Saturday, July 12, 2014

Dr. Strangelove: A Strange and Terrible Glimpse Into the Deep State Part II

Welcome to the second installment in my examination of Stanley Kubrick's classic "nightmare comedy" Dr. Strangelove: Or How I Learned To Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb. During the first part of this series I briefly addressed Kubrick's legacy as well as some of the more popular conspiracy theories surrounding a few of the director's most revered films. I also briefly addressed the background of Dr. Strangelove, noting that one of its screenwriters (Peter George, who also wrote the novel upon which the film was based) had been a British intelligence officer while another (Terry Southern) seems to have been involved with the notorious "Laurel Canyon scene" David McGowan chronicled in Weird Scenes Inside the Canyon. Finally, some of the parallels between Dr. Strangelove and the Kennedy White House where also addressed, most notably a certain incident that unfolded during the Cuban missile crisis that may have partly inspired the film's plot line.

the two writers who collaborated with Kubrick on Strangelove's script, Peter George (top) and Terry Southern (bottom), both had curious and highly suggestive backgrounds
With this installment I would like to do a run down Strangelove's major characters, as many of them are both symbolically loaded and witty political commentary on major personalities of the day (even if the film's disclaimer states otherwise, which was apparently added at the insistence of Columbia Pictures). This installment will be written from the perspective that the reader has already seen the film, so spoilers will abound. It is strongly recommended that one familiarize them-self with Strangelove's plot line as well as the first installment of this series to get the most out of this article. This is especially true of the elite power structure outlined in part one and which is addressed heavily at the end of this article. Now, with those disclaimers out of the way, on to the characters.

Let us start with Major T.J. "King" Kong (Slim Pickens). Originally Kong was supposed to be played by star Peter Sellers as one of the four roles he was scheduled to perform in the film. Stories have varied over the years as to why Sellers dropped out of this part, but it seems to have been some combination of struggling with the character's Texas accent (at one point screenwriter Terry Southern, a Texan, recorded himself reading the lines to give the British Sellers something to go by) and an injury Sellers sustained very early in shooting the part.

After Sellers dropped out of the role veteran Western actor Slim Pickens was brought in and the rest, as they say, is history. Major Kong riding a nuclear bomb bronco style as it heads for a target in the Soviet Union (and spurring Doomsday in the process) is still one of the most iconic images in cinema history.

On the one hand Kong is chthonic figure surrounded by sexual innuendos. His name is of course a reference to the film King Kong, whose name sake was in turn an expression of white fears over the "primal" nature of black sexuality. Kubrick seems to have some fun incorporating this racist stereotype into the the character's central symbolism.
"The B-52 is phallic, particularly in its indefatigable race to coitus. ('What's the nearest target of opportunity?' King shouts.) 'King' Kong himself is a movie symbol of primitive, civilization-destroying lust. His bombs are labeled with two notorious sexual salutations: Hi There! (a homosexual advance) and Dear John (salutation of letter breaking off an affair). Kong plunges towards the target on the phallic bomb with a yowl of ecstasy. The detonation is the film's own climax."
(The Cinema of Stanley Kubrick, Norman Kagan, pg.137) 
yes, the bomb he rides is the one featuring "Hi There!" written on it
Besides the obvious homosexual innuendo of "Hi There!" written on Kong's oh-so-phallic nukes, there are numerous other such allusions throughout the B-52 scenes. There are also a few allusion to transsexuality as well (the emergency kits each member of the crew is given before the bomb run inexplicably features several pairs of nylon stockings and a few lipsticks). These things combined with Kong's association as an agent of destruction somewhat link him to the mythological concept of the Egyptian god Set.
"Set is polymorphously perverse. He'll have sex with anything. He'll do his mother if he could. He is the symbol of unbridled lust, which is characterized as evil, vulgar, rapacious, etc. by his parents. Sexuality is the first thing societies control and legislate. It is the one power that, if unchecked, can topple governments, impeach presidents, destroyed careers. Sex must be tied, like Set, to the prow of the Ship of State or the Ship of Saint Peter... or just the Ship of Fools.
"Set and Shiva the hangout. Both are wild men, living in the wilderness. Shiva of is the Lord of Destruction, with Brahma (the Lord of Creation) and Vishnu (Lord of Preservation) forming a holy Sanskrit Trinity. Set spilled his seed, and so did Shiva."
(The Dark Lord, Peter Levenda, pg. 289)
the dreaded Set
In this context it is interesting to note that Kubrick alludes to sexual repression being a driving factor behind much of the bizarre behavior displayed by Strangelove's characters throughout the film. But more on that later.

