Jan 172002

Forget about Afghanistan. There are reports that the world’s most-wanted man is in our own backyard. We might not need to look any further for Osama bin Laden than in Utah.

According to the Salt Lake City Tribune, federal agents have investigated dozens of reports that the accused terrorist mastermind is hunkering down in a bunker in the Beehive State. Some people claim to have even seen him chomping on a Big Mac at McDonald’s, driving a Chevrolet on the freeway or strolling through the Gap to find some new threads to replace the worn out robes he wears on television.

Why not? Utah would be the perfect place for bin Laden and his buddy, the maniacal Mullah Omar, founder of the Taliban, to hide out. Utah has deserts with caves; bin Laden and his al-Qaida cronies can hang their turbans in when they get home from a hard day of planning to kill thousands of people. It has plenty of cool balancing rocks where they can practice firing their AK-47s. Osama might even be attracted to the region’s pockets of polygamy since he is thought to have about a dozen wives.

Yes, we may have been wasting our time in Afghanistan all along. So what if we have helped thousands of Afghans put their war-torn country back together, given women their liberties back and fed starving children? In the past few months, Osama has probably been laughing his butt off while sending us another tape of himself with makeup bruises supposedly caused by an American bombing campaign from a tunnel under Arches National Park.

At least Utah authorities have started a statewide search for bin Laden, his al-Qaida buddies and Mullah Omar, but as in the case of our troops in Afghanistan, they have not yet found any results.

“We have checked every cave in town and turned up nothing,” said Lt. Charles Illsley of the West Valley City Police Department. “If he’s really around, we’ll find him. We’re always vigilant.”

At least authorities in Utah have something better to do than ticket any speeders they can find with an out-of-state license plate on Interstate 70.

If I had any doubts before, I am now filled with total confidence that we are trying to mobilize every resource we have to fight terrorism. Maybe we should all take a road trip to Utah to do our part and look under every rock we can find.

With the Winter Olympics starting in less than a month in Salt Lake City, Americans have the right to be a little paranoid. Bin Laden’s face, as well as the faces of hundreds of other known terrorists, has been put in a computer database security officers at several event venues will use to check at the gates. We’ll have to see if they are as tough as the lady at the theater ticket counter who doesn’t let me get the student rate without showing an ID.

Even if it sounds a bit funny, we should take every threat seriously. If there is one thing that the attacks on Sept. 11 taught us, it is that we are vulnerable in ways that we have never before imagined. Whether or not bin Laden is hiding out in a cave in Utah or Afghanistan, security, especially at an event like the Olympic Games, should be tighter than the space in the passenger side of a Geo Metro with a sumo wrestler driving.

Let’s just hope Osama and his friends don’t come out of their caves and show up at the Olympics to prove the worried Salt Lake City residents correct.

Josh Hardin is a senior majoring in technical journalism.

 Posted by at 5:00 pm

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