- Critic's Rating - 9/109/10
“Democracy is apparently a virtue when it serves U.S. interests. With racism, militarism, imperialism & blind devotion to capitalism, the U.S. is infact a military juggernaut on world domination. If history is a barometer, the US’ domination will end as well.”
Renowned Oliver Stone is a man with multiple skills: screenwriting, directing, producing, narrating he has done it all somehow in the movies, miniseries, documentaries he has filmed. In his 20 movies he has explored themes related to geopolitics: be it his US Presidents trilogy (JFK, Nixon, W.), historical dramas Alexander, Snowden, World Trade Center, Platoon, Born On The Fourth Of July. In 2017 he had made a 4-part miniseries The Putin Interview which is literally his one-o’-one with Vladimir Putin in Russia!
Similarly, this 2012 documentary miniseries of 10 episodes amounting to 10 hours, The Untold History Of The United States is a look at history from a different point of view- introducing America’s arrogance post-WW2 & its ardent approach to dictate its own terms leading to world domination either by hook or crook.
The documentary initiates with Oliver Stone giving a summary as to why he feels it is important to understand America from his lens. Oliver Stone drives the narration throughout the episodes with clips, images, excerpts from interviews, analysis by experts, study by historians, inputs by statesmen & media to keep the viewer engaged with surplus interesting information from different angles of various world-defining events which shaped the 20th century. It picks up from the major game-changing battles of World War 2 and the controversial, unorthodox decisions Allies had to take to make the war last faster than estimated. Gradually, focusing more on Churchill, Stalin & Roosevelt, it established a connection between them and how this would unfold into the cold war with changing administrations in all the dominant players.
The show went on to cover the dictating geopolitical scenarios of post-WW2 era and as well internal US’ issues: post-WW2 strategy: the Marshall Plan & the Truman Doctrine, rearmament of European countries (like West Germany, Engalnd, France, Turkey), the Cold War, Arms race, the Space race, the Nukes race, NATO, Korean War, Cuban crisis, Vietnam War, carpet bombing of Laos & Cambodia, toppling numerous third world countries’ governments, assassinations, civil rights movements, Non-Alinged Movement, Iranaian revolution, Iran-Iraq War, Societ invasion of Afghanistan, proxy wars in small American continent countries (like Nicaragua, El Salvador, Honduras), fall of Berlin wall, unification of Germany, the fall or Iron Curtain, dissolution of USSR, the race for oil in the Gulf, Invasion of Kuwait to expel Iraq, War on drugs, invasion of Panama, the 9/11 attacks, al-Qaeda, Taliban, invasion & occupation of Iraq, Afghanistan, black sites & enhance torture in Guantanamo Bay, recession of 2008, Occupy Wall Street, PRISM surveillance program, Bradley Manning Wikileaks, ISIS, Drone warfare. Well, that explains the depth the show has reached into!
Establishing connections between different US administrations gave the viewers a point of view from the President’s perspective. An incoming President should know where to pick up any matter from the outgoing President and as well as to take advice as & when needed, if not implement in that regard. A brilliant move by Oliver Stone was to tangle the various political events or incidents, in an orderly fashion to give viewers a 360-degree view of the change and various players involved in it. This is no easy feat to achieve given the complexity various elements pose. However, the highlight of the show was to question America on the fundamentals on which it was born since the time George Washington led the nation. It questions the decisions and many errors in multiple judgements, knowingly made by various US administrations by Democrats & Republicans alike. It criticizes the lies & deceit US government had tricked not just many helpless nations but as well as its own people. As one historian rightly puts it: even though the US may have won many wars, the morality of the US degraded gradually since they started rampant bombing of Germany and later followed this in Japan, Greece, Vietnam, Afghanistan, Iraq, etc.
However, at the extent of criticizing, the documentary does not fail to highlight the achievement to initiate the peace efforts (even temporary) spearheaded by a handful of US administrations like FDR, JFK to say. But one fact which necessitates the quintessential spotlight of this documentary is that the US did not contribute to the end of WW2 & peace during the Cold War, as much as its potential adversary, the USSR did. USSR, which is always shown as an antagonist, war-mongering side in various content produced, Oliver Stone downplayed it here with accurate historical nitty-gritties.
With the US being a superpower, it became evident that it would go at any length to protect its ambitions (while taking national security as an excuse to wage an illegal war). Oliver Stone smartly molds this attitude into the “Empire” psychology which the US, in principle was against and had earlier, opposed the continuation of British, French empires over their colonies. The other side of the same evil is the nexus of American military-industrial complex which has an abundance of weapons to sell. Alas, America seems to have fallen against its own demon. It is the continuous obsession with fear & uncertainty which generate hysteria inside the Pentagon & White House & later Capitol Hill (Congress encompassing Senate & House Of Representative). At last, it concludes by reminding one that the nation was built on ideals set by Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln & Roosevelt. It was time to stick to that as history has proven that domination of any kind always comes with an end date.
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Oliver Stone’s astute, extensively researched & immensely detailed, masterfully narrated, 10-episodes, 10-hour long documentary pummels the US’ arrogance & lies, unearths its obsession with the capitalist military-industrial complex, ever-increasing self-interest & clandestine dark-inhumane operations which eviscerate the moral & core values Washington, Jefferson, Lincoln, Roosevelt had fought to defend.