The Kong character is also effectively meant to embody the American pioneer, and Kubrick presents one of the most well known archetypes of this sort with Kong: the cowboy. Indeed, once the B-52 has been given the order to attack the Soviet Union Kong donnes a cowboy hat (which he seemingly kept in the plane's safe with top secret documents) for the mission. Throughout the film he shows the kind of heartiness, ingenuity, initiative, and determination displayed by the American pioneers that were instrumental in launching Manifest Destiny.

On the flip side of the coin, he also displays the dark side of Manifest Destiny, namely a blind commitment to an ideology and idea that ultimately results in genocide on an epic scale. But moving along.

The name of the Soviet ambassador, Alexei de Sadeski (Peter Bull), is quite interesting. Clearly it is meant to be a reference to the notorious Marquis de Sade. De Sade has of course acquired an interesting reputation over the years, though modern depictions of the Marquis are typically heavily romanticized. The man himself had quite a dark side.
"The Encyclopaedia Britannica provides the following assessment of the Marquis: 'de Sade is to some an incarnation of absolute evil, who advocates the unleashing of instincts even to the point of crime. Others have looked upon him as a champion of total liberation through the satisfaction of his desires in all forms...
"Perhaps the most cogent analysis of those writings was provided by Alex Steiner, a contributor to the World Socialist Web Site. Steiner noted that the 'clearest formulation of de Sade's philosophy appears in his Philosophy in the Bedroom [which] features a philosophical interlude.' Within that interlude lies a 'philosophical defense, argued in the language of the Enlightenment, but not, of course, in the spirit of the Enlightenment, that presents a justification for incest, rape, murder and cruelty.' That interlude is said to have been published separately in 1848, under the title 'Yet Another Effort, Frenchmen, If You Would Become Republicans.' It was intended for distribution as a political manifesto. Among other things, the tract contained a 'defense of murder as legitimate civil activity used to weed out the weaker members of society.' Steiner also noted that writer and film director Pier Paolo Pasolini saw 'in de Sade the antecedents of fascism.' One of the defining characteristics of de Sade's philosophy was his 'view of society as composed of atomistic individuals potentially engaged in a war of all against all,' which is, of course, precisely the direction in which Western society is being driven."
(Programmed to Kill, David McGowan, pgs. 342-343)
de Sade
In this context its interesting that Kubrick would assign a name echoing the Marquis to a Russian character (indeed, the only Russian actually scene on screen throughout the entire film). But as the final frames of the film allude to, the Soviet Union was more than willing to use former Nazis and fascists towards their own end. More on this once I begin breaking down the film's plot line.

the Soviet ambassador
De Sade's writings (and possibly his real life exploits) also echo the later, romanticized concept of the modern day serial killer. This may have been a conscious reference on Kubrick's part as another major character, General Jack D. Ripper (Sterling Hayden), is also named after a notorious serial killer. Self proclaimed "revisionist historian" (and fascist sympathizer) Michael A. Hoffman II has long associated an occult significance to the concept of "serial murder."
"... Arcadia was an exceedingly antique region of Greece, which predated the rise of the city states of Athens and Sparta. Arcadia was an ecological paradise, existing before Terra ran down with the thermodynamic of pollution and decay. Arcadia's principal attributes are pastoral, romantic and feminine and its principal symbol is the underground, specifically an underground gnosis symbolized by a subterranean river.
"In Arcadia the reign of the Mother Goddess survived longer than in any other area of Greece. She was personified by Demeter, the goddess of grain. To bring present-day humanity into the time of vegetative Arcadia, in occult lore, requires human sacrifice; that is, ceremonial immolation, or as it is known in modern parlance, 'serial murder.' The dreaming mind of the Group Mind, upon hearing the words 'serial murder' or pronouncing them in conversation, is not perceiving them in the textual abstract, but in the oral-primal, the phonetic domain of dreams. Therefore what is being invoked in the mind of the masses when the word, 'serial murder' are broadcast, is not 'serial' murder, but cereal murder.
"Demeter, the goddess of Arcadia, is alternatively known as Ceres, from whence the word cereal is derived..."
(Secret Societies and Psychological Warfare, Michael A. Hoffman II, pg. 177)
Curiously, the tale of Oedipus seems to echo this bizarre association of Ceres (who is a variation of the Great Mother), in her personification as the crone and witch goddess Hecate (a Threefold Goddess), with "serial/cereal" killers.
"... As Oidipous journeyed into exile from his 'foreign' homeland, on the road from Delphi to Thebes, he met Laios – and perhaps Iokasta as well –, at a parting of the pathway: such forks in the road afford a traveler the opportunity to change direction; and since it is always possible to shift into a vertical journey there, each was considered an Entrance (limen), and was under the jurisdiction of the terrible mother goddess Hekate, who represented all three aspects of the Queen, together in one body, as Maiden, Mother, and Witch. The exact spot is still pointed out to tourists today, as the mountain pass called 'Divide' or 'Three Roads.' When Oidipous, returning from his 'Foreign' Sojourn, came up to Laios at the divide, the 'king' was riding (with Iokasta) in a horse-drawn chariot, driven by his henchmen Polyphontes, the 'Serial Killer.' There was room for travelers and only one direction at a time; and Laios plunged forward, driving his chariot right over Oidipous's foot (as if this were still the moment of the infant's maiming and exposure), and he even treated the 'foreigner' like a horse, striking him in the head with his goad as he drove down by..."
"Oidipous retaliated by killing Laios and his 'Serial Killer,' making the sacrificers into their own victims. (Remember that this all took place on the road to Delphi, to and fro, and up and down, where the old Apollo maintained a slaughterous henchmen called the 'Knife.') And then Oidipous took possession of the Queen, perhaps right there on the spot, as she raged in maenadic grief on the mountainside..."
(The World of Classical Myth, Carl A.P. Ruck and Danny Staples, pg. 251) 
Oedipus murdering Laius
The mysterious figure of Polyphontes (of whom there are several in Greek mythology) is seemingly referred to as a "Serial Killer" by Ruck and Staples due to the literal meaning of his name (in the The Greek Myths Robert Graves translates Polyphontes as "murderer of many"). The scenario outlined above certainly echoes Hoffman's concept of the "cereal killer": Oedipus slays his father and his serial killer henchman at a three-way crossroads, thus performing a sacrifice to Hecate. Hecate in turn is the Crone/Witch to Demeter/Ceres' Great Mother.

