Actually, we do not have to wait for an answer. Kuznick makes it quite clear that he is writing a script that will show how the US consciously moved to the “dark side.” Indeed, he says he agrees with Daniel Ellsberg that during the war in Vietnam, “We were not on the wrong side. We were the wrong side.” This is, I suggest, more than shocking. It shows that if anyone has not learned from history, it is Prof. Kuznick. Can he explain the thousands who fled the Communist rule and risked their lives in the endless flotilla of refugees, the so-called “boat people”? Can he justify the re-education camps, the imposition of totalitarian Communist rule, the suppression of all dissent, and the one-party state that was created after North Vietnam’s victory?
In asserting that the United States was on the wrong side, Kuznick so many years later supports those who during the ’60′s anti-war movement called not for peace negotiations and an end to the bombing, but for victory for the National Liberation Front (or Vietcong), and who held placards proclaiming “Ho, Ho, Ho Chi Minh-NLF’s Gonna Win.” He inadvertently offers support to those of us who said at the time that these people did not want an end to what they thought was a wrong-headed war, but were really agents of the Communists seeking victory for their side. Thank you, Prof. Kuznick, for showing us now that those anti-war people like Irving Howe and Michael Harrington, who refused to march in DC demonstrations with such people, were correct in understanding the real agenda of the movement.
Speak of “Manichean simplicities,”of which Kuznick accuses only the United States! He even accuses the US of threatening the world with “nuclear annihilation in order to force compliance with U.S. demands.” Examples, please? Since his interview was given to HNN as the world now contemplates the attainment by the theocracy of Iran with nuclear weapons which in fact do threaten the world (and which the Obama administration rightfully says it will not allow to happen), what is his position on Iran’s attempt to get a bomb, and its persistent threat to obliterate Israel?
He asks what would “have happened if Henry Wallace had become president in 1945 instead of Harry Truman? Would there have been no atomic bomb and, perhaps, no Cold War?” Let me answer this, Prof. Kuznick. I know something about Wallace, having written my MA on him, having spent a full day with him at his farm in South Salem NY, and having researched his life and having written a very critical review of his life for The New Republic. The answer is easy, and it is not the one I think Kuznick expects.
Not only would there have been a Cold War, but it would have put the United States on the same side as Joseph Stalin, and helped the Soviet dictator gain his goal of not only creating imitations of Moscow in the so-called “Peoples’ Democracies” of Eastern Europe, but enabling him as well to subvert the established Western democracies existing in countries like Italy and France. With Wallace at the helm, the United States would have had a president advised by the remaining secret Communists in the government, such as Wallace’s top advisor, the Soviet agent Harry Magdoff, who subsequently went on to edit the Marxist publication Monthly Review after his years in government came to an end. Having established already that he in fact supports the other side in Vietnam, it is perhaps not surprising that Kuznick also supports the Soviet side in the emerging Cold War in the 1950s.
In Kunzick and Stone’s eyes, the US is always the villain — as he puts it, the country that resorts “to force, and sometimes even assassination, terror and torture to achieve that goal.” What does he, and his documentary, I wonder, say about Saddam Hussein, who forced the citizens of Iraq to live under the force of Hussein’s fascist boot for so long? Somehow, I don’t think he is too concerned about anything like that question.
How sad that like other left-wing and self-hating Jews, Kuznick too uses the fact that most of his family perished in the Holocaust to justify his present obscurantist and reactionary views. He wants us to believe it is his “abhorrence of fascism” that forces him not to remain silent in the face of evil. The problem is that the only evil he sees is that of his own country, while he exonerates or ignores the evil in other nations, or blames their evil on what the United States has done to them — the perennial favorite argument of the far left.
Yes, Kuznick denies this. Realizing what he has said, he then seeks to deny his own argument, claiming that he and Stone do not say that the “United States is somehow intrinsically evil and that other nations are, by contrast, more moral.” Of course, he has in fact said just that a few paragraphs earlier. He goes on to explain it is only that the US has the power and wealth to do great harm, while other nations do not. This too is false. The “revisionist” historians of the Cold War used to argue that the Soviets could not have been at fault for the postwar division of the world, because they emerged economically devastated at the war’s end while the US was strong. But as we have seen from Cold War histories written by scholars like John L. Gaddis of Yale, the Soviet weakness did not stop them from successfully scoring many victories and from manipulating the wealthier Western powers to succumb to their agenda.
In his last paragraphs, Kuznick reveals that he and Stone will conclude by showing viewers how the US through all the postwar presidents used “unchecked power” that might have led to six hundred million dead worldwide had nuclear war broken out. They will then show how would-be “decent leaders” like Kissinger and Reagan (does Kuznick really believe they are decent, or is this just a verbal mechanism to set them up for his kill?) supported “the most vicious, malign, and murderous forces in Latin America.” Really? Will his viewers get a counter argument from people like Elliot Abrams, whom Kuznick easily could have put on camera, to answer and show the policies of Reagan and George H.W. Bush isolated the Leninist guerrillas, led to peace negotiations, and ended both right- and left-wing extremism in the region?
And as for Islamic radicalism today, Kuznick as expected argues that it is the fault of the US, because we alone “deliberately (my emphasis) fostered and fanned the flames of Islamic extremism.” So, as I said earlier, if there is extremism that is bad, it always is OUR fault. They will show, he says, how our leaders “repeatedly lied the country into war.” I assume that goes for resurrection of Charles Beard’s old thesis about FDR too. After all, Old left and Old right come together when it is a matter of conspiracy theory explaining history.
I end with a concrete challenge to Prof. Kuznick. At one point, he says that in his classes, he brings in a “diverse group of speakers” from all sides, such as supporters of the war in Vietnam and its opponents. The list he offers, however, is largely composed of those who have very similar points of view — that of the Left. He only mentions one speaker whom I know to have an independent view, Max Holland, a man I have worked with in the past and who is brilliant and incisive in his critiques.
So I offer him this challenge: When your class deals, as I assume it does, with the McCarthy era and anti-Communism in the United States, bring in both John Earl Haynes and myself to talk on the subject and to challenge the point of view you hold which I assume will be advanced in the film. Both Haynes and I, who are in the metropolitan DC area, have the credentials and expertise to talk to his class and give them a solid contrary view. I’m waiting, Prof. Kuznick, for your response.