On a day’s break from the poker tables of the Las Vegas strip, we took the $200 tour to the infamous secret American military base commonly known as Area 51 (alas, my modest performance at Hold ‘Em has precluded us from going for the $1,000 option where you actually get to see the recovered alien spacecrafts and share a few beers with the greys!)
Even admitting the existence of Area 51 seems too much for the US authorities to concede, it is only referred to eliptically in a few scant legal documents. The base therefore lacks an official name – with the description “Area 51″ being derived from the site’s grid position on old Nevadan maps.
The obsessive secrecy has helped stimulate the wonderful myth that the base is the final resting location of the extra-terrestial bodies supposedly recovered from a crash in Roswell, New Mexico just after the Second World War.
Whilst such theories are encouraged by the locals in the nearby “town” of Rachel (population 98), the truth is, of course, much more prosaic.
The base is the testing centre for the most advanced, cutting edge American military technology – and is where the Stealth bomber was developed.
The sombre warnings that lethal force will be used against those that cross the security line (reinforced by our tour guide), and the creepy presence of Men in Black arriving in 4 x 4s on the nearby hillsides as you approach the limits of civilian territory are strong and sinister confirmation that whatever is going on in Area 51, the US government don’t want you to know about it.
The peace dividend we were expecting when the Iron Curtain fell two decades ago has yet to materialise. The dreadful threat of Soviet Communism may have been seen off. But the Western world has yet to heed the words of President Eisenhower in his farewell address in 1961:
“In the councils of government, we must guard against the acquisition of unwarranted influence, whether sought or unsought, by the military-industrial complex. The potential for the disastrous rise of misplaced power exists and will persist. We must never let the weight of this combination endanger our liberties or democratic processes. We should take nothing for granted. Only an alert and knowledgeable citizenry can compel the proper meshing of the huge industrial and military machinery of defense with our peaceful methods and goals so that security and liberty may prosper together.”
Are we confident that the citizenry are alert and knowledgebale enough to keep this beast in check?