The Monkey Cage

The US Embassy, An Image of Freedom has Become an Admission of Panic and Fear

Opinion | Douglas H. Crichton | March 2007

Immediately after the Sept. 11 attacks in New York City and Washington DC, U.S. national and local government leaders pronounced that we should go about our daily business as usual. If we were to change our (American) way of life, even one step,  then the terrorists win:  The terrorists would be dragging our civilization down to their level and forcing us to play on their field.

Well it seems the terrorists have scored in Vienna.

A monstrous, nine-foot steel cage appeared recently surrounding the entrance of the US Embassy building on Boltzmanngasse in Vienna’s 9th District.  It is shocking and hugely disappointing to see this blemish on the face of America in this European city.

We used to be immensely proud of the Embassy building and would take every American guest for a stroll past it.  We would often go out of our way to walk home from work down Boltzmanngasse just to have a glimpse and get a freshening of American-ness.

A fine and elegant structure, the Boltzmanngasse Embassy used to be a tremendous source of pride for many Americans living or visiting Vienna. It stood a stoic reminder of our nation’s participation in freeing Europe from terror of the Nazis.

The building was occupied by the US Military at the end of World War 2 until 1946. The Austrians let the US Government buy the building in 1947.  Boltzmanngasse 16 was already one of the most highly secure structures in the city with in-ground roadblocks and armed sentry posts at the only two access points.

The military had selected the location well, probably based on the ease of making it tightly secure.  Not to mention that there is a Viennese Police Barracks just 40 yards down street.

This fence gives a very wrong image of America. You cannot see the beauty of our country or the building for all the tangle of wire. One cannot see the promise of democracy and the hope America offers. One only sees metal bars and cowards, who over react like a group of demented cave dwellers.  What was once a warm and welcoming home of freedom becomes a monkey cage, a heinous representation of panic and fear.

It should be torn down as fast as possible.  We would rather be blown up by a terrorist’s bomb than live everyday hiding behind a fence in fear.

This cage is a vile and monumental testament to our own insecurities. Whoever was responsible for this decision -- surely the work of an overpaid security consultant and a weak-kneed state department bureaucrat -- should ask themselves whose side they are on, and what exactly it means to be an American in the modern world. This is embarrassing, and defaming to the country’s image abroad.

Why is it that those who make bad foreign policy decisions are the ones who get to hide behind the steel reinforced cement bunkers? The rest of us at home and abroad, who are out on the streets everyday explaining if not defending our nations faulty, idiotic policies,  get little or no protection.

Clearly there were more civilians killed on Sept. 11 than government employees.  We should change the policies so  we won’t have to build steel barriers.  Then we can go back to being proud to be Americans overseas.

Other articles from this issue