Of course, the concept of the serial killer was hardly a pop culture staple in 1964 when Strangelove was released and certainly not while it was going through pre-production (the earliest public use of the phrase "serial killer" was in the 1966 book The Meaning of Murder). However, what is now referred to as a serial killer was sometimes called a "mass murderer" during this era, which may have been Kubrick's inspiration. Certainly General Jack D. Ripper conspires to be a mass murderer on an epic scale while the Russian ambassador (who is named after an author who wrote glowingly of mass murder) is the one tasked with explaining the Soviet Union's Doomsday Machine, a tool of mass murder. At one point during the film President Muffley (Peter Sellers) tells General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott): ""General Turgidson, I will not go down in history as the greatest mass murderer since Adolf Hitler." But I digress.

The two chief historical inspirations for the character of General Jack D. Ripper seem to have been General Edwin Walker and General Curtis LeMay. LeMay was a figure whom was briefly addressed in part one of this series when discussing a certain incident involving an American U-2 spy plane in the midst of the Cuban missile crisis that may have dramatically escalated the situation. Of all the Joint Chiefs of Staff during the Cuban missile crisis, LeMay was by far the most militant. He adamantly denounced Kennedy's decision to blockade Cuba instead of launching a full scale invasion. This led to one of the most heated exchanges on the American side during the Cuban missile crisis.
"On October 19, Kennedy had a meeting with the Joint Chiefs of Staff. Kennedy got into a back and forth with the hawkish Air Force General Curtis LeMay. LeMay was infamous for his firebombing strategies of Japanese cities, which left tens, perhaps hundreds of thousands of civilians dead. LeMay frowned upon the blockade option. He also looked askance on Kennedy's worry that if he invaded Cuba, Khrushchev would take over West Berlin. LeMay predicted the opposite effect: 'If we don't do anything in Cuba, then they're going to push on Berlin and push real hard because they've got us on the run.' LeMay, who was never one to mince words, then went even further. To show his utter disdain for the blockade concept, the World War II veteran actually brought up something rather bizarre. He said, 'The blockade and political action, I see leading into war... This is almost as bad as the appeasement at Munich.' LeMay was now comparing Kennedy's preference for the blockade with Neville Chamberlain's giving away the Sudetenland to the Nazis, which encouraged Hitler to invade Poland. Although not expressing themselves in such extreme figures of speech, the rest of the chiefs of staff agreed with LeMay. LeMay them brought up Kennedy's September 13 comment about how seriously he would take the Russians making an offensive base out of Cuba, 'I think that a blockade, and political talk, would be considered by a lot of our friends and neutrals as being a pretty weak response to this. And I'm sure a lot of our own citizens would feel that way too. You're in a pretty bad fix, Mr. President.' To which Kennedy replied that unless he had not noticed, LeMay was in there with him. Before Kennedy left he closed with, 'I appreciate your views. These are unsatisfactory alternatives.'
"As startling as this dialogue was, what followed after Kennedy left the room equaled it. Marine Commandant David Shoup told LeMay, 'You pulled the rug right out from under him. Goddamn. LeMay laughed and said, 'Jesus Christ. What the hell do you mean?' Shoup replied with, 'He finally got around to the word "escalation." That's the only goddamn thing that is the whole trick. Go in and get out and get every goddamn one.' To which LeMay replied, 'That's right.'"
(Destiny Betrayed, James DiEugenio, pgs. 63-64)
General LeMay
While I've been unable to determine who dispatched the ill-advised U-2 flight, LeMay or one of his underlings would certainly make a prime candidate. While the bulk of the Joint Chiefs were upset by Kennedy's handling of the Cuban missile crisis, LeMay seems to have been down right disgusted. "Incidentally", he would be flown in specially to attend JFK's autopsy (for more on LeMay's part in the Kennedy assassination, check here).

