Director/producer Oliver Stone is no stranger to controversy. His films have ranged from ‘Born on the Fourth of July’, which dealt with the mistreatment of Vietnam war veterans in the US (Stone is himself a Vietnam veteran); ‘JFK’, which looked at conspiracy theories related to President Kennedy’s assassination; and ‘Natural Born Killers’, which confronted the way violence is portrayed in the media. So it should come as no surprise then that he has returned with another project practically designed to provoke a reaction – his new book and documentary series carefully titled ‘The Untold History of the United States’, written with his friend, historian Peter Kuznick. In fact, this “Untold” history was released last year, but since then, Mr. Stone and Mr. Kuznick have been doing tours around various states and nations, promoting their four years of hard work on the project and explaining why they feel it is so important.
The main thesis of the series and book is, essentially, that the United States – at least since the end of World War II, if not earlier – is an imperialistic superpower that bullies and threatens the entire world. In Episode 3 of the TV series, they focus on the dropping of atomic bombs on the cities of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, Japan by the US in August 1945. By the end of the show, they have provided a convincing argument that those bombs were unnecessary to end the Pacific War with Japan, and furthermore, they may have directly contributed to creating the Cold War that followed with the Soviet Union (which of course also led to the proxy wars in Korea and Vietnam – America’s most recent war in Asia).
Although you may not agree with everything he has to say, he’s definitely a man worth listening to.
Earlier this year, Stone visited the University of London, only metres away from the School of Oriental and African Studies, where he showed the atomic bomb episode to a packed house. This reporter was there and noted how much interest there was, not only from students, but members of the general public as well. That’s not to say that there wasn’t any skepticism at all, but people on the whole seemed to believe his conclusions were well-grounded. Of course, in right-wing American states, the audience might not be so receptive as the documentary has already received a fair amount of criticism, mostly from conservative Republicans. Although you may not agree with everything he has to say, he’s definitely a man worth listening to.
It is perhaps only inevitable that Stone should eventually end up in Hiroshima, as it is central to what he sees as the start of when the US lost its ‘moral authority’ in the world. At Hiroshima University on August 6 – exactly 68 years after the atomic bomb was dropped on the city by his country – Stone gave a speech in front of another large audience. He said that he ‘experienced very strong emotions’. But he also felt there was hypocrisy in the Japanese government. Decrying the rising tide of nationalism in Japan, he wonders why they haven’t examined their history more closely and repented like they have done in Germany. ‘Japan [has become] a client state of the United States. You have a great economy, a great work ethic, but you don’t stand for anything.’ He went on to say that Obama’s current ‘pivot to Asia’ should be met with skepticism as he believes it has nothing to do with North Korea; rather, it is meant to ‘contain’ China, America’s main competitor in the world now. Warning Japan that ‘the great dragon is not China, it’s the US’, Stone certainly pulled no punches.
At the speech, he briefly mentioned his recent trip to Jeju Island in South Korea – a UNESCO World Natural Heritage site – where plans are in place to build a large naval base. This plan has been met with protests and complaints from local villagers; Stone joined a peace march on August 4 in support of these protesters. Stone’s wife also happens to be Korean.
After Hiroshima, Stone also visited Nagasaki, the site of the second nuclear bomb attack, and Okinawa, where a US military base has been a hot topic of local contention for years.