Jewish World Review Dec. 7, 2001 /22 Kislev, 5762

Greg Crosby

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Doughboy Dan Joins G.I. Geraldo Joe At The Front -- NOW that US forces and the Northern Alliance have just about wiped out the Taliban regime, it's comforting to know that Afghanistan has now been made safe for television media celebrities. The first big shot to arrive was Geraldo Rivera about a week or so ago, dressed for the occasion in flack jacket, army boots, and camouflage outfit. From the minute he set foot on the ground, of course, his reporting was all about Geraldo. "The Geraldo Diaries."

Anytime now I expect to see him crawling through underground caves, microphone in hand, digging his way through hidden passages on the trail of Osama bin Laden. With cameraman close behind him, I can see Geraldo talking into the lens, giving us a blow by blow description of his surroundings as he goes, not unlike the "Blair Witch Project." At last he reaches the secret door. This is it. The hidden lair of Osama. The suspense builds. What will we find inside when we open the door? Will it be Osama? Will it be his top Al Qaeda leaders? Will it be Al Capone's secret vaults? The hidden treasures from the Titanic? Maybe it'll be Aladdin's magic lamp. "Open Sesame."

As if Geraldo isn't enough, Dan Rather, the 70 year old CBS News star, has gone "over there" to become the first major network anchorman to head to the Afghanistan battle zone. CBS Spokeswoman Sandy Genelius says Rather "wants to be where the big stories are." She adds that Rather is a highly experienced war correspondent who happens to have experience in the region, having traveled there in 1980 for a "60 Minutes" report. You might remember the famous shot of him crossing the boarder dressed in traditional Afghan garb -- thus acquiring the nickname, "Gunga Dan."

Not to be outdone by Dan, there's no doubt Brokaw and Jennings will take their turns out in "the war zone" as well, although you can bet that none of these guys will ever be in a place where it's REALLY dangerous. But why we need television anchormen out there at all escapes me. All the major network news groups already have numerous correspondents in the region, so they're not going there to gather news. And you know that these "superstars" must be surrounded by more body guards and soldiers than bin Laden himself.

I can't imagine that these people will accomplish much except boosting their own egos and, unfortunately, giving our military something else to have to worry about -- protecting their celebrity butts. It's a joke. But the biggest joke is the rush of these guys to get out where the "action is" after the action is well over. Where were the big shots two months ago?

What's next? Maybe "The Today Show" will do a remote from Kandahar. Katie Couric interviewing newly liberated Afghani women. "So, how does it feel to walk around without your face covered?" "What do you think about a woman's right to choose?" "Have you given any thought yet to starting your own career?" Matt Lauer can do investigative reports on the dangers of smoking too close to a suicide bomber and the highly toxic material used in the making of burqas.

I can imagine "Live With Regis and Kelly" on location at Disneyland Paris (which is about as close to the action as those two will get). Then we'll have Ted Kopell talking to Taliban and Al Qaeda prisoners of war. "How are the living conditions here in the prison camp?" "Do they allow you any recreational time?" "How would you describe your treatment here?" "How's the food?" "Are you given time for prayer?"

The final insult will be if they take Osama bin Laden alive. That would be the worst of all. Because I don't think I'll be able to stomach the Connie Chung interview with him.

JWR contributor Greg Crosby, former creative head for Walt Disney publications, has written thousands of comics, hundreds of children's books, dozens of essays, and a letter to his congressman. You may contact him by clicking here.

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