MATTHEW VADUM: Oliver Stone’s Distortion of the Eisenhower Era
Editor’s note: The following is the fifth installment of a series of articles Frontpage is running in response to Oliver Stone’s revisionist documentary series, “The Untold History of the United States.” Frontpage will be reviewing each episode of the Stone series, exposing the leftist hateful lies about America and setting the record straight. Below is a review of Part 5 of the series.
President Dwight D. Eisenhower is responsible for transforming America into the imperialist global bully it supposedly is today, according to radical Hollywood fabulist Oliver Stone.
In the fifth episode of his multi-part revisionist assault on modern American history, Untold History of the United States, Stone argues that Eisenhower was a willing tool of greedy U.S. corporations and a warmonger who refused to make deals with a Soviet Union that was suing for peace.
Stone blames Eisenhower, the popular former five-star general who led the U.S. and its allies to victory in World War Two, for creating “a permanent war economy.” Essentially, Ike turned America into a high-tech modern-day Sparta, Stone claims, by permanently ramping up military expenditures. Of course to the extent that Eisenhower promoted high levels of defense spending he was only carrying on the policies of President Franklin Roosevelt. The Communist-loving director, known for palling around with Fidel Castro and Hugo Chavez, could never forgive Eisenhower for deploying nuclear weapons that were aimed at Stone’s beloved USSR.
“Nuclear bombs were now the foundation of America’s empire and provided the new emperor, its president, with a mystical power that required more and more suffocating secrecy even if those powers went far beyond the original limits of executive power defined in the Constitution,” Stone says.
Of course the United States has never been an empire, but Stone’s Marxist worldview clouds his perception. Apart perhaps from its pursuit of “manifest destiny” and a few military adventures in the 1800s, when the U.S. has projected its power beyond its home territory it has eventually pulled back.
The U.S., unlike so many world powers, does not conquer other countries: it liberates them and then goes home. This has, understandably, given the U.S. a special moral standing in the community of nations and it certainly does not make the American president an emperor.
But Stone’s unpatriotic rant continues. America’s nuclear arsenal and the pricey infrastructure supporting it allowed the imperialistic U.S. to dominate the world for decades, he insists. “And although the bombs themselves were not expensive, the huge infrastructure was, requiring bases in the U.S. and abroad and enormous delivery systems by bomber, missile, aircraft carrier, and submarine.”
America wasn’t threatening the free world; it was shielding it with its nuclear umbrella. This is not the behavior of a ruthless conqueror state.
Stone continues attacking Eisenhower, claiming that he planted the seeds for later “blowback” against the U.S. by intervening in the affairs of countries such as Iran. The Islamic revolution of 1979 that transformed that country from a U.S. ally to a hostile totalitarian theocracy was a long time coming. The revolution was an explosion of pent-up hostility, a delayed reaction to the U.S.- and U.K.-backed 1953 ouster of Iran’s socialist prime minister Mohammed Mosaddegh, Stone says. And to make matters worse, it was carried out solely to guarantee Western access to Iran’s oil, Stone maintains.
In other words, all the troubles between Iran and the United States are the American government’s fault. The fact that Mosaddegh and his fellow looters stole from U.S. investors by nationalizing the assets of the Anglo-Iranian Oil Co. (later known as British Petroleum or BP) doesn’t figure in Stone’s calculus. He doesn’t care that the U.S. used its intelligence apparatus to restore property to its rightful owners, a proper function of government.
The Cold War itself, which began even before the dust of the Second World War had settled, was needlessly prolonged by Eisenhower, Stone argues.
Joseph Stalin died a little over a month after Eisenhower became president in January 1953. But according to Stone, Ike was incompetent because he failed to singlehandedly end the Cold War right there and then.
“Signs emanating from Moscow indicated the Kremlin was ready to change course, but because of ideology, political calculations, the exigencies of a militarized state and a limited imagination, Eisenhower repeatedly failed to seize the opportunities that emerged,” Stone says.
Stone has engaged in this kind of revisionist fantasy before. He previously attempted to turn President John F. Kennedy into a radical left-wing folk hero by inventing the idea that JFK was a dove who was secretly preparing to de-escalate U.S. hostilities in Vietnam when he was cut down by an assassin.
In any event, it’s unclear what Soviet smoke signals Stone is referring to and even less clear what Eisenhower could have done during the three years after Stalin’s death that it took the less bloodthirsty Nikita Khrushchev to consolidate power in the still-totalitarian USSR.
