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The Great American Empire – A review of the detailed review by Oliver Stone and Peter Kiznick

Empire State Building - Benjamin Dumas/flickr commons

Empire has been the mainstay and primary support of the bourgeoisie. Empire built  these people and empire has supported them since the eradication of feudalism and institution of capitalism. The merchants and factory owners. Businessman and clerics. Doctors and lawyers and management and stock brokers and investors and University and College deans and even more than a few professors. Especially those who are tenured.

With the fall of feudalism in the 19th century, mass subjugation of the local populace was replaced by subjugation of people in less developed areas of the world. England and France and Germany and The Netherlands and Spain and America all involved in imperialistic endeavors through out the world, one way or another. The Kings and Queens and presidents and prime ministers and all were the ones who drove the empires and the bankers and financiers help to fund, the bourgeoisie made out like bandits. Always making sure they got their cut. In return they gave their undying support to these efforts, like all good little toadies. The Grima Wormtongues,  Uriah Heeps, Fred Rutherfords and Frank Burns.

Oliver Stone has done a documentary on his book The Untold Story of The United States. Since I do not have cable and have no intention of ever getting it, I will likely not see it. So I bought the Kindle version of the book to read on my Mac.

I strongly suspect that the Showtime documentary is a bit milder as even they do not want to offend a lot of viewers. But there undoubtedly will be a number of them offended. As this take down of the review of the series by Alessandra Stanley by Ted Rall shows.

There is an old saying that If you are not outraged, you’re no paying attention. I would like to add this if after reading Oliver Stones book you do not want to engage in some serious blood letting on Wall Street, your reading comprehension is in doubt.

The book, like the series begins just before WWI with the election of Woodrow Wilson. Hitting on all the major and some minor events up to the Obama administration. Stone does a particular good job of deflating the blown up reputations of such heroes of the liberal establishment as Wilson, FDR, Truman, JFK, LBJ, Carter, Clinton and Obama. But neither does he leave Harding, Hoover, Eisenhower, Nixon, Ford, Reagan, Bush of W alone. Giving then their do as well.

He [Stone] does an excellent job of showing how American flavor of imperialism was essentially Wall Street imperialism by proxy, initially in South America with the support of dictatorships there and helping to topple any regime that was not completely friendly to Wall Street. Especially the petroleum industry. Either directly or indirectly.

The book does a very good job of showing the thinking that was going on behind the entry into WWI and WWII but also touches on the domestic issues as well. Like the rise in the popularity of the Communist and Socialist parties here. How the Russian revolution and communism shook the capitalist elites to the very core. How this thinking is still prevalent today. Stone points out how any dissident voice against WWI was treated harshly and even lynched. That this was acceptable. And how propaganda was enhanced to make the public back entry into the war.

Even though America entered WWI late and lost far fewer men than Briton, France, Germany and even Russia, it left the country demoralized.

The most acerbic of democracy’s critics was certainly H. L. Mencken, “the sage of Baltimore.” Mencken referred to the common man, mired in religion and other superstitions, as a “boob,” a member of the species “boobus Americanus.” He expressed contempt for the same yeoman farmers whom Jefferson anointed the backbone of democracy, exclaiming “we are asked to venerate this prehensile moron as . . . the citizen par excellence, the foundation-stone of the state! . . . To Hell with him, and bad luck to him.”The Untold Story of The United States

Stone not only goes into how WWI and the Treaty of Versailles were the set up for the rise in Adolf Hitler, but also how he was backed by German and American financiers. That Wall Street began it’s long love affair with fascism and Nazism backing not only Hitler but Mussolini as well and how Wall Street originated an attempted coup on the FDR presidency. Though he thinks FDR instituted some very progressive legislation, Stone also lets the reader know that a lot of his domestic policies did not include non-whites and that his conservative leanings in his second term nearly brought the country back into the depression.

WWII and the FDR presidency was a turning point in American foreign and domestic policy. FDR went to great lengths to win over Stalin and tried to help the Soviet Union with arms shipments, but they were always delayed. The the people of the United States were supportive of Stalin and his plight and the Communist part as popular as ever, having many notable writers, performers and academics as members – the military and right wing would find ways to stall this as much as possible. The Soviet Union had largely escaped the economic disaster of the depression and was heralded as a triumph. Stone in his book makes it clear that the majority of the fighting and military and civilian deaths during the war were done by the Soviet people. That by the time the Allies had landed in France, the war was nearly over and the Soviets were on the march toward Berlin. To the point of almost describing the Allies as also-rans.

