Once the posse gets bin Laden, we'll head home to the ranch

Chuck Laszewski
Chuck Laszewski is communications director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy.
Submitted photo

President Obama is sending an additional 30,000 troops to Afghanistan because he considers the Taliban and al-Qaeda a threat to America's security.

Unspoken, but clearly a part of that calculus, is the idea that Osama bin Laden still is the brains behind al-Qaeda and must be eliminated. The attempt to blow up a Northwest Airlines plane with chemicals hidden in al-Qaeda-approved underwear provides more evidence that the terrorist organization is still scheming against us.

Having just read Lawrence Wright's brilliant history, "The Looming Tower: Al-Qaeda and the road to 9/11," I have some new insights into our enemy. And I've made a startling discovery: Bin Laden and I have a lot in common.

He was born in January 1958. I was born in January 1957.

He loved horses and was an accomplished rider and horseman, right up until he abandoned Sudan for Afghanistan in the mid-1990s. I have ridden horses and plan to take lessons this coming year.

His favorite television show growing up in Saudi Arabia was "Bonanza." That was my favorite show, too.

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Osama bin Laden and I could have been friends, if he weren't a mass murderer and evil terrorist mastermind. And he just isn't that bright. According to the testimony of those near him, bin Laden was convinced that just the act of striking the Pentagon and the World Trade Center would be enough to destroy the United States.

His reasoning was that the United States was an immoral, cowardly and materialistic nation, and that one good blow would send the various states fleeing the union and turning themselves into their own small nations, as happened in the Soviet Union after the fall of communism.

It's bad enough bin Laden doesn't know anything about American history (see Pearl Harbor and how well that attack worked out for the Japanese). But apparently he also didn't learn anything from all of those hours watching Ben, Adam, Hoss and Little Joe Cartwright on "Bonanza."

Every episode opened with the map of the Ponderosa being consumed by flames. But the ranch was the largest in Nevada, the size of some Middle Eastern countries. That made the Cartwrights very wealthy Americans. Yet, week after week, year after year, whenever someone threatened the ranch or one of the family, they all responded with brains, fists or guns to eliminate the threat.

Several episodes a season, Ben would lecture one of the boys, usually Little Joe, about the rule of law and letting the courts decide a matter. There was more than one episode where a contingent of Cartwrights would be holed up with the sheriff, protecting some jailed prisoner from the lynch mob (terrorists) until he could get a fair trial.

Once, Little Joe was kidnapped by a crazed miner who made him dig until Joe was able to overpower him, injuring the man in the process. When Joe started to ride away, leaving the man to his likely death, the miner taunted Cartwright about how he was as lawless as his kidnapper.

Joe, driven by his father's teachings, dragged the man across the desert, sharing their meager water. When the rest of the Cartwrights found Joe, with the vultures circling, he didn't realize he had been dragging a dead man for several days.

After the danger had been vanquished, the show often ended with a manly slap on the back and an arm draped over the shoulders of one or another of the boys. How did bin Laden miss all of this?

The only lessons he seemed to pick up from the show were horse riding and Ben's multiple wives. Ben Cartwright was married three times, each wife dying from some illness or misfortune not long after bearing a son for him. Bin Laden also has three and sometimes four wives, but all at the same time.

Sending in another 30,000 troops for another 18 months seems about right. Bin Laden and the Taliban leaders are bad men who, having misread America, fully intend to keep attacking if they can. But now, the Pakistanis are squeezing the Taliban and bin Laden from the east and we and our allies will squeeze them from the west. With luck, we'll capture bin Laden or kill him.

Regardless, after 18 months, we should give our troops a manly back slap and they can head home with their arms around each other's shoulders.


Chuck Laszewski is communications director at the Minnesota Center for Environmental Advocacy, which describes itself as "the legal and scientific guardian of Minnesota's environment."