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Anyone Else Smell A Rat?

By Robert Pagani

I'm writing this in the early morning of December 13th.  The Feds have promised--sort of--to release the "smoking gun" video tape  of Osama binLaden later today.  Obviously, I haven't seen it yet.  As a result, I'm somewhat torn; part of me says I should wait until I've seen the video before writing what's on my mind. Another part says screw it, go ahead and just write it, let's see how right I turn out to be when the tape finally airs (IF it finally airs). I haven't lived a very cautious life up to now, so I guess I'll just continue to listen to the second little voice and let 'er fly.  I'm not going to be a friggin' weasel like John Ashcroft who says that anyone who criticizes the administration is a "terrorist" and the next day, after editorials all over the country rip him a new asshole, has his PR person say that he was misquoted (even though his statements were completely unambiguous and recorded on videotape). If I turn out to be wrong, I'll be man enough to say so. 

OK, about that tape...well, for starters, the government says that it was found in an abandoned house in Jalalabad.  Um, anybody else find it strange that there would be a video tape just lying around a home in a country in which television is ILLEGAL?  Yes, the Taliban banned TV some time back, so what's with the tape?  You need a VCR in Jalalabad like Ray Charles needs binoculars.  Remember the Springsteen song 57 channels and nothing's on?  That's how it is in Afghanistan (except for the "57 channels" part).  All nothing, all the time.

Even if we somehow get past the conundrum of a Binbusters in NoTVLand, we're left with another riddle.  The reason the government has given for the delay in showing this tape (which supposedly contains the "best evidence" of binLaden's involvement in the horrendous events of Sept. 11) is that the tape is of "poor quality".  So bad is the tape that as of late yesterday, the 12th, the government was bringing in four experts to attempt to come up with a translation of what ObL is saying on it.

So, the tape is just about impossible to understand.  How, then, were Dick Cheney and a few GOP Senators who've been allowed to view this thing able to tell anyone who'd listen that it proves, "without a doubt", that binLaden is Scumbag Numero Uno?  On the one hand, the audio is almost intelligible, so bad that it's taken the U.S. federal government, with all its resources, days to clean up for broadcast.  On the other hand, Dick Cheney and the other Republican blow boys can apparently hear it well enough to describe in detail what binLaden says on it. By the way, when did these busy men have time to take a crash course in Farsi (seeing as how it hadn't been translated into English yet and all)?  You don't think that there's any chance the tape isn't exactly what the Bush administration has alleged it to be and the real purpose of the buildup to the big broadcast premiere has been to plant in the public's mind the notion that this is THE proof of binLaden's guilt, do you? 

Unfortunately, most people in this country get the majority of their news information from TV.  Now that network news divisions are expected to be "profit centers" for the corporations that own them, there's next to no chance that any TV reporter who wants to keep his gig will ask anyone in the administration questions like these.  You push too hard and suddenly maybe the FCC finds a way to keep your boss from owning that second network he's got his eye on.  That would be a bad career move so it's better not to ask questions about things like THE AMAZING VIDEO TAPE FROM A COUNTRY WITH NO TV THAT'S VIRTUALLY UNWATCHABLE YET TOTALLY CONCLUSIVE.  Nope, the way to the top and the show with YOUR NAME in the title is to shut up and pretend that anything the Ari Fleischers of the world say makes perfect sense.  I gotta tell ya, though, I can't wait to see Smoking Gun, the (CIA?) directors's cut!  It sounds like the feel-good hit of the year!.  In the meantime, anybody got a shovel I can borrow?  I want to go dig up Ed Murrow.




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