Are the days of US Presidential visits numbered? I ask, because watching the enormous security surrounding President Obama’s visit, I couldn’t help thinking that there’s a danger that it may actually end up being counter-productive. I waited for two hours on Lord Edward Street to get into the Dame Street security zone, during which I managed to travel from the Christchurch car park past Leo Burdock’s to the Bull and Castle pub, and as I stood there, it dawned on me that I was in fact in the single most dangerous place in Dublin.
Just think about it for a moment: If some suicide bombing nut wants to do the most harm, where will he or she do it? They can’t get into the security zone, so instead they quietly queue with thousands of ordinary people until they reach the Secret Service checks, and then explode the bomb, killing a few dozen US Secret Servicemen and Gardai and hundreds of civilians. If they were to simultaneously explode other bombs on the closed-off streets leading onto College Green, they would have caused a panicked stampede in College Green that could have killed hundreds more. The Ring of Steel insures the safety of the President, as it should. But it also has a side-effect, by creating a single access point leading into a very enclosed area, of creating an abnormally target rich environment just outside it, in the waiting area. It would, in short, have been the worst terrorist atrocity in post-war European history.
Now, before the usual nutters start ranting that I am helping Al Quaeda by putting these ideas in their heads, let me point out that the reason I’m pointing this out is that it seems such an obvious flaw in the security planning that if a simple amateur like me can see it, one would assume that professional terrorists can see it too. Maybe I’m wrong: Perhaps the US Secret Service and the Gardai had a plan to deal with such a situation. Perhaps they had undercover people in the crowd. Maybe they had snipers watching us as we waited, and speaking as a single bearded man standing in the crowd constantly checking the time you can imagine how that makes me feel. But I certainly hope they saw it too, because as I stood there two days ago I could easily have seen myself become a victim, along with hundreds of others, of the Law of Unintended Consequences.