But it was Churchill that influenced post war policies in this country the most. He positively hated the USSR, Stalin and Communism. Being a Tory (conservative) in the exact mold as Margret Thatcher. FDR sympathized with Stalin and the USSR and agreed with the partisan of Europe and the permanent partisan of Germany. Since Russia had been invaded numerous times they were most concerned about their own security. FDR’s VP, Henry Wallace was according to Stone one of the last true progressive voices in Washington. A champion of the “Common man” and deplored empires.

Vice President Henry Wallace deplored all empires— whether British, French, German, or American. In May 1942, Wallace repudiated Luce’s nationalistic and, arguably, imperial vision and proposed a progressive, internationalist alternative:

Some have spoken of the “American Century.” I say . . . the century . . . which will come of this war— can and must be the century of the common man. . . . No nation will have the God-given right to exploit other nations . . . there must be neither military nor economic imperialism. . . . International cartels that serve American greed and the German will to power must go. . . . The march of freedom of the past 150 years has been a . . . great revolution of the people, there were the American Revolution of 1775, the French Revolution of 1792, the Latin American revolutions of the Bolivian era, the German Revolution of 1848, and the Russian Revolution of 1917. Each spoke for the common man. . . . Some went to excess. But . . . people groped their way to the light. . . . Modern science, which is a by-product and an essential part of the people’s revolution, has made it . . . possible to see that all of the people of the world get enough to eat. . . . We shall not rest until all the victims under the Nazi yoke are freed. . . . The people’s revolution is on the march. 35

When the bloodiest war in human history finally drew to a close three years later, Americans would choose between these diametrically opposed visions: Luce’s American Century versus Wallace’s Century of the Common Man.

But when the next election came up, Wallace lost out to Harry Truman do to back room manipulations by the democratic committee. A man that Stone refers to as and ex haberdasher and even less qualified to become president than George W. Bush. A man who unlike Wallace, supported the resumption of the empires of England and France after the war. Something that de Gaulle and Churchill wanted most of all.

He brings up how the cold war and the almost fanatical hated of communism was instigated by Churchill and a large group of Wall Streeters.

Perhaps not surprisingly, the most vociferous critics of the Soviet Union shared a similar class background that inclined them to mistrust the Soviets’ motives and intentions and revile anything that smacked of socialism. Harriman, the son of a railroad millionaire, had founded Brown Brothers Harriman. Forrestal had made a fortune on Wall Street. And Stettinius had been chairman of the board of U.S. Steel, the nation’s largest corporation. They would join with other wealthy international bankers, Wall Street and Washington lawyers, and corporate executives, who had also inherited or made their fortunes during the interwar years, to shape postwar U.S. policy. These men included Dean Acheson of Covington and Burling; Robert Lovett of Brown Brothers Harriman; John McCloy of Cravath, Swain and Moore; Allen and John Foster Dulles of Sullivan and Cromwell; oil and banking magnate Nelson Rockefeller; Paul Nitze of Dillon, Read; Ferdinand Eberstadt of Dillon, Read and F. Eberstadt and Co.; and General Motors President Charles E. Wilson, who, in 1944, as the director of the War Production Board, told the Army Ordnance Board that in order to prevent a return to the Depression, the United States needed “a permanent war economy. 107 Although these people also served in the Roosevelt administration, they had exerted much less influence on Roosevelt, who acted largely as his own secretary of state. [Emphasis mine]

From Truman, Eisenhower, JFK and the rest, this view has permeated domestic and foreign policy. Though he does give JFK the benefit of the doubt since he seemed to get religion after the Cuban Missile Crisis, making sure the reader understands just how close we came to nuclear Armageddon. In fact he shows that the US and no other country has used nuclear blackmail to get its way in the world.

The book also goes on to show how LBJ’s policies in Vietnam were the exact opposite of Kennedy’s and implies through example how the majority of anti-communist and anti-USSR hawks came from southern states. Not surprising really since their slave holding plantation economy was this counties landed gentry. Elite wanna-bees that were still resentful of having this free ride removed and still hoping to get it back again.

Stone states in the first paragraph on Carter that he is the best ex-president we ever had but then goes on to show how he went back to the cold war rhetoric and policies that of the past. Derailing détente and botching his presidency by his support of the Sha of Iran.

I would have liked that he [Stone] would have shown more of how domestic and foreign policy was instigated by – however discreetly – Wall Street. And how the top 20% – America’s bourgeoisie – has always supported Wall Street and this counties imperialistic policies. Since they were one of the greater benefactors of it, second only to the elites. That their hatred of communism and socialism was nearly as great since they would lose their cushy life styles as well. Is it no wonder then that we whole heartedly supported the White Russians in their civil war against the Soviets ? Or these bourgeoisie were pretty OK with fascism as well ? That Hitler was at one point Man of the year on Times cover ?

All in all I think the book is a good read and exposes a lot of the myths of both the right and left – those that dare call themselves liberal.

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