Saturday, April 12, 2008

Military-Leisure-Golf-Industrial Complex

I've been linking to a fair number of articles recently, so I've been intending to put a little more "work" and a little less "link" into my entries. But I couldn't pass this one up:

Back in 1975, Senator William Proxmire (D-Wisconsin) decried the fact that the Department of Defense spent nearly $14 million each year to maintain and operate 300 military-run golf courses scattered across the globe. In 1996, the weekly television series America's Defense Monitor noted that "Pentagon elites and high government officials [were still] tee-ing off at taxpayer expense" at some "234 golf courses maintained by the U.S. armed forces worldwide." In the intervening twenty-one years, despite a modest decrease in the number of military golf courses, not much had changed. The military was still out on the links. Today, the military claims to operate a mere 172 golf courses worldwide, suggesting that over thirty years after Proxmire's criticisms, a modicum of reform has taken place. Don't believe it.

In actuality, the military has cooked the books. For example, the Department of Defense reported that the U.S. Air Force operates 68 courses. A closer examination indicates that the DoD counts the 3 separate golf courses, a total of fifty-four holes, at Andrews Air Force Base in Washington, D.C., as 1 course. The same is true for the navy, which claims 37 courses (including facilities in Guam, Italy, and Spain) but counts, for example, its Admiral Baker Golf Course in San Diego, which boasts 2 eighteen-hole courses, as a single unit. Similarly, while the DoD claims that the army operates 56 golf facilities, it appears that this translates into no fewer than 68 actual courses, stretching from the U.S. to Germany, Japan, and South Korea.

Moreover, some military golf facilities are mysteriously missing from all lists. In 2005, according to the Pentagon, the U.S. military operated courses on twenty-five bases overseas.

A closer look, however, indicates that the military apparently forgot about some of its golf courses -- especially those in unsavory or unmentionable locales. Take the unlisted eighteen-hole golf course -- where hot-pink balls are used so as not to lose them in the barren terrain -- at the U.S. naval base at Guantanamo Bay, Cuba. Also absent is the army's Tournament Players Club, a golf course built, in 2003, by army personnel in Mosul, Iraq. Another forgotten course can be found in the Republic of the Marshall Islands, at Kwajalein, a little-discussed island filled with missile and rocket launchers and radar equipment that serves as the home of the U.S. Army's Ronald Reagan Ballistic Missile Defense Test Site. Similarly unlisted is a nine-hole golf course located on the shadowy island of Diego Garcia, a British Indian Ocean Territory occupied by the U.S. military and long suspected as the site of one of the CIA's post-9/11 secret "ghost" prisons. But even courses not operating on secret sites, in war zones, or near prisons and possible torture centers have been conveniently lost. For example, while the Pentagon lists the navy's Admiral Nimitz Golf Course in Barrigada, Guam, in its inventory of overseas courses, it seems to have skipped Andersen Air Force Base's eighteen-hole Palm Tree Golf Course, also on the island. And you'd think the Pentagon would be proud of the USAF's island links; after all, it was the runner-up, in 2002, for the title of "Guam's Most Beautiful Golf Course."

None of this is surprising. It's just a constant surprise to see the multivariate forms of empire.