As it turns out, I am apparently one of only a handful of idiots in this great country of ours who, prior to last week’s column, wouldn’t have known a coot if a coot came up and kicked me in the butt.

Although that would be one mighty tall coot. I mentioned my coot-ignorance last week as part of our discussion on covert operations in Pakistan… don’t ask… and was rewarded this week with hundreds of photos of coots, descriptions of coots, coot stories and even a few down home coot recipes.

We’d like to thank everyone who took the time to pass along coot-related information. I’m thinking about assembling all the photographs into a coffee table book called “Just Coots”. The profits from the book will be used to fund my yet-to-be-announced run for the presidency in 2012. I’ll be running as the candidate for the soon to be formed Common Sense Party, a viable alternative for voters looking to return the political process back to mainstream America.

Either that, or I’ll invest the profits in some shady off-shore on-line gambling operations and skedaddle to Costa Rica.

I’m hoping we’ll have enough time to cover this week’s topic before being interrupted by a planned Al Qaeda news conference. We’ve been advised that Ayman Zawahiri, Usama Bin Laden’s trusty sidekick, is expected in the Al-Sahab press room any minute to provide answers to questions recently submitted by journalists and others via the internet.

If you haven’t been keeping up with the crazy antics of Al Qaeda’s media wing Al-Sahab, let’s recap. Just last month, with all the giddy anticipation of a pack of schoolgirls waiting for a Hannah Montana concert, Al-Sahab announced that Zawahiri would take questions from the public during an on-line interview. This naturally set the counterterrorism world all a-twitter… and there is nothing appealing about hordes of terrorist experts twittering among themselves.

Zawahiri, also referred to at times as The Doctor, The Sheik or simply, Coot, has been very active on the media front during the past year. In coordination with Al-Sahab, Zawahiri’s mug has been seen on several Al Qaeda video releases. Demonstrating their excellent grasp of technology, they also recently announced the opportunity to download Al Qaeda announcements and cool Zawahiri videos via the cell phone. Not to mention the release of their greatest hits video, “Live at the Waziristan Palladium; Ayman & Osama Together Forever”.

The deadline for sending in your questions to Al-Sahab was Jan. 16. Apparently, according to Al-Sahab, they received more than 900 entries. Really? I’m feeling pretty good right about now… I got more than 900 responses to my What is a Coot question, and I am not considered the world’s number two terrorist.

Maybe Al-Sahab is downplaying the numbers for some reason but I can’t imagine there aren’t more than 900 tools out there itching for a chance to send a question to this nut job.

Regardless, the window of opportunity has closed. All we can do is wait for the press…

“What?”

I’m sorry, I’m getting a call on the PWB hotline (number known only to the mayor, my butler Alfred and the local Hooters staff).

Fine, let’s switch over to the press conference. Looks like we’re just about to get started….

“Ladies and Gentlemen, my name is Azzam the American… first I’d like to point out that there shouldn’t be any ladies in the press conference… as you know, ladies make us extremists decidedly uncomfortable. I’m gonna’ have to ask you to leave… I’ll wait… seriously… no women… come on, let’s all try to get along… ladies… thank you, you’ll all be rewarded by being virgins in heaven and getting your own 1/72 share in a studly suicide bomber. So, that’s good huh?”

“Okay fellas, thanks for coming. Mr. Zawahiri’s gonna’ be out in just a minute… first lemme’ put down some ground rules. Don’t look him in the eye, he really hates that. Makes him crazy. Second, no personal questions… you cannot ask about who he’s currently dating, we will toss you out and possibly kill you. Third, no follow up questions… this is really a pet peeve… you ask a second question and you’re out. And we may kill you.”

“Everyone good? Right… without further adieu, it gives me great pleasure to introduce the Titan of Terror… the Dictator of Death… Killer of Women and Children… everybody’s favorite evil dude… Dr. Ayman Zaaaawaaaaaahiiiiiiiiiri… “

“Cool… okay… thank you… thanks… good… alright, that’s enough… seriously… stop you’re damn clapping and sit down. What a bunch of butt kissers. Good to see so many familiar faces. My thanks to Al-Sahab for arranging this press opportunity. Also a shout-out to my cousin Zolman for the kebabs and fresh juices you’re all enjoying. He does catering if you happen to be in the Frontier Region. So let’s get down to it… fire away. Ha! Get it? Fire away… I’m a terrorist right… so, it’s a bit of a pun… never mind. Who’s got a question?”

