Mitchell Reports | December 12, 2012
>>> history revisited , new documentary series untold history of the united states airing on the showtime channel on monday nights. listen to part of stone's objectives in his ten-part series spanning american history from world war ii to today.
>> we are going to propose, among other things, a forgotten set of heros, people who suffered for their beliefs and who have been lost to history because they did not conform. and we are going to debunk some of those heros you believe in, not with malice, but by restating the facts.
>> and there's also a companion book to this documentary series . and joining me now, academy award winning writer and director oliver stone and co-writer and director, our neighbor right down the street. thank you both very much for joining us. you're about halfway through the series now. it's 8:00 eastern on showtime, and one of the fascinating periods that you look at is the whole period after world war ii , the death of stalin. let's take a look at a clip.
>> americans woke to the news that joseph stalin was dead. despite his extraordinary brutality, most russians revered him for leading to victory over the nazis and turning backwards russia into a modern industrial state. while the public mourned, the new soviet leaders created the onerous ghost of a man who ruled their lives like an ancient czar for 30 years decided to maintain tensions with the capitalist west.
>> but that period, you know, in the '50s, late '40s, early '50s was the rise of oliver mccarthyism, the nuclear h-bomb. such a traumatic history in american history .
>> i lived through it, like you did probably.
>> absolutely, i'm a boomer.
>> it's a chance to go back, actually, when i was about 35, 40 years old, i started to change my views. i grew up in new york, very republican, very conservative upbringing, my father was a stockbroker and later in my life i went to see peter one day and i wanted to ask him how did the atomic bomb really get started, because we all treated like it had to be dropped, ended the war, there's no -- so the question bugged me, and we got into the story of how the bomb was dropped. that leads to so many other questions about world war ii , what really happened, and the cold war right after. this is the time when stalin dies in this clip, it's a significant opportunity, again, to bring together the two countries, and it's muffled.
>> we see it as a lost opportunity. march 5, 1953 , the soviet leaders had decided there was a chance to reverse course , they reached out very, very openly to the west, and the u.s. leaders, eisenhower and dullis debated what to do. eisenhower makes a tremendous speech, then two days later dullis rejects the premise of what eisenhower said and we go back to the intensified cold war .
>> you know, we even know that from more contemporary american history , missed opportunities where there is outreach from various countries to the united states . we see it more recently. what about this clip, this relates to george orwell .
>> george orwell once wrote, "who controls the past controls the future." by showing you the patterns of behavior which have come to be that you perhaps have not noticed before, we will try to bring you back to the meaning of this country and what's so radically changed after world war ii . this behavior has brought us to where we are now. this film is designed to enhance democratic values and institutions in our country.
>> i had a mustache then. that was five years ago.
>> you didn't shave it off because of our fundraising for epilepsy.
>> no, it's been a long haul. this is a long one.
>> you've worked for five years on this.
>> there's a fluidity in the clips. i think you see a bit of it, you sense the way the history goes, and we try to make it exciting for young people , because our target in the book was to reach 17 year olds, 18 year olds, the new generation. my daughter, my sons, never got any closer to the truth than i did when i was growing up in school, so this is important for us to leave something behind. maybe this is another way of looking at world war ii and the cold war .
>> as a professor, peter, you're engaging with students every day. you're trying to find ways to make it relevant and revisit history and reinterpret it and give it new meaning.
>> this is a history i've been teaching my students down the road for 25 years now, and oliver 's films were going along the same course, there was a sort of confluence of what i was teaching, what oliver was doing with his films, and we're trying to challenge people to rethink the past, show both the way history turned out wasn't inevitable, we came very close to very different directions we would think would be much better for this country, but also their understanding of the past is limited by what they've been reading, what they've been taught. we're trying to challenge that and give a difference vision of what the united states has been and can be.
>> more recent history for a lot of us is also the next episode coming up, which is jfk at the brink, the cuban missile cuban missile crisis . when you talk about that and spent so much of your life and we associate you with john f. kennedy , what did we learn about him from the missile crisis and the way our government functions?
>> he was a strong man and he had h character and he was able to stand up to the military twice during the bay of pigs and the missile crisis . he had tremendous pressure to go to war. under that pressure obama would have gone to war because he did in afghanistan. kennedy stepped back and that moment in history is the scariest for me and you perhaps remember, but we didn't know what was going on. they brought us back from -- we wouldn't be talking today.
>> even most recently we had new evidence that president kennedy reached out to former president eisenhower for advice as to how to handle it.
>> they gave advice.
>> yes. there is a lost pressure on kennedy to invade. we didn't know about the nuclear weapons . there four times as many troops and three times as many cuban troops . mcnamara said we would have lost 100,000 americans if we invade and we had no idea about that.
>> it is a fascinating collaboration between the two of you. the book and the series, show time , 8:00 on mondays. thank you very much. the