We continue our extended interview with three-time Academy Award-winning director, producer and screenwriter Oliver Stone. He discusses recent NSA protests, his recent visit to Jeju Island in South Korea to join protests against a planned naval base to house a U.S. missile defense system close to China, and more about the assassination of JFK and his series, The Untold History of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: This is Democracy Now!, democracynow.org, The War and Peace Report. I’m Amy Goodman. Our guest is Oliver Stone, three-time Academy Award-winning filmmaker, famous for many films. Among them—well, he was a Vietnam War veteran—he did Platoon; Born on the Fourth of July; Wall Street; Salvador; Nixon; W. about George W. Bush; South of the Border, a documentary about Latin American leaders; Wall Street and Wall Street 2. Well, now, a commemorative edition of his film JFK has just come out on Blu-ray as the 50th anniversary of JFK’s assassination approaches, November 22nd. Most recently, Oliver Stone co-wrote a 10-part Showtime series called Oliver Stone’s Untold History of the United States, which played on Showtime. Now it’s available on Blue-ray with two extra chapters. He has a book and the many-part series.
Welcome back to Democracy Now!, Oliver.
OLIVER STONE: Thank you, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: You recently went to Jeju Island. Now, most people who are listening have no idea where that is, but it’s in South Korea. You went there in August, World Heritage site, where the government wants to build a naval base to house a U.S. missile defense system close to China. Earlier this year, I spoke with one of those leading the fight against this base. Kang Dong-kyun is the mayor of Gangjeong, a village on Jeju Island in South Korea. Mayor Kang has been arrested many times. He spoke to us through a translator.
MAYOR KANG DONG-KYUN: [translated] The base that’s being build on Jeju Island will not only be used by the South Korean government, but the United States also will be using this base. According to the Status of Forces Agreement between the U.S. and South Korea, the U.S. military base will also use this base. So if this base is completed, I worry that it will lead to another Cold War. So when President Obama meets with Chinese leaders, I hope they will discuss treating each other not through a contest of force, but through peaceful, diplomatic engagement. The major powers have to reduce their military budgets, and in order to do that, they should start by getting rid of military bases on geostrategic islands like Jeju and Okinawa. I hope the U.S. and Chinese governments can make a peace agreement to bring about global peace, resolve problems not through war, but through dialogue and mutual understanding, so that Jeju Islanders and people of the whole planet can live as dignified human beings in harmony with nature.
AMY GOODMAN: That is the mayor of a village on Jeju Island called Gangjeong. Mayor Kang has been arrested many times as he protests the U.S. base that will be built there. Now, why, Oliver Stone, did you go to Jeju Island?
OLIVER STONE: I was on a trip to Nagasaki, Hiroshima and Okinawa, in conjunction with Untold History and commemorating the site of the atomic bombs. So I went to South Korea in addition, because it’s part of the same problem. The United States’s ax—pivot to Asia involves going—once again going back into our Asian positions, which we never gave up after World War II. We held onto Japan, and eventually South Korea, and we armed these countries to the teeth. Now we’ve armed the Philippines. We’ve armed—we’ve made an alliance with Vietnam. Taiwan, we armed with the most sophisticated stealth fighters we have, subs, everything. And Australia—we have troops in Australia. We’re ringing the Chinese border, as we have rung around—have now put NATO bases around Russia. It’s part of our global expansion, and we—to control the world.
So, our mouths are drooling, because one of the best deep-water ports in the world is in Jeju, which is a lovely island, by the way. It’s called—I believe it’s called "the island of peace," is the nickname for it on—a World Heritage site, some of the best waters in the world, beautiful fishing and so forth. And it’s a beauty spot. And, of course, in the heart of this, next to this poor village, where this mayor is very civil, is they’re putting up the ugliest base you’ve ever seen. Every day for five years now, they’ve been building it. Protests have been steady. The nuns, the priests, many of them Catholic, are out there, day by day. The South Koreans are in charge of the base. The Americans have a behind-the-scenes policy. But essentially it’s a deep-water port where we will be able to dock the George Washington aircraft carrier carrying all kinds of nuclear missiles, anti-ballistic missiles. It’s a state-of-the-art aircraft.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to—
OLIVER STONE: And I—one more thing I just want to point out. It’s very important to realize that this is less than 400 kilometers from Shanghai. This is very close. This is really front-line warfare here. I just want to make you aware of how much electronic eavesdropping we can do from this place. We, of course, have huge bases in Japan and Okinawa, but this is a big new advance. I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: You went to a prison there and visited Yang Yoon-mo in the prison—
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —who has been in prison—is the longest-held prisoner protesting this right now.
