Mullahs into Moolah

A few weeks ago, the good people at Topps, in a burst of inspiration and creativity, discovered an exciting new, patriotic way to profit from the tragedy of war. With Enduring Freedom Trading Cards.

A few weeks ago, the good people at Topps, in a burst of inspiration and creativity, discovered an exciting new, patriotic way to profit from the tragedy of war. With Enduring Freedom Trading Cards.

In case you haven't heard about them, the front of each card features a full-color photo of a brave soldier, heroic politician, despised and deadly enemy, evocative scene or piece of military hardware; on the back is detailed biographical and/or statistical information about same. All in all, they're a swell way to fill your kids' heads with the facts they crave about the dead, the soon to be dead and how the soon to be dead are going to get that way.

But if you think Enduring Freedom cards are just for kids, you're thinking with your empty head instead of your empty wallet. Because these first-of-their-kind cards are highly collectible. Meaning the tragedy of war isn't just profitable to The Topps Co. — it's (potentially) profitable to us all. Young and old.

Never one to turn down a moneymaking opportunity that requires no physical labor, I've personally invested in several complete sets of cards. And let me tell you, they're impressive.

In both depth and breadth. Going far beyond the boilerplate images of Bush, Giuliani, Apache helicopters and Osama bin Laden. In fact, the cards that have emerged as my favorites are ones I never would have expected.

Rod Paige, United States Secretary of Education. Major wartime duties: daily tutoring of President Bush in the pronunciation of "NU-clee-ur threat" rather than "NUKE-ya-lur threat;" spearheading the effort to double, from 2 percent to 4 percent, the number of American teen-agers who can find Afghanistan on a map; staying out of the really important cabinet members' way. Quote: "The al Qaeda network should pray to Allah that we never unleash on them the overwhelming rage and deadly firepower of this nation's bullied high school pimply geekazoids."

Fhidoh, Osama bin Laden's pet Bearded Collie. Believed to live in a small dog cave out behind Osama's big main cave. Considered by animal behaviorists to be not so much well trained as thoroughly brainwashed. Snaps at women, Westerners and Afghan Postal Service workers. Distinguishing characteristics: tailless since February 2001 when he "did his business" on, and thus detonated, a land mine.

Mullah Ahmed Pohtholabad, Taliban Minister of Transportation. Oct. 4, 2001: Sworn into office. Oct. 5, 2001: Signed law allowing residential furniture movers to switch from goat cart to bicycle cart. Oct. 6, 2001: Advocated the introduction of the paved road to Afghanistan. Oct. 7, 2001: Executed by superiors for taking the country "too far, too fast."

Gen. Tate N. McMahon, Commander of U.S. Army Marketing Battalion. Instrumental in the development of the "Be All You Can Be" and "An Army of One" ad campaigns, as well as the upcoming "Now 10 Percent Less Psychologically Traumatizing" campaign. Currently oversees the creation/implementation of ironical slogans and jingoistic catchphrases painted on the business end of bombs and missiles. Favorite: If you can read this, you're too close to death.

Clapper missiles, newly deployed non-nuclear guided weapons system. Retains the accuracy and destructive capabilities of its predecessor, the Cruise missile, but instead of the old, complex, training-intensive, time-consuming, hands-on firing sequence, this weapon is launched simply by someone clapping twice.

Mohamed "Double Mohamed" Mohamed, Northern Alliance tribal leader. Goal: To bring an end to the Taliban reign of terror. Promise: To kill every last person who isn't on board with his goal. Record-holder for most consecutive rounds fired into the air by someone celebrating his own birthday (shoulder-fired weapons category). Likes: shaving; captured territory; roasted goat ("If it's not too 'goat-y," he stresses); romantic walks in sandstorms. Dislikes: Pashtuns (collectively); Pashtuns (individually). Voted Sexiest Warlord Alive by People (in Turbans) Magazine.

Arthur Kent, broadcast journalist. Known during 1991 U.S/Iraq war as "The Scud Stud," an allusion to his chiseled good looks. Faded into obscurity in 1992. Recently spotted on street corner in Mazar-e Sharif with cardboard sign reading "Out of work Gulf War news vet. Will report hostilities for styling mousse."

The United States Constitution, formerly meaningful historical document. Currently being "edited" by government officials to aid the war effort. Already partly or wholly blue-penciled are (from least to most): freedom of assembly, freedom of the press, freedom of speech, due process, trial by jury and non-discrimination. Primary editors include: Dick Cheney, John Ashcroft, Donald Rumsfeld and the host of the local radio talk show you occasionally listen to but who you're pretty sure is crazy. ©

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