TOMBSTONE RASHOMON is almost complete, and so I return to this poor blog, which I have left abandoned for quite a while.
What concerns me now isn’t filmic, specifically. It’s how close we’ve come to nuclear war. Not just a “little” war between India and Pakistan, involving only 200 nukes or so, but the big one. The one I’ve spent my entire life hoping to avoid — the multiple-warhead, multiple-strike nuclear conflict between the United States and Russia.
When I was teaching film at CU Boulder, I taught a colleague’s class on DR. STRANGELOVE. One of the students, an extremely bright woman in her early twenties, objected to being made to watch Kubrick’s film. “Just because there was an atom bomb scare in the 1950s doesn’t mean we have to watch this antiquated stuff today,” she told me. Now, this was a very bright person. Almost all the students I met at that fine research university were very bright, with good communication skills. They had only two weaknesses: none of them (unless their parents were first-generation immigrants) could speak a foreign language. And none of them had been taught any history at high school.
In the 1960s, thanks partially to Kubrick’s film, and also to Peter Watkins’ banned masterpiece, THE WAR GAME, ordinary members of the public were aware of the danger nuclear weapons presented. This is no longer the case. Instead we have perhaps the least-educated, most distracted polity that has ever existed. Most journalists don’t do journalism any more – certainly not investigative journalism which may go against the interests of their bosses or a hugely-powerful and wealthy military-industrial complex. Hollywood and the BBC are similarly contant to toe the propaganda line, and parade their usual array of cardboard foreign villains, fictional or “real”. The political class is largely too young and too privileged to have participated in any kind of war, and with rare exceptions is uninterested in educating itself regarding nuclear power and weapons.
Which leaves us with the totally bizarro situation we currently face: the “liberal” US and British media beat the drum for confrontation with Russia; the losing candidate in the recent presidential election was determined to impose a “no fly” zone over Syria, knowing this would involve American troops in combat with the Russians; while the winning candidate is excoriated because he doesn’t demonize Mr Putin or follow the orders of the CIA.
This illegal CIA involvement in US domestic politics has reached unprecedented heights. Not since Dallas or Watergate has the CIA intervened so heavy-handedly to influence either the result of a presidential election or the foreign policy of the president. James Clapper, a serial liar who should be in jail for perjuring himself before Congress, insists that Russian spies won the election for Mr Trump. Jeff Bezos, the Amazon billionaire with multiple military-industrial-technical contracts, has bought the Washington Post and uses it as a propaganda tool to beat the war drums: Counterpunch and The Intercept are conduits for Russian spy propaganda! The Russians have taken over the electricity supply of the Eastern Seaboard! The New York Times and The Guardian follow grovellingly along.
One can’t say for sure that CIA murdered President Kennedy – Mark Lane and others make an excellent case for this, but there are too many other candidates – but there is no doubt that the CIA was involved in domestic politics a few years later, when three CIA operatives (Hunt, McCord and Sturgis) burgled the Watergate Hotel, bringing down Nixon’s presidency and giving us the unelected President Ford. CIA encouraged its Contra proteges to flood the US with crack cocaine, founded the Mujehedeen, and then fabricated evidence which took us to war in Afghanistan and Iraq. Anyone involved in such pestilential activities should be in jail. Instead, mysteriously fearful of this new president, the intelligence community is going all out to either 1) discredit the Trump presidency, or 2) force him to adopt an aggressive posture towards the Russians.
If Hillary Clinton had been elected, we would be hearing a lot about US “creditibility” from her and her supporters in the military-industrial complex: Kissinger, Cheney, McCain et al. US “credibility” in foreign affairs means that the US reseves the right to be the biggest bully on the block, and – when its bullying ways have caused multiple disasters – to redouble its efforts to screw other nations up. This works with smaller countries – the Pentagon has the largest military in the world so the US has managed to turn Iraq, Afghanistan, Libya, Somalia, Yemen, El Salvador and other unhappy places into failed states. In the case of medium-sized countries like Mexico, Venezuela and Brazil it’s a question of turning up the screws until the economy screams, and then stealing the vote. But Russia isn’t like these other countries. It is very large, has a substantial population, and most important of all, several thousand nuclear warheads, all ready for launch.
CIA and the Pentagon and the bozos on Capitol Hill can play the game of empire for a while yet. In the 1990s they were even able to influence elections in Russia, and keep Yeltsin in power for a additional term. Now things are different. The Russians aren’t fools and unfortunately for them and us they are armed to the teeth with nukes — just like the Americans. The liberal media denegrate Mr Trump for alleged instablity, and unsuitability to put his finger on the nuclear trigger. But it is Mr Obama who has embarked on a trillion dollar upgrade of America’s nuclear weapons. And it was Ms Clinton who, as secretary of state, destroyed Libya and cackled “We came, we saw, he died” after that country’s president was murdered.
This is sort of important stuff. There are fewer nukes in Russian and American service now than there were thirty years ago. But the nuclear face-off never ended, and of the thousands of bombs and missiles which still exist, many are only seconds away from launch. Once that war begins, things will happen so quickly that a “limited” nuclear war between the two great powers is almost certainly impossible.
So, under the rubric of DODGING THE BULLET (something which is also impossible, no matter what Hollywood may claim) I’m going to visit matters nuclear. Specifically, how – as a mere English schoolkid – I became aware of these issues thanks to a film I wasn’t allowed to watch; how The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists inspired and educated me (before ceasing physical publication and retreating behind an expensive academic firewall); why WHOLE WORLD ON FIRE is the most important book you can ever read; the enviromental consequences of nuclear warfare (and why it isn’t worth worrying about global warming as a result!); how many nukes there are, and who has them; how nuclear power continues to serve as an expensive and deadly figleaf for nuclear weapons; and what is to be done about all this?
Even as Bezos and CIA seek to set us up for military confrontation with the Russians, remarkable things are brewing at the United Nations. This will be an interesting year.