OLIVER STONE: Is that right?
AMY GOODMAN: Why did you go there?
OLIVER STONE: Yeah. Well, I went—
AMY GOODMAN: To visit him?
OLIVER STONE: I was on the island, and I was introduced to him. He’s a film critic. He was a film critic; he’s not practicing right now. And he was one of the leading lights, and he felt very strongly—Korean people are very emotional about this. This is a—you know, they believe in ancestors, and the burial grounds, there’s a lot of ghosts, a feeling of that. And it’s in their movies. It’s in their culture. This is an island that’s sacred to them. And to use it for this kind of a military is irreligious. It’s—people feel very strongly, and they fight for it. And this guy has been in jail off and on many times, and I believe he’s had hunger fasts of 60 days, 50 days. I was worried for him. He looks good, but—and he’s in that vein of people like Gandhi and Martin Luther King.
AMY GOODMAN: Oliver Stone, what do you think is the—was the most dangerous time in U.S. history, in the period that you have—you have covered in Untold History of the United States?
OLIVER STONE: I think—to be honest, I think the 1960, when Eisenhower had reached that brink, full brink of that—we had that kind of power over the rest of the world. We were 10-to-one over the Soviet Union, 1960 to ’63, when Kennedy inherited that position. It was because of the Cuba and the Berlin situation. And then, after that, I think the Vietnam War, but that was regional.
But then, I think, with Reagan in office and Andropov—Andropov was shocked. In 1983, '84, very close again. Remember when the Korean jetliner went down? There were several miscalculations in that period. And Americans don't know much about it, but there was—we had—we were—Reagan was talking a very aggressive game. He was talking about first strike. He was talking about anti-ballistic missiles. The Soviets were freaked out. They really believe us, the contrary to our own people. They really believed it. And they thought—there was a couple of near accidents when they thought we had launched already. Andropov stopped at the last second. So, there—and then again, in Yeltsin’s period, there was a few mishaps, as you know, but not as dangerous as when Reagan was talking that type of game.
And now, now is very dangerous, because we are back on top, full-spectrum dominance. We have the most deadly capabilities from space, which we are increasing day by day. By 2015, 2020, we should have drones up there. And we don’t sign onto the space treaty that the Soviets and the Chinese want. So, space, cyberwarfare, we’re the leader. Whatever we say about the Chinese, we are the leader. And, of course, cyber—cyberwarfare, space warfare, land, air, sea, full—and now eavesdropping—full-spectrum dominance. This is—when you have first strike ability, you tend to use it. You have to be very careful. That’s what the danger was in 1960. The generals wanted to use it, get rid of the enemy now.
AMY GOODMAN: Oliver Stone, talk about these two projects that you are now just releasing. You’ve got the film, JFK, but the—you’re not just releasing a Blu-ray DVD. You have this limited edition of this box set. Talk about what’s inside.
OLIVER STONE: Well, the—there’s three documentaries, as well as the orginal movie, that was not a great movie, but it’s fun to watch, is PT 109 with Cliff Robertson. It was made in 1960 with Cliff Robertson, very good, but not a great movie. The director’s cut with about 28 extra minutes.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain what you mean by the director’s cut of JFK.
OLIVER STONE: Well, it’s—I released a movie in 1991 that was three hours and nine minutes. This is about three hours and 28 minutes, I believe. So, I have some scenes in there that—because, you know, a DVD, you can watch it at your own pace, it’s a different style than when you want to do it in one theater once. So I added some scenes, including the Johnny Carson show where Garrison went, etc.
Also, what’s very interesting is this Chapter Six is in this box. This is—
AMY GOODMAN: And Chapter Six is the chapter six of Untold History.
OLIVER STONE: Chapter Six is from The Untold History, which is the Kennedy chapter and explains nothing—it doesn’t go into the assassination, because that’s—that is still speculation; we can’t—this is history and documentary, but this goes into all the reasons and the motives for why people might want to get rid of him and eliminate him.
AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. And you have?
