The Cuban Missile Crisis: World Saved by the Soviets, Says Oliver Stone

A radical filmmaker's hateful fantasies continue in his Neo-Communist documentary series.

Editor’s note: The following is the sixth installment of a series of articles Frontpage is running in response to Oliver Stone’s neo-Communist 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 6 of the series.

Perhaps at one time Oliver Stone was considered a great director. If that was the case, it ceased to be true after such doozies such as “Alexander,” “World Trade Center,” and even “Savages” (which looked like a Michael Bay film sans explosions). At any rate, he has now become a documentarian, pursuing a Howard Zinn-type bash-America series called “The Untold History of the United States.” (It should be obvious that the reason it is “untold” is that it’s pure fiction.) Predictably, the series applies a far-left spin to history, and it is here where Stone is at his most clever, because he uses just enough truth to convince people to buy his counterfeit depiction of America’s past.

In Episode 6, “JFK to the Brink,” Stone has a difficult problem: he had to make JFK and Khrushchev both look good after first portraying Kennedy as, for the most part, a war monger. Astoundingly—but not surprisingly—Stone paints as the hero of the Cuban Missile Crisis a KGB agent stationed on a Soviet sub who convinced the captain not to fire his missiles while being depth charged by the Americans. Anyone who knows the first thing about submarines understands that to fire missiles a sub has to ascend to within 100 feet of the surface (or a missile will not clear its tube) and if it gets that close it is fully visible to anti-submarine warfare sonars and aircraft. In short, the captain didn’t ascend to launch because he would have been sunk before he got a single missile launched.

But I digress: Stone describes a John Kennedy who at the same time was cowed by the “older” Joint Chiefs of Staff (always making sure to note that they were older), while at the same time portraying him as a rugged individualist who resisted pressure from his entire cabinet, the CIA, and the military. While it is absolutely true that JFK, on occasion, thought the Joint Chiefs were too aggressive, it is also undeniable that Kennedy was a typical Cold Warrior who ran to Nixon’s right on a fictitious “missile gap.” Here, again, Stone simply lies: Kennedy knew full well that there was no “missile gap” as he had been briefed by Eisenhower, and if he didn’t know it prior to November 1960, he certainly knew it within weeks, due to the requisite briefing by the incumbent president to the new occupant of the Oval Office (contrary to Stone’s claim that “it took three weeks” for Kennedy, after assuming the presidency in January, to learn the truth about the U.S. and Soviet arsenals). Employing cheap-looking graphics, Stone claims that the U.S. had massive advantages in bombs, bombers, nuclear weapons, subs, and other strategic assets. But he cleverly conflates warheads, which, yes, we had plenty of, with launchers and delivery systems, where we were much closer to parity with the Soviets. This became a standard mantra of the peace movement from the 1960s on, claiming (correctly) that we had enough nuclear weapons to destroy the world many times over, but failing to discern the difference between warheads in a secure facility and actual launchers.

Although Stone briefly reviews the history of the Iron Curtain and Berlin, he never addresses the most fundamental question of why so many people fled for their lives from collectivism, and he fails to mention that JFK was humiliated in negotiations with Khrushchev in Vienna. Surprisingly, Stone gets almost correct the number of “advisors” the U.S. had in Vietnam in 1963, but perpetuates the “myth of the 1,000”—the American engineering battalions pulled out when their construction work was finished—and cites this as evidence that Kennedy planned to withdraw from Vietnam after he was reelected. Contrary to Stone, JFK had little to do with Laos. The issue was settled by Eisenhower when Ike recognized the situation was already almost hopeless.

Standing center stage of the one-hour program is the Cuban Missile Crisis. Contrary to Stone, the “Cubans” did not have tactical nuclear weapons, but rather the Russians had stationed tactical nuclear weapons there. While the risk was still extreme, the Soviets not only kept the weapons secret, but carefully secured them from the Cubans. Nevertheless, the entire Missile Crisis episode is riddled with errors. A B-52 is shown while Stone’s narrative discusses a U-2 spy plane. Stone’s claim that JFK was reversing course in Cuba completely ignores the fact that his brother, Bobby, was running a plan with the CIA and Juan Almeida, the commander of Cuba’s army, to assassinate Castro. This was, it is argued by Lamar Waldron, the reason Bobby’s hands were tied in the Kennedy assassination investigation—it would have exposed his, and his brother’s, coup attempts in process at the moment Kennedy was killed (see Waldron, Legacy of Secrecy, 2009). Indeed, JFK had no change of heart regarding Cuba. He only wanted the coup to be clean, and without American fingerprints. Stone cites Operation Mongoose—which Kennedy approved—as a comical attempt to kill Castro, but never mentions the Almeida coup plans.

