Osama bin Laden must have digital television. Everything about his latest video suggests he knows exactly how to play a Western media game, which is why the most common response to his message advocating mass murder is: "Oo, he's dyed his beard black."
Maybe this video is just an extract, and later we'll see the whole half-hour programme as part of the series Ten Years Younger. Those smiley presenters will stroll through the shopping malls of western Pakistan with Osama, asking passers-by to guess his age, and at the end when they announce the results he'll clap his hands and shriek: "Oo, 46, ha ha, I was still fighting the Russians when I was 46, this is marvellous."
Now he could set up a chain of health products. To start with, he'd be photographed for an advert in Sunday magazines, in which he lay across an enigmatic rock, with a quote: "I lost pounds POUNDS POUNDS!! with the nu-bran Jihadist hi-fibre no lager diet. It's made me feel terror-tastic, and what's more, it's kill-the-infidel-icious!"
This is how he'll get caught. He'll get over-confident and go on "Tora-Bora's Next Model", but lose his cool when the judge tells him: "Osama, sweetie, you're great at expressing menace, believe me, and for a look that says holy determination, hey you're the guy. But we asked for something that could sell deodorant with a summer fragrance for men. Sorry cave-boy, you're off the show."
He also selected some strange topics for his address, at one point offering his opinion on the state of the US housing market. Is he really qualified to speak about the nuances of the Western property boom? Maybe it's much the same round his area, and every time he meets a neighbour they say: "Well we moved into our cave two years ago, we had a bit of work done on the stalagmites to make some extra space for the goats, we had it re-valued last week and it's doubled already so we don't know whether to hold tight in case there's a crash or re-mortgage and get the hand-held rocket launcher Brian's always fancied."
Or is he after a financial column, which will give advice such as: "As the property market appears increasingly unstable, investors may well find greater security is offered by placing long-term savings into heroin. The Afghan crop continues to leap from strength to strength, providing opportunities for both short-term returns and those investors with more substantial equity."
One of the main justifications for invading Afghanistan was that the Taliban were growing all this heroin, but since the American victory the crop has boomed even more, and now provides 90 per cent of the entire global supply. This must make the Afghan heroin growers the most successful people ever at defending an industry threatened with closure. If the British miners had done as well, by the time Thatcher left office the whole country would be one huge coalface, with Walton-on-Thames the centre of the expanding Surrey coalfield.
Every newspaper and politician that supported the invasion repeated again and again that if we didn't bomb the place we'd be leaving the heroin production at an awful level. What they must have meant is they thought it should be three times bigger. Now, the warlords and gangsters who rule the country, many of them put into place by the US, depend on the stuff even more than the Taliban did. Even in a genteel Afghan village there must be housewives telling their neighbours: "We went to a lovely farm where you pick your own and it was so fresh, much nicer than the stuff you get in a packet at the Kandahar Tesco Express."
Another reason for the war, which Bush and Blair repeated many times, was that the Taliban treated women despicably. So George Bush sent in an army that was so free sexually that one of their pastimes was forcing prisoners to strip naked, piling them on top of each other in a pyramid and taking pictures of them.
But the main reason for invading Afghanistan was to get Bin Laden. Cluster bombs and daisy cutters flew in all directions around the area where he was hiding, until it's now accepted that the number of civilians killed by US and Nato forces is more than by the Taliban. And six years later he pops up with a black beard to tell us his views on the housing market. Bush's office responded to the latest video by claiming it proved Bin Laden was "virtually impotent". But there's more terrorism and heroin than ever. So either they're wrong and Bin Laden's still causing mayhem, or someone else is causing all the trouble, in which case they've been chasing the wrong bloke.
And this is the war that isn't a disaster, the nice cuddly winnable war. Yet one of Bush's spokespeople derided Bin Laden's message as the "same old stuff". That's grim, isn't it, when the justification for your war is that your enemy's films are disappointingly lacking in creativity. What do they expect – a clip in which he trips and lands on his rifle which goes off and shoots a tribesman in the arse, which he then sends to Kirsty's Home Videos?
Or a romantic comedy perhaps, in which he falls in love with a woman in a burqua who turns out to be Danny DeVito on the run? Or maybe they just feel all that death and destruction was worth it, for the thought of their enemy calling out: "Make-up – over here please, I think I've got a bit of grey poking through at the bottom – and it's a bit wispy, I can't inspire holy sacrifice if I'm wispy."Reuse content