanistan. Its a strange mentality, a mindset that's come into being in the arrogance of World War II, and its never left us. And I thought a black man would have a different take on it - certainly Martin Luther King did - but Obama does not live up to that man's character. King was a religious man, he heard it from within, he said 'the voice of God is on me', he said that. ... He declared war on the U.S. for declaring war on Vietnam, because they were fighting coloured people over there too.
Uygur: Everybody, you've gotta check out The Untold History of the United States. It gives you context, and framing, for where we are today, having seen what's happened in the past.
The Young Turks interviews, December 10, 2012, and October 30, 2013