Bin Laden and his McMansion

As the details of Osama bin Laden’s death have become public, some attention has been paid to the house in Pakistan in which he was staying. Here is an extended description from Politico:

The White House says the compound that housed Osama bin Laden in Pakistan was “extraordinarily unique” and had many signs that indicated he was hiding there.

The structure, which has been described as a mansion, was on a “large plot of land” in a “relatively secluded” area, a senior administration official told reporters on a conference call. The residence itself was “eight times larger” than other homes in the area, said the official, who refused to be identified.

“We were shocked by what we saw,” the official said after President Obama announced that bin Laden had been killed at the compound in Abbottabad.

The security measures at the compound were “extraordinary,” the official said, describing walls that were 12 to 18 feet high and topped with barbed wire, in addition to walls on the inside. Access to the mansion was restricted with two security gates, officials said.

Another sign was that the residents of the mansion burned their trash, unlike their neighbors, who simply put their garbage outside, they said.

The property, valued at $1 million, had no telephone or Internet access, the White House said. It was “custom built to hide someone of significance,” the official said.

When I first heard about this house in a Pakistani community, I wondered if anyone would tie this kind of unusual house to the idea of a McMansion. I found three examples. First, a columnist links bin Laden’s house to McMansion complaints in an Austin neighborhood:

And so much for the legend that bin Laden was a really big camper who survived in caves. Bin Laden was found in a huge house, in Abbottabad, Pakistan, eight times larger than any other house in the area. So if he had been hiding in the Bouldin Creek neighborhood, they would have found him years ago because people would have called the city to complain about his McMansion.

They must have a lot of complaints about McMansions in this neighborhood.

Second, a Brooklyn-based publication links bin Laden to McMansions and Martha Stewart:

As for the details, we’ll find out over time (we’re expecting a big spread in Martha Stewart Living about how you can make your house look like Osama’s Abottobad Dream McMansion).

I don’t think we’ll be seeing that particular spread soon.

Third, the blog SpyTalk has this headline for a blog post: “Mystery: Who Financed Bin Laden’s McMansion?

Why exactly would people say bin Laden was living in a McMansion? Perhaps a few reasons: the house was quite large. The house was larger than anything nearby (the relative size argument). The home was quite private with its walls, gate, and barbed wire. But this seems kind of ridiculous: the typical suburban McMansion looks nothing like this nor are its typical residents dangerous terrorists (regardless of what the movie Arlington Road might lead you to believe). But if you don’t like McMansions and you don’t like bin Laden, perhaps this makes sense…

(A Time piece suggests the house was not even a mansion:

The compound doesn’t quite fit the descriptions of a mansion, as some have labeled it. The walls are 12 feet high walls and about 13 inches thick – enough to shield the tall terrorist leader from public view. The property itself is spread over an area slightly smaller than an acre. The house is a great deal smaller, rising over two-storeys. In other ways, it was unremarkable but sometimes noticed.

So there are some differing opinions on this.)

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