OLIVER STONE: Yeah, this is a—you know, the inaugural address, some pictures and a photo correspondence book from the Kennedy Library, and I think here quotations. Look at that. Quotations.
AMY GOODMAN: So this is a limited 50,000 edition pack of this series—
OLIVER STONE: Yeah, nice.
AMY GOODMAN: —that includes JFK, with your director’s cut. And then, at the same time, you’re releasing the Showtime series on Blu-ray DVD, together with the book, Oliver Stone—of course, the book has come out in paperback—with two extra chapters. Talk about the series.
OLIVER STONE: Well, we—it was shown from—on Showtime last year. We started with World War II because we thought that was more accessible to the popular market. The other—the first two chapters go from 1898 to 1940, and they’re very interesting. They set up World War II. And because it’s a whole new set of characters that may not be familiar to people from the World War II era, we decided to lead with our stronger—you know, lead with World War II. But I’m very happy these two chapters are in, because World War I sets up World War II, and you need to know about. And also, in 1898, that’s when America started to really change, because we go on—abroad, looking for markets, under McKinley. The election of 1900 resembles, to some degree, the election of 2000.
AMY GOODMAN: Hmm. I want to go to Reagan. You were just talking about President Reagan. In your book, Untold History of the United States, you have a chapter called "Death Squads for Democracy."
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: This is President Reagan in 1983 giving an address on Central America.
PRESIDENT RONALD REAGAN: [But nearness on the map doesn’t even begin to tell] the strategic importance of Central America, bordering as it does on the Caribbean, our lifeline to the outside world. Two-thirds of all our foreign trade and petroleum pass through the Panama Canal and the Caribbean. In a European crisis, at least half of our supplies for NATO would go through these areas by sea.
AMY GOODMAN: That was President Reagan.
OLIVER STONE: Yeah. It’s interesting you went to a 1983 clip, and that—I was saying that it was the most—one of the most dangerous era. There was a sense that we could almost go to war, because he called them the "evil empire," and he kept taunting them. He was—he realized, at one point—Reagan saw that movie that was on TV, The Day After Tomorrow, which apparently moved him, because he saw that a nuclear war would be pointless and nobody would really be happy with this outcome, and he changed his policy. Also, there was the nuclear freeze movement. Do you remember? There were huge protests. People in America got fed up with this talk and actually went—Randy—what was her name? Randy Fozberg [ sic ]—
AMY GOODMAN: Forsberg, yeah.
OLIVER STONE: —a woman, led this, started this thing.
AMY GOODMAN: He actually met Helen Caldicott. Patti Davis—
OLIVER STONE: Right, right.
AMY GOODMAN: —his daughter, took him—took Helen Caldicott, the leading anti-nuclear physician, to meet with President Reagan.
OLIVER STONE: And they—there was a movement, and it was—Reagan was affected by it. So it showed you that popular demonstrations could have an effect, like they had on Nixon, too, on the Vietnam War.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, talk about that, because you chronicle leaders, but you also talk about—
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —these movements.
OLIVER STONE: Well, some movements have really had an impact. You know, labor had a huge impact, and now, unfortunately, that’s been—largely because of Reagan, it’s been—lost a lot of its impact. The civil rights movement, the women’s movement, the Vietnam War protests affected Nixon deeply. He gauged the degree of bombing to the amount of protest. And, of course, he never could lick it. He never could get around what he wanted. But he was—he would have gone further probably if he had not been pressured by the students.
In the present day, I can think of the Iraq—the Iraq War protests were significant. They were worldwide. Unfortunately, Bush is a hardhead and went ahead, and we backed him. The country—the leading power elite of this country backed him. But it was an important protest. I was very heartened to see last—two weeks ago, there was a protest against the NSA, not a large protest, but a beginnings of showing that people still have a conscience and are willing to walk the streets. We’ve got to get out and get away from our Internets and get out there, too, and get on the streets. We have to show some—some bodies. Although sometimes it might not look like it’s working, who knows? You know, you have to—you have to stand up for your conscience, and it makes a difference.
AMY GOODMAN: Before we wrap up, I wanted to go back to where we began, with JFK, on this 50th anniversary of the assassination of President Kennedy. This is a moment in your film when the nation learns of the assassination of President Kennedy.
JIM GARRISON: [played by Kevin Costner] What’s wrong, Lou?
LOU IVON: [played by Jay O. Sanders] Boss, the president’s been shot. In Dallas, five minutes ago.
