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Sam Pollak

June 9, 2012

For fatalistic job-seekers, I hear al-Qaida is hiring

NEWS ITEM: Abu Yahya al-Libi, second-in-command of al-Qaida's terror network, was killed last month in Pakistan by a CIA Predator drone attack, U.S. intelligence officials confirmed Tuesday. Al-Libi was a founding member of al-Qaida and a key operative for Osama bin Laden.

We take you now to the humble Pakistani hideout of Ayman al-Zawahiri, who became leader of al-Qaida in 2011 by virtue of bin Laden being sent to hell, courtesy of U.S. Navy SEALS.

Several scruffy-looking characters in desert garb are present, with a couple of them hunched over a tiny television set showing CNN.

"Hey Ayman," one calls out, "you got cable?"

"No," says the bearded 60-year-old. "I got the satellite. It's cheaper, and you don't have to wait all day for the cable guy to show up. But what are you guys doing watching TV? We've got some serious stuff to take care of today."

The men become silent, except for two nasty-looking gentlemen who have gotten into a heated argument about whether the Navy SEALS confiscated all of bin Laden's pornography collection.

"I'm telling you," one of them says, grabbing the other's robe in a threatening manner, "that man was a hound, I mean very close to being a complete pervert. There's no way the Americans could have carted off all his porn. They'd have needed a lot more than two helicopters, let me tell you."

The other man grips the first guy's wrist.

"What are you saying? Are you accusing me?"

"Well," says the first man, "everyone knows you were in Abbottabad right after the raid that killed bin Laden. Are you trying to tell me you didn't find any of our great leader's videos ... or magazines ... or his Internet raunchy website passwords?"

"Ummm .... ahhhh ... well, you know ... those SEALS ... they're pretty thorough ..."

It isn't long before both men go for their curved knives, and the dispute would likely have turned violent had not al-Zawahiri called the meeting to order.

"Knock it off, will you? We've got important business," al-Zawahiri says. "Today we've got to elect a new No. 2 man for al-Qaida."

The shabby room becomes stone silent, except for the low sounds of CNN on the television. Everybody moves a step or two farther away from al-Zawahiri, who looks around him, bewildered.

"Now, come on, you guys," he says. "This is a great job I'm talking about. Three weeks paid vacation, a 401(k) and a gem of a dental plan."

All al-Zawahiri hears are muttered grunts and his audience looking anywhere but at him. One -- named Kareem -- even turns back to the television.

Al-Zawahiri confronts a wrinkly, sad-looking man in flowing white robes.

"Muhammad? Muhammad, what about you? How about sending me your resume and a nice cover letter, and we'll see what we can do about setting up an interview."

The elderly terrorist says he has no interest in the job, but he does have a question.

"So, Ayman," he inquires, "how come you've got this position open at the current time?"

Al-Zawahiri clears his throat.

"Well, the thing is, this wonderful opportunity just recently came about rather abruptly when a Predator drone missile landed on the head of our brother, Abu Yahya al-Libi, causing him to leave our employ without giving notice or, for that matter, a forwarding address."

The other men shuffle about, some nervously looking out the window. One never knows when a Predator drone might be in the neighborhood. Finally, a middle-aged terrorist speaks up.

"It's this way, Ayman," he says, "that Obama ... he's pretty quick on the trigger, particularly for a Democrat. Have you noticed that his damned drones have bumped off 15 of our top people? And under Bush, 16 of us were sent to Paradise, thanks to those drones.

"And what about bin Laden, and those Navy SEALS? The way I figure it, being a big shot in al-Qaida gives you the life expectancy of a fruit fly."

On the television, which is being watched intently by Kareem, CNN is doing a story about an aquarium in San Diego.

"Hey," Kareem calls out, pointing to group of sea lions, "Seals!"

Everyone in the room -- except Kareem -- dives to the floor, covers his head with his hands and starts begging not to be shot.

A week later, this classified advertisement appears in the Islamabad Bugle:

WANTED: Enterprising self-starter for the No. 2 position in a terror organization with a dandy dental plan that has been the subject of downsizing not of its own choosing. College liberal arts degree preferred but not as essential as an indifference to living a real long time. Contact Ayman al-Zawahiri ... somehow.

Sam Pollak is the editor of The Daily Star. He can be reached at spollak@thedailystar.com or at (607) 432-1000, ext. 208. His columns can be found at www.thedailystar.com/sampollak.

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