2 Minutes and CountingRoundup
tags: Iran, democracy, global affairs
Oliver Stone is an Academy Award-winning director, producer, and screenwriter. His films include Untold History, Scarface, Platoon, Wall Street, JFK, and Natural Born Killers. Peter Kuznick is Professor of History and Director of the Nuclear Studies Institute at American University.
It’s terrifying to contemplate how much more dangerous the world has become over the past six years. Things seemed precarious enough in late 2012, when we published our book, The Untold History of the United States, and began airing our 10-hour Showtime documentary. The situation seemed dire, but not desperate. Barack Obama, a disappointing though somewhat restrained proponent of American empire compared to his neocon predecessors, was about to be elected to a second term, having tamped down the worst excesses of the Bush-Cheney era. The United States had slowed rendition and repudiated torture, withdrawn troops from Iraq, negotiated a nuclear deal with Iran, pardoned Chelsea Manning, normalized relations with Cuba, and was reducing its military footprint in Afghanistan with complete withdrawal promised for 2014. Al Qaeda was on the run following bin Laden’s assassination and ISIS had yet to emerge. And the Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists’ Doomsday Clock stood at five minutes before midnight, which was sobering but significantly further from Armageddon than many times before.
Things, however, were far from rosy. Warnings about climate change had grown more urgent. NATO’s unabated expansion to Russia’s doorstep and extension of US missile defense in Eastern Europe and the United States’ Asia “pivot” had begun to poison relations with Russia and China. In Syria, Obama’s covert Timber-Sycamore program had breathed life into a moribund insurgency, which, combined with Assad’s brutal response, had left tens of thousands dead and displaced. In Obama’s final year in office, the United States dropped at least 26,172 tons of bombs in seven predominantly Muslim countries and US special forces operated in 138 countries. Obama authorized almost 10 times as many drone strikes as Bush, outspent Bush on the military, brokered far more arms sales overseas, and set new standards for secrecy and prosecution of whistle-blowers.
Now, more than six years later, as we’re about to issue the updated edition of Untold History, with a new chapter covering 2012 through January 2019, we’ve taken pause to reflect on how the world has devolved from dire to truly desperate. The crises that seemed contained or containable in late 2012 have now spiraled out of control, and the prospects for resolving them peacefully look depressingly bleak.
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