Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger
To my mind the greatest movie satire on the idiocy of the Cold War and the fear it inspired in humanity, was Stanley Kubrick’s masterpiece “Dr. Strangelove, or How I learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb”, released in 1964. The plot in brief was, “An insane general starts a process to nuclear holocaust that a war room of politicians and generals frantically try to stop”. For those unfamiliar with one of the best American movies of all time check this link: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0057012/
Rent the movie if you haven’t seen it, for it will bring you dark laughter and present you with much to ponder. At the time of its release, some disparaged the movie as being un-credible in its characterizations and not believable in it premises. I hadn’t thought of the movie in years until I came across this article at the website Buzzflash.com titled “The Theology of Armageddon” by Robert Koehler. http://blog.buzzflash.com/node/13024 . The article is relatively brief, but well worth your time.
The article deals with a course titled “Nuclear Ethics and Nuclear Warfare” at Vandenberg Air Force Base, given under Air Force auspices. As the Robert Koehler states:
“(I)t turns out that the point of the mandatory course, which was recently canceled by the Air Force after officers of numerous faiths complained to the Military Religious Freedom Foundation about it and Truthout published an exposé in July, was to give officers in the first week of missile-launch training a Bible-verse-studded indoctrination in faux-Just War Theory (cynically known in the ranks as the “Jesus Loves Nukes” training)”.
What got me thinking of the movie Dr. Strangelove was a quote in the article from Dr. Wehrner Von Braun, which makes credible the satiric reality of the movies title character, Dr. Strangelove, hysterically portrayed as a heavily accented former NAZI, by Peter Sellers. Seller’s character was widely denounced as being unfair to Von Braun, at the time, but seeing this quote from him makes me wonder:
“We knew that we had created a new means of warfare and the question as to what nation . . . we were willing to entrust this brainchild of ours was a moral decision more than anything else,” von Braun is quoted as saying. “We wanted to see the world spared another conflict such as Germany had just been through and we felt that only by surrendering such a weapon to people who are guided by the Bible could such an assurance to the world be best secured.”
To me this is post facto justification by von Braun of his choice of the comfort of an honored life in the U.S. mirroring his NAZI lifestyle and providing a sop to detract from the truth that he was an enthusiastic war criminal. Von Braun had developed the V (I & II) guided missiles for the NAZI’s and became the head of the United States Ballistic Missile Program. Von Braun was a NAZI Party member of distinction and it seems dedication. His missiles fell upon Great Britain in the closing days of WW II as an attempt to cause terror within the British people and were random in their destruction. That he then became an honored man in the U.S., rather than a defendant at Nuremburg, is a tribute to our own hypocrisy in prosecuting the Cold War. A similar mindset seems to have infected some in our Air Force as I will show.
The Air Force Academy is located inColorado Springs, Colorado. Not only is this a bustling city, whose primary industry is the Military/Industrial Complex, but it is also the center of a tremendous amount of Evangelical Christian activity.
Although houses of worship of almost every major religion can be found in the city, Colorado Springs has attracted a large influx of Evangelical Christians and Christian organizations in recent years. At one time Colorado Springs was counted to be the national headquarters for 81 different religious organizations, earning the city the tongue-in-cheek nickname “the Evangelical Vatican” and “The Christian Mecca.”
In the past decade, the Air Force Academy was shaken by implications that it favors Evangelical Christianity in its institutions, trampling on religious freedoms of non-believers in Evangelical Christianity. http://www.usatoday.com/news/religion/2011-03-13-Air_Force_Academy_13_ST_N.htm
To me the idea of a military dominated by a particular religious belief is antithetical to the U.S. Constitution and dangerous to the operation of a democratic republic. This becomes especially dicey when that particular religious belief proposes that we are in the “End Times” and feels that Armageddon will be the salvation of humanity. This has nothing to do with the religious beliefs of our troops, which I imagine are overwhelmingly Christian, but with the manipulation of their beliefs by fanatical fundamentalists, given license by some of their Commanders.
The old saying, which I concede has some validity, is that “there are no atheists in foxholes”. When one’s occupation puts a responsibility for the lives of your fellow citizens upon you and concomitantly leads one into life threatening situations, many humans have the need to know that if death comes, there will be rewards in an afterlife. Then in addition, all Americans are constitutionally entitled to be free to practice their religious beliefs. At what point though does the religious beliefs of ones superiors begin to supersede the soldiers own values and become indoctrination? There is evidence as shown above in the links, that this is taking place. Beyond the unconstitutionality of this religious indoctrination, lies the reality that the religion pushed upon the troops is one longing for and that would welcome the quick arrival of Armageddon. That our nuclear arsenal lies within the purview of this branch of our Armed Forces, escalates the possibilities that “Dr. Strangelove” was less a satire and more a prescient prophecy.
My personal position is that I feel strongly that religious belief can be uplifting and positive, but I consider Fundamentalists of any religion, including my own, to be dangerous to humanity. This is because the hubris of being convinced of your own correctness of belief, leads to intolerance of differing beliefs, which ultimately leads to repression and violence. There is much in the varied religious beliefs of our fellow humans that is uplifting to us all, but once those beliefs become stultified, unquestioned by fanatical followers of narrow vision, danger ensues. It is easy to question Islamic Fanaticism in the wake of 911, but how many would put that same spotlight on their own religious leanings?
If the injection of Fundamentalism is a trend in our Armed Forces, I personally find that frightening and disturbing. What do you think?
Submitted by: Mike Spindell, guest blogger