MARSHBAUM'S FINE LINE
by Walter M. Brasch
American Reporter Correspondent
BLOOMSBURG, Pa. -- Surrounded by maps and monitors, Marshbaum was direct= ing the search for Osama bin Laden.
As the only journalist allowed into the super-secret War Room, loc= ated 250 yards north of the intersection of routes 45 and 518, just inside = Coal Breaker Mountain in Molly Twp., it was my responsibility to observe an= d report every factoid to the public. I might win a Pulitzer if I did my jo= b well. If not, I would get several offers to be a television news anchor. =
"How will you finish him off?" I asked. "Assassins with unregistere= d Glocks? Barrage of Smart Bombs? ICBM to tear open his assets?"
"We want him alive," said Marshbaum as cold as his target's eyes. =
"Even better! You'll hang him from chains to reveal the secrets of the t= errorist network." Marshbaum didn't say anything, so I tried another possib= ility. "Put him on the stretching rack? Make him watch a month of 'Days of = Our Lives'?"
"We're taking him before Congress."
"Brilliant! Someone as evil as Bin Laden deserves to face the bickering,= petty manipulation, and political vindictiveness that only Congress is cap= able of. Bin Laden will beg to be boiled in oil as a humane alternative."
"And we'll give him the Congressional Medal of Freedom."
"And you'll slowly choke him with its chain," I said admiringly.
"We'll put him up at a five-star hotel, provide for all of his wants, ma= ybe take him to Disney World for a week or so.
"You're serious!" I said. "You're going to honor the man who financed th= e terrorists who killed almost 3,000 people?!"
"Because of the terrorists, we've come together as a nation. Everyone's = waving an American flag or wearing "God Bless America" and "United We Stand= " t-shirts, sweatshirts, and baseball caps."
"The flags are made in China," I said, "and most of the clothing is= made by child laborers in a dozen Third World countries."
"International cooperation!" said a delighted Marshbaum. "We're jus= t one big happy family thanks to Osama. Even the Democrats and Republicans = are holding hands and singing 'Kumbaya' together. Bush has a 90 percent app= roval rating."
"It's smoke and mirrors," I said. "He knows it, we know it.It'll di= sappear faster than Kuwait's loyalty when we wipe out theTaliban, and New Y= orkers return to giving the finger to eachother."
"President Dubya has learned a lot from history. That's why he has= his Daddy's cabinet in place. During the Gulf War, his daddy's rating was = higher than a college freshman at a keg party. Afterwards, the economy tank= ed and Clinton became president. That won't happen to Dubya."
And why not?" I asked, handing my ersatz foil yet another straight = line.
"Because, Ink Breath, the economy is even better thanks to Bin Lade= n. Before 9-11, the airlines were stalling. Oil companies were in trouble. = Even the defense conglomerates were in a funk because we didn't have any en= emies. Now, with a $15 billion bailout, the airlines and their $5 million a= year CEOs are flying high, they're using even more jet fuel from oil compa= nies formerly run by the President and Vice-President, and Defense industri= es can't churn out war materiel fast enough."
"We're still in a recession!" I declared. "It officially began two = months after the President was inaugurated. The airline CEOs laid off 40,00= 0 workers, and none of them get anything from the bail-out."
"More airport security," said Marshbaum. "Thousands of newjobs." =
"Thousands that the Republican leadership tried to scuttlebecause the= y were afraid they'd become union members."
"Job's a job," said Marshbaum. "Besides, it benefits the media as w= ell. Publishers are profiting from pushing stories and photos of the Twin T= owers and every patriotic theme they can think of. Newspapers are printing = full color pages of flags, layered with a thick coat of advertising on the = back. Haven't you heard it's patriotic to buy things?"
"Things we can't afford that will go into yard sales next year." =
"The business of America is business," said Marshbaum, quoting an Eise= nhower-era Secretary of Commerce, George Smith. "Besides, if we keep this w= ar going, people will stay united behind the President, give him anything h= e wants, and forget about the economy."
"You declared terrorism to be a war against America," Isaid, "then used = it to stop public tours of the White House so only sycophants and Big Money= could get in, rounded up thousands of Arabs and Arab-Americans and refused= to release their names, and gave the President the power to oversee milita= ry tribunals where Constitutional rights are waived. You're not trying to f= ind Bin Laden, you're trying to locate him to keep others from finding him.= "
"It's the price of freedom," said a smirking Marshbaum.
"Does the President know about this?" I asked.
"Probably not. We're working for a greater good."
"There's a fine line between treason and politics," I declared. =
"Patriotism in the defense of liberty is no vice," Marshbaum retorted. = "Besides, by identifying bin Laden as the mastermind behind the terrorism, = we have put a face on evil."
"The face of evil can be seen not only in Afghani caves," Isaid, "but in= a mirror."
"That may be true," said Marshbaum, "but as long as we keep America= ns afraid of terrorism, we'll have jobs a few more years."
"And what happens when the Marines do find bin Laden, and your clan= destine network is exposed?"
In almost a hypnotic state, Marshbaum kept repeating his mantra. "W= e directed the search for Bin Laden. We are patriots. We keep our jobs."
Walt Brasch's latest book is "The Joy of Sax: America Duringthe Bill Cli= nton Era." Dr. Brasch is professor of journalism atBloomsburg University.= i>