America's Spiritual Death: It's Time to Learn the Dark History of the U.S. You Were Robbed of ... and Oliver Stone Will Help
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“A nation that continues year after year to spend more money on military defense than on programs of social uplift is approaching spiritual death.” --Martin Luther King Jr. “Beyond Vietnam” speech, April 4, 1967
I recently watched all 10 episodes of Oliver Stone's "Untold History of the United States" (on Showtime). I strongly recommend it to everyone, but particularly to America's young people who have been robbed of a most precious legacy: an understanding of their true history, and thus their future. I can't think of a more meaningful gift to young people for, as Stone says, “history must be remembered or it will be remembered until the meanings are clear." The same U.S. Executive Branch mentality that produced Vietnam is today illegally and inhumanly murdering and weakening U.S. national security interests throughout the Muslim world, and threatening its own citizens as never before. It has never been more urgent to learn from America’s real history.
I am not ashamed to say this series moved me to tears. First, by its depiction of the millions of lives the U.S. Executive Branch has ruined all over the world. This includes over 21 million -- officially estimated -- killed, wounded and made homeless in Indochina and Iraq alone, bring back the most painful memories of my life: my interviews with over 1,000 Lao refugees who reported seeing beloved parents, spouses and children burned alive, buried alive, and shredded to pieces by years of secret, illegal and inhuman U.S. Executive Branch bombing. [Showtime has made available some of the episodes free to watch over the internet.]
Second, I was touched by the awful beauty of simply seeing the truth told so clearly and vividly. The combination of the information, the imagery and Stone’s narration touched levels far deeper than the mind.
I was most moved by Episode 7, on the war in Indochina, whose closing words below constitute not only an epitaph for the Vietnam War, but for America itself. I thought of Martin Luther King Jr.'s warning as I watched this segment, which chronicles how U.S. leaders waged aggressive war, killing over 3.4 million Vietnamese according to former Defense Secretary Robert McNamara, and hundreds of thousands more Laotians and Cambodians. The U.S. has never apologized for doing so, let alone cleaned up its tens of millions of unexploded bombs and environmental poisons which continue to kill, wound and deform tens of thousands of innocent civilians. The U.S. has never even contemplated paying the reparations it still owes the Indochinese.
I watched this episode after reading Nick Turse’s monumental new book, Kill Anything That Moves: The Real American War in Vietnam, which documents the systematic “industrial-scale” slaughter of Vietnamese civilians by U.S. troops, ordered by top U.S. military officers.
I cannot say that I am surprised that America's political leaders, media and public intellectuals continue to ignore the U.S. Executive's ongoing inhumanity and murder of the innocent -- particularly through its global and spreading drone and ground assassination programs and increasing reliance on the automated warmaking I first saw in Laos 40 years ago. America’s elites are as indifferent to the “mere Muslim Rule” today as they were to the “mere Gook Rule” in Vietnam that Turse so painstakingly documents.
But I am astonished that even those who justify U.S. leaders' actions on the grounds of national security have failed to notice the obvious fact that U.S. warmaking in the 1.8 billion-strong Muslim world is jeopardizing U.S. national security as never before. Just as U.S. backing of the Shah of Iran created a U.S. foreign policy disaster in 1978, the continuation of such policies today will guarantee many more Irans in the future.