Annihilation Vacations

It used to be that playing Risk with a bunch of friends in the rec
room was about as elaborate a war experience as you could get short
of enlisting. Not anymore. Moving beyond the more detailed (and
wildly popular) war board games that are Risk’s successors, the war
entertainment industry now includes the soon-to-launch Military
, which will offer round-the-clock coverage of wars past
and present and will include a home-shopping service that will
supply combat and adventure gear to solider wannabes. If you want
your kids to join in the fun, Omni (Feb. 1995) reports that
the Fightertown Virtual Simulation Center in Orange County is
expanding its standard fighter pilot simulator offerings with a
‘Battle over the Pacific’ feature that is geared towards families.

If none of these options seem real enough, take heart: An
article in The New York Times Magazine (Sept. 17, 1995)
reports that it is now possible to take war vacations complete with
‘front-line battle exposure, including being shot at and viewing
the full effects of heavy artillery.’ For those whose find the idea
of dodging shrapnel exciting, then there are even more advanced war
vacation options. According to Covert Action (Winter
1994-1995) an elite Guatemalan army unit called the Kaibiles are
training US tourists on paramilitary vacations where the twelve-day
‘Special Forces Advanced Scout/Shooter Course’ provides the
opportunity to not only ‘improve your shooting abilities’ but also
learn to use camouflage, tracking, and land navigation.

What’s going on here? One of the owners of the vacation packages
is quoted as saying that many of their visitors are people who,
‘somehow missed Vietnam,’ adding that ‘war has always been
considered a right of passage’ — no doubt a rite that they are
happy to provide. COVERT ACTION sees the trend as a bit more
alarming, citing it is as evidence of the growing allure of
militarism. Maybe its about being able to trangress laws and codes
of ethics without being arrested. Or maybe its just that death and
war have always been fascinating to most citizens and in this
tabloid tell-all culture, people are feeling more permission to let
it all hang out as long as they’re sure to duck and cover.

Original to Utne Reader Online

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