From Nixon tapes to ‘yellow cake’: Still missing

By Daniel Meltzer 

The following are just a few of the many individuals and items still missing, lost or which have never been found. Some may have never existed at all:

• Multimillionaire aviator and circumnavigator Steve Fossett, missing since he took off from an airport in Minden, Nevada, this Labor Day. Twenty-eight Civil Air Patrol planes — 60 searchers on as many as 250 flights — looked in vain for the veteran pilot, who was the first to fly around the world in a hot-air balloon. The search was called off after two weeks. 

• Four-year old British girl Madeleine McCann, allegedly kidnaped from a hotel suite in Portugal while her vacationing parents were reportedly out to dinner. Gerry and Kate McCann, both physicians, have been named as suspects by Portuguese authorities, but have not been arrested or charged with any crime. 

• Osama Bin Laden, subject of intense and extensive military operation in Afghanistan and northern Pakistan since September 2001. The world’s Public Enemy Number One, perhaps the most recognizable face on the planet. Wealthy Saudi founder and guiding spirit of Al Qaeda. Confessed conspirator extraordinaire believed to have conceived and supported the 9/11 attacks on New York City and Washington, D.C., along with other deadly deeds. “Somewhere in the hills of northern Pakistan” is the best guess of the C.I.A., Defense Department, F.B.I., Interpol and presumably every other uniformed and non-uniformed West-friendly military and paramilitary organization in the world that has been searching for him for six years now. 

• Rudi Giuliani’s hair, last seen sometime between the day he left office as mayor of New York City and the day he announced he’s running for president. The last bald-headed president was Dwight Eisenhower, also a Republican, also something of a national hero. Ike led us to victory in WW II as commander of Allied forces in Europe. Giuliani saved America by reminding us of our responsibility to keep shopping despite having been attacked by terrorists. 

• Weapons of mass destruction, Saddam Hussein’s secret chemical, radiological and biological arsenal. Cheney swore they were there, so did Condoleezza (“Smoking Gun/Mushroom Cloud”) Rice, Donald (“Stuff Happens”) Rumsfeld and George W. (“Axis of Evil,” “Nucular,” “The Education President”) Bush. A George (“Slam Dunk”) Tenet certainty to be found by triumphant troops of the “Coalition of the Willing” after the U.S.-led invasion of Iraq in March 2003.

• Receipts for “yellow cake” uranium ore allegedly sought by Iraqi dictator Saddam Hussein prior to the U.S. invasion in 2003 — See