Parodies of life and art

January 23, 1998

IN HIS review of Ernest May and Philip Zelikow's The Kennedy Tapes (THES, January 16), Alex Danchev is wrong to suggest that Curtis E. LeMay was the model for General Jack D. Ripper (in Dr Strangelove), commander of Burpelson air force base, who launches his nuclear bombers at the Soviet Union by using a plan for delegated nuclear authority.

LeMay was the model for General Buck Turgidson, chief of the joint chiefs of staff (played by George C. Scott) who urges President Muffley to launch full-scale nuclear war on the USSR.

Professor Danchev infers that art parodies life. As Philip Nash illustrates in The Other Missiles of October, when the US discovered Soviet missiles in Cuba, President Kennedy said "that it was as if we began to put ...(nuclear missiles) in Turkey. Now that'd be goddam dangerous". The Kennedy administration had put nuclear missiles in Turkey, as his national security assistant reminded him.

The exchange is clearly modelled on that between President Muffley and General Turgidson in which the general reminds the president that he himself authorised the plan by which General Ripper started world war three. It is life that parodies art.

Len Scott

Department of international politics University of Wales Aberystwyth

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