Saturday, May 28, 2011

The fugitive wanted for genocide is living next door?

In the past month, two of the world’s most wanted men were captured after very long and extensive manhunts.  The first, Osama bin Laden, was found in Abbotabad, Pakistan, a military garrison town known more for its military academies and golf courses than anything else.  The second, Serbian General Ratko Mladic, was found in the very small and non-descript Lazarevo village in northern Serbia near the Romanian border.  What do both of these locales have in common?  Their respective residents all proclaim a sense of shock and amazement that their backwater towns could have held such high profile fugitives.

In Lazarevo, the majority of the villagers claim Mladic’s arrest was staged by the government.  Nobody that well known could get away with being in such a small town without any of the nosy villagers ferreting him out.  I do not believe for one second Mladic’s arrest was staged; furthermore, I think people, especially in small towns, think their observation abilities are quite inflated.  If someone world famous were to move to West Seattle and take up residence on my block, I probably would not notice.  If a different car were to park on the street or in someone’s driveway, there is a chance I would become aware of it, but if a new individual were to arrive at any time of the day, walk into a house and stay there, there is no way I would ever know.  I realize that in small towns the residents live next door to one another for their whole lives and know pretty much everything which occurs, be it a birth, death, new job, etc…  However, if General Mladic arrived at a house late at night after everyone else went to sleep and then never left the house again, how on Earth would the villagers be aware of his presence?  Perhaps the diligent grocer would notice an uptick in Mladic’s cousin’s bakery order. 
In Pakistan, nobody is saying Osama’s killing was a government scam, but many people are asking the question of how Osama could live for years under the nose of the Pakistani military without their implicit help or their outrageous incompetence.  Osama was not hiding like Mladic either.  Mladic was hiding out on his cousin’s couch toting around a bag of mismatched medicine to try and recover from two heart attacks and an apparent stroke.  Osama had his own McMansion constructed with 12 foot tall barbed wire walls surrounding the place and a specific lack of communication nodes inside.  I would certainly notice a fortress being constructed in my neighborhood, but in a well known and settled military town, there is a good chance I would explain it to myself as just another headquarters building or under-publicized intelligence building.  For shame of the incompetent Pakistani military for not wondering why a civilian was building a fortress next door to their barracks.  Whether or not Osama’s residence there was due to a conspiracy or negligence, there is no reason the civilian residents of the neighborhood should or could have had any particular awareness of Osama’s presence in their town. 
My take away from all of this is I do not care how long you have lived in a small town or how truly eagle eyed a person thinks they are; your neighbors can and do easily hide things from you.  Nazi Germany probably had the most intense and effective neighborhood watch system ever put into practice; however, there were still thousands of Jews hiding out in their neighbor’s basements.  When the next globally recognized fugitive is caught in Nowheresville, population 43, I will not be surprised and I will yawn my way through the inevitable article describing just how shocked the town’s residents are and laugh at the skepticism at how someone could evade their advanced spidey-senses for so long.      

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