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Tuesday, 08 August 2006 06:20

The Military Is Planning an Army Amusement Park. Recruitment Must be Going REALLY Bad

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Florida-based news station WFTV.com reported in its "news of the strange" section that the Army is considering opening up a military theme park in Virginia. But the plan isn't as farfetched as you might think; the Washington Post ran the story on its front page this morning.

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," a private developer promised in its proposal for a 125-acre entertainment, hotel, and conference complex center near Fort Belvoir, the site of a future $300 million Army museum.

It's unclear exactly how far along the Army's decision to actually build the park is, but the county's supervisor appears convinced it's in the works after being told the museum would be moved from its planned 75 acre location to a nearby 125 acre spot. "It seems fairly clear that the Pentagon brass has decided the only way they can succeed with the Army museum is to make a museum wrapped in an amusement park," he said. Local officials are opposed to the plan, but have no control over the federal project.

Virginians shouldn't be the only ones disturbed by what CNN.com is calling "Army World." It's not just that the Army would be glorifying war, it's that they would be portraying war as fun, family entertainment.

This wouldn't be the first time the Army tried a stunt like this. Four years ago they released "America's Army," a free online video game where players are encouraged to virtually kill people. With slogans like "Empower Yourself. Defend Freedom," the military fully admitted the game's use as propaganda to overcome slumping enlistment rates.

Clearly, a volunteer Army needs to have recruiting tools. It can't be easy to get people to sign up to get shot at. They're already on the airwaves and at schools, fairs, and Wal-Marts across the nation, often using misleading information or outright lies to lure people in. But a military amusement park goes so far over the line that it would actually be funny if it wasn't true.

How desperate can the Defense Department be to even consider something this outrageous? It seems like everyone would be a lot better off if they used the money for the park on armor, salaries, or even more security for the computers containing confidential veterans' records that keep on disappearing. Not starting stupid wars would also be helpful.

There are better ways to get people to want to defend their country than to try and recruit them at Army World.