Where is Osama bin Laden?
That is the question on just about everyone's lips, especially the lips of the people who prate at us from their perches at CNN and MSNBC.
These are the same people who before September 11 spent 24 hours a day asking anyone who would hold still and listen to them where Chandra Levy is and what Rep. Gary Condit had to do, if anything, with her disappearance. Since September 11, they have lost interest in both Levy and Condit.
Now they are fretting over bin Laden, who, readers and viewers may recall is either in that cave right over there -- no, not that one, Geraldo Rivera is in that one; bin Laden's in the one just to the left -- or maybe he's in (a) China, or (b) Pakistan, or (c) back in Saudi Arabia, or (d) dead in the rubble of Tora Bora, or (e) in Argentina, or (f) running a convenience store in Toledo, Ohio.
Sheriff Bush, as we're all aware, has promised to "track 'im down, smoke 'im out, and bring 'im to justice."
Yes, well, first they have to find him, which is proving difficult. A news story pointed out the other day that Pentagon officials, who just a few days ago said they thought they had bin Laden cornered, now say it is "anybody's guess" where he is. They blame his failure to provide any recent radio intercepts in part for their inability to find him. So, in addition to being evil incarnate, bin Laden is also being uncooperative.
Since it's anyone's guess where The Evil One is, here are a few:
* He is in the United States modeling camouflage clothing and other survival gear and demonstrating the AK-47 assault rifle at gun shows.
* He has shaved off his beard and is a reserve power forward for the Miami Heat.
* He has signed on as an adviser with CBS, which is planning to do its next silly Survivor show in the Hindu Kush.
* He's negotiating with the Food Channel to do a cooking show tentatively titled Osama Live (for now). Formatting has reportedly bogged down over the producers' inability to come up with an Arabic equivalent of "Bam!"
* He's back in Saudi Arabia at his old job with the family construction business. Don't laugh. The Binladin Group (note the family name change) is a huge, Saudi Arabia-based conglomerate that does business worldwide. And as Jim Hightower, an honest Texan, points out, it has had some interesting business partners.
In 1995, four years after the Gulf War, the Binladin Group bought a $2 million share in the Houston, Texas-based Carlyle Group. Among the principals of the Carlyle Group are: George H. W. Bush, a former United States president; James Baker, the former president's Secretary of State; former Defense Secretary Frank Carlucci, and the odious Fred Malek, manager, until he was sacked, of Poppy Bush's disastrous 1992 re-election campaign. Poppy has been Carlyle's go-between with the Binladin Group.
Earlier, Binladin built support facilities for U.S. troops during the Gulf War. Among the Carlyle Group's many contracts, Hightower notes, was one to build the missile launching systems for U.S. warships that earlier this year were firing missiles into Afghanistan in an effort to eliminate Osama.
In an even more bizarre twist, Carlyle owns a company called Biot Corp., which has a monopoly to manufacture anthrax vaccine in the United States.
I guess the moral of this story, if, indeed, there is one is that once you cut through all the ideology, patriotic posturing and religious ranting, whoever wrote 1st Timothy had it right: "The love of money is the root of all evil."
Rossie is associate editor of the Press & Sun-Bulletin. His column appears on Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. Write to him c/o P.O. Box 1270, Binghamton, N.Y. 13902-1270.
© 2001 Binghamton Press & Sun-Bulletin