May 7, 2011
Charlie Chan and the Mystery of the Mansion Hideout
As the story of the death of Osama bin Laden grows more curious by the day, it's time we call in that legendary Honolulu police detective of yesteryear, Charlie Chan, to visit the scene.
With his Number One Son, Jimmy, Chan arrives at the former hideout of the deceased mass murderer, where a small crowd of on-lookers still lingers. This conversation ensues:
Jimmy: Gee, Pop, this doesn't look like a mansion. It looks more like a three-story police headquarters in a provincial capital in Guatemala.
Chan: True, but look around, Jimmy. Few houses are nearby, and none is bigger. Nor is there another house surrounded by a tall wall topped with barbed wire. But you are right, Number One Son. It does look like a jail, but given its secluded location and size, to some here it might appear to be the home of a rich man.
Jimmy: If bin Laden was hiding here from the Pakistani authorities, as well as from the Americans, isn't this a high profile place to hide?
Chan: Yes, Jimmy. And within your question lives another: Was he hiding from the Pakistani authorities?
Jimmy: They said they were hunting him.
Chan: Look around. What do you see?
Jimmy: Mostly open fields, with only a few houses nearby.
Chan: Look further.
Jimmy: Well, we did pass a big military base nearby where tens of thousands of Pakistani soldiers live. And there are many homes of retired Pakistani military. Plus, there's that national military academy we passed about a mile back. Gee, it's like we're at the center of the Pakistani armed forces.
Chan: Yes, and so we are, Jimmy.
Jimmy: Pop, wouldn't you think that someone in the Pakistani intelligence service would have noticed this place and inquired as to who lived here? It sticks out like a sore thumb.
Chan: Pakistani authorities report they visited here in 2003 to make such inquiries. An official says the compound "was raided when under construction" back then.
Jimmy: So who was living here then, Pop?
Chan: Here's an aerial photo of the compound from 2004. Who do you think was?
Jimmy: It was an empty field! So how did they visit a compound on an empty field?
Chan: It must have required great imagination, Number One Son.
Jimmy: I see evidence of the shootout here, Pop. The newspapers say it lasted 40 minutes. We are so close to a lot of armed soldiers. What did they do when they rushed here to investigate?
Chan: Another good question, Jimmy. An official of Pakistan's main intelligence organization, the ISS, says, "We were totally caught by surprise. They were in and out before we could react." He also says, "the compound was not on our radar; it is an embarrassment for the ISI. We're good, but we're not God...This one failure should not make us look totally incompetent."
Jimmy: Well, at least they admit their mistakes.
Chan: Perhaps. But an ancient honorable ancestor once said that sometimes a clever man will claim to be stupid to hide his cleverness.
Jimmy: You mean they knew bin Laden was here all the time, sort of in protective custody, under house arrest?
Chan: The President of Pakistan, Asif Ali Zardari, said that bin Laden "was not anywhere we had anticipated he would be." But White House counter-terrorism adviser John Brennan says bin Laden could have been living here five or six years. Is it not interesting that in 2005, al-Libi, who also lived here in Abbottabad, was captured and taken to Guantanamo?
Jimmy: All this doesn't add up, Pop. How long have we known that bin Laden was likely hiding here?
Chan: Number One Son has a good head for mathematics. The government admits knowing since mid-February.
Jimmy: Wait. Wasn't that around the time when Raymond Davis, an American contractor collecting information for the C.I.A. in Pakistan, was arrested for killing two men who, he said, were trying to rob him at a crowded traffic stop?
Chan: Another honorable ancient ancestor once said, "Two dogs may bark at the same time, but not necessarily for the same reason. On the other hand, one cat in a neighborhood of dogs can set all to barking."
Jimmy: This Davis story is a curious coincidence.
Chan: Much about all of this is curious, Jimmy. Details of what happened inside the compound when bin Laden was terminated with extreme prejudice are confusing. A man unable to relate a relatively simple story without changing it with each retelling is often more interested in concealing, than revealing, information.
Jimmy: You mean the government might not be telling us the truth, the whole truth, and nothing but the truth, Pop?
Chan: Number One Son, do not be alarmed with what I am about to tell you: No government does such things.
Jimmy: I'm wondering about the timing of all this. I read that there were many National Security Council meetings over the last 6 weeks about how and when to enter the Mansion. I know these things take time, but I don't sense the fierce urgency of now to get a man who we've been hunting for 10 years.
Chan: Yes, the timing is interesting, Jimmy. Sometimes one must look for the reasons for when something happens within the eventual impact it brings.
Jimmy: And this comes from another honorable ancient ancestor?
Chan: No, from the Los Angeles Times.
Intense, closed-door meetings continued until after midnight. David Plouffe, a senior White House advisor who ran Obama's 2008 campaign, met with the president's press team and afterward, ambled past the Oval Office in blue jeans, shirttail out, looking tired but happy. A single Secret Service agent stood guard outside the Oval Office, where the light was still on. For a White House that has seen its poll numbers drop amid a sour economy and setbacks overseas, Sunday was a welcome reprieve.
Jimmy: Surely you're not suggesting that the timing was designed to enhance the President's standing in the polls?
Chan: Have you ever seen the ocean, Number One Son?
Jimmy: You know I have, Pop. We live in Honolulu.
Chan: Indeed. And what have you seen?
Jimmy: Same as you -- the surface of the ocean.
Chan: Of course. But we see just part of the ocean's surface, and not see the ocean itself.
Jimmy: One more thing, Pop. We're concerned that the Chinese -- the ones who live in China -- might get access to sensitive technology contained in the tail of the helicopter that was destroyed in the raid. What do the Chinese have to do with all of this?
Chan: We passed a Chinese restaurant on the way here. Let's have lunch, Jimmy.