While LeMay's real life actions may have partly inspired Ripper, his fanatical anti-Communism and conspiratorial world view was clearly modeled upon that of General Edwin Walker, another figure long linked to the Kennedy assassination (I wrote briefly on his involvement before here). Walker would first come to the public's attention in 1961 when he issued a manifesto declaring that communism was a "satanic enemy of mankind" and that it "must be destroyed by a concentrated and determined effort of all God's people." Shortly thereafter it was revealed that he had been indoctrinating his troops with literature provided by the John Birch Society, the organization from which virtually a modern day libertarian-centric conspiracy theories originate.
"No element of the John Birch Society's efforts at influence drew greater fire than the revelation, by the U.S. military newspaper Overseas Weekly, that a high-ranking Army officer was using Birch books and magazines to attempt to 'indoctrinate' U.S. troops stationed in Europe. The Walker controversy broke several months before Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman William Fulbright made public his controversial memo on the influence of elite right-wing groups on the National War College. That Major General Edwin A. Walker, a World War II and Korean War hero then commanding the Twenty-Fourth Infantry Division, could be extending the military's Cold War ideological training program for soldiers to include the John Birch Society's worldview was intolerable to many government leaders. Walker was denounced on the floor of the U.S. Senate when Senator William Proxmire (D-WI) called for the general's dismissal and said the incident showed that the fight against communism should be handled by 'intelligent' people and not left to 'morons.' Days later, the Army relieved Walker of his command in Germany, and several months later Walker resigned.
"At the time of the Walker case, the New York Times noted that the General was operating within the mandates of standing National Security Council policy calling for a full-scale Cold War mobilization at all levels of the government. The Defense Department had been ordered to educate troops on 'national security' concerns; commanding officers were provided with literature and audio-visual material and required to report regularly on their training activities. According to the New York Times, Walker's 'special warfare' training program was not the only one in which overzealous military personnel charged the U.S. government itself with communist subversion."
(Roads to Dominion, Sara Diamond, pg. 57)
General Walker
Kubrick hints throughout Strangelove that the anti-communist indoctrination the U.S. Military employs is all to effective, as shall be addressed in greater depth when I begin breaking down the film's plot line. Before leaving Walker, its also interesting to note that he was likely a closet homosexual (Walker was arrested more than once for "lewd" behavior in a men's restroom). Kubrick hints throughout Strangelove that Ripper is a closet homosexual (must amusingly via his perpetual sucking upon his phallic cigars) and that his breakdown stems from his repressed sexuality.

Before moving along a word should be said about the man who played General Jack D. Ripper, namely Sterling Hayden. Hayden was a colorful figure who first gained onscreen success by starring in gritty film noir pics throughout the 1950s, most notably The Asphalt Jungle (1950) and Kubrick's own The Killing (1956). Later on he would become an acclaimed character actor after his role in Strangelove and other high profile films such as The Godfather. That Hayden's career would remain so vibrant throughout the 1950s is a bit surprising, however, as he was briefly a member of the Communist Party during the late 1940s and the early part of the following decade. Eventually he cooperated with the House of Un-American Activities and named names for the Committee, though he later insisted all the names he gave up were already in the Committee's possession.

