The Dangerous Myths Surrounding World War II and How They Have Contributed to the Existential Crises Facing Humanity Today

Monday, December 7, 2020 - 1:00pm
Peter Kuznick

Written history is a story of the past. But whose past and told from whose point of view? Who has the power to define a past – a past that justifies their power? In many ways, the story tellers who write our history are myth makers. And through those myths they shape our present understandings.

This date, December 7 marks the anniversary of the bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941. This event launched the United States into World War II and onto the world stage. Now eight decades later we can look at the myths that have surrounded that war. They are important to examine critically today because they contribute to our present crises.

To assist us in this interrogation is noted historian Peter Kuznick. An iconoclastic scholar, Kuznick is well known for his collaboration with film maker Oliver Stone in the series “Untold History of the United States.” The book version has been published in German, French, Romanian, Turkish. Japanese and Chinese. Kuznick is a professor at American University where he directs its Nuclear Studies Institute. Every summer, since 1995, he has taken Institute students on a study-abroad class in Kyoto, Hiroshima, and Nagasaki. The Institute was named the most creative and innovative summer program in North America.

Kuznick was active in the Civil Rights and anti-Vietnam War movements and remains active in antiwar and nuclear abolition efforts. In 2003, Kuznick organized a group of scholars, writers, artists, clergy, and activists to protest the Smithsonian's celebratory display of the Enola Gay at the Smithsonian Air and Space Museum annex. He has authored numerous books on nuclear policy, Cold War culture, and is a critic of US foreign policy. His current projects include a book on scientists and the Vietnam War and another that looks at how the evolving understanding that nuclear war could lead to annihilation of all life on the planet has shaped the behavior and views of military strategists, policymakers, and the public.