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"Blackbeard" Bin Laden and the Great American Protection Racket: Can We Be Fooled Again?

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In the new video, "Blackbeard" [bin Laden] says the US is losing in Iraq. He speaks fondly of the Democrats and Noam Chomsky. If you ask me, the people "bin Laden" really loves are Bush Sr., Dick Cheney, and Bush Jr. . . . [T]he bearded boogeyman sure seems to want to help the American Far Right. This is at least the third time he or al Qaeda has emerged like an evil genie from a magic lantern just in time to restore citizen support for the neoconservative agenda. . . .

Whether the guy in the video is bin Laden or just an actor in a fake beard, we Americans are expected to fall for it and cough up the cash. . . .

Enough! I say we shouldn’t pay protection money to the military-industrial-security complex or its friends in Wall Street any longer. It’s time we make friends with the rest of humanity and seriously figure out how to beat our swords into plowshares.

Speaking of protection rackets . . .

A funny thing happened to me on the way to the library. . . in Tehran, Iran. I was kidding around with some telephone company employees and ended up trying to explain how a protection racket works. [Feel free to skip ahead to the next subheading if you’re not interested in a personal slice-of-life-in-Iran anecdote, but I have to tell it.]

I was on my way to the library yesterday morning, and I had to stop at the phone company because of a problem on my line. I’m not very good at the Persian language (Farsi). So you can imagine that I did not relish this job. I hate trying to decipher signs in big offices, hate interacting with unshaven bureaucrats, hate struggling to explain myself, resent having to deal with nosy questions from people in the line with me, and dread being asked to fill out a form (it’s a different alphabet). And most of all, I hate having to wear a (goddamn) scarf. Grrr.

Imagine my delight when, not only did I get the help I needed, with a smile, but I was also treated to a pastry. "Ladies first," said the deputy director, in English, holding out the box to me before sending it around to the rest of the office. A quaint conversation followed (about the metaphysics of love, sort of), and several other employees joined in. Iran is like that.

After taking a minute to quote poetry (I kid you not) to a college intern, the deputy director suggested I come to the office every week to help some of the staff practice their English. In exchange, he said, I’d get top notch service—for example, if my phone ever got cut off again. I couldn’t resist: "So if I don’t teach you English, my phone might be disconnected? Reminds me of the mafia."

"She said mafia," someone repeated. They were enjoying this.

"Yeah, it’s called a protection racket. A big scary man asks you to buy ‘insurance’ to protect you so that your house doesn’t burn down," I explained in my fine Farsi, "or so that your leg . . . "

. . . "doesn’t get broken," finished the office director, who had been listening in all along from the other side of the room. Everybody laughed. Of course, before leaving I made sure my new friends understood that I was just kidding around.

Multi-billion dollar protection racket?

I’m not kidding around, though, when I suggest that the U.S. military-industrial-security complex has been running a protection racket against U.S. taxpayers, and "bin Laden" is in on it, whether "he" knows it or not.

In a few days, our devoted elected representatives will be asked to authorize continuing pay outs of millions more of our dollars to Halliburton, Fluor, DynCorp, etc. etc., not to mention the usual payoff from war in general for Lockheed Martin, Boeing, General Dynamics, etc.

Why should we pay? It’s protection, stupid. Protection from . . . terrorism, personified by the boogeyman, who has appeared on TV with perfect timing—just before the Iraq War progress report—in the form of "Blackbeard" bin Laden.

Here in Iran I watch satellite TV—BBC, CNN international, EuroNews, Aljazeera English. Some of the commentators on these channels have been discreetly hinting that they have doubts about the identity of the black-bearded one. One commentator asked, "Can’t Al Qaeda afford a decent camera?" The picture is quite blurry; the channels show contrasting images of "bin Laden" in previous incarnations so that we can make our own comparisons. Another journalist remarked, "Funny that bin Laden knows so many details about internal U.S. politics, don’t you think?"

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Rosa Schmidt is an American married to an Iranian, hence the second last name, Azadi.  She's a long-time peace activist with a background in anthropology, education, and public health.  She's also one of the people who walked away (more...)
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