Note: I am very late in commenting on this "amusement park" in Baghdad, and most commentary I read expresses the same surprise and dismay as I do, just with different words. However, I did a little research on Llewellyn Werner, and found this 1979 Time article entitled, ironically, There Is Nothing, Monsieur, about Werner, a "former anti-war activist," flying aid in to help the Cambodian people who had been ravaged by the Vietnam war. The article paints a very clear picture of the destruction of war. He also was an aide to Governor Jerry Brown. What in the hell happened to him since then?
Second Note: I searched for hours for any articles online that gave an Iraqi (non-government) perspective about this amusement park. I found nothing. Nothing at all. I guess it's typically American to neither ask, nor care, nor, Allah forbid, report about the Iraqi people's opinions!
I was over at TomDispatch.com this morning, reading River of Resistance - How the American Imperial Dream Foundered in Iraq, by Michael Schwartz. There's too much in that article for me to talk about, but this sentence popped out for me:
"Falluja itself was, of course, destroyed, with 70% of its buildings turned to rubble, and tens of thousands of its residents permanently displaced..."Of course, most Americans have no idea how horribly America has destroyed the country of Iraq and its people. I also read this morning that while we all are moved and saddened by the recent Myanmar cyclone and Chinese earthquake natural disasters, the American-made disaster in Iraq has killed and displaced more people than Myanmar and China combined.
Meanwhile, without a backward glance, some free-marketeers (with Mickey hats) see nothing but opportunity and potential profits in Iraq. That's why a California company is building a huge amusement park in Baghdad. (read Jim Hightower's post Goofy In Baghdad.)
Let's see, the Iraqi people have a couple of hours of electricity a day, if they're lucky. Clean water is scarce. But who cares, as long as they can sit outside the amusement park gates and watch somebody else's blinking neon lights and electric "thrill rides" (as if war wasn't enough of a thrill for them) whiz by. The Iraqi people will be delighted to know that at least somebody is having a good time.
According to Llewellyn Werner, chairman of C3, a Los Angeles-based holding company for private equity firms and investor/developer of this project, “The people need this kind of positive influence. It’s going to have a huge psychological impact.” (UK Times article)
The people, my ass. Llewellyn and his partners, the real "people" he gives a shit about, are in it for the money. Oh, and I'm sure that the "huge psychological impact" will be such a positive one!
Notice that he mentions profit first, doing a "good thing" next, and then profit last: “I wouldn’t be doing this if I wasn’t making money,” he said. “I also have this wonderful sense that we’re doing the right thing – we’re going to employ thousands of Iraqis. But mostly everything here is for profit.”
And here's a doozie Werner quote I found over at NetNewsPublisher:
Trying to sell the idea to Baghdad’s skeptical deputy mayor, Werner explained the significance of waterpark lagoons: they’re “very important to the sex appeal, the sizzle. Anybody ever been to Disneyland?”
Notice that it's being built alongside the Green Zone, and in the former Baghdad zoo:
"...which was looted, left without power and abandoned after the American-led invasion in 2003. Only 35 of 700 animals survived – some starved, some were stolen and some were killed by Iraqis fearing food shortages."
Lovely! Lots of great memories there for the Iraqis to cherish.
I'm sure that C3 won't use the same contractors to build their park as the Pentagon has been using to build their monstrous embassy and all those permanent military bases. (Notice how they don't, like, rebuild people's fucking HOMES?) After all, Werner likes to make money, not pour it down the toilet and have no receipts to show for it.
More niceties from the Times article:
General David Petraeus, head of US forces, is said to be a “big supporter” of the project, according to Mr Brinkley [Deputy Under Secretary of Defence for Business Transformation].
“There are all sorts of investment opportunities all over Iraq. But it’s not just hydrocarbons. Half the Iraqi population is under the age of 15. These kids really need something to do,” Mr Brinkley said.
Yes, by God, they certainly do. Like look for their lives, crushed somewhere and beyond repair, under the rubble. That is, when "these kids" aren't some of the lucky children held by the US in prisons.
Because we care, about the children. We really, really do.