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The Good Life, War Criminal Division

2012 Masters winner Bubba Watson receiving his green jacket from 2011 winner Charl Schwartzel

[AP]

I should have seen this one coming. What? I’ll get to it. Some background first.

Augusta National Golf Club is home to the most famous golf course in the country and host of The Masters, one of the four major men’s golf championships. It’s not your typical local golf club, with membership drawn primarily from the region around Augusta, Georgia. Rather, as the name suggests, it is a national club, with a membership including many CEOs and political leaders.

Membership is by invitation only. Asking to join is a good way to ensure that you won’t be invited, at least not for a while. Supposedly this happened to Bill Gates. That’s the story that got told a few years back anyway.

The lack of African-American members was a source of controversy a couple of decades ago, in the context of the PGA Tour having a policy of not holding tournaments at clubs without black members. The club soon admitted some. More recently, the absence of women among the membership had become national news, thanks especially to the attention Martha Burk, former chair of the National Council of Women’s Organizations, drew to this issue in 2002. She called for a boycott by the Masters tournament advertisers, to which the club’s long-time chair Hootie Johnson responded by preempting her, announcing that there would be no TV ads (and reducing whatever fee CBS pays for coverage of the tournament). The Masters exercises tight control over the broadcast as it is, with strictly limited advertising and no CBS promos of upcoming shows. It is far and away the best golf broadcast of the year.

This year, the spotlight fell once again on the absence of women among club members, for an entirely different reason. As Jason Gay explained in the WSJ:

Augusta National is again confronted with a question that gets elevated as a “cultural moment” but really just sounds absurd in 2012: Why aren’t there any women members?

The subject has been pushed to the forefront by the appointment of Virginia M. Rometty as the CEO of IBM. IBM is a prominent Masters sponsor, and Augusta National has a history of inviting the company’s top executive to join its club. Ms. Rometty is a golfer. She spent late Sunday afternoon at Augusta sitting in a second-row chair behind the 18th green. Her jacket was pink, not green [green being the color of jackets that members receive].

Hootie Johnson’s successor as club chair, Billy Payne — whom you may remember running the Atlanta Olympics in 1996; he did a good job, maybe he should run for president — insisted at the time that membership is a private issue, and they would invite women when they were ready.

As Gay points out, the club sounded absurd, if not worse. The betting was that they wouldn’t be caught in the same position come April 2013 and the next Masters tournament.

No surprise, then, that three days ago Augusta National finally announced two new female members. One is Darla Moore. On reading about her (here and here), I realized that she was always the “obvious” choice for first female member of Augusta National. She’s a long-time friend of Hootie, fellow graduate of the University of South Carolina, and fellow major USC donor (for whom the business school is named).

Which brings me, at last, to the point of this post — the conventional, predictable, but sickening choice of the other inaugural female member: Condi Rice. Ah, the rewards of directing a regime of torture.

Let’s see. This will do, from an article in 2009:

Condoleezza Rice approved ‘torture’ techniques:

Condoleezza Rice, President George W. Bush’s Secretary of State, personally approved a CIA request to use “waterboarding” and other harsh interrogation techniques.

She verbally agreed to allow the methods to be used on Abu Zubaydah, an al-Qaeda suspect, in July 2002, a Senate report has revealed.

Miss Rice’s role was outlined in a narrative released by the Senate Intelligence Committee as the controversy over alleged torture by the CIA continued to rage.

The information indicates that the programme was approved at the highest levels of the Bush administration.

The new timeline suggests Miss Rice played a more significant role than she acknowledged in written testimony to the Senate Armed Services Committee submitted in the autumn.

No matter. She’s now a member of the most exclusive golf club in the country.

And let’s not forget Obama telling us nine days before his inauguration that “we need to look forward as opposed to looking backwards.” Okay then. I’m good. Condi, enjoy.

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Categories: Golf, Politics, Torture
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