JIM GARRISON: Oh, no! How bad?
LOU IVON: There’s no word yet, but they think it’s in the head.
JIM GARRISON: Come on. Napoleon’s has a TV set.
NEWS ANCHOR: Apparently, three bullets were found. Governor Connally also appeared to have been hit. The president was rushed by Secret Service to Parkland Memorial Hospital, four miles from Dealey Plaza. We are told a bullet entered the base of the throat and came out of the back side, but there is no confirmation. Blood transfusions are being given. A priest has administered the last rights.
JIM GARRISON: There’s still a chance, damn it. Come on, Jack. Pull through.
WALTER CRONKITE: From Dallas, Texas, the flash apparently official, President Kennedy died at 1:00 p.m. Central Standard Time, 2:00 Eastern Standard Time, some 38 minutes ago. Vice President Lyndon Johnson has left the hospital. Presumably, he will be taking the oath of office shortly and become the 36th president of the United States.
AMY GOODMAN: Of course, that was Walter Cronkite announcing the death of President Kennedy in the film, Oliver Stone’s JFK. Who did kill JFK, do you think? Who were the forces involved?
OLIVER STONE: In history, we talk about the forces that were—who had hated him. And he took on—he fired the head of the CIA, who was—had carte blanche in Washington. That was Allen Dulles. He was a brother of John Foster Dulles, who was the very all-powerful secretary of state for Eisenhower. He launched coups and interventions in many countries, most successfully in Iran and in Guatemala. But he did try in Indonesia to get rid of Sukarno, who was one of the leading neutralists of the time. Dulles said that neutrality was immoral, and—because people were trying to live between the Soviet Union and the United States. Eisenhower was very embarrassed by the Indonesian—they found a CIA pilot. Typical story, you know, like the Reagan story. This CIA pilot was found, Allen Pope. And then, after that, they—in Vietnam, we supported the French. We also undermined the peace agreement, worked against it, so that there were no elections in Vietnam to solve that problem in 1950—a lot of bad stuff. Angola. We tried to poison Patrice Lumumba. We failed, but he was killed by other forces. But we were—
AMY GOODMAN: In the Congo.
OLIVER STONE: Yeah, but we must—we play a large role, of course, in supporting the Belgians there. There was also many others we don’t have time to get into. But Eisenhower was—although he looked like a grandfather, he was all over the place. He was—he didn’t believe in Third World freedom. He didn’t believe in the concept that colonialism could be defeated. Eisenhower was into the money, the Republican Party, maintaining our hold on the resources of the world. He always talked about the domino theory: If Vietnam went, we would lose Japan, etc., none of which happened, but a big believer in rolling back communism.
AMY GOODMAN: Lee Oswald was killed—
OLIVER STONE: He was killed. He said, "I’m a patsy."
AMY GOODMAN: —by Jack Ruby.
OLIVER STONE: "I’m just a patsy." We show—we have numerous clips of him stating that to the press. He didn’t know what he was held for. He told—he had been told he had murdered an officer, which he claimed not to have done. And there’s ample evidence, we believe, that he wasn’t even at that site, because it was geographically too far away at that time. It’s disgusting. I mean, it’s the guy who has to be killed before he can get to a press conference. He was on his way to a long press conference.
AMY GOODMAN: And the man who killed him, Jack Ruby?
OLIVER STONE: Jack Ruby was a mob-related guy in big trouble with them. He owed the IRS like $140 grand, and he—that was—they say that was the reason that he was forced to do this. And he was known to the Dallas police. He had access, and he got in. It was a corrupt police force. And they never kept a record of what Oswald said, you know, that—all the records of what Oswald was talking about.
AMY GOODMAN: Explain.
OLIVER STONE: Yeah. Well, Oswald was trying to reach a legal—he was trying to reach out for a lawyer. He says it in one of his press conference, brief one in the corridor. He said, "Will someone out there"—he wanted to reach this guy in New York.
AMY GOODMAN: And he said, "I’m a patsy."
OLIVER STONE: He tried to get the ONI office, the Office of Naval Intelligence in—I believe it was in South Carolina. And they—he had a long phone conversation. One of those—we’d love to know that file. And the second call was unreturned, to the ONI.
