A Peckham Classic column: September 10, 2001: "About time we lay off inconsequential Osama Bin Laden"

Judge Peckham is on assignment today, so we're rerunning one of his classic columns, which originally ran six years ago today.

September 10, 2001

NEW YORK - It is rarely spoken about even in the furtive corridors of the CIA building. Our elected officials invariably deny it.

But this office has obtained proof positive, in the form of a secret memo from CIA Director George Tenet, that the United States "has declared war."

With whom exactly are we at war? Russia? China? North Korea? None of the above. We are "at war" not with a nation but with a person, indeed someone few Americans have ever even heard of. Someone who is not a threat to us. As preposterous as it sounds, the most powerful nation in the history of the world is "at war" with an innocuous nomadic Muslin fanatic named Osama bin Laden.

Bin Laden has no army, only meager resources, and from what I can tell after studying the situation closely, only good intentions toward the United States. It is obvious to any rational person that we should not be "at war" with this person.

But the CIA is concocting all manner of doomsday scenario to panic us; the most absurd being that bin Laden intends to use our own airplanes as weapons against us.

This cannot and will not happen. When was the last time you heard of an American jetliner being hijacked to Havana? It used to happen practically daily, but with high-tech metal detectors in place, our airports have become invulnerable to sabotage. (There is a feeling among some that the CIA wants to scare us so that they can insist upon unnecessary security measures at our airports. One of the most laughable would require us to remove our shoes as we proceed through the metal detectors. This might be acceptable in Japan where removing shoes is a national fetish, but it will never happen here.)

The fact is we could track down and destroy bin Laden and his puny band of supporters any time we want to. And if he dared try anything at all, the whole world -- France, Germany, you name it -- would back us 150% in obliterating the Muslin nations of our choice. Bin Laden would not dare do that to his own people. In any event, the Muslim people would not allow bin Laden to bring harm to us. They love the United States too much; they love Western culture too much.

It is time we put the CIA's resources to better use than to harass this little flea, this nothing, Osama bin what's-his-name.