Why Aren't American Alpinists Looking for Osama bin Laden?

Till he died on Mt. Hood, Kelly James led a rich, daring life. He did “high-end modernist” landscape design and loved climbing mountains. He proposed to his now-widow at 14,000 feet, on Mt. Rainier. The two men he climbed the challenging north approach to Hood with last week were also veteran adventurers. But the evidence that Hood River County Sheriff Joe Wampler just described at his news conference—two abandoned ice axes, a climbing rope cut with a knife, a glove—suggest that the two died in a fall days ago.

Still the search continues. It’s a national spectacle on 24-hour cable. And where there are eyeballs, there’s money: Wampler said that he has all the resources he could want from the federal government and state to try and find them. You see the military helicopter behind him.

We’ve never had anything near this sort of media spectacle about the search for Osama bin Laden, who they say is hiding out in mountains about Hood’s height or less on the Afghanistan-Pakistan border. Supposedly we’re looking. But in the war Bush likes to compare this one to, WW2, the 10th Mountain Division drew on the talents of a lot of privileged skiiers. This time around you’d think that our alpinists would rather risk their lives in Afghanistan than in the Cascades. I wonder if anyone’s even asked them. Our priorities are out of whack.