I wanted to like Oliver Stone’s new documentary, The Untold History of the United States, really I did. After all, here is the maker of films positing a conspiracy to assassinate John F. Kennedy and exposing the criminal history of the Vietnam war promising to unveil the suppressed truth about America’s role in the world. With the Usual Suspects attacking Stone before the first part of this Showtime series was ever released, I was eagerly looking forward to a scathing critique of the American empire’s long bloody rampage through the history of modern times.
I should have known better.
Stone, is turns out, has been engaged in some false advertising. For what he has produced, at least so far, might be better entitled “A Twice-Told Tale” – because the narrative he presents was told first by official Soviet “historians” and their fellow-travelers in this country, albeit without the hi-tech enhancements and prominent platform available to Stone. And if you think this is just cheap red-baiting, then go on over to Digby’s site and watch chapter one.
Our story starts out with the development of the atomic bomb, and what Stone regards as the unlikely engagement of Robert Oppenheimer, a brilliant scientist and fellow-traveling leftist, with the high mucka-mucks of the Pentagon. The US government, it seems, paid little attention to the military potential of nuclear research until Albert Einstein wrote a letter to FDR lobbying for a US government crash program to weaponize the atom.
Curiously, the decision to actually drop the bomb is not mentioned – perhaps he’s leaving that for the second part – and the narrative soon veers off into the history of the 1930s and the run-up to World War II. It is here that Stone’s embarrassing pro-Soviet viewpoint comes across like a very bad smell.