Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the US – Parts 1-3

Untold History of the United States – Parts 1-3

Directed by Oliver Stone (2012)

Last week, I sat down and binge watched Oliver Stone’s 10 part Showtime series Untold History of the United States. I was pleasantly surprised. Stone is strongly influenced by late historian Chalmers Johnson (see The Impermanence of Empire) and mentions him at several points in the series.

Untold History concerns the hidden history of the “American Century” that we’re never taught in school. Unlike Howard Zinn’s People’ History of the United States, it devotes little air time to the popular resistance movements that shaped the period 1932-2012. Instead it focuses mainly on the presidents who governed during this period.

Parts 1-3, which focus on World War II, unpack the lie that Truman dropped two nuclear bombs on Japan to spare hundreds of thousands of GIs who would have died invading the Japanese mainland.

Stone begins with a broad outline of the German military build-up that began in the early 1930s. I think this segment would have been clearer if Stone had discussed the Wall Street fascists who deliberately armed Hitler in the hope he would invade and destroy the Soviet Union. He delays this discussion until part 9, when he introduces Prescott Bush, the pro-Nazi granddaddy of George W Bush.

The first three parts of this series provide a fairly comprehensive history of the Spanish Civil War and of so-called British “appeasement” of Hitler in the early 1930s. I was extremely surprised to learn that Neville Chamberlain wasn’t motivated by cowardice, as we were taught in school, when he agreed to Hitler’s 1938 occupation of Czechoslovakia. He was merely carrying out the wishes of the US-Anglo elite – they were happy to cede Eastern Europe to Germany if it facilitated the destruction of the Soviet Union.

I was also totally unaware that the Soviets were responsible for destroying the bulk of Hitler’s vast military arsenal while the Allies piddled around in peripheral conflicts in North Africa and Italy (at the cost of 27 million lives in contrast to the 500,000 each lost by Britain and the US).

The real reason for Churchill and Roosevelt stalling for two years (Hitler invaded the USSR in 1941) before opening a second front (in Normandy) was their continuing belief that Hitler would defeat the Soviets. Once the Red Army pushed Nazi forces out of the USSR and began retaking Eastern Europe, the allies were forced to act to limit Soviet expansion.

It was actually this two year delay that caused nearly all of Eastern Europe to end up under Communist control – not ruthless Soviet expansionism as we are taught in school.

Stone agrees with historians who attribute the US nuclear attack on Japan to anti-communist hawks in the Truman administration who sought to use it to intimidate the Soviet Union. He maintains that Henry Wallace (Roosevelt’s vice-president until 19944) would never have given in to War Department hawks.

Wallace, according to Stone, was a true liberal populist in the Roosevelt mold. He was universally hated by Wall Street elites. He lost the 1944 vice presidential nomination to Truman (despite controlling over 65% of the delegates) after Democratic Party bosses rigged the 1944 Democratic Convention.

Part 1 – World War II

Part 2 – Roosevelt, Truman & Wallace

Part 3 – The Bomb

New Evidence in JFK Assassination

farewell to justice

A Farewell to Justice: Jim Garrison, JFK’s Assassination, and the Case that Should Have Changed History

by Joan Mellen (2013 Skyhorse Publishing)

Book Review

 A Farewell to Justice is an exhaustive review of the only arrest and trial stemming from the 1963 murder of President John F Kennedy. The late New Orleans district attorney Jim Garrison describes the 1967 grand jury investigation and prosecution of long time CIA officer Clay Shaw in his 1988 bestseller On the Trail of the Assassins. In 1992, the public outcry prompted by JFK, Oliver Stone’s screen version, led Congress to pass the JFK Records Collection Act. A Farewell to Justice uses classified documents released under this Act to update Garrison’s original case against Shaw and other CIA co-conspirators.

A revised version of the 2005 edition, the new 647 page A Farewell to Justice is a virtual encyclopedia of the JFK assassination. The book leaves no doubt that high level CIA officials authorized the murder and provides a complete list of the cast of characters who played roles in the assassination and/or cover up.

