Flipping through the television channels the other day, I began to grow increasingly weary. After weeks of hearing day and night about the Taliban and Osama, I was desperate to find something, anything, that would serve as a pleasant diversion for just an hour or two. Indeed, you know you are getting desperate for some decent entertainment when you start to consider which of the Turkish-language channels might be more appealing.

Unfortunately, though, cable television seems to operate based on what I refer to as the Law of Channel-Quality Inversion ? namely, the more channels there are, the less there seems to be that is worth watching. No wonder they call this thing ?the idiot box?.

Yet just as I was about to turn off the TV, I suddenly came across an old King Kong movie. As a child, I remember watching the Kong movies, as well as the classic Japanese monster flicks such as Godzilla. Though the special effects were anything but special and the story lines were, well, monstrous, there was something about these cinematic adventures that provided a much-needed, and rather harmless, escape.

Pleasantly surprised that something decent was on, I settled in and started watching, grateful to get away from it all for a little while. My gratitude, however, proved to be short-lived. On the screen, King Kong marched through the streets of New York, wreaking havoc wherever he went and destroying everything in his path. I know, I know ? it all sounds familiar. As much as I tried not to, I could not help but make the connection: what the monster managed to do on screen, Bin-Laden and Co. have succeeded in doing in real life.

It does get better, though. Towards the end of the movie, Kong climbs to the top of the Empire State Building ? then New York?s tallest tower ? where he faces a final, dramatic showdown against the United States Air Force. After several runs, the planes finally get the best of him and Kong plunges below, allowing civilization once again to breath a huge sigh of relief.

Though the film was supposed to be enjoyable, I was anything but pleased. Not because I was sad about Kong (after all, he did return years later to do a number of successful, and highly profitable, sequels). No, I was annoyed because I realized then and there that many of the things we took for granted before September 11 will simply never be the same again.

In addition to murdering some 5,000 innocent people and stripping the New York City skyline of a well-known landmark, Osama Bin-Laden has also invaded the private space of each and every one of us. He has injected a new level of fear and anxiety in to some of our most mundane activities, to the point where even a silly monster movie made several decades ago can no longer be viewed in the same light.

Osama has intruded on nearly every aspect of our lives. He has scared us into thinking twice before we board an airplane and he has made us hesitate before going to a crowded public place or a tall building. Now, with the anthrax scare in America, even the act of opening mail has become potentially hazardous. The local cafe is not off-limits either, where Bin-Laden has barged in on our friendly conversations, encroached upon our thoughts and assaulted our dreams.

That is precisely why the United States needs to eliminate him. Not just because Bin-Laden poses a danger to life ? though that would certainly be reason enough ? but also because he poses a threat to living. That is why his attack on the World Trade Center has struck such a chord with people throughout the West. Osama represents a type of terrorism that truly lives up to its name, one in which even those who are not physically harmed by it are nevertheless terrorized into changing their daily routine.

Where Osama might strike next is about as predictable as Godzilla or King Kong?s next targets. Like the monsters on screen, he does not conform to any rules or morality and he knows no sense of restraint. Bin-Laden?s goal is maximum destruction, with little concern for the lives he ruins in the process. He is a threat not only to Western civilians, but to Western civilization itself. It is a threat that must be overcome.

It will no doubt require a great deal of time and effort to defeat Bin-Laden and his terrorist network. Like Godzilla and King Kong, he will almost certainly attempt to make a sequel by carrying out additional assaults. Eventually, however, Bin-Laden will be put out of business, for the simple reason that there is no other choice.

In the theaters, even the scariest of monster movies always seems to have a happy ending, as the villain is defeated and good eventually triumphs over evil. It is a familiar plot, one that has been played over and over on our screens. Let us hope that in this respect, reality will imitate fantasy yet again.


Michael Freund served as Deputy Director of Communications & Policy Planning in the Prime Minister?s Office from 1996 to 1999 and is author of a regular column in the Jerusalem Post.