Oliver Stone’s riveting SHOWTIME series on TMN may send Americans into permanent shock. Last week’s episode seven stunned me.I honestly never thought I’d see such truth telling amid the ephemera of American television.
This episode covered LBJ, Nixon and the Vietnam War years. The lies, deceitand American barbarism was not new to those who seriously read history.Television and the age of spectacle however has totally dumbed down Americans, the most under-read and best entertained people in the world. Most have lived in a permanent bubble about the shocking behaviour of their country. In 1967 Martin Luther King Jr correctly named the United States as “the greatest purveyor of violence in the world’. The great American historians people like William Appleman Williams, Gabriel Kolko,Howard Zinn and the prescient documentarians of the hubris of empire—Noam Chomsky, William Blum, I.F Stone, James Douglass, Seymour Hersh have laid out the depredations of the US empire for decades.Episode 7 shown twice last week again on TMN dealt with the Vietnam era.It was breathtaking in its veracity and candor. Stone has done his homework. All is vetted by historian Peter Kuznick and impeccably documented.
A few snippets:
First, the shocking devastation of Vietnam—3.4 million dead Vietnamese (Robert McNamara’s and Harvard Medical school’s estimation of which 2 million were civilians).As Nick Turse the author of the recent Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam recently wrote,” The numbers are staggering, the suffering incalculable, the misery almost incomprehensible to most Americans but not, perhaps, to an Iraqi.”
More bombs dropped on a country the size of Nova Scotia than WW ll, the constant lying, the hubris of LBJ thinking that the callous bombing would win the war, add the parallel destruction of Cambodia where hundreds of thousands killed all of which aided the recruitment and fanaticism of the Khmer Rouge and Pol Pot. Then there was the Nobel Prize offered Kissinger, the same one North Vietnam’s Le Doc Tho refused to accept. After hearing of the former’s honour the brilliant satirist Tom Lehrer said “awarding Henry Kissinger the Nobel Prize made political satire obsolete.” He never performed again. And America has never apologized for Vietnam.
Then there was American support of Pinochet’s subversion of Chile’s democracy, the rise of the Latin American death squads, the training of brutal Latino soldiers at the School of Americas in Ft.Benning, Georgia.
it is all too much…the beacon of democracy, the country which threw off empire ended up a bloated empire herself always siding with the plutocrats and entrenched wealth of the Third World —and then electing Ronald Reagan,the simpleton who made Americans feel good after Vietnam.His support of brutal dictatorships in Central America spelt death to hundreds of thousands in Central America. stone documents it all.It was good to see him flag the mania of uber-Catholic william Casey in this unconscionable bloodfest.
The aforementioned Turse was closest to the mark when he said, “There has been one connecting thread in Washington’s foreign wars of the last half century that, in recent years at least, Americans have seldom found of the slightest interest: misery for local nationals.”
Herein lies the greatness of those principled prophets of the 60s and 70s who as Americans had a larger view of the mass murder in the rice fields of Vietnam. Oliver Stone flashes the figures of the Berrigan brothers who among others deeply understood the suffering in the wider Body of Christ
They paid a great price for their resistance while the majority sat on their hands and did nothing, said nothing and waved flags.
Brainwashed Americans, raised on generations of american exceptionalism and Yankee beneficence could not countenance the awful truth that their country was an avaricious monster on the global stage.The myth had consumed them.
One of their earliest presidents John Adams knew better. Nations, he said, have an infinite capacity to delude themselves; their leaders are prone to lie in the service of empire.” Power” he said,”always thinks… that it is doing God’s service when it is violating all his laws.”
Oliver Stone has done a major service for his fellow citizens. He has unmasked the lies which have festered too long.