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Jewish World Review
Dec. 5, 2011
/ 9 Kislev, 5772
Sometimes paranoia is common sense by another name
Washington, D.C., is a city of holes in the ground. They're constantly being dug, and it's not easy as its residents found when they built the subway system.
Half the city is reclaimed swamp, and it tends to revert to such in a heavy rain, and the other half of it is the hard rock of the piedmont. If you need a hole in Washington, you've really got to want it. The capital doesn't do casual excavation.
Because of strict height limitations having to do with the Washington Monument, the buildings tend to be boxy, bland and boring to maximize their interior space. One day you'll walk past a building as you've done a hundred times, and suddenly it's been replaced by a large hole in the ground.
Soon a new trade association headquarters or a glossy lair for lobbying firms and law firms -- the two tend to run together -- will appear in a bland, boring boxy building, although this time much tarted up with fancy stone and metal facing.
Many defense agencies are being moved outside the District of Columbia, both for security considerations and a perverse desire to see how much really worse we can make the slowest traffic and most time consuming commutes in the nation. We're nothing if not competitive.
The construction companies thoughtfully cut large viewing openings in the fencing surrounding their sites. This is a white-collar city so at lunch hour there is intense fascination with men in hard hats, flannel shirts and tool belts who are actually building something and not dreaming up creative ways of telling a powerful member of Congress that the largest employer in his district cannot dump cyanide and sulfuric acid into the local rivers even though the firm has commissioned a study that says that highly toxic substances are actually good for children.
However, when the standard issue Washingtonian can't see what's going on a level of paranoia sets in. A few years ago, the government set out to renovate Lafayette Square in front of the White House. Lafayette Square is dominated by a statue, not of Lafayette, but of Andrew Jackson. A casual passerby might think it's actually Jackson Square, much the way the Soviets used to intentionally mislabel their maps.
The work took a year or more, far longer than just relaying some sod, planting a few shrubs and repairing the sidewalks should have taken. I'm still not convinced that there isn't some kind of huge underground complex there -- the second Bush administration actually proposed moving the White House press corps to an underground bunker in the far northwestern corner of the park -- and that the four groups of statues aren't actually watching people. The partially clad woman with a sword is especially suspicious.
Now there is massive skepticism about a huge hole being dug outside the Oval Office. The official explanation is routine "upgrades and replacement" of electrical, cooling, heating and alarm systems. Sure it is. It's just taking a long time. And then they're going to do the same thing on the other side of the White House.
They've already expanded the basement Situation Room (it was named that before "Jersey Shore" took off) by 5,000 square feet, not an undue amount of space for the situations in which we somehow find ourselves. And there's a new nuclear bomb shelter under the East Wing, the first lady's side of the building.
The mystery of why Washington is burrowing into the ground was given a new perspective this week when a group of Georgetown University students for a class project documented a massive complex of thousands of miles of tunnels secretly dug to shelter China's nuclear weapons and their launchers.
The Chinese call it the "Great Underground Wall," perhaps tongue in cheek because the original Great Wall didn't work. The barbarians still got in. Beijing surely can't be happy that one of their most closely held secrets will soon be for sale in the university's bookstore.
However, Beijing will shortly explain that the purpose of the thousands of miles of tunnels is for routine "upgrades and replacement" of electrical, cooling, heating and alarm systems and missile launchers.
Every paranoid is right at least once.
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