From The Progress Report
With the help of the Defense Department, the Los Angeles-based company C3 is "developing the Baghdad Zoo and Entertainment Experience, a massive American-style amusement park that will feature a skateboard park, rides, a concert theatre and a museum" and "is being designed by the firm that developed Disneyland." More than that though, the Pentagon is also backing a $5 billion plan to create a "zone of influence" around the new $700 million U.S. embassy that will include luxury hotels, a shopping center, and condos in an effort to "transform" the Green Zone into a "centerpiece for Baghdad's future." This isn't the first time the Pentagon has turned to Disney for solutions. One year after the scandal erupted over the long-term treatment of soldiers at Walter Reed Army Medical Center, the Army introduced the "Service, Disney Style" program that is now required for all military and other government employees at the hospital in an effort to "revamp attitudes" and instill a sense that "poor service equals frustration." With violence escalating in Iraq, the Pentagon is again looking to the Disney model for a way out.
'ANYBODY EVER BEEN TO DISNEYLAND?': The Disneyland-style amusement park in the heart of Iraq will cost nearly $500 million. Llewellyn Werner, chairman of C3, said of the idea, "[T]he people need this kind of positive influence. It's going to have a huge psychological impact." But make no mistake, Werner also sees dollar signs. "I'm a businessman. I'm not here because I think you're nice people," Werner said, adding, "I wouldn't be doing this if I wasn't making money." 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?" Werner's sentiment is shared by John March, executive vice president of the firm contracted to design the park. March recently downplayed any safety concerns associated with creating a massive entertainment complex in the heart of Baghdad. "Well, you live here in Southern California and there's drive-bys and everything else. So there's danger everywhere," he proclaimed. But Werner has an idea on how to bridge the sectarian divide in Baghdad: skateboarding. He said Iraqis will see the park as "an opportunity for their children regardless if they're Shia or Sunni." Speaking in deliberately slow English, Werner told the Iraqis, "One of the fastest growing sports in the world is skate…boarding." Indeed, the skateboarding park, part of the first phase, is set to open this summer.
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