I found this book hiding in a box of unwanted paperbacks at a second-hand book fair beneath a church.
Its location seemed appropriate. What better place to discover forgotten history than in a space usually reserved for the dead?
I was reluctant to purchase it. Not because of the price – $2 for 750 dense pages that usually sold for $19.95 was a bargain. No, my reluctance stemmed from the certainty this book would be a rough ride. Well researched history will always disturb and unsettle the reader who is not a psychopath.
The kindly faces of the senior citizens who presided over the book fair convinced me to purchase it. I did not want to let them down and leave the church grounds without buying something. An unvarnished picture of the American Empire was still preferable to an unwanted cookbook or romance novel.
The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick is a book for adults. I define an adult as someone who can consider unpalatable truths without being emotionally triggered.
The unpalatable truth of this book is the U.S. government’s behavior throughout the twentieth century till now contradicts its self-proclaimed devotion to democracy, liberty, and justice. A ‘classic’ example is the continual support the United States has shown to Central and South American governments who used death squads to murder suspected political opponents.
When I use ‘U.S.’ or the ‘United States’ in this review, I refer to the continuity of governmental power and policy that emanates from North America and not the American people.
In an increasingly polarized world, I believe it is essential to differentiate the population within a country from the actions of their government. Perhaps it was once the case, but the U.S. is no longer governed by a “government of the people, by the people.” It follows the logic and will of the “military-industrial” complex.
“This conjunction of an immense military establishment and a large arms industry is new in the American experience. The total influence—economic, political, even spiritual—is felt in every city, every state house, every office of the Federal Government….we must not fail to comprehend its grave implications.”Partial “Text of Eisenhower’s Farewell Address,” New York Times, January 18, 1961.
Former President Eisenhower’s above warning was ignored. Since then, people continued to vote ‘red’ or ‘blue’ in the belief that the political party of their choice would make things better.
After reading this book, it struck me the Democrats and Republicans, at their heart, are actually ‘post political’. Look beneath their messaging and you will find two parties in complete agreement when it comes to placing the military-industrial complex before the needs of the American people. Bloated and unsustainable spending on new military bases, weapons and overseas
adventures conflicts are prioritized over decent healthcare and infrastructure at home.
I think this is well illustrated in the two long chapters that cover the presidencies of George W. Bush and Barack Obama. The invasions of Afghanistan and Iraq, driven by the ‘neoconservatives’ of the Bush-Cheney administration, represented imperial excess and overreach not seen since the days of the Vietnam War. The American people (and the world) were ready for a gentler U.S. government when Obama became the 44th U.S. President.
Obama’s youthful energy and “soaring rhetoric” inspired people to believe a welcome change to the brutal Bush White House had arrived. So, it was depressing to discover Obama (a Democrat), not only continued the military-industrial complex friendly policies of his predecessor (a Republican), but he also doubled down on them. Whether this was deceit or lack of courage in standing up to his donors and advisors is difficult to say. The most charitable interpretation is even a “progressive”, articulate, and thoughtful individual is powerless against the influence of unaccountable and powerful interests.
Obama’s devotion to drone warfare was particularly troubling. His administration ramped up the use of unmanned weapons as “precise instruments” for the targeted killing of “enemy combatants” around the world. Their use “led to numerous civilian deaths and has ushered in an era of drone proliferation across the globe.”
As I write this review of The Untold History of the United States, the criminal nature of drone warfare, started by George W. Bush, “perfected” by Barack Obama, and continued by Presidents Donald Trump and Joe Biden is back in the news. Drone whistle-blower Daniel Hale was sentenced to 45 months in prison. His crime? Telling the truth – 90% of those killed by U.S. drones are bystanders, not the intended targets.
The Untold History of the United States was released in 2012, before the Obama Presidency ended on January 20, 2017. The military-industrial complex still chugs on, even though it seems obvious the American Empire is now in decline.
There are rough patches ahead. The U.S. is engaged in a new Cold War with China, and it appears both sides are preparing for a future conflict. As I type this, a news story appeared in my Twitter feed – a U.S. base in Australia will undergo a $747 Million expansion to help Australian Defence Force and United States Marines Corps “house and train troops on Aussie land.” This expansion comes as the U.S. ramps up global tensions with China. The military-industrial complex obviously believes Australia will be a key location in the anticipated confrontation.
My review of The Untold History of the United States has been a lot to take in, but I am confident my readers are thoughtful people not prone to despair or childish outbursts of emotion. A fully developed adult is one who has disentangled their personality from political parties obviously bought and paid for by the military-industrial complex.
I recommend The Untold History of the United States by Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick to anyone who wants a fuller view of modern history. None of us should be afraid of this. The better we understand the true nature of our modern institutions, the more likely it is we will build something better after the rubble stops bouncing.