BAGHDAD, Iraq - Arab television yesterday broadcast a new videotape Tuesday showing three of the four American corporate mascots, Fido Dido, Uncle Ben and the Energiser Bunny who were taken hostage in Iraq last year. However, the fourth - Ronald McDonald - was not seen in the footage.
None of the mascots had been heard from since an earlier videotape aired by Al-Jazeera television on Jan 28 which showed all four mascots alive.
"Our thoughts are with the McDonalds Corporation and the family of Ronald McDonald at this most trying time"
A statement accompanying that tape declared the mascots would be killed unless all Iraqi prisoners were released from Iraqi and U.S. prisons. No deadline was set but Mcdonald's absence from this latest tape has led to fears for his life.
"We do not know what to make of Ronald McDonald's absence from this video," Defense Secretary, Donald Rumsfeld said in a statement issued from Washington. "We pray for his safety and wellbeing. Our thoughts are with the McDonalds Corporation and the family of Ronald McDonald at this most trying time. I'm sure even the Hamburgler has his fingers crossed for him despite their well documented differences".
The "Corporate-Four" as they've become known, disappeared Nov. 26 with the previously unknown Swords of Righteousness Brigades claiming responsibility for the kidnappings. They had stated in the past that "this guy McDonald in particular had been on their list of targets for ages".
Tuesday's tape showed 3 of the mascots tied to chairs and begging for their release. The kidnappers appear to display little sympathy however, subjecting all 3 mascots to intimidation of both a physical and verbal nature.
A frenzied Fido Dido is heard promising his captors a life time supply of Seven-Up if he is let go. He's later heard offering them the alternative of the low-calorie Seven-Up-Free if they so desire. At this point, one of the men appears to slap Dido smack on his slender, ashen face, furiously asking, "what are you implying - that I should lose some weight... look at you... you're a goddamn stick insect... you're the last person who should be telling others about having weight problems."
The Energiser Bunny, clearly agitated at being tied down to a chair, is heard to say, "I support nuclear proliferation for godssake, I'm all about the energy. Look at me - I run on fucking batteries. For Godssake, of all the mascots present, surely you should let me go".
The captors respond by kicking the hapless bunny up the rear sending him soaring across the room and slamming head first into a jagged, unpainted concrete wall typical of a terrorist's hideout. Two AA batteries appear to fall from the bunny's rear-end upon impact. The video does not show whether or not these batteries were replaced.
A bearded Uncle Ben, looking weak and exhausted, (I bet he wishes he used Energiser) is in a no less invidious position. His offer of 150,000 crates of non-stick long-grain rice was roundly scoffed at, even laughed at, by the terrorists.
One is menacingly heard to ask, "Do we look like goddamn Chinks, Mr. Ben? (slaps the Uncle's face) We don't want your stupid rice you weird, retarded half-American, half-Indian infidel (slaps face again)".
Upon viewing the tape, The Bush Administration condemned the treatment of the mascots calling it "both savage and inhumane".
"The mascots had been warned repeatedly by Iraqi and Western security officials before being abducted"
"The callous brutality shown towards these brave mascot hostages on this video tells us that we are dealing here with people who have little to no respect for human or indeed mascot dignity", Vice-President, Dick Cheney said.
"You know what - I was thinking to myself and I'm pretty sure I hate all Iraqis", he added.
The mascots had been warned repeatedly by Iraqi and Western security officials before being abducted that they were taking a grave risk by moving around Baghdad without bodyguards. This has prompted the question: what exactly are these mascots doing in a region plagued by conflict and unrest?
"These mascots are obviously trying to capitalise on the fledgling Iraqi free market", economics lecturer from Harvard University, Prof. Bright Collins explained, adding, "If they lay the foundation now, these corporations could see rapid regional expansion within 5 years. Of course, these mascots were willing to accept the risk of being kidnapped in order to carry out their commercial duty. It's what any good, honourable mascot would do".
"huge white man apparently made of rubber, and resembling the Michelin Man, being beheaded".
There is additional fear over the safety of another well known mascot who disappeared one month ago. The Michelin Man from Clermont-Ferrand, France had visited Iraq to negotiote a deal with prominent local oil magnates to supply energy for his own chain of Tyre plants.
On another video released a fortnight ago, there is footage showing a huge white man apparently made of rubber, and resembling the Michelin Man, being beheaded.
The video has worried many of Michelin's major stockholders but company CEO, Édouard Michelin claims that "this could easily have been the Stay Puft Marsh Mellow Man who was known also to be out there promoting reruns of Ghostbusters in newly established Baghdad movie theatres".
"It is a well known fact that all Iraqis love sci-fi comedies, not to mention Dan Ackroyd who some Iraqis have even affectionately labelled Dan Irackroyd", Michelin revealed.
With defiant optimism, he added, "We remain hopeful of Bibendum's (The Michelin Man's real name - God I love Wikipedia) safety".
Of all mascots currently held captive however, the most concern, in global terms, seems to be over McDonald. The face of the world's biggest fast food chain is widely celebrated as a shining beacon of American corporate clout and proof if proof was needed that people, regardless of creed or race, can be taken in by brightly coloured ads offering burgers that contain meat of a quality barely fit to feed your own dog - a dog who you don't really like anyway.