AMY GOODMAN: And explain the nexus of intelligence—
OLIVER STONE: Office of Naval Intelligence, yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —right, ONI—
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —right next to the CIA. Explain—
OLIVER STONE: Well, that’s another thing. There’s so many ends. Yeah, ONI was in New Orleans in that square next to where the FBI, the CIA were. ONI was a very old-fashioned, loyal—Banister was an ONI guy. Banister—there’s too many names to go through, but ONI had—may well have been the guy who—but what’s really very current and fresh is Jeff Morley of the—ex-Washington Post, who’s onto this. You know, he’s—the CIA swore the Assassination Records Review Board that they were holding still like 1,200-1,100 documents about some CIA people that are of great interest. And these are thousands of pages. They are about people like James Jesus Angleton. Angleton was the head of counterintelligence. He was a very weird, interesting figure. Dulles, although he had been fired from government, was still a god to these people. He was the man. He’d been fired by Kennedy. He called Kennedy: "That son of a bitch thinks he’s a god. That little son of a bitch thinks he’s a god." Angleton was a guy inside the government who could pull off things. Ed Lansdale is another interesting character who, many people, Fletcher Prouty included, believe, was at the assassination that day, because there’s a picture that is—many people believe, is him there. The—James Angleton; Richard Helms, deputy director, is another one who Morley would like to have a file on; George Joannides, the Miami station chief; David Phillips, the Mexico City chief; Anne Goodpasture; E. Howard Hunt and David Morales. These two, last two, were, by their own admission, seem to be involved in—and on their deathbeds were saying that they were very proud of the fact that they got rid of Kennedy, had been part of that.
AMY GOODMAN: And you got to film right in—
OLIVER STONE: But we can’t get the files on those people.
AMY GOODMAN: Because they’re still closed.
OLIVER STONE: Yeah. And Mr. Harvey. Don’t forget William Harvey, who was head of the Miami station until he was fired because he hated Kennedy. He was another Curtis LeMay of his time, so much was drunk, they got rid of him. But he was a very interesting character. You were asking? I’m sorry.
AMY GOODMAN: You filmed in Dallas. They let you.
OLIVER STONE: Dallas, we filmed—Dallas, yes, we got into Dallas at that time, by the skin of our teeth. We got Dealey Plaza. And we—they were—we had a—yeah, we shot on the seventh floor, I believe, but we—because there was a museum, but that’s—it’s a good reproduction. And we talked to—you know, at the end of the day, we must have talked to 75 or a hundred people who were there that day. So, we have as good a record as anyone of having—
AMY GOODMAN: And to those who criticize you, like Anthony Lewis, right? The late Anthony Lewis of The New York Times —
OLIVER STONE: Yeah.
AMY GOODMAN: —who said, quote, "Every specific charge made in the movie similarly ignores extensive, for me dispositive, evidence. It gives weight to witnesses long since discredited. It does not mention the scientific findings that Oswald’s gun fired the bullets that hit President Kennedy and Gov. John Connally." And more recently, Chicago Tribune published an article by Cory Franklin, who wrote, quote, "'JFK' is powerful. However, it is far removed from historical accuracy. Whatever Stone’s motives, the movie is full of distortions and outright falsehoods. The result features real historical characters in a crime-fiction fantasy, essentially a propaganda piece meant to demonize a covert, evil, right-wing paramilitary group." Your response to that last comment, Oliver Stone?
OLIVER STONE: I—you know, I just have to sit down, ad hoc, be specific. Let’s go over the bullets. Let’s go over the wounds. Let’s go—I mean, I’d like to sit with my—I’d like to have two experts with me, and we’ll talk with anybody who comes. Vincent Bugliosi has written this book, huge amount of pages. But he’s a prosecutor, and he’s gone about it as a prosecutor. But I think Robert Groden and Cyril Wecht could argue him down, and Gary Aguilar. These are good people, and they have no—there’s no profit in this. They’re doing it because they care. These are only citizens. I don’t know what Lewis’s bug is, but I know that Lewis, when the Warren Commission came out, which is huge, he approved it right away. You know, he didn’t—I don’t know that he really examined the case that they were presenting.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, I want to thank you so much for being with us. JFK now comes out in a limited edition Blu-ray, as well as little pamphlets, books and more.
OLIVER STONE: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: That’s Kevin Costner in JFK, made by Oliver Stone. Also, his series, The Untold History of the United States both in book and in DVD form.
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