Tuesday, January 02, 2007

Historical ineptitude from Hollywood

Dean Barnett discusses a blatantly inept rewriting of history in the film "The Good Shepard":
[The scene in question] involves the American interrogation of a Russian officer who wants to defect to the United States. Up until that point, “The Good Shepherd” has had no action scenes or incidents of violence. Yes, that’s right – the movie made it through World War II and the initial days of the Cold War without anything resembling excitement. The Soviet defector’s identity is suspect, and it is a matter of some import that the CIA determine whether or not he’s on the level.

The American interrogation squad, led by a CIA henchman portrayed by John Turturo, plays rough with their new-found asset. Turturo begins with a couple of graphic punches that shatter the guy’s face. From there, things get a little weird.

The guy is stripped naked. The CIA men then put a black hood over his head and proceed to waterboard him. After that, when the guy is still saying stuff that his American interrogators believe to be false, they give him some LSD.

After the waterboarding and the LSD, we know that the Soviet will be honest. And so he spills the beans, beans that we know are true because they are the result of mind-altering drugs and medieval torture. He tells us that the Soviet Union is a paper tiger. Everything is rusting and there are no spare parts. The country is no threat to the United States. Yet the United States has to treat the Soviet Union as a bona fide threat for the well-being of our domestic military-industrial complex.
The obvious criticism of this scene is that it is contemporary liberal propaganda anachronistically and quite ludicrously rewritten into a portrayal of past events. The argument here (paralleling the liberal case against the 2003 Iraq war) is that since the Soviet Union is not an "immediate threat" to the United States, the United States has no moral grounds for initiating a conflict with the Soviet Union. Thus anyone profitting from an arms buildup in preparation for an attack on the Soviet Union is an evil, anti-American, anti-democratic fascist warmonger.

There may have been some small residue of public opinion in the 1940s and 1950s that would have believed something like this. But the vast mainstream of public opinion in that era would have believed that the Soviet Union was an immediate threat to the United States because the Soviet Union was an immediate threat to NATO. The last thing that practically any American on the political right of the Communist Party would have wanted in the 1950s was for the Soviet Union to win a unified, communist, anti-Western Germany for the Eastern Bloc. NATO was an essential part of America's strategy for keeping that from happening. Besides, if Americans in the 1950s didn't think that Soviet agression against Western Europe was the paramount military threat to the United States, wouldn't General Douglas MacArthur have been elected the 34th President of the United States?


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