Even though the movie came out some twenty years ago, I had never seen it before. It was pretty much what I expected but actually the more I brooded on it, I became angry.
Many will remember the angst of the 1990's as the US and its entertainment industry sought new enemies. The fall of the USSR had eliminated the old stand-by 'bad guy'. The Serbs just couldn't quite fulfill that role.
There were fears of nascent Russian communist-nationalism, more properly identified as Stalinist rather than Marxist-Leninist. There was a lot of uncertainty with regard to Russia and not a few novels and movies portrayed this. Air Force One capitalises on the instability and creates the new/old Russian antagonist.
In this movie, it's a Russian nationalist regime that's taken over Kazakhstan and a subsequent civil war that provides the narrative. In the 1990s it was a plausible scenario, especially in Kazakhstan. The US president is subjected to the horrors of being taken hostage and threatened with violence in order to release the captured nationalist general who it is suggested will quickly topple the movie's stand-in for Yeltsin. The nationalists refer to the Yeltsin figure as an American puppet, which is more true than perhaps the screenwriters knew.
Any hostage situation with executions is horrible to contemplate. Hollywood certainly can make it exciting, setting the action on Air Force One surrounded by exploding KC-10's and F-15's slugging it out with MiG's.
While the nationalist/hostage takers are certainly an immoral lot, the idea that the president of the United States somehow stands for good and freedom is of course obscene. The idea that the US president is a 'noble' figure holding an office worthy of reverence is based on lies and the moral bankruptcy and ignorance of the US audience.
I wonder how many watching the movie in 1997 were aware that the US had subjected not a few foreign leaders to the very same treatment albeit with sometimes less dramatic fanfare?
The Church Committee concluded in 1975 that the United States had been involved in assassination attempts on a multitude of leaders. They didn't officially acknowledge any successful assassinations but this of course is quite silly.
South Korean opposition leader Kim Koo was gunned down in his home in 1949. His assassin was connected to American intelligence.
There were several attempts on the life of Chou-En-lai the Chinese premier. The most famous being the 'Kashmir Princess' incident in 1955 when US and Taiwanese agents attempted to blow up his plane.
There were attempts to assassinate North Korea's Kim Il Sung but it can be argued this was in response to North Korea's attempt to assassinate South Korean military dictator and US puppet Park Chung-hee. Park was ultimately assassinated in 1979 by the head of South Korea's CIA. Not a few believe the American CIA was behind Park's assassination.
During the Iranian coup in 1953, US and British agents attempted to assassinate Mossadegh. They failed but he was ousted and the Shah installed.
In 1960, a few years before the US backed Ferdinand Marcos as president of the Philippines, they (apparently) assassinated opposition leader Claro Recto in Rome. They most certainly had planned his death (by poison) a few years before and the circumstances of his death in 1960 are quite suspicious.
The moral outrage of Russian involvement in the poisoning of Alexander Litvenenko in 2006 doesn't apply to US and Western intelligence agencies. They can poison with impunity.
The US was apparently involved in an attempt to assassinate India's Nehru. This is dated to the mid-1950's. He certainly earned American ire in 1961 when he played an instrumental role in forming the Non-Aligned Movement (NAM) attempting to reject both American and Soviet domination.
The US was most certainly involved in at least one of the attempts to assassinate Egypt's Nasser.
Cambodian leader Norodom Sihanouk was overthrown and there were attempts on his life. The US backed Lon Nol was later overthrown by the Khmer Rouge.
Iraq's Kassem was assassinated/executed in 1963. There are very good reasons to believe the US and British were involved. Ironically it was this coup that brought the Baath party to power. A young Saddam Hussein had been involved in assassination attempt in 1959. Was he working for the Americans? He came to power in the 1970's and officially took over as president of Iraq in 1979.
Costa Rica's Jose Figueres seemed to play all sides at times working with the CIA to assassinate the Dominican Republic's Trujillo and yet at another time the CIA plotted against Figueres. The US has not a few times worked to overthrow and assassinate former allies when they no longer are politically viable. Dead men don't talk.
Trujillo had violated US trust when he worked to assassinate Venezuela's Betancourt. He had to go. His death generated political chaos resulting in LBJ sending in the marines in 1965. In the end Joaquin Belaguer was installed as a US proxy. His authoritarian rule was backed and praised by US leaders.
Francois 'Papa Doc' Duvalier of Haiti faced rebels armed by the United States who worked toward his assassination. This policy was reversed due to events in Cuba.
Despite claims to the contrary the CIA was clearly involved in the humiliation and assassination of Congo's Patrice Lumumba in 1961. His death led to the rule of US backed dictator Mobutu Sese Seko for over thirty years.
Indonesia's Sukarno was subjected to several assassination attempts and was ultimately overthrown by US-backed Suharto. With American assistance Suharto launched the 1965-66 mass killings or more rightly 'genocide' that led to the deaths of somewhere between 500,000 and 1 million people. The US provided money, weapons, communications equipment and intelligence.
Ngo Dinh Diem and his brother were slaughtered in 1963 just weeks before Kennedy was assassinated in Dallas. CIA involvement is still disputed but like the Lumumba incident and others it is acknowledged the US was seeking their assassination. But then when it happened, they denied involvement even though much of the evidence suggests otherwise.
Speaking of November 1963 we could talk about what happened to Kennedy both in terms of the assassination and the subsequent suppression of evidence. But that's beyond the scope of this discussion.
No one disputes the CIA made multiple attempts to murder Fidel Castro throughout the 1960's, but many have forgotten the attempt on his brother Raul in 1965.
The United States collaborated with the French-Algerian OAS in an attempt to assassinate Charles de Gaulle on at least one occasion.
Utilizing the services of Bolivia's fascist government and ex-Nazi Klaus Barbie, the CIA hunted down and killed Argentinean revolutionary Che Guevara in 1967.
Salvador Allende of Chile was almost assassinated in a 1970 CIA connected plot but then was ultimately overthrown in the 1973 coup. The official story states that he committed suicide but there are lingering doubts. The US was also responsible for the death of Chilean general Rene Schneider in 1970, a move deemed necessary in order to set the stage for a military coup.
Omar Torrijos of Panama faced wrath from certain sectors of the United States because of his policies and his move to regain sovereignty over the Panama Canal. He predicted his own death and died in a somewhat mysterious plane crash. Noriega is believed to have been involved and as a regional CIA asset he has always asserted US involvement.
Noriega himself was also the subject of US assassination attempts. He represents a classic case of the US backing and turning against former assets and allies.
We could go on as this account is by no mean exhaustive, but this list sufficiently demonstrates that in the post-war period the US is the rogue nation with the most blood on its hands. These assassinations and attempts have all been at the behest of or under the sanction of the US president. The idea that the men who hold that office are somehow moral exemplars worthy of some kind of special veneration is as I said earlier obscene. These are men who live by the sword. They are unworthy of empathy or tears.
Hollywood is indeed sometimes the workshop of liberal messaging and yet more often than not it is the most effective propaganda outlet the US has in its arsenal. And ironically it doesn't cost much. Producers and directors will happily genuflect before the Pentagon for access to the hardware. The Pentagon learned long ago that sending some jets, tanks and helicopters and some personnel onto movie sets is the best recruiting advertisement they have.
Air Force One was little more than a piece of trash propaganda, a lame action flick that offers nothing. Its whole purpose was to create dramatic action sequences in a patriotic context.
It was a waste of time.