Many actors, directors, screenwriters and so forth had their careers destroyed for far less, but Hayden was seemingly little effected by these choices. This might have been due to the fact that, during WWII, Hayden had served in the OSS (the predecessor organization the CIA) under William "Wild Bill" Donovan himself (at one point Hayden reportedly claimed that it had been Donovan who had suggested he become an actor in the first place). Donovan is an interesting figure. Despite being closely associated with the Wall Street establishment (which in turn is under the thumb of the Anglo-American Establishment discussed in part one) throughout his life Donovan, a Catholic, was also a member of the Sovereign Military Order of Malta. As one of the most reactionary organizations of the modern era, this indicates that Donovan would have also had ties to what can aptly be described as the "Reich Wing" Establishment. I've discussed these ties before here.

"Wild Bill"
Hayden turned in the performance of his career as Ripper and arguably upstaged even Peter Sellers in Strangelove. But then again, he likely would have been well placed to know the type of individuals he was parodying. As for his time in the OSS, it was seemingly every bit as adventurous as the characters he frequently played. He used the name "Josh Hamilton" for this endeavor. Of his OSS exploits, The Washington Post noted:
"He left nine years of seafaring and his early Hollywood acting career to join the Marine Corps and the OSS under the assumed name of John Hamilton in 1941. His mastery of the seas -- he was first mate on a schooner voyage around the world in 1936 and captained a ship from Gloucester, Mass., to Tahiti in 1939 -- led OSS officials to have him set up secret shipping operations based in Italy. He was attacked by the Germans and operated behind enemy lines in Croatia...
"From a promotion recommendation for Hayden in April 1944, contained in the roughly 85 pages of his OSS file: 'Lt. Hamilton conducted a reconnaissance of the Dalmation Islands to plot alternate shipping routes in event of German invasion, which then was starting. He was strafed by German planes, and . . . conducted himself in a brave manner.'"
By all accounts Hayden was a fine sailor. In point of fact, he routinely expressed disdain for acting and long insisted that he only did it to pay for his boats and extended voyages. It seems that throughout his life Hayden put his film career on hold and departed on one of his ships for an extended voyage that some times lasted for years. But moving along.

Generals LeMay and Edwin Walker have also been cited as inspirations for the character of General Buck Turgidson (George C. Scott, who also appeared in two of Recluse's favorite and most esoterically-laden supernatural horror films: The Changeling and The Exorcist III) though there are other possible candidates. One is General Nathan Twining, another far right wing Air Force man who served as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff under Eisenhower. Certainly Scott seems to bear more than a passing resemblance to Twining in the film. But beyond this, Twining was a major proponent of massive retaliation even if he wasn't quite as radical as LeMay. He was a member of the far right wing think tank the American Security Council (of which I've written at great length on before here; another excellent account of this highly secretive NGO can also be found here) and has also long been cited as a member of the highly speculative Majestic 12 by UFOlogists as well.

Twining (top) and Scott as Turgidson (bottom)
A more likely candidate, however, is the man who succeed Twining as the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff: Army General Lyman Lemnitzer. Lemnitzer had enjoyed a close relationship with Eisenhower and was appointed to the post in 1960 before Ike vacated office. By all accounts Lemnitzer was one of the most fanatical right wing officers of his era.
"The synchronized precision ballet of the National Socialist state exerted a powerful magnetism over Lemnitzer. He believed Germany's brilliant, original and courageous generals should have earned the plaudits of all civilized people for the pursuit of a selfless crusade against communism. The future chief of all Allied forces in Europe learned from his encounters with Nazi creeds that war was pointless, unless waged with total ruthlessness. The race that intended to survive and dominate should never flinch from the final solution. Thus, the crypto-theology of exterminating an entire civilization, deranged eugenics pursued to the final logical conclusion, passed from the Nazi code of war to the American one, enthusiastically endorsed by General Lemnitzer. He was at the forefront of a cadre of Right-wing officers in league with an influential cabal of Washington think-tank mavens preaching not only that nuclear weapons were fully usable in a general sense, but also that nuclear war was actually winnable. They clustered around the fanatical atomic zealot Herman Kahn, Kubrick's inspiration for Dr. Strangelove. Kahn argued the United States would always need the capability to destroy opponents with a pre-emptive strike so enormous that target nations would be wiped from the face of the earth – the 'more is always better' fantasia. Kahn and his friends cheerfully argued that far from ultimate Doomsday, life would go one, as it had after the Black Death of the 14th century. In the White House, and under Lemnitzer's influence, Eisenhower too surrendered to the braying of the nuclear hawks..."
(Gladio: NATO's Dagger at the Heart of Europe, Richard Cottrel, pgs. 90-91)

