In August 2013, Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick—authors of “The Untold History of the United States” documentary series and book—spoke in Japan with reporters from the Shukan Kinyobi and The Asia-Pacific Journal on American empire, and how the continuing distortion of its history leads to the glorification of past wars. According to Kuznick, governments “lie because they know they can get away with it. But we are saying they cannot get away with it.”
According to Stone, “The [U.S.] military is worshiped.” For example, commenting on President Obama’s 2012 remarks on the 50th anniversary of the Vietnam War, Stone noted that Obama did not “really talk about the war.” Instead Obama said that “we reflect with solemn reverence, upon the valor of a generation that served with honor.” Stone observed: “You can never question your soldiers’ valor.” Behind the idea of serving with honor, Stone contended, is “a revising of history where [Obama] is basically saying that the war in Vietnam was a noble cause.” According to Stone, “Obama is the voice of the empire, and empire requires forgetting, cleansing, and wiping out the past about Vietnam, Iraq, Kuwait, Salvador, and even WWII.”
Kuznick noted how our memory of the Vietnam War, as exemplified by the Vietnam Memorial in Washington, D.C., focuses on American losses. The memorial is “powerful and moving,” Kuznick said, acknowledging the “tragic” loss of the 58,286 Americans who died in the war. However, Kuznick continued, “The memorial does not have the names of 3.8 million Vietnamese or the hundreds of thousands of Laotians, Cambodians and others” who also died in the war. “If the 250 foot long Vietnam memorial wall contained all the names of the Vietnamese, Laotians, and Cambodians, do you know how long it would be? Over four miles! What a statement that would make,” Kuznick said.
“The problem that arises,” he observed, “is having an empire with unlimited military strength but very limited moral vision and increasingly limited economic control… Dying empires can bring everything down with them.”
Satoko Oka Norimatsu and Narusawa Muneo, “We Used Chemical Weapons in Vietnam’: Oliver Stone and Peter Kuznick Explain How Telling the Untold History Can Change the World for the Better,” The Asia-Pacific Journal: Japan Focus, September 23, 2013, http://japanfocus.org/events/view/197.
Student Researcher: Andie Bugajski (Sonoma State University)
Faculty Evaluator: David McCuan (Sonoma State University)