In Stone’s analysis, the erection of the Berlin Wall prevented war, and he quoted Kennedy, “better a wall than a war.” Of course, there didn’t have to be either. Throughout, Khrushchev appears insightful, heroic, and steadfast while Kennedy is confused, inconsistent, and entirely maneuvered by the Soviets. A nuclear holocaust was averted, Stone claimed, when an American destroyer was depth-charging a Soviet strategic missile sub, and even thought the captain wanted to follow his orders and launch his missiles, a wise and compassionate KGB agent on board persuaded him not to fire.

Much of Stone’s analysis is generational. Concluding the program with Kennedy’s inaugural, in which he claimed the torch had been passed to a new generation, Stone claims that with JFK’s death the torch went right back to the “old generation” that included Johnson, Nixon, and … Reagan. Yet McNamara, the architect of much of the Vietnam disaster, was only one year older than JFK; Nixon, only four years older. Kennedy’s massive character flaws receive one scant sentence, while his military career is described in the most glowing terms (ignoring the fact that as an officer he was entirely derelict in his duty and should have been court-martialed for the PT-109 incident).

Repeatedly Stone pits Kennedy against the military and the CIA, yet glosses over JFK’s own secret war in Laos, and if Kennedy indeed wanted to “splinter the CIA into a thousand pieces,” his attitude seems to have quickly changed because in November 1961 he expressed his gratitude for the “services” and “successes” of the Agency, and in January he wrote director John McCone to express his “deep admiration for [the Agency’s] achievements.” Yet again, in October, just a month before his death, Kennedy said, “I can find nothing, and I have looked through the record very carefully over the last nine months …  to indicate that the CIA has done anything but support policy… .”

When it came to JFK in Vietnam, not only does Stone sidestep Kennedy’s buildup there, but he exonerates JFK from any responsibility for Ngo Dien Diem’s death. The position, of course, is preposterous: both Kennedys knew exactly what a Third World coup involved, and certainly the overthrow of Rafael Trujillo in May 1961 provided a roadmap as to what happened in such coups. (There is some speculation that the CIA, under Kennedy’s orders, was involved in Trujillo’s death as well.) And Stone doesn’t mention that Kennedy contemplated nuking Red China if another war with India broke out—hardly the musings of a pacifist resisting the warmongering JCS.

Stylistically, Stone uses images almost exclusively, with his own robotic narration. On occasion, however, he employs voice-overs of Russian-accented actors to “speak” for Khrushchev and a voice-over of General Curtis LeMay. There is a single (poor) animation, no on-camera interviews—just Stone’s monotonous voice and imagery. And all of the Castro shots show a laughing, cheerful leader with happy people celebrating their slavery. But Nixon, the members of the military, the Joint Chiefs of Staff, and the CIA are routinely depicted as villainous, dark, nefarious, and angry. Stone’s narration and documentary style is, fortunately, the silver lining for the rest of us. Few will be able to stay awake during this snoozer, especially younger viewers, and therefore they won’t be subjected to Stone’s erroneous facts or his absurd revisionist  fantasy. One would learn more about American history and Cuban relations during this era from the Starz original series “Magic City.”

Related articles on Stone’s series:

1. Bruce Thornton’s introduction to this Frontpage series.

2. David Horowitz’s analysis of the meaning behind the warm reception of Stone’s Kremlin propaganda.

3. Matthew Vadum’s review of Stone’s first episode.

4. Daniel Flynn’s review of “Roosevelt, Truman and Wallace,” the second episode.

5. Daniel Greenfield’s review of “The Bomb,” the third episode.

6. Bruce Thornton’s review of “The Cold War: 1945-1950,” the 4th episode.

7. Matthew Vadum’s review of “The 50s: Eisenhower, The Bomb & The Third World,” the 5th episode.

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