Oliver Stone’s History of the United States

Mother Jones, By David Corn, November 12

Oliver Stone has made some of the best movies of the past three decades. With Salvador, Platoon, and Wall Street, he helped shape the cultural history of the 1970s and 1980s. Now, he’s trying to influence the national security history of postwar America. His 10-part documentary, The Untold History of the United States, begins tonight on Showtime (an hour before Homeland!). It’s notable that a major network—okay, a major cable network—is devoting 10 hours to an unabashedly left-of-center analysis of modern America that confronts many of the myths of the national security state that evolved after World War II. The 750-page book accompanying the documentary series—coauthored by Stone and American University professor Peter Kuznick—opens with an explicit note:

This book and the documentary film series it is based on challenge the basic narrative of U.S. history that most Americans have been taught. That popular and somewhat mythic view, carefully filtered through the prism of American altruism, benevolence, magnanimity, exceptionalism, and devotion to liberty and justice, is introduced in early childhood, reinforced through primary and secondary education, and retold so often that it becomes part of the air that Americans breath….[B]ut like the real air Americans breathe, it is ultimately harmful, noxious, polluted. It not only renders Americans incapable of understanding the way much of the rest of the world looks at the United States, it leaves them unable to act effectively to change the world for the better.

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  • An Interview With Oliver Stone on His ‘Atomic Bomb’ TV Episode Airing Tonight

    The Nation, By Greg Mitchell, November 26

    Famed film director (and history buff) Oliver Stone’s long-awaited The Untold History of the United States series debuted on Showtime on November 12. The series focuses on the period just before and after World War II, and then carries the themes forward through various US wars (cold and hot) and other issues.

    Tonight’s episode, the third in the series, offers a fresh view—for most Americans, anyway—of our use of the atomic bomb against Japan.

The series has also spawned a companion book with the same title, by Stone and historian Peter Kuznick, and it’s mammoth, at over 700 pages in hardback. It starts a little earlier than the series, with World War I, and ends with the Obama era, and features blurbs from, among others, Mikhail Gorbachev, Douglas Brinkley and Dan Ellsberg, who says it would make Howard Zinn proud.

    The Hiroshima chapter makes a strong case against the use of the bomb. Stone and Kuznick focus on Russia’s entry into the war, as we had insisted, two days after we dropped the bomb. That shocking and cataclysmic event would have (likely) forced a speedy Japanese surrender without the use of the atomic weapon, which killed over 200,000—the vast majority civilians, mainly women and children—in the two cities.

    Via Hullabaloo: Atomic History

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