Lemnitzer certainly seems to have taken Kahn's ideas to heart. By the time JFK came to office Lemnitzer had developed quite a plan:
"At a national security meeting on July 20, 1961, Joint Chiefs of Staff chairman Lyman Lemnitzer and General Hickey, the chairman of the 'Net Evaluation Subcommittee,' presented the president with a plan to launch a devastating first-strike nuclear attack against the Russians. By crunching the numbers, they calculated that even though at that moment the Soviet Union barely had the ability to respond to an American missile launch, the best time to carry out an American first strike against them would not come until 'late 1963, preceded by a period of heightened tensions.'
"The Strategic Air Command called this a 'counterforce' force strategy, because it required that the United States aims its nuclear missiles at Soviet nuclear weapons instead of cities to make a priority out of annihilating its nuclear weapons capability before it could get off the ground. According to a Pentagon history of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, General Lemnitzer consider the creation of this plan 'to be among the most important achievements of this era' with which 'its existence created a new or of confidence' for the military men who knew of it.
"Kennedy asked what would happen if the United States launched a first strike before 1963. The CIA director, who was in attendance, answered that if he struck before the optimal time window 'the attack would be much less effective since there would be considerably fewer missiles involved.' The United States would have so many missiles that by late 1963 it would be able to lay the Soviet Union completely to waste and the Russians probably would only be able to get a few missiles off or bombs into the United States in response, if even that. Carl Kaysen, who helped with the plan, thought it had a 90 percent chance of wiping out all Soviet missiles before they could retaliate. In the aftermath of a successful first strike, Americans would have been able to simply sit in designated fall-out shelters to protect themselves from the radioactive dust blowing across the ocean from Russia. By 1964, though, the Soviets would probably have enough operational missiles to make a successful first strike impossible. That is, unless the United States built the three thousand or ten thousand missiles the air force recommended instead of stopping at the one thousand that were slated to be constructed.
"According to notes of the meeting, Kennedy then asked how long people would have to stay in fallout shelters if he gave their plan the go-ahead. One of the authors of the attack report 'replied that no specific period of time can be cited due to the variables involved, but generally speaking, a period of two week should be expected.' Scientists later argued that such an attack on the Soviet Union would have thrown so much soot and smoke into the atmosphere that it would have made the planet unlivable by creating a 'nuclear winter' ice age, but these men had not considered that possibility. People would have come out of their shoulders to a living hell. 'The President directed that no member in attendance at the meeting disclose even the subject of the meeting,' records a summary of the discussion given to Vice President Lyndon Johnson."
 (The War State, Michael Swanson, pgs. 297-299)
It certainly seems possible that aspects of this meeting were known to Kubrick, or one of his fellow screenwriters. At one point during the film General Turgidson advocates following General Ripper's lead and launching a first strike against the Soviet Union, musing:
"... If, on the other hand, we were to immediately launch an all-out and coordinated attack on all their airfields and missile bases, we'd stand a damn good chance of catchin' 'em with their pants down. Hell, we've got a five-to-one missile superiority as it is. We could easily assign three missiles to every target and still have a very effective reserve force for any other contingency. Now, Six: An unofficial study, which we undertook of this eventuality, indicated that we would destroy 90% of their nuclear capabilities. We would therefore prevail and suffer only modest and acceptable civilian casualties from the remaining force which would be badly damaged and uncoordinated."

Was this a reference to the very real study General Lemnitzer incorporated into his plan for a massive first strike against the Soviet Union? As we shall see, this is hardly the only moment in which the film appears to be leaking national secrets to the general public.

Before leaving with Lemnitzer, a few more points should be made: Shortly after the Bay of Pigs debacle Lemnitzer proposed launching Operation Northwoods, a false flag operation in which the US Military would launch a series of terror attacks against the US public and blame them on Cuba, thus generating support for an invasion. This proposal, which Kennedy shot down, was classified until 1997.

Lemnitzer has also been suspected of being the military officer who approved General Edwin Walker's use of Bircher literature to indoctrinate troops in addition to playing a role in the Kennedy assassination, as I noted before here. Lemnitzer was denied a second term as Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff by Kennedy and departed the post shortly before the Cuban missile crisis. He would take over Supreme Allied Command of NATO in Europe where he seems to have played a key role in developing what is commonly referred to as "Operation Gladio" (which bears some striking similarities to Operation Northwoods). But I digress.

a Northwoods memorandum
Before moving along from Turgidson, its also interesting to note that Kubrick hints at the general struggling with monogamist relationships throughout the film. In the midst of the debate over how to handle the unfolding crisis General Turgidson's "secretary" calls him in the War Room to inquire into his whereabouts. He assures her that their relationship "isn't only physical" and suggest that she start her "countdown." Later on, as Dr. Strangelove as unveiling his plan for surviving Armageddon, Turgidson asks if the need to replenish the human population will mean the end of the monogamist relationship and is most pleased with the doctor's answer. Turgidson's struggle with societal norms concerning monogamy is another indication of sexual repression driving psychotic behavior.

