The Dark Side of History

Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States



I don’t often give movie reviews this degree of treatment, but Stone’s  story here is an ultra-long documentary, and it’s somewhat important for what it accomplishes. In the movie’s preamble Stone professes to be disturbed by what’s been left out of any commonly held history of the United States – school or otherwise. It’s a truism that every good thing has its dark side, and Stone wants us to have the benefit of such darkness in order to view our national legacy in perspective.

He begins with World War II and the development and use of the atomic and hydrogen bombs. Certainly Germany had a similar program, but they were unable to use it. The U.S. did use it, and Stone’s history has it as being unnecessary. As was the subsequent build-up of our nuclear arsenal and the fight we picked with the Soviet Union via the Cold War. Harry Truman is the culprit here in demonizing the Soviets while building up this arsenal, despite evidence that neither was necessary.  In counterpoint to Truman was his cabinet member Henry Wallace who cautioned against Truman’s posturing. Wallace was eventually fired and held up for scorn during the McCarthy era.

Then there was Korea – and Vietnam, which Stone knew from the ground up, having fought there as a soldier. His thesis here is that what U.S. leaders had us see as a monolithic Communism movement was in reality one severely tempered by the various nationalisms involved, beginning with Czechoslovakia, and eventually ending in the dissipation of the Soviet Union.

In modern times, Reagan spurned disarmament advances by Soviet leader Gorbachev. Cooperation in this regard may very well have resulted in a unique alliance of Russia and the U.S. Finally, Stone gives us G.W. Bush’s spurning of world opinion in using U.S. resources in unilateral war and empire advancement in the Middle East, Africa, and Latin America, leaving Obama to dismantle some of this and carry on the rest.

Stone’s bottom line here is that the several key, misfortunate decisions by U.S. leaders squandered a large chunk of our nation’s assets, hence its future. His facts are essentially true, I think, his opinionizing occasionally askew, but it clearly shows knowledge of our history and his concern and love for this country.  The documentary was apparently put together hurriedly, and the narration and piecing together of film segments suffered to some degree from it.


My rating: 17 of 20 stars.



Visit my website here, where you’ll have an opportunity to download an audio eversion of my latest, Sam’s Place, as well as select book review podcasts. Then there’s my FB Fan Page here. On both you’ll find more on ideas and events that matter to me – and possibly to you.


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