THE BLOG

The Army's Theme Park

Yes, it's a big news day with Bob Ney's resignation, the BP pipeline closure and the Lamont-Lieberman primary.

But let's not let this item on the cover of today's Washington Post slip by:

"Army Ponders Amusement Venue, Hotel at Ft. Belvoir."

The Post reports the army is giving serious consideration to a proposal for a theme park to accompany an already planned museum. The museum is slated to be built in Fairfax County, Virginia, in the distant exurbs of Washington, D.C.

According to a developer's proposal, at the park, "You can command the latest M-1 tank, feel the rush of a paratrooper freefall, fly a Cobra Gunship or defend your B-17 as a waist gunner."

This business of making military combat seem fun and a game -- no small thing with dying and wounded soldiers coming back from Iraq, but assisted by the Bush administration's efforts to block media coverage of the caskets -- is no small thing.

Of course, the amusement park is unlikely to mention that one in six soldiers seeing combat in Iraq are coming home with serious mental health problems.

It's not likely to play up the likelihood of getting injured or killed.

Nor is it likely to depict how military service -- especially, but not only, in pursuit of unjust objectives -- can be dehumanizing, and lead otherwise good people to commit atrocities. (About which, be sure not to miss Sunday's Los Angeles Times extraordinary story on declassified Pentagon papers showing that U.S. atrocities went far beyond My Lai.)

And I guess it's fair to assume the theme park wouldn't plan to have booths from those who might convey an honest assessment of military service, like Citizen Soldier.

The amusement park, if it does get built, will instead help romanticize war. In our class-riven society, that's a doubly dangerous thing.

Such romanticization fits right into the schemes of deception used by military recruiters as they target minority, working class and rural kids for military service.

For the war-making class, who by and large wouldn't dream of letting their kids serve in the military, the romanticization makes it that much easier to send other people off to war. And, unfortunately, for their kids -- who are likely to become the war-makers themselves in later years -- the romanticization will make it easier for them to continue the cycle of careless and casual use of military force.

The only good news in the Washington Post piece is this: There is major local opposition to the amusement park proposal, largely because traffic in the area is already horrendous and the three million visitors that the theme park developer projects would create permanent gridlock.