Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Oliver Stone’s Untold History Comes to an End

In the final episode of director Oliver Stone’s Showtime documentary miniseries entitled The Untold History of the United States, he and co-writer Peter Kuznick take aim at “Bush and Obama: Age of Terror.” It is everything you would expect from their America-hating collaboration.

Narrating in a creepily sibilant cadence like a woozy William Shatner, Stone immediately sets the stage in this episode with quotes about our “fear” and paranoia of a Muslim enemy – as if many years of accelerated Islamic attacks on America and American interests, including the World Trade Center horror (about which Stone himself made a feature film starring Nicolas Cage), were nothing more than figments of a fevered national imagination; for Stone and the left in general, the CIA are the real bad guys, of course. He paints a picture of a George W. Bush administration that didn’t want to let the 9/11 crisis go to waste, and so “leapt into action” to undertake a “global war.” Stone glosses over the fact that going to war against stateless Islamic fundamentalists was necessarily a worldwide venture not limited to bin Laden and his al Qaeda core.

True to his Hollywood roots, Stone dramatizes what he deems to be Bush’s excessive national security measures with, hilariously, footage from Showtime’s terrorism drama Homeland, showing a scene in which a character’s home is being bugged and monitored by the CIA – a character who is in fact a terrorist. Stone then goes on to use dramatized torture footage from several films, from The Battle of Algiers (1966) to Robert DeNiro’s The Good Shepherd to the anti-extraordinary rendition film called, well, Rendition. Along the way he sideswipes the Somalia military action drama Black Hawk Down for “glorifying American heroism and technology” – yes, heaven forbid that Hollywood should ever glorify American heroism and technology.

The documentary accuses the Bush administration of Orwellian “doublespeak,” examples of which include phrases like “axis of evil” and “war on terror.” While the latter was definitely a pathetically inaccurate term, it stemmed from politically correct sensitivity, not Orwellian euphemism. As for axis of evil, “evil” is a taboo word to the left, since they prefer to deny that the concept even exists (except when they’re applying it to Bush and Cheney). People aren’t evil, progressives claim, they’re merely misunderstood – especially if they are enemies of the United States, in which case we’re to blame for their grievances.

Predictably, Stone uses every misleadingly smirky bit of footage he can find of Bush (as well as employing an impersonator to deliver lines attributed to him), and paints him as a religious fanatic no better than al Qaeda – as if Christian principles are no different from Islamic ones, and as if retaliating against terrorism is no better than terrorism. Stone lays the devastation and casualties suffered in Iraq entirely at the doorstep of America – no mention of insurgents, no mention of Saddam’s Revolutionary Guard. One would think our military simply invaded and began laying waste to civilians – which actually is what the left believes. He then rants about the neocons plotting a “war to remake the world,” with an innocent Iran as the prize. Again, no mention of the fact that Iran has been America’s most consistent enemy since 1979 or the fact that their leaders express their desire to destroy the Great Satan on an almost daily basis. Stone finishes up the Bush segment with perfunctory accusations of mismanaging two wars as well as Katrina and the economy.

When Obama appears on the scene, Stone describes him as representing “the other side of America – constitutional, humanist, global, environmental” (the “constitutional” bit is particularly ironic these days). But Obama betrays that promise by turning to big money to back his campaign, making Wall Street the election’s real winner. Stone then complains about banking industry excess, and comically, again turns to Hollywood footage to make his point, this time with a lengthy anti-fat cat speech by Gary Cooper from Frank Capra’s 1941 film Meet John Doe. The documentary goes on to peddle the usual class warfare statistics about a widening standard of living gap. Yawn.

Moving on to Obama’s approach to the war on terror, Stone labels him “a far more effective manager of the national security state” than Bush. He denounces Obama for targeting terrorist mentor Anwar al-Awlaki, whom he describes disingenuously as “a U.S. citizen in Yemen, accused of having ties to al Qaeda.” Al-Awlaki was not falsely suspected of “having ties” to al Qaeda; he was an admitted top al Qaeda leader often referred to as the new bin Laden or bin Laden 2.0, directly involved with everyone from the 9/11 hijackers to the Ft. Hood shooter and beyond. That damning information, like anything else incriminating of anyone besides the United States, was apparently left on the cutting room floor of Stone’s miniseries. As for bin Laden himself, Stone declares that he was executed “vigilante-style” by Navy SEALs, after which our celebration demonstrated that our “national capacity for self-love was in full flower.”

With bin Laden dead, America is picking on poor China next, Stone claims, as well as unfairly insisting that Russia, Iran, North Korea, and Venezuela are threats. He decries Obama’s increased use of drone strikes, exemplified in more Hollywood footage, this time from the George Clooney movie Syriana (Stone relies so much on Hollywood footage that this episode finally sinks to hilarious lows with scenes from Cecil B. DeMille’s The Crusades and the Star Wars series to make his cartoonish points). The show ends with melodramatic music over Stone’s plea that we “surrender our exceptionalism and our arrogance” and strive to “feminize the planet.” That’s great, Oliver. Try lecturing Ahmadinejad, Putin, Chavez, Kim Jong-un, and al Qaeda about feminizing the planet and see how much cooperation you get.

For co-writers Stone and Kuznick and their comrades among the radical left, there is never ever an acknowledgement that America throughout its history has had existential enemies – instead, there is only government-manipulated paranoia and hysteria. There is never ever any acknowledgement that the motivations of foreign powers are anything but innocent and benign – instead, America’s are always corrupt and imperialistic. Wars and atrocities are always the fault of the United States. Poverty and greed are always the fault of capitalism. Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States is not so much a history as a relentless, obscenely distorted, and nakedly propagandistic attack on the United States of America. It could easily have been produced by any of the oppressive regimes – Iran, China, Russia, North Korea, or Venezuela – that Stone claims we have bullied by our imperialistic aggression, regimes that – like Stone and Kuznick themselves – would happily celebrate our demise.

(This article originally appeared here on FrontPage Mag, 2/4/13)