President Merkin Muffley is one of three roles played by the legendary Peter Sellers in the film. Sellers, like many of the individuals involved in Strangelove, has a curious background. He severed in the RAF during WWII, but apparently in a comedy troupe. His portrayal of Group Captain Lionel Mandrake, another Strangelove character, was said to have been based upon the officers he observed during this time. Sellers would later become a Freemason, but he apparently held a rather contemptuous view of the Order. David McGowan notes that he was an occasional visitor to the notorious Laurel Canyon scene in Weird Scenes From the Canyon. Strangelove screenwriter Terry Southern also seems to have been involved in this scene, as noted in part one of this series.

While President Muffley is clearly meant as a stand-in for JFK his mannerism and appearance were modeled after those of Adlai Stevenson II. Stevenson was one of the most despised figures of the Reich Wing/military-industrial complex establishment and the "grassroots" far right during this era. Stevenson, a long time member of the Council on Foreign Relations (CFR), was pure Anglo-American Establishment (what conspiracy theorists are referring to when they rail against the CFR, the Round Table group, the Trilateral Commission, the international bankers, etc). Stevenson ran unsuccessful for president twice, being defeated each time by fellow CFRer Dwight Eisenhower.

Eisenhower, however, was very much under the spell of the military industrial complex, then masquerading as "neo-isolationists" (despite their endless denouncements of the Anglo-American Establishment as being "soft" on communism). While the Anglo-American Establishment maintained a strong presence in his presidency Eisenhower's election marked the beginning of an ongoing post-WWII rift amongst the American power structure. Purists within the Anglo-American Establishment would continue to rally around Stevenson as the Reich Wing gained ever more influence over Eisenhower throughout his administration.
"Within this framework foreign-policy was boxed, even more narrowly, between the realities of the country's world position and the constant hounding of the neo-isolationist groups in Congress who had been roused to a pitch of unholy expectation by the encouragement they had received from Eisenhower and Nixon during the electoral campaign of 1952. In that campaign, they had discovered that Eisenhower could be pushed. They now concluded that there pushing from without, combined with the pulling of Dulles and Nixon from within, could overthrow the foreign-policy lines established by the Truman administration in the preceding six years and create a new policy more in accord with their mistaken ideas of the nature of the world. Opposed to this change were the old defenders of the Atlantic System, the remnants of former Wall Street influence, the Ivy League colleges, the foundations, the newspaper spokesman of this point of view (The New York Times and Herald Tribune, Christian Science Monitor, and Washington Post), led by Walter Lippman, and the unrepentant scientists and 'eggheads' straggling behind a Adlai Stevenson."
(Tragedy and Hope, Carroll Quigley, pgs. 988-989)
In many ways its hard to separate the President Muffley and Group Captain Mandrake characters from one another as they are effectively meant as a stand-in for the Anglo-American Establishment in their respective locations (the War Room and Burpleson Air Force, which Ripper commands, respectively). As was noted in part one, Kubrick seems to have been loosely affiliated with the Anglo-American Establishment during this time and it is reflected in his portrayal of Muffley and Mandrake. While either is character is frequently described as weak, in point of they are both quite clever.

Mandrake is tasked with coaxing the recall codes to the B-52s from the demented mind of Ripper. He fails and Ripper commits suicide before revealing anything. Undeterred, Mandrake is still able to deduce the letters of the code from the inane ramblings Ripper left behind. While this is unfolding President Muffley walks a tight rope between the drunken Soviet premier and his cunning ambassador on the on side and his fanatical military men on the other. Muffley is able to forge a united front with the Soviets to disable the bombs and is greatly aided in this cause by Mandrake's cracking of the code.

Muffley and Mandrake are able to successfully maneuver the mine fields of these respective personalities and nearly hold off Armageddon. In the end the are not foiled by the Soviets or the hawks, but by the American yeoman and their ingenuity in carrying out the designs of mad men.

