By Elisabeth Hellenbroich
“In the eyes of the rest of the world we have become a state that is constantly looking for new enemies” (Oliver Stone). On September 15th premiered the new film “Snowden”, by Oliver Stone. In two separate interviews – one conducted by the German weekly “Die Zeit” (Nr 38) and the other by the “Welt am Sonntag” (Nr 37) – Stone describes, in a very passionate way, what prompted him to produce such film about Edward Snowden, the famous American “whistleblower”, who had to escape to Russia, because he is threatened to face a harsh sentence as a “traitor” in the US.
Stone in the interviews launches an unusual harsh attack against the US governing elite, the leading US media and Hollywood. Particularly strong is his criticism against Hillary Clinton who – if she were elected president – as he stated, would be a greater warrior than Obama, while crazy Trump by his own behavior is simply helping her to get elected. It is worthwhile to reflect about the interviews even if sometimes Stone’s judgements may sound very harsh. But they should be looked at, in the light of the multiple crises that take place in a “world which is out of balance” (as said Wolfgang Ischinger, Chairman of the Munich security conference).
When Stone, after several personal discussions with Edward Snowden and even with Russian President Putin, presented the script for his new film in Hollywood, it got rejected by all film studios in Hollywood. They simply were “coward”, different to some German and French investors who finally helped to make his film that was produced in Munich (Germany).
70 year old Oliver Stone has an impressive record. Among his most famous films, there are “JFK”, “Platoon” (about the Vietnam war), “Born on the 4rth of July”, “Wall Street”, “Natural born killers” and the most recent film about whistleblower Snowden, who with his earthshaking revelations has created the “Story of the Century”.
The film tells the story of a young American patriot, a highly intelligent Computer nerd who, having joined the NSA, turned at one point into a whistleblower, by stealing thousands of Secret Service documents which proved how the US is engaged in mass surveillance of its citizens and the world-wide Internet communication.
According to Stone, Snowden tells the story of a US citizen “who obeys to his conscience”, like he himself does, who never follows the “unwritten rules of the film industry” in order to make films, nor keeps his mouth shut.
Stone qualifies Snowden as “hero”, who at the age of 29 had the moral strength to “expose a huge crime”, thus resembling Martin Luther King and other such human rights activists. He describes Snowden as a “libertarian with a profound belief in the US constitution”. Like his film hero, Stone qualifies the “mass surveillance programs” which were initiated under President George W. Bush by Homeland Security, as totally “inefficient”. “Targeted surveillance makes sense,” he said in one of the interviews. “But too many information lead to nowhere (like the Boston bomber case shows: the more you see the less you know.)” Snowden, after working for years in the NSA, changed his mind when he realized how his information had helped to facilitate Obama’s drone war which had grown more and more intense. He realized that this would create uncontrollable hatred in the targeted countries and he felt guilty.
“Technology must be controlled by democratic institutions”, Stone said during the interview and the “world really was told the truth and knew with certainty that each citizen is surveilled” when Snowden revealed his story.
According to Stone, Obama was a much more “silent and efficient representative of the war against terrorism than his predecessors… Under him the NSA mass surveillance continued.” He may give the impression as “Mr Nice Guy” but in reality he is a “wolf in sheep’s clothing”. “He is a hardliner, and if Hillary Clinton wins the presidential elections she will be even more hardline”.
It’s the US governing elite which is the problem.
What strikes in the interview is the unusual harsh tone used against Hillary Clinton, even if Stone declares to have often voted for the democrats: “Hillary Clinton will become American President because Trump is simply too extreme. He has said so much nonsense, so how can one ever trust him? But Clinton, I believe, is as dangerous as he is. She is a warrior, and she seems to have no sense of self-criticism in respect to the wars, which she supported. Her Libya policy turned the region into a snake pit for the IS. She supported the Iraq war. What about Syria? What is with her demand to increase troop strength in Afghanistan?” In respect to Russia “she pushes a confrontationist line, because in essence she is a cold-warrior. Also in Latin America she chose the hard line, in order to undermine the independence of democracies. Wherever you look, she prefers senseless military solutions. Clinton likes the military and has a good relation with its representatives. However this bellicose attitude offers no solution for America”, Stone said. When being asked what should be done, he answers: “America must act like a diplomat. An intelligent and prudent diplomat”.
