Those of us that are old enough and fond of TV commercial history remember the famous Wendy’s hamburger chain commercials of the 1980s. You might remember they featured three fickle old ladies that enter a burger joint and are disappointed at the size of the patty on the bun. The old biddies’ appearance in that commercial ends with the refrain from one of them, “where’s the beef”? Overnight, “where’s the beef”? became a popular nationwide response for anything lacking in substance. It was even used to chastise a presidential candidate for lack of details in his campaign platform.
Let’s fast forward to yesterday and the amazing news that the U.S. military finally brought Osama bin Laden to justice. Bin Laden has allegedly been on the run from U.S. forces since President Bush sent our military into Afghanistan shortly after 911. I say allegedly because no one could be sure if bin Laden was dead or alive all this time. True, he appeared to star in videos from his remote cave hideouts that were disseminated to the world by Al Jazeera. Our intelligence agencies inspected the videos and assured us of their authenticity. But still, who could tell. After all, didn’t Saddam Hussein have several different doubles?
So, President Obama goes on TV last night and announces that yes, when he took office in 2009 he made it a first priority in the War on Terror to capture bin Laden dead or alive. He stated that for several weeks his administration sifted through intelligence reports of bin Laden’s whereabouts meticulously. Finally, when there was a certain guarantee of launching a successful capture of bin Laden the president as commander in chief gave the order to execute the plan. And we were told that the plan came off flawlessly. A fire fight was involved and when the smoke cleared the dead corpse of the world’s most wanted man was in the custody of the Navy Seals. Hollywood could not have scripted a better movie.
The only problem is “where’s the beef”? Where is bin Laden’s body to corroborate the president’s fish story. An administration official has indicated that in accordance with Islamic practice, which the U.S. military respects very much (forget for a moment about Abu Ghraib), bin Laden’s body was buried at sea. You see the U.S. military didn’t have time to parade his body in public for the world to see like it did when it executed Saddam Hussein. Saddam’s corpse was shown to the Iraqi people to quell their fears that there was any chance he would be coming back. As an American whose government has spent trillions trying to capture bin Laden and who has had constitutional rights taken away and been sexually molested at airports because of the danger he posed, don’t I have a right to see his bullet riddled body to quell my fears that he is never coming back?
Anyway, here is what I think might be the truth. Bin Laden died years ago at the hands of American bombers in the mountains of Afghanistan. It made sense for the U.S. government to not publicize his death given it would be used to recruit new members to Al Qaeda and encourage attacks on U.S. interests. However, today the economy is in the toilet, we are involved in at least three recognized wars, and Barrack Obama’s approval rating is dismal. Having just launched his reelection campaign the president needed some good news. Since capturing bin Laden was the first priority of his in fighting the War on Terror, why not go for the gusto. Make the whole thing up. Fabricate the story that our forces just killed him last night. Claim his body had to be disposed of within twenty-four hours out of respect for Islam and we couldn’t bury him on land, like Saddam Hussein was, for fear his followers would go there to honor him as a martyr. Americans will be dancing in the streets, the dollar will strengthen, the stock market will rise, and Obama will look like a strong leader which will bode well for his reelection chances. Conspiracy theory you say? Maybe, but the discerning observer should still ask “where’s the beef”? Why couldn’t we have seen the body to verify the story? After all, isn’t a murder case on shaky ground without the body?
At the end of the day whatever was left of Barrack Obama’s credibility is at the bottom of the sea with bin Laden’s corpse. One of two things happened. Either the whole thing is a fraud for political ends like George W. Bush pulled claiming Saddam Hussein had weapons of mass destruction and ties to Al Qaeda so he could invade Iraq. Or Obama is not smart enough to realize you need evidence to prove fish stories. Whatever the case, given how much Americans have sacrificed for the War on Terror don’t we deserve better?
Article first published as “Where’s the Beef”? on Blogcritics.
Kenn Jacobine teaches internationally and maintains a summer residence in North Carolina