Monday, November 8, 2010

Time to permanently close the Washington Monument

Our military defended the Washington Monument during the 2008 inauguration.  (staff photo)

The Washington Monument, standing 555 feet tall, is an obvious target for the terrorists. Fortunately, the federal government is considering where to locate a permanent "visitor's centre" (Washington-speak for an airport-style security processing facility).   But current plans don't go far enough.

The Washington Post makes an excellent point:
Closing the interior of the monument, the construction of which was suspended during the Civil War, would remind the public of the the effect that fears engendered by the current war on terrorism have had on public space.  Closing it as a symbolic act might initiate an overdue discussion about the loss of even more important public spaces, including the front entrance of the Supreme Court and the west terrace of the Capitol.  It would be a dramatic reminder of the choices we as a nation have made....
DOF agrees the monument should be closed.  Concerning the various post-9/11 security measures undertaken at other popular tourist locations, see "The architecture of fear."  DOF believes that any risk that the closure of the Washington Monument would initiate "discussion about the loss of even more important public spaces" is remote (when was the last serious public "discussion" about anything?).

However, with regards to the Washington Monument, DOF maintains that even the closure of the interior of the monument would not go far enough.     That's because the monument stands on a hill overlooking the White House.    We believe continued pubic access to the hill on which the monument stands is both risky and inappropriate.

The planned DCCM will be constructed between the WH and the WM on the Ellipse.

DOF proposes that the section of the Mall that lies between 17th and 15th streets be permanently closed to the public.   Beyond a security fence, DOF recommends that the 10,000 square foot glass-enclosed "visitor's centre" -- which has long been proposed by the National Parks Board -- be situated across 15th Street.   This would afford visitors a secure vantage point from which to view the monument.   Alternatively, visitors should soon be able to admire the Washington Monument from the tower of the planned DCCM (see bellow).

Why is it desirable to close off a section of the Mall?   1) From a security standpoint, public access to a hill located above the White House affords terrorists "higher ground" advantage -- a risk we don't have to take; 2) Fencing off an entire section of the Mall, more so than the closure of the monument, will remind the American People of the dangers posed by terrorism;  3) Closing the hill on which the monument stands will serve as a sign of respect for the American presidency.  Symbolically, should mere citizens be permitted to stand on higher ground than their Commander in Chief?  We think not;  4) DOF anticipates that restricting access to this particular section of the Mall will increase visitor traffic to the Dick Cheney Carbon Memorial (DCCM).  As explained in a recent post, the planned DCCM will be situated on the Ellipse.   Far more than a monument to the petroleum industry, DCCM will offer visitors an education in the risks posed by terrorism and the heroic efforts of the Cheney Vice Presidency to ensure the survival of the Republic.

A public comment meeting on the Washington Monument security options will be held from 5:30 to 7:30pm at the National Park Service's National Capital Region Headquarters, 1100 Ohio Dr. SW.   If you live in the capital region, DOF urges you to attend. It's a chance to share your fears with your fellow citizens and the NPB.   

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Dr. Rebecca Wolf
Undersecretary for Community and New Media
United States Department of Fear