October 20, 2007, Northwest Waziristan. 8am.
Osama bin Laden and Ayman al-Zawahiri sit in a cave, lavishly appointed with a satellite dish, laptops, and Crabtree and Evelyn bath products. Both are watching a small TV.
Bin Laden: Sheikh Ayman. This new fall TV season is atrocious. I miss The Sopranos.
Zawahiri: Sheikh Osama, you are so right. Don’t get me started on Grey’s Anatomy. And they just voted off Wayne Newton on Dancing with the Stars. This time, the infidel has gone too far!
Bin Laden: I hear you, Sheikh Ayman. It’s time to rethink our tactics. Instead of the same old violent jihad, perhaps we should do something more insidious to conquer the infidel.
Zawahiri (stroking his beard): Go on.
Bin Laden: We still do the jihad, but instead of sending our cells into America to attack, we send them in to surrender.
Bin Laden: The Americans are destroying themselves. All we have to do is help them along. Play into their arrogance that they’re “better than” us, more enlightened and civilized, with their “rule of law,” accommodations to us, and political correctness. They are cutting themselves up over Iraq, just as I said they would. They want to close Guantanamo. Idiots! Soft, weak imbeciles.
Zawahiri: You are visionary!
Bin Laden: Sheikh Ayman, stop kissing my butt and listen up. Pick up one of those disposable cell phones Atta sent from Wal-Mart. Alert the Toronto cell and the Caracas cell. Tell them I want 24 of their top operatives to enter the U.S. They are to proceed to New York and Washington. There will be NO attack. Instead, they will present themselves to the infidel authorities and surrender.
Zawahiri: But Sheikh Osama — what about all of our hard work?
Bin Laden: NO attack! A surrender will turn the Americans on themselves. Trust me, I know this infidel scum. They will fall for this like Paris Hilton for a Greek shipping heir. And we will achieve the greatest of victories. Inshallah. (Pause.) What are you waiting for? I’m growing cobwebs over here.
Zawahiri: I’ll give those orders right now. Allah Akbar!
Bin Laden: Allah Akbar. Then get me Ahmadinejad on the phone. I’m sick of that little runt stealing my thunder.
October 24, New York. 6:30pm.
Katie Couric: “Good evening everyone. We begin with an unusual development in the war on terror. Today, 24 self-proclaimed al Qaeda terrorists surrendered to law enforcement in New York and Washington. Early reports indicate they turned over detailed plans to detonate dirty bombs in those cities, but those plans were called off at the last minute. Still unclear — why they surrendered. Also unclear — what to do next with these confessed terrorists.”
October 25, New York. 7am.
Matt Lauer: “Good morning. A remarkable development today in the case of the so-called admitted terrorists. They are now being held at federal prisons, as prosecutors try to figure out how to try them. Also, law enforcement sources tell us that both cells entered the U.S. over the Mexican and Canadian borders.”
October 25. The White House. Noon.
President Bush: “In a major victory in the war on terror, we’ve had our first preemptive surrender. Twenty-four men have admitted to plotting dirty bomb attacks against our cities — attacks that would have caused countless American deaths and untold injuries. After a thorough review, we have classified these suspects as enemy combatants, but they will not be sent to the detention facility at Guantanamo Bay. They will be tried in U.S. federal courts. The world will see the transparency, fairness, and justice of our legal system.”
October 26. New York Times lead editorial.
“Fairness? Justice? We see neither in the president’s approach. These men showed enormous courage in abandoning their devious plot and coming forward. Not sending them to Gitmo is hardly a reward for their bravery. They must have the best legal representation and be afforded all Constitutional rights with dispatch. This is how we will prove to the world that we are NOT Abu Ghraib and Haditha.”
October 27. Washington Post, front page.
“A stampede of sorts has developed around the so-called “al Qaeda 24.” Hundreds of lawyers are stepping forward to offer them pro-bono representation. Prominent media consultants are also offering their services for free to help the confessed terrorists win “hearts and minds.” The Council on American-Islamic Relations held a press conference to warn against anti-Muslim bias, only to find themselves swarmed by people wanting to convert to Islam, based on what they call the “great spiritual example” of the 24.”
October 27. Fox News Channel, 8pm.
Bill O’Reilly: “So now we’ve got all of these hippie lawyers, the ACLU, Human Rights Watch, and on and on championing these guys. They are ADMITTED terrorists who came here to kill Americans! Come on!”
Nadine Strossen, ACLU: “Bill, these guys are men of courage. They didn’t attack; they gave up! They are entitled to full rights under the Constitution. Instead of jail, they should be given a ticker-tape parade down Broadway.”
October 29. Capitol Hill, 10am.
Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid and Speaker Nancy Pelosi announce hearings to ensure the al Qaeda 24 get full legal protections and expedited judicial review.
October 30. Washington, The Mall. 9pm.
Rick Sanchez: “Larry, what a day! Over 200,000 people, mostly mobilized by MoveOn and Code Pink, demonstrated in support of the 24.”
Larry King: “Any reports of violence?”
Sanchez: “These are people of peace demonstrating for peace, Larry.”
October 31. The New York Stock Exchange. CNBC, 1pm.
Maria Bartiromo: “Reporting from the trading floor, where it’s absolute mayhem as stocks suffer their biggest slide since 1929. Tim, hold on. We’re getting word of an immediate trading freeze to halt the freefall.”
November 1, New York, 3pm.
Brian Williams: “We interrupt our regular programming to bring you remarkable pictures from Boston, New York, San Francisco, and Los Angeles, where hundreds of thousands of people are marching for the release of the al Qaeda 24. This is staggering social unrest.”
November 1. The White House, 8pm.
President Bush: “At this hour, as our nation faces its greatest challenge since September 11, I appeal for calm….”
November 2. Waziristan, 7am.
Bin Laden (watches scenes from the U.S. flicker across his TV. He turns slowly to Zawahiri): Pass the pistachios.