Furthermore he remarks that former US president Bill Clinton is to blame for having created, with his infamous bill 1994 including the “three strikes” provision, a civil war type situation in the US. He is personally to be blamed for the incrimination of large segments of the black population and for overcrowding US prisons, while at the same time, the Police during the last years has been rearmed with armored vehicles, that are used in wars (a provision, which Bill Clinton regretted in 2015).
Stone thinks that there is a deep insensitivity in US society, which has its origin in the wars in Vietnam, Iraq and Afghanistan. “Accepting mass bombing, drone attacks, illegitimate invasions leads to a video game mentality”. Bill Clinton as President never tried to bring about a mentality change. The warrior Hillary will even do it less, without even mentioning Donald Trump. His comments are accompanied by the somewhat exaggerated sounding remarks that in principle US Southerners should be prohibited from going into politics. Some of the worst representatives in US politics came from the South: Lyndon B. Johnson, Rick Perry, George W. Bush, etc. They are qualified as “big cynical mouths”, who are linked to the military-industrial complex and “who earn their money with blood, oil and wars. This can’t be the future.”
Stone’s film was produced 15 years after the US was hit by Al-Quaida( 9/11) with all the consequences that followed. He shows that a single individual like Snowden rebelled again this system. When the New York Times journalist James Risen in 2004 researched about mass surveillance, the story which he wanted to publish was killed by the US government. The same journalist then produced a book in 2006. Contrary to the coward US media, it was the British newspaper Guardian and its journalist Greenwald who, after having at length debriefed Snowden, were the first to publish Snowden’s revelations. Without the Guardian the story would never have come to the public.
What Stone found out during his personal discussions with Snowden, is that the latter believes that “mass surveillance and data collection is not efficient, because nobody succeeds in evaluating these data.” An example for this were the Paris terrorist attacks. There were hints given before, but these hints were not taken into account by the relevant agencies, especially not by Belgian authorities. Similarly were ignored the preparations for 9/11, despite the fact that President Bush had been given a report about Bin Laden’s intentions to attack the US. After 9/11, twelve more security agencies were founded. They even have a “supervisor” for 17 security agencies. But this does not mean that they will function better and cooperate. “The secret services apparatus is overblown, too many muscles and too many steroids. Our services missed a lot of things: the Russian nuclear bomb, the fall of the Berlin wall, etc.”, Stone underlined in the interview.
Reflecting about the underlying reflex in US history
Having been a decorated Vietnam war veteran, Ston,e after having returned from that jungle war, changed his thinking. Especially when he realized that the Vietnam policy repeated itself under Ronald Reagan’s policy vis a vis Central America. “In Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala – all very ugly periods.”
In order to figure out what was the underlying reality behind this, he made reference to his documentary film series about “America’s Unwritten History”, a subject which he discussed with the US historian Peter Kuznick. He had wanted to find out why the US had spent so much time in wars like Iraq. “We began to look more closely at the year 1890, when the US began to extend its Empire overseas – to the Philippines, to Cuba: the US began to build up its military, which was deployed into the 1st and the 2nd World War. I found out that there is a long tradition of military imperialism, paranoia and lies, on the basis of which we went into wars. And after the Second World War this development even intensified.”
The reason for this, as he states, is that the “US was never physically attacked” (except Pearl Harbor). “We had luck and profited and gave back something to the world. But at the same time we accommodate to the idea that we had to be in permanent war drive. We made out of the Soviet Union a big enemy, which led to our war economy, out of which then developed the military-industrial complex. This has strangulated the US.”
“In the eyes of the rest of the world, we turned into a state which is constantly looking for new enemies.” He is full of praise for the former German Chancellor Schröder, French President J. Chirac and Russian President Putin, since they vehemently opposed the US drive to go into the Iraq war. And he regrets that they hadn’t won the upper hand.
Wiesbaden, September 2016