The news has been filled lately with the latest videotaped “message” from Osama bin Laden, the elusive millionaire who always seems able to get his picture on international television but somehow eludes not only American and coalition forces but also a horde of Western journalists who all have been scouring the Middle and Near East in a years-long hunt for the world’s greatest terrorist.

But when you consider the White House’s absolutely deft manipulation of the so-called news media, one has to wonder whether having bin Laden around isn’t really the best possible thing that could have ever happened to Bush and his henchmen.

He’s a rich, dangerous bogeyman (bin Laden, we mean) that can scare the bejesus out of most people when they see his face, let alone hear his voice. Outside of a latter-day Bela Lugosi, Central Casting could not have come up with a better character for the part of the evil man who hates America and all that it stands for.

And now that the Al Jazeera network is no longer the pariah of news broadcasters, with no less than Emmy Award-winning journalist Dave Marash, formerly of ABC, and a host of other media-savvy Americans and former military personnel controlling the network’s coverage of the war on terror, who is to argue against claims that this person is not only real and still alive and well, but actually still barking orders from a cave somewhere in some Godforsaken country thousands of miles from the Homeland?

Ever feel as though you’re being played like a well-worn fiddle? We sure do sometimes, especially after seeing seemingly disparate events like this occur, and particularly when speeches by the mysterious bin Laden only seem to surface when Bush and his handlers are in trouble because of horribly wrong things that they’ve done here at home, as was the case recently with revelations of Bush’s virtually unilateral decision to secretly tap into phone calls and email messages of average Americans.

Just look, everyone. There’s that scary man on television again. Now don’t you feel safer knowing that we’re reading all of his emails and listening to all of his calls — and YOURS!

We won’t go as far as to say that bin Laden was actually cooked up in a basement somewhere in Virginia, or that if he does exist he is actually on the government payroll, or that he’s being protected because his family and Bush and his family have been friends for decades, or that bin Laden’s actually been dead all this time and his image has been exploited to further the real goals of this war, which happen to include a cessation of most of our most basic privacy rights here at home.

No, we won’t say any of that. Heck, if we said that, government agents would be knocking down our front door soon enough.

But we will say this: The ends of prosecuting this war on terrorism do not always justify the means of doing so, as appears to be the case with Bush, at least among those with at least one scintilla of suspicion left in them about the true nature of this conflict and the real intentions of our government leaders.

We will also say, as many Americans also apparently now believe, that sacrificing our freedoms to keep us safe from this chatty but nevertheless virtually fictional character, one who is reportedly now talking (again on poor-quality video) about a truce, is unacceptable.

And while we’re at it, we will again ask that Bush do what he first said he was going to do, and that is smoke bin Laden out of his hole, kill him, make the world safer, end this war in Iraq and bring home our troops.

Anything short of that is not victory but an ongoing furtherance of the Bush administration’s real agenda, and that is to quash dissent at home and perpetuate war abroad in order to keep personal profits flowing and to make America into even more of a police state than it is already rapidly becoming each day that he and they remain in office.

Yes, be very afraid of Osama bin Laden.

But let’s not stop being equally frightened of the people who created this Frankenstein monster and are doing more harm to us than bin Laden ever could.