Read with illustrations on the page at B’Man’s Revolt.
It’s a cold Thursday in February in our nation’s capital. It’s not quite noon, but the lines are already forming by the 13 food trucks parked out on the curb. A good sampling of the world’s cuisine, from Korean bibimbab to Middle Eastern kabobs to Ethiopian mesir wat, is available, and all at quite reasonable prices. Drawing particular attention on this day is a truck near the end of truck procession, which puts it squarely in front a rather large office building. A popular Vietnamese noodle dish is the truck’s specialty. Though few of the customers appear to be Vietnamese, they seem to be living up to the truck’s name of Pho Junkies. Just beyond the building that houses the Bureau of Labor Statistics and the Postal Museum—seen in the near background in the middle of this picture—is Union Station with its large, lower level food court. The hungry crowd could be there enjoying the warmth, but on this day, the exotic food trucks hold a greater allure.
Welcome to the real workaday Washington, DC, where life can be lived in an increasingly civilized and comfortable fashion. If the selection of cuisine offered on this one day doesn’t meet with the potential diner’s taste, all he has to do is wait a day and an entirely new selection of international food will be laid out before him. It’s all there on the Food Truck Fiesta web site (This is the DC – Union Station location). The scene is being played out in locations all over the DC metropolitan area. One would hardly realize that we are now well into our second decade of a war, the vaunted Global War on Terror (GWOT). Don’t these happy diners know that as workers right there in the heart of the government of the country that is “hated for its freedom,” they are all potential targets? How easy would it be for those ever-present terrorists to simply drive an explosive-filled truck up to the front of the building and blow it up?
But let us get serious. This is the real Washington, not the make believe capital-under-siege, movie-set Washington that we see around the major tourist attractions like Capitol Hill and the White House. Had we walked a little bit south from Union Station instead of a block and a half to the west where the food trucks are, we would have found ourselves in this fantasy world pretty quickly. In this photograph, the building you see in the background is Union Station. A greater distance behind you are the Russell, Dirksen, and Hart Senate Office Buildings. Since 2001, access to the entire legislative complex, from the Senate Office Buildings on the north to the House Office Buildings on the south of the Capitol Building, public access has been severely restricted.
It’s even worse near the White House. The president’s residence sits quite a ways back from Pennsylvania Avenue, but not in my lifetime has parking been allowed on the curb on either side of the street in front it. But after the Oklahoma City bombing, even that degree of security was not deemed sufficient, and the entire street for a couple of blocks was closed off to traffic completely. The full illustration of this fake-siege abomination accompanies my poem, “Washington, DC.” Even Lafayette Square, which sits across Pennsylvania Avenue from the White House is ringed with those expensive obstacles that I have christened “federal poles.”
Now let us return to ordinary Washington, where one would never know that there is an unending war going on. Who would have guessed it from the complete lack of those grotesqueries known as “security measures” in Washington’s fantasyland, but the food trucks are right on the doorstep of the main U. S. bureaucratic spawn of the GWOT. Have another look at those flags flying in front of the building. The blue one is the flag of the Department of Homeland Security. Confirming it on Wikimapia, we see that this building with its complete absence of external security measures houses these tenants: H.Q. United States Citizenship and Immigration Services (USCIS), Department of Homeland Security (DHS); Department of Justice (DOJ) Offices. One would think that if there really were dangerous terrorists out there with a DC target list, this building would be right at the top of it. It’s just off the main tourist drag, though, so no siege decorations are required.
Deepening the irony, it turns out that the DHS has chosen to put its USCIS headquarters in close proximity to what has long been a hangout for the DC chapter of one of the oldest terrorist organizations around, the Irish Republican Army (IRA). We are speaking of the Dubliner, an Irish pub little more than a grenade’s throw away. You can make out the name in the background just past the back of the kabob truck in this picture, and a good appreciation of the proximity of the Dubliner to the DHS building can be had with this shot. Capitol Hill Blue even published an interview it conducted of an IRA man at the Dubliner back in 2003.
Oh, but the IRA terrorists are only a concern of the British, I can hear you say. Yes, but the Uyghur militants from East Turkestan are only a concern of the Chinese, and that hasn’t stopped us from locking them up at Guantánamo in this phony GWOT of ours. But that’s a story for another day.
February 14, 2013