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Posted on Nov 3, 2011
Kasia Anderson: And what about the blowback section?
Oliver Stone: Johnson used that word, yeah, Chalmers Johnson. Wrote wonderful—four books before he died; more than four, but four books come to mind—he died in 2010, just died. But, God, what an elegant writer. And he deals with it very well. But this blowback is inevitable. And he talks about, in that same—the war on terror, he talks about the King David Hotel, of course, and Menachem Begin, the leader of Israel, and how he was one of the first terrorists on a big scale; he brought terrorism to another level with the bombing in Jerusalem. I mean, blowback’s inevitable. And as Chalmers Johnson called it, he called it Nemesis, which is the goddess of retribution in Greek mythology. Inevitably, we’ve committed so many crimes, Johnson is saying the whole 21st century is going to be a series of blowbacks. It’s pretty scary.
Kasia Anderson: I wanted to know, just for our listeners too, if you had a reaction or any statement about Occupy Wall Street and the movements going on, on [both] the domestic and international levels, feeding in somewhat from your conversations that you [and Tariq Ali] had for this book.
Oliver Stone: I made some comments in The New York Times; it’s on DealBook. We had screened “Salvador” the night before at the New York Film Festival’s 25th anniversary. So “Salvador” was done in 1986, and there were street protests all over that movie. And you see the results: The death squads come, and they basically slaughtered, in Central America, the entire protest class. They slaughtered teachers, nuns, bishops, priests and labor union agitators; everybody who was for reform got killed by these death squads.
And I was thinking about these protests in the film, and the next morning I went to Occupy Wall Street, and it was so peaceful. You don’t get a sense there that you’re going to be set upon by machine-gun-toting thugs who are going to cart you off and kill you, you know; there is a sense of security, and that undercuts the concept of the real protests. Seattle ’99 was rougher. But I certainly admire their desire for reform.
But the bankers have to laugh at this, I mean, they’re gonna shrug and keep walking. Nothing is going to affect them except the Volcker bill, which is where it all matters. I was reading today in some article that the Volcker bill was originally three pages by [Paul] Volcker. He wrote a three-page memo that’s now become 250 pages of dense bureaucratic exceptionalism. So it’s very hard to get anything through in this era of lawyers and specialization, but essentially the Glass-Steagall Act has to be restored. So, you know, the bankers—everyone knows what they did wrong. They had a feast, and they partied on other people’s money, basically, and they continue to party, although I think there are some changes.
So, I wish them well, but I don’t know if the culture can change. Because Wall Street is not just Wall Street, it’s also Washington; and that’s a big—I would occupy Washington. I think Washington is the one that needs to be changed the most, but you know, they tried. The Iraq War demonstrations were the biggest ever. More people objected to that war, and yet that was played down and basically trivialized by the media. …
Grab the power. Grab the power. Get it away, and get these people out of office. Democrat, Republican—it makes no difference.
Peter Scheer: That was Oliver Stone speaking to Truthdig’s Kasia Anderson. And we’re back with Truthdig Radio; I’m Peter Scheer, and I’m in the studio with Alan Minsky. Coming up, we’ll hear Tariq Ali’s conversation we had earlier today about President Obama’s decline into Bushdom. And we’ll announce the winner of our Power of Protest Music Contest. … Let’s go to that interview with Tariq Ali.
So you’ve come out with an update to “The Obama Syndrome: Surrender at Home, War Abroad,” which is really an ahead-of-the-curve look at how the Obama presidency is a continuation of W. Bush before it, Clinton before that, H.W. Bush before that. Maybe you want to summarize your thesis for us.
Tariq Ali: Well, my thesis in “The Obama Syndrome” is very simple. Which is that despite the hyped-up promises made by Obama on civil liberties, on health, essentially he has delivered nothing. The only reform is to take the Clinton views on homosexuality, ‘don’t ask don’t tell,’ further and legalize that; that’s good. But you know, on the main issues of world politics the continuity with Bush is quite startling. Escalation of the war in Afghanistan, more drone attacks on Pakistan than during the Bush regime; the promises to close down Guantanamo totally dishonored, and in fact Obama has released fewer people from Guantanamo than Bush did. Small wonder that Bush, on his recent visit to India, and elsewhere, says he’s very pleased with the way Obama is governing the country. He has no disagreements with him. So my book highlights how that happened, why that happened and why Obama is continuing on this path. And why we need a movement to protest against all this.
Peter Scheer: Let me just ask about Guantanamo specifically, because that’s an example that’s often cited. And it’s also something that you know, he claims that Congress, or Congress wasn’t funding the transfer of prisoners, wouldn’t allow him to have trials on United States soil. To what extent is that a defense of Obama?
Tariq Ali: Well, he had a majority in Congress. Both the Senate and the House for the first two years of his office, you know. President’s first two years, with a majority in both houses, is very significant; so he can’t use that as an excuse. You know, within the first 400 days he could have done that; within the first year. This is a campaign pledge, and it’s being implemented. And told his party to vote for it, and had it not voted for it he could have done something else; he could have appealed to the people who elected him, the millions on his supporters’ list, on the Web, and asked them to come out. You know when Roosevelt, during the New Deal, was being disrupted he made direct appeal to the people in his firefight cap. This guy has accepted all this very quickly and is now using it as an excuse, saying I couldn’t do it because of Congress. I don’t accept that.
Peter Scheer: Since you’ve updated the book, have your findings been confirmed? Have they changed at all?
Tariq Ali: Yeah, I’m afraid the findings have been vindicated even more. I don’t say this with a great deal of pleasure, because it’s not nice to be proved right when what is being proved is a disastrous political and economic situation in the United States. So I’m not happy about it, because I know that large numbers of young people had real hopes which have now proved to be complete illusions, in Obama. But I think that’s the way he’s going, and given that the Republicans seem to be in a total mess, unless something unforeseen happens Obama will be re-elected; that’s what I write in the book. But re-elected to carry on as his predecessors, not to do anything new.
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