IT has always amazed me how the world's three most wanted men have been able to avoid detection for so long.

Setting aside the fact that British and American intelligence officers couldn't find their own backsides if the seat of their pants caught fire, the fact is the bounty on offer should be tempting enough for anyone a few bucks short of a shwarma. And you would have thought by now that the most highly trained soldiers in the British and American military might have just stumbled across at least one of them.

There's Usama bin Ladin, for a kick off. Surely he must be easy enough to spot on a bumble through the Tora Bora mountains of Afghanistan? Just how difficult is it to evade detection when you're the most photographed Saudi in the world, towering above everyone else at a lofty 6ft 4ins? Other clues are that he rides a white horse, and possibly drags a kidney dialysis machine around with him. Sometimes he travels around with his Egyptian mate Ayman al-Zawahiri in tow. While they master several different languages between them, I don't think either has fully mastered Pashtun, so they'll have at least one translator in their group. They will also have the recording team which helps them produce more videos and audio tapes than Britney Spears.

And isn't there a satellite phone? According to American intelligence, Usama has been known to call his counterpart in Iraq, Abu Musab al-Zarqawi. Quite why the satellites buzzing around Afghanistan and Iraq haven't picked up these conversations and pinpointed their whereabouts is beyond me.

Are we to believe that the great Echelon spy system, which is capable of eavesdropping on thousands of telephone calls around the world simultaneously, suffered a malfunction enabling the two to chat for at least 20 minutes?

You know something smells as fishy as tuna cat food, and it's coming from the direction of the White House or the Pentagon.

I hate sounding like a conspiracy theory nut, but consider this conspiracy theory: The existence of Usama in Afghanistan and/or Pakistan (take your pick) along with Ayman, and Abu Musab in Iraq helps the Americans and Brits carry out all sorts of dirty tricks.

There is nothing new about carrying out a few atrocities, getting up to all sorts of no good, and then blaming them on the bogey man or men.

The person who triggered this wild notion in my head is a certain US military officer called Major General Rick Lynch who last week said that Abu Musab was trying to stir up sectarian violence to prevent the formation of a new government. He even blamed Abu Musab's group for killing the brother and sister of new Sunni sell-out Vice President Tareq al-Hashemi. "Because now you have got a Sunni politician who is standing up for the people of Iraq and saying let's do the right thing for the people of Iraq and not worry about Sunnis versus Shias versus Kurds," he said.

Hashemi's sister was killed as she drove to work last Thursday, and his brother was killed nearly three weeks ago. Last October, the brother of the other vice president, Shiite Adel Abdul Mahdi, was also killed.

It all adds up, doesn't it? Abu Musab is the bogey man in Iraq, and anytime the US or the Brits want to do something nasty, they blame him. It's perfect because the man isn't likely to get a lawyer and sue. The bogey man scheme is so perfect that, even if a few innocent civilians accidentally get killed in a black operation, you can still blame Abu Musab/Usama -take your pick, take your country, take your black operation.

Isn't my theory plausible? We do know that thousands of innocents have been slaughtered in Iraq, and the killing goes on daily, faithfully reported by a slavish Western media, which is fed the news by a Pentagon spokesman from the safety of the Green Zone in Baghdad.

The Western media is faithful in peddling the propaganda.

Ever since 9/11 Usama has been the legendary cave-dwelling, Afghan-based bogeyman, and for the last three years Abu Musab has been identified as the elusive al-Qaida, resistence leader in Iraq. Tales of their brutality are almost legendary, and now it is becoming increasingly difficult to separate fact from fantasy. But if you check out the origins of who really placed the Jordanian in the grisly pedestal of a psychopathic, serial killer whose lust for blood knows no bounds, then look no further than serial liar Colin Powell.

Abu Musab's bloody role has achieved one thing in particular: it has distracted people from the daily scandal of the illegal war and occupation of British and US troops in Iraq. That great journalist John Pilger, not a scribe with which to tumble, rips open wide the whole scandal in his latest offerings and called it "the Salvador Option." Pilger wrote last week, "The real news, which is not reported in the CNN "mainstream," is that the Salvador Option has been invoked in Iraq.

"This is the campaign of terror by death squads armed and trained by the US, which attack Sunnis and Shias alike. The goal is the incitement of a real civil war and the break-up of Iraq, the original war aim of Bush's administration.

"The ministry of the interior in Baghdad, which is run by the CIA, directs the principal death squads. Their members are not exclusively Shia, as the myth goes. The most brutal are the Sunni-led Special Police Commandos, headed by former senior officers in Saddam's Ba'ath Party. This unit was formed and trained by CIA "counter-insurgency experts, including veterans of the CIA's terror operations in Central America in the 1980's, notably El Salvador."

Pilger's corroboration, not that he needs it, comes from an explosive new book, Empire's Workshop by the US historian Greg Grandin. Of the Salvador Option, Grandin reveals, "Once in office, [President] Reagan came down hard on Central America, in effect letting his administration's most committed militarists set and execute policy. In El Salvador, they provided more than a million dollars a day to fund a lethal counter-insurgency campaign . . . All told, US allies in Central America during Reagan's two terms killed over 300,000 people, tortured hundreds of thousands and drove millions into exile."

There's nothing terribly new or shocking about Pilger's and Grandin's views, bearing in mind that death squads, trained, armed, and directed by the CIA, murdered up to 50,000 people in Operation Phoenix in Vietnam.

In the mid-1960's in Indonesia, CIA officers compiled "death lists" for General Suharto's killing spree during his seizure of power. The mass graves from that grim episode are just a few hundred yards from the disco which was blown to smithereens in the Bali bomb horror.

It is quite clear that the SAS troops (British Special Forces) and their American counterparts are involved in black operations involving the bombings of Shias, and then they plan to plant evidence blaming Abu Musab and the resistance.

Of course any investigative journalistic attempts to reveal this plot are quickly thwarted. Just a few weeks ago, a Reuters report on the arrest of an American "security contractor" found with weapons and explosives in his car was quickly snuffed out. And let us not forget the infamous incident in which two undercover SAS soldiers, dressed as Arabs, were caught red-handed driving a car bomb. Sadly, two hapless Iraqi police who tried to apprehend them were shot, but more of their colleagues did arrest the British soldiers. What happened then? Were the two exposed? No way! The British military literally bulldozed a prison in Basra to rescue them. After that, the British government went into overdrive to persuade Fleet Street journalists to drop the story. Thankfully, the noble art of journalism is not entirely dead and buried. Diligent reporters recently revealed that the FBI's counter-terrorism unit was probing a series of US-based theft rings after discovering that some of the vehicles used in deadly car bombings in Iraq, including attacks that killed US troops and Iraqi civilians, were probably stolen in the United States. That investigation will likely be snuffed out before it leads back to some red-faced black operators in American intelligence.

Of course my detractors will say I've been sniffing glue or I'm hallucinating, but the US and Britain has previously exhibited this sort of behaviour.
And if all else fails, then there's nothing like spreading a little bit of terror around the globe and blaming it on Usama. Cranking up the paranoia usually sets the general public on a stampede of fear, and when one is metaphorically running for his life, he rarely stops to question the propaganda bombarding him.

Now, ask yourself why the three most wanted men in the world are still at large.