Tuesday, January 10, 2006

Someone Call Disney 

Slate has an interesting piece on being the warden of the Yugoslavia Tribunal detention center:
What's more, these interethnic bonds appear to go beyond arms-length tolerance within the prison walls: "I have observed lasting friendships and mutual support," McFadden says, "that go outside their interaction within the prison, which cross the ethnic boundaries." It often begins with the shared struggle of the inmates' families to negotiate the difficult path to visit their loved ones in Holland. "If you have a [Muslim] family from a backwater village in the back of beyond in some mountain town in Bosnia, and you say to that woman, 'Uproot and bring two kids and go to The Hague, and then get the train from Schiphol Airport, and then get the No. 17 tram …' then how is she going to know what to do? But someone who's done that before and who may be of Serb origin can say, 'Look, my wife is coming on the same flight and she knows the way.' So, they put the two [wives] together and, you know what? They like one another! Because one has the knowledge the other doesn't have. And that's very common. [In the evenings] a lot of the family members actually go to eat together! So, it's not just a phenomenon within these walls, it actually extends outside."

I was skeptical at first. But then I remembered how, as our small group was walking down one of the prison corridors, we heard the murmur of a small gathering. It turned out to be a cell block celebration for a prisoner who was being released later that week. As we passed by the open door of the recreation room, McFadden leaned in and told the group that he would drop by for a chat once he'd seen us on our way. I glanced into the room while McFadden was talking, and there, plopped in the middle of about five other inmates, sat Slobodan Milosevic. His hair and casual clothes were rumpled, a piece of sheet cake sat on a paper plate in front of him, and he was holding a bite halfway to his mouth on a plastic fork. Right next to him at the low table, also sitting on the hard plastic seat of an elementary-school-style chair, was one of the tribunal's most prominent Bosnian Muslim defendants. And I thought to myself, the Yugoslav people, to the extent they ever existed at all, have vanished from the face of the earth. But somehow an ersatz version lives on within the walls of this high-tech jail, where Slobodan Milosevic—the Serb once known as the Butcher of Belgrade—can now share a quiet piece of cake with a Bosnian Muslim at a farewell party for their mutual friend


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