Sellers as President Muffley (top) and Group Captain Mandrake (bottom)
Even the names of these two characters constitute a sexual play on one another. Both the President's first and last name were references to the vulva during this era while Mandrake's last name alludes to the male member and indeed the plant barring that name displays some physical resemblance to said member. Mandrake root is also an entheogen long associated the occult. In some Europe traditions it was said to be used by witches at their Sabbaths while Norse legends claim it can be used to summon powerful gods. Mandrake root can be used to make scopolamine, a substance sometimes used in the CIA's behavior modification experiments (scopolamine combined with morphine can create a state dubbed "twilight sleep").

mandrake roots
Whether Kubrick knew he was naming the Mandrake character after an entheogen is highly debatable, but it is most apt either way. Mandrake, in the almost surreal scenes in Ripper's office, does undergo a nightmare trip that he just barely emerges from triumphantly.

Finally, we come to Dr. Strangelove himself. As noted above, one inspiration was "futurist", military strategist and Hudson Institute founder Herman Kahn (who first rose to prominence working for the RAND Corporation; in the film Dr. Strangelove speaks of commissioning the "Bland" Corporation to study the feasibility of a Doomsday Machine). Another individual often put forth is Henry Kissinger, though Kubrick and Sellers have long denied this.
"... Much talk over the years surrounded the similarities between Dr. Strangelove and Dr. Henry Kissinger. Kissinger had been a Harvard professor and the author of a book on nuclear warfare, but neither Kubrick nor Peter Sellers had seen the man who was later to become President Nixon's secretary of state. 'Strangelove's accent was probably inspired by physicist Edward Teller, who became known as the father of the H-bomb,' Kubrick told Alexander Walker, 'though Teller's origins are Hungarian and his accent isn't really that close to what Peter did.'"
(Stanley Kubrick: A Biography, Vincent Lobrutto, pg. 239)
Kissinger has long been linked to the Anglo-American Establishment and was thus an unlikely inspiration in this case. Edward Teller, a far right ideologue and member of the American Security Council (of which I wrote at length on here), was surely a partial inspiration, however. Kubrick reportedly read several of Teller's publications while researching Strangelove.

The chief inspiration, in this researcher's opinion, was likely Wernher von Braun (Peter Sellers himself seems to have cited von Braun as well). Von Braun, a rocket scientist, is most well known today for his work with NASA during the early years of the Space Race. Less well known is the fact that von Braun was brought to these United States as part of Operation Paperclip, a program started by the Pentagon and the OSS (and continued by the CIA) in the wake of WWII to smuggle Nazi scientists into America. While it was later claimed that these scientists had not been fanatical Nazis, von Braun himself would seem to indicate otherwise.
"Warner von Braun's report had been one of the first to arrive. The OMGUS Security Report noted that von Braun was considered an ardent Nazi and a security threat to the United States. His records indicated that he'd been a major in the SS – having joined the SS at the personal behest of SS chief Himmler in 1940 – a student at an SS riding school, and a Nazi party member since 1937. JIOA had sent his report back to Germany and asked U.S. intelligence officers there to verify von Braun's political background and report any extenuating circumstances surrounding his SS membership."
(Secret Agenda, Linda Hunt, pg. 109)
von Braun
There were none. Von Braun's research had used slave labor from the Mittelbau-Dora concentration camp. Von Braun would later denounce the use of this labor but there are reports that he personally abused the prisoners while serving there.

The presence of an obvious Nazi scientist in the War Room and as a scientific adviser to President Muffley is almost surely meant as an illusion to Operation Paperclip. Kubrick seems to have already been in contact with NASA during the early 1960s and was well placed on many levels to be aware of this fact.

And with I shall wrap things up for now. With the next installment I'll begin breaking down the plot line in earnest. Stay tuned.


  1. I am a student of command and control. I had duel control of nuclear forces in SAC in the 70s. To enjoy Kubrics strange fantasy of oblivion was so out of focus to me. I was entrusted with a complete weapon system that could destroy the world. America is prudent, if nothing else. Our sense of values is in command of the world gestalt. The future is an amazing gift to our kind. Dennis

  2. Dennis-

    Thanks for your thoughts. You always sound like you've lived such an amazing life!


    1. Looking back it does seem remarkable, some travels and some experiences definitely brought me to understand the complex and amazing stories you weave. Which takes immense knowledge and heart . It is as if I was programmed to this journey. Just an aging hippie with a 1/2 Acer plot of land with gardens and 5 chickens to tend .Respectfully, Dennis.

  3. Dennis-

    You may find it interesting to know that your comment was the five-hundred and fifty-fiftieth on this blog. According to Peter Levenda, 555 is the number of the "Necronomicon."

    For the hat trick, you also posted the comment on July 23rd, in some accounts the traditional date for celebrating the helical rising of Sirius (which now occurs later in the year) and the beginning of the Dog Days of summer.