Wednesday, September 10, 2008

Dr. Strangelove: The Secret Government

In Stanley Kubrick's masterpiece Dr. Strangelove, the every day operations of a powerful and secret government are unearthed. Digging deep under the surface of what the public sees of the government, planes fly constantly around the globe armed with nuclear weapons to be released by any small whim or mishap. Painting the true picture of how the U.S. government functions, Kubrick indicts the ruling elite, presenting their pettiness and disregard for the consequences of their actions which all too often seem to them only like child's play.

With cinematography that evokes the magnitude of government power, and the arrogance which drives men to make decisions of insane proportions, Dr. Strangelove presents for once to the people the corrupt system which watches over us, and keeps all beholden to its jurisdiction.

As the President invites global leaders to his military discussion, and those as the top Soviet leadership, the leader resembles once Presidential hopeful Adlai Stevenson, who strongly supported of the United Nations and international cross-government decision making. In a situation all too similar to today, the President assures his own staff of the soundness of working hand-in-hand with criminal totalitarian regimes to assure mutual benefit. Not only in theory, but the President even urges the Soviet leaders on the hot-line to shoot down his own U.S. aircraft, knowing well that the nuclear bomb drops on the USSR are commenced without a chance for return. The madness displayed by the US government is well documented in this film. Even the major generals, who are regarded as all-knowing and always prepared, seem to have higher priorities than assume their duty. One is held up by his young sexy bikini-clad maiden urging him back to bed. But while this general is preoccupied for personal reasons, others supersede their own Commander-In-Chief to launch wars of aggression, only based on so-called requests from the divine.

Also, LBJ makes his appearance in the aircraft, skidding along the clouds on his way to drop bombs. Adorned with a ten gallon cowboy hat, the Texan, once the most careful of the entire crew to enter such combat, submerges into a rage of misinformation and pledges himself to the cause of destroying others for "people of all creed, gender and color". Such a reference to LBJ and his war-filled vision of an equal America must not be overlooked.

Then, Dr. Strangelove appears. His crippled frail body sits straight in a wheelchair, his eyes darkened by the tint of his sunglasses. In his mad fits of the mind, Dr. Strangelove, the advisor, the secret mover behind the scenes, lets out his plan to let the world spiral into nuclear annihilation as long as the privileged government few could live underground in tunnels for over 500 years. Much like Dr. Kissinger, Strangelove gives off an unsuspecting but eery scent. Although he has the most powerful position in planning policy, he is the most withdrawn from the actual functioning picture and as well the least accountable for the happenings in reality. Much like today's Karl Rove, Paul Wolfowitz or Bill Kristol, or yesteryear's Josef Goebbels, Dr. Strangelove is an evil theoretician, whose mad rants into insanity can only lead to death and destruction.

After all the wrangling and fear and confusion over whether war could not be stopped, it is clear that these very organizations and preventive measures the governments have taken in name of the People, have only worked to destroy the society it set out to protect. The movie reminds us of this essential theme with its last montage of US dropped nuclear weapon tests. It gives the audience a haunting after-image to show the inevitable end of such fruitless endeavors.

To echo the words of David Byrne, "We're going boom, boom, boom, and that's the way we live. We're going boom, boom, boom, and that's the way we live. And then a real big boom, and that's the way we live."

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