By Michael Goldstein
By Dennis Romero
By Sarah Fenske
By Matthew Mullins
By Patrick Range McDonald
By LA Weekly
By Dennis Romero
By Simone Wilson
“Disney’s House of Horrors,” offers another critic, as a possible marketing slogan. “The only amusement park in the world where the rides actually blow up!”
But honestly, what’s the plan? “Do you deliver your visitors there in armored cars? Are you going to issue flak jackets to everybody who comes through the turnstiles and tell them to enjoy themselves?” wonders John J. Posey, president of Corporate Security Services, based, aptly enough, in Battle Ground, Washington. “I don’t know how you could do it. It’s a concept that’s just baffling.”
Posey, one of several security specialists contacted by the Weekly, says a standard risk analysis would unearth several deal breakers: People massed together, enjoying themselves — there is no more classic “soft target” — in a development that symbolizes American excess, smack in the midst of a fundamentalist nation that’s a hotbed of terrorism. “The combination just looks unfathomable,” he says. “The only thing I know of that would probably draw more immediate malign would be if somebody went there and opened up an American topless club.”
C3 stresses that the project will create jobs as well as provide a place for Iraqis to enjoy themselves, the spokeswoman says. “We are looking at creating something that is totally keeping in the spirit of the park” where it will be built, she says. Conceding that “it looks on paper to be a risky venture,” she says, “How do you make it less risky? Bring in experts and also engage that community. People think we’re going to have this American-style amusement park and just drop it in there. No, it’s being done hand-in-hand with Iraqi officials.”
Still, there is always the chance that some enterprising zealot will lob mortars over the wall to knock out the Ferris wheel, experts say. Or fire rockets at Baghdad’s version of Pirates of the Caribbean from a mile away.
“The first two words that come to my mind,” says Bob Bonasia, a former Secret Service agent who heads Bonasia Security Consulting in Greensboro, North Carolina, “are logistical nightmare. Obviously, it will be a major target. You couldn’t possibly secure an area like that.”
Jack R. Plaxe, managing director of the Chicago-based firm Anti-terrorism Training, Research, Intelligence & Security Consulting, or AT-RISC, also cites deadly projectiles.
“I don’t know about you, but I certainly wouldn’t want to take my family to an amusement park where you’re having mortars and rockets land,” he says. “Any project that’s going to be featuring Americans or that has American support is going to lend itself to being a target. There are far more pressing issues that have to be dealt with before a facility like this becomes feasible.”
The Los Angeles money men are undaunted. The C3 spokeswoman emphasizes that Werner has been on the ground in Baghdad and knows the issues. Before the U.S. invasion, the proposed site, al-Zawra park, was a favorite place to relax, much like New York’s Central Park. Families are beginning to picnic there again. A new, all-but-impermeable $700 million U.S. Embassy has been built on Green Zone land nearby that has jumped in value. Some imagine a Baghdad that showcases development, albeit one bristling with weaponry.
“There has to be, at some level, a spark of optimism,” the spokeswoman says. “We Americans focus on the negative because it makes headlines. Can we guarantee security? No, we can’t. No one can do that.”
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