The Untold History of the United States is a doorstop of a book, one thick with villains—and flecked with the occasional “forgotten” hero—all assembled to prove that the 20th century was a one long spasm of American treachery. The authors are not offering, asPolitico described it, “a liberal interpretation” of American history but a radical one, with particular contempt reserved for liberal anti-communists and mainstream Democrats.
So far, Stone and Kuznick have been treated with seriousness by the mainstream media. The Christian Science Monitor promises the pair would provide “newly discovered facts.” Washington Post film critic Ann Hornaday assures readers that “in hewing faithfully to the facts—albeit within a dramatically different framework than most Americans are accustomed to—Stone can’t be accused of the kind of speculation” that dogged his bonkers conspiracy filmJFK. And The Los Angeles Times wants you to know that Untold History has “not only been repeatedly fact-checked—including a layer of confirmation by Showtime—it’s co-written with an American University historian.” It is reassuring that the contested “facts” of the Cold War have been, once and for all, adjudicated by a second-tier cable film channel.
Soviet apologetics abound while constructing a narrative of America as the world’s villain:
One must forgive those American apologists for the Soviet Union, according to Stone and Kuznick, because of reports that Stalin was guiding the “greatest human experiment undertaken”—many from Stalinist New York Timescorrespondent Walter Duranty—with economic results that “seemed to justify that description.” Exhausting their supply of weasel words, the authors write that “the Soviet economy appeared to be booming”, “Soviet society seemed to be undergoing an incredible transformation,” and there were “indications of Soviet success.”
Because Stalin’s crimes are undeniable, they offer a few scattered words about Soviet barbarism, though without providing specifics and only to establish that Moscow’s policies were reactive; the logical blowback from American bullying. So a brief paragraph on Stalinist mass killing starts with a stunning qualification: “Encircled by hostile capitalist nations and fearing a new war, Josef Stalin embarked upon a policy of breakneck industrialization that would claim many victims.” Vice President Henry Wallace, we are told, “remarked, somewhat overgenerously, that ‘Stalin was a fine man who wanted to do the right thing.” One must admit, the authors possess a remarkable talent for understatement.
Surveying the meaning of the Cold War, which “brought a kind of structure and stability” to the world, Stone and Kuznick argue that the United States must shoulder almost all of the guilt, offer the stunning conclusion that “the Soviet Union had more often than not exercised restraint upon their allies [sic]” (It’s perhaps worth mentioning here that Soviet occupation forces in Germany committed as many as two million rapes between 1945-46).
That along should alleviate any desire you may have had to read this book. In case it did not:
Other quotes are simply pruned to suit the authors’ thesis. For example, Harry Truman, one of the The Untold History’s great villains, is accused of “fanning the flames of mistrust” between Moscow and Washington in the summer of 1941. They quote the then-senator saying, not long after Nazi Germany invaded the Soviet Union, that “If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible.”
But the full quote offers a rather important caveat:
“If we see that Germany is winning we ought to help Russia, and if Russia is winning we ought to help Germany, and that way let them kill as many as possible, although I don’t want to see Hitler victorious under any circumstances. Neither of them thinks anything of their pledged word.” (Emphasis added.)
Kuznick and Stone replace a comma with a full stop, excising a hugely important qualification—one meant to underscore Truman’s opposition to both genocidal dictatorships.
Stone is no better than Fox News or Breitbart in this regard. They love to chop down quotes to fit their narratives. If you dislike America and are looking for some good old fashioned confirmation bias, look no further. If you appreciate well researched and reasoned arguments full of nuance and complexity, well, seeing Oliver Stone’s on the cover name has probably already ruled out this book for you.