But this kind of bold unprovable assertion, the idea that Ike could have waved a magical wand to end the Cold War the moment Stalin died, is nothing new for Stone. The director pulls supposed facts out of thin air and trumpets them in order to generate publicity for his work.
Stone also takes on the U.S. rationale for fighting the Cold War. Defending America against Communism wasn’t a matter of national survival; it was strictly a means of fattening corporate coffers.
“Anticommunism was good for business,” the 66-year-old Oscar winner and media darling matter-of-factly intones.
Highlighting the same passages used to set the stage in the opening minutes of his paranoid conspiracy-theory film from 1991, JFK, Stone shows archival footage of Eisenhower in black and white, stiffly reading his 1961 farewell address aloud.
We have been compelled to create a permanent armaments industry of vast proportions. Three and a half million men and women are directly engaged in the defense establishment. The total influence — economic, political, even spiritual — is felt in every city, every statehouse, every office of the federal government. […] In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. […] We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes.
In Stone’s view, the address showed that “Eisenhower seemed to understand the monstrosity he had created and seemed almost to be asking for absolution.”
But that forgiveness is not forthcoming.
Stone accuses Ike of creating the very same “military-industrial complex” that the 34th president denounced in his famous farewell address.
“The inescapable truth is that the beloved Dwight Eisenhower put the world on a glide path towards annihilation with the most gargantuan expansion of military power in history and left the world a far more dangerous place than when he first took office,” Stone lectures, without trotting out actual evidence of heightened peril.
The mere fact that Ike led a U.S. military buildup is proof that he was a monster, in Stone’s eyes. That the Soviet Union was also participating in the arms race seems to have escaped his notice.
Stone is especially incensed at the role Eisenhower played in the so-called Red Scare. The phony threat of Communism, as he sees it, was perpetuated by Eisenhower after first being manufactured by President Truman, Sen. Joe McCarthy, arms makers and others to justify anti-Soviet saber-rattling.
Stone believes that the real tragedy, apart from America’s pesky insistence on defending itself against Communist aggression, was that left-wing groups intent on subverting America from the inside suffered political setbacks as their treachery was exposed for all to see. In other words, it disturbs the Communist-loving movie director that in the Eisenhower era, supporting Marxism temporarily ceased to be cool in America after decades of being considered avant-garde.
“The Red Scare eviscerated the U.S. left, the labor unions and political and cultural organizations which had spurred the reforms of the New Deal, 1930s and 1940s,” Stone says.
“With the exception of the civil rights and antinuclear movements left-wing dissent and progressive reform throughout the 1950s would remain silent and the labor movement would never recover.”
The Red Scare hurt America more than it hurt the Soviet Union, Stone editorializes. “It certainly decimated the legal Communist Party USA whose membership had dropped from 80,000 in ’44 to below 10,000 by the mid ’50s, with probably 1,500 of them paid FBI informants.”
Stone ignores the fact that after a few years in a holding pattern after World War Two, the Left enjoyed a ferocious resurgence in the 1960s and 1970s. He also doesn’t mention that the labor movement’s decades-long slide into oblivion is largely related to its own self-inflicted wounds, overreaches, and insistence on killing the corporate golden goose.
Stone doesn’t dare point out that the Communist Party USA wasn’t a bunch of kind-hearted idealists trying to make America a better place. The CPUSA was controlled by the Soviet Union for most of its history. The Moscow-directed party also engaged in espionage, infiltrated labor unions, and used front groups to act as a fifth column within the United States.
It needs to be noted that even the term Stone uses, “Red Scare,” is a lie. It is a deceptively misdescriptive name for American culture’s entirely rational response to the threat posed by world communism, Soviet spies, and domestic subversives in the 1950s.
Stone thinks Ike should have taken on the anticommunists in an era in which “paranoia was rampant.”
Because Eisenhower “never publicly attacked the extremist tactics of the Red Scare and the Lavender Scare,” it is his fault that throughout “the 1950s political debate essentially continued to vanish in the United States,” the director claims.
Stone doesn’t seem to understand that political debate didn’t exactly “vanish” in the Fifties.
It simply didn’t favor the Left.
But this is one of the key reasons Stone doesn’t like Ike.
Related articles on Stone’s series:
1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.
2. Matthew Vadum’s review of Stone’s first episode.
3. Daniel Flynn’s review of “Roosevelt, Truman and Wallace,” the second episode.
4. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.
5. Bruce Thornton’s review of “The Cold War: 1945-1950,” the 4th episode.
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