PWB note: As hard as it may be to imagine, the following are real questions actually submitted to Al-Sahab. Seriously. I’m not making this part up. Honest.

Q:“Thank you Sheik… my question is, as a member of the Al Qaeda North Africa Branch, what do you expect from us? Should we follow the instruction of the mother organization to target the far enemy, meaning America, or do we focus our efforts on the apostate regime of Algeria? Or do you advise a middle path of striking both enemies?”

A:“Super question… really good. Lemme’ see… you know, there’s a little ditty in one of Usama’s favorite books, The Tao of Pooh, that goes…"While Eeyore frets ...... and Piglet hesitates... and Rabbit calculates... and Owl pontificates...Pooh just is. So there you go. Next question….”

Q:“Yes Doctor, does Al Qaeda have a long term strategy? I mean, does it just go from event to event or do you have a body that studies events and reviews them to correct mistakes and assess them?”

A:“Okay… got it. That was quite the run-on sentence wasn’t it? Would it hurt for you to learn proper English? Honestly. So, the question is… do we have a game plan? To be honest… not so much. Usama says I’m a typical Gemini… independent, impulsive… don’t like to be tied down. Maybe that’s it… I can’t stand the planning sessions. Good God, who can plan a terrorist operation three years in advance? Things happen… don’t fence me in. I’m a free bird. Does that answer your question? Super. Next?”

Q:“Thank you Sir… as a former Arab Al Qaeda fighter in Iraq, I’d like to just comment that it was really tough dealing with the Iraqi fighters… I mean, they really discriminated against us non-Iraqi mujahedeen.”

A:“Okay, first, that’s a statement not a question. Second, everyone knows I hate discrimination of any kind. As terrorists, there is no room for this sort of behavior... it’s super important that we just learn to get along. Now, anyone have an actual question?”

Q:“Sheik, when will we see the men of Al Qaeda waging holy war in Palestine? Because frankly our situation has become very bad.”

A:“Right… well you had a question, then you followed it with a statement. Can you see why this might set me off? Who’s running this press conference? Anyway, enough with the Palestine thing… get over it already. As a doctor I can tell you it’s not good to carry all that anger around. Maybe a hobby would help. Okay, any last questions?”

Q:“Yes wise Sheik… I want to travel to join jihad and I sought my mother’s permission, but she would not give it to me. Can I go without her permission?”

A:“Finally, a decent question… and from a youngster no less. Listen Scooter, the problem with the world today is all down to poor parenting. Your Mum needs to let you spread your wings… gain some independence… you know, get out there, find the bomb belt that’s right for you and blow yourself up. I tell you what, you see the recruiter at the front door and we’ll have a chat with your mother.”

Q:“Okay, whoa, look at the time, that about does it for me. Listen, you’ve been a terrific audience… we’ll definitely do this again. Azzam has my address in case you happen to be in town… door’s always open. Ha! Just kidding…get it? I’m the world’s number two bad guy and I said here’s my address… stop by… funny huh? Keep in touch.”

Till next week, stay safe.

As always, we encourage you to send in your thoughts, insight and churlish comments to peoplesweeklybrief@hotmail.com

While the staff here is far too inefficient to answer all the email, we do read everything. Till next week, stay safe.

Respond to the Writer.

Mike Baker served for more than 15 years as a covert field operations officer for the Central Intelligence Agency, specializing in counterterrorism, counternarcotics and counterinsurgency operations around the globe. Since leaving government service, he has been a principal in building and running several companies in the private intelligence, security and risk management sector, including most recently Prescience LLC, a global intelligence and strategy firm. He appears frequently in the media as an expert on such issues. Baker is also a partner in Classified Trash, a film and television production company. Baker serves as a script consultant and technical adviser within the entertainment industry, lending his expertise to such programs as the BBC's popular spy series "Spooks" as well as major motion pictures. In addition, Baker is a writer for a BBC drama to begin production in July 2007.