The new edition makes use of documents Mellen obtainedvia a 2011 Freedom of Information (FOIA) request and personal  interviews with surviving assassination witnesses. The most startling new evidence relates to Robert Kennedy’s systematic efforts to obstruct both the Warren Commission investigation and Jim Garrison’s efforts to identify the real culprits behind his brother’s murder.

Oswald’s FBI Pay Slips

According to Mellen, it was Warren Commission member Hale Boggs who first encouraged Garrison to investigate the assassination. Boggs himself first became concerned about government involvement in the conspiracy when the Warren Commission examined Oswald’s FBI pay slips in January 1964.

As well as providing a detailed outline of the entire grand jury investigation, Mellen also explores the role the FBI, CIA and Robert Kennedy played in sabotaging it. In addition to murdering and threatening assassination witnesses, the FBI/CIA wiretapped Garrison’s office, infiltrated his investigation team, stole files, fabricated witness statements, blocked subpoenas and the extradition of witnesses from other states and used CIA moles at the TV networks and major newspapers and magazines to portray Garrison as a self-centered, publicity mad lunatic.

Garrison initially intended to try Dave Ferrie, who he believed recruited Oswald to US intelligence as a high school student when he belonged to Ferrie’s Civil Air Patrol squadron. Garrison had witness testimony linking Ferrie, a known CIA pilot, to both Oswald and anti-Castro Cubans the CIA was training at a secret camp north of Lake Pontchartrain. Many of the same Cubans, training for roles in a CIA plot to assassinate Fidel Castro, would play parallel roles in Kennedy’s murder. When Ferrie suddenly turned up dead, Garrison moved to arrest Clay Shaw, based on witness statements linking Shaw to Oswald, Ferrie and the secret training facility.

Jurors Believe Government Played Some Role

Although Shaw was ultimately acquitted, Garrison succeeded in convincing the jury that the government played some role in the assassination. As they later told assassination researcher Mark Lane, without proof Shaw worked for the CIA, they felt there was reasonable doubt that he participated. His CIA personnel records wouldn’t be released until the mid-seventies.

Garrison would continue investigating the JFK assassination until his death. He made his findings available to the Church Committee (which concluded in 1976 that Oswald was a CIA operative engaged in counterintelligence) and the 1978 House Select Committee on Assassinations (which concluded there was more than one shooter and that Shaw was one of the high level planners).

According to Mellen, the CIA decided in the early 1970s to sacrifice Shaw (who would die in 1974 of lung cancer) as a limited hangout* by releasing his CIA employment records to HSCA. They reveal that Shaw worked for both the Domestic Operations Division and Clandestine Services between 1949 and 1972 and had strong links to PERMINDEX a shadowy CIA front that financed assassination attempts against French president Charles De Gaulle, as well as Kennedy.

Why Robert Kennedy Obstructed the Investigation

The classified documents released in Mellen’s FOIA suit establish that Attorney General Robert Kennedy was personally running the CIA operation to assassinate Castro and well aware of Oswald’s links to the operation. In 1961 Kennedy was directly responsible for the demotion, harassment and persecution of a State Department security officer named Otto Otepka for investigating Oswald’s potential security risk as a former Soviet defector. Kennedy also ordered Oswald’s release following his arrest for firing shots at General Edwin Walker in April 1963.

In the summer of 1963 several Cuban exiles, who were deeply devoted to Bobby, informed him of Oswald’s involvement in a plot to assassinate his brother. According to Mellen, who interviewed one of them, Kennedy claimed that Oswald wasn’t a threat because he was on the payroll of the New Orleans FBI field office and they were monitoring him.

According to Mellen, the younger Kennedy played a direct role, through his investigator Walter Sheridan, in sabotaging Kennedy’s autopsy, the Warren Commission investigation and Garrison’s investigation. Following Bobby’s assassination in 1968, Sheridan continued to protect his  interests by obstructing the release of documents for the 1978 HSCA investigation.

Mellen’s hypothesizes that Bobby’s interest and intervention on behalf of Oswald indirectly implicated him in the assassination conspiracy. It would have destroyed his political career for any of his prior links to Oswald to become public.

*Limited hangout is intelligence jargon for a form of propaganda in which a selected portion of a criminal conspiracy is revealed to protect the main perpetrators.