Skip to comments.An L.A. Speculator Plans a Disney-Style Park in Baghdad
Posted on 06/08/2008 5:17:31 PM PDT by Libloather
An L.A. Speculator Plans a Disney-Style Park in Baghdad
What a blast
By DAVID FERRELL
Wednesday, June 4, 2008 - 6:19 pm
Only five years after U.S. warplanes rained down shock and awe on Iraq, decimating towns and families, a few rich Californians have figured out how to counter the mortar attacks, suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism that continue to ravage the capital city, Baghdad.
Build an amusement park.
Not enough excitement in machine-gun fire and cars blowing up? Soon, thanks to some Los Angelesarea venture capitalists, Iraqis may have what every adrenaline junkie really craves thrill rides. They may also get a museum and concert theater. There is talk of a water park. Plans are in motion to reopen the zoo, so people can look at tigers, monkeys and snakes. It is all part of a $500 million project set for development near Baghdads notorious Green Zone, where fears of violence are so great that fortresslike walls shield streets and buildings.
They even expect to give the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, as the 50-acre complex will be known, a bit of a Los Angeles touch. If the initial phase opens later this year, it will include a feature every young Iraqi boy secretly longs for a skateboard park, enhanced with 2,000 free skateboards for local children.
Why would people put a skateboard park in Iraq? a spokeswoman for the project asks, as if repeating a question that keeps coming up no matter what she does. The Iraqi youth are aware of skateboarding. ... Thats a worldwide youth culture.
Although its exact scope and design are far from complete, the multiphase complex has the support of U.S. officials, including the Pentagon, and appears to be a done deal despite a deafening siren wail from the critics. Its a pet project of Los Angeles financier Llewellyn Llew Werner, who was Californias Secretary of Business and Transportation under former Gov. Jerry Brown.
These days, Werner is chairman of newly formed Customized Cooperative Capital, or C3, but hes harder to find than D.B. Cooper. The company appears to be unlisted, and theres no Web site. A spokeswoman, who asked not to be identified because the Baghdad project hasnt been formally announced, offers only the vaguest sense of who the man really is.
I cant even get Llews bio from Llew, she says. Hes been so darned busy. C3 is based in the Los Angeles area, she adds mysteriously, but it is a rather virtual organization.
What C3 does is ... [look] at places around the world that are a little too risky for traditional investment, but at the same time need development, the spokeswoman says. Iraq is not the only challenging location C3 is eyeing. But the project has drawn media attention a quick mention in the London Times a few weeks ago, followed by reports on public radio. C3 plans to assemble teams of design and construction experts who will work in cooperation with locals.
The plans not getting much media attention yet, so when L.A. Weekly contacted a couple of famous locals in Baghdad two brothers, both dentists, who have blogged for years on their widely read Web site, Iraq the Model (www.iraqthemodel.blogspot.com) they gave it a battle-worn review.
Yes, it will be a soft target, just like countless soft targets in Baghdad ... campuses, marketplaces and residential areas, all under more or less constant threat of indirect fire mortar [and] rocket attacks, says Omar Fadhil, who clearly would like to see a revival. Should we be concerned about the safety of visitors? Yes. Should we halt all investment [and] reconstruction projects because of that? Should we tell or expect students and shoppers to suspend their normal daily activities? No.
Werners strange idea grew out of a trip he took to Iraq not long ago with a business colleague. C3 is barely off the ground but already is in talks with Earth Organization, an international nonprofit group founded in South Africa, about ways to reconstruct the war-damaged zoo, the spokeswoman adds. And C3 is discussing the amusement parks design with Ride & Show Engineering Inc. in San Dimas, co-founded by engineers who helped create Disneyland and the Epcot theme park.
The notion of plunking down a Disneyland in Baghdad is a bit of a stretch, the spokeswoman admits, saying, were defining the appropriate scope of the work in conjunction with local officials.
But the very thought of such a thing is drawing worldwide attention most of it negative. Since the London Times broke the story, blogs and Web message boards have lit up like pinball machines.
A Mickey Mouse idea. Goofy. Insanity. Ridiculous.
Wolfgang R., posting from Austria, comments, I know many Americans tend to be ignorant about other foreign cultures, but I never would have thought that anyone could be THIS ignorant. ... Hundreds of thousands killed ... daily bombings ... but a Disney park built by Americans to make money.
Disneys 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, whats 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 dont know how you could do it. Its a concept thats 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 thats 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 were going to have this American-style amusement park and just drop it in there. No, its 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 Baghdads 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 couldnt 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 dont know about you, but I certainly wouldnt want to take my family to an amusement park where youre having mortars and rockets land, he says. Any project thats 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 Yorks 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 cant. No one can do that.
How about free admission for any American GI who wishes to enjoy the park?
I can imagine the joy and anticipation of thousands of Iraqi kids if and when they hear about this.
Boy, I can’t think of a better way to throw money away than to build an amusement park in an area where amusement is forbidden.
Not a place I would want to bring my kids for say the next 50-100 years.
As long as it is funded by private investors, why should you care? It's their money.
Can you imagine how well received it will be when Disneyland Baghdad announces the first annual Gay Pride Day at the park?
Nope, no bias there. Nosiree.
On the other hand, it will give the terrorists a target beside our American Troops.
That is kind of disgusting isn’t it?
I wonder if the clown that wrote this was still smoking dope in a college dorm room while we liberated Iraq?
No. He had to stay straight so he could go check out the 'action' at Disneyland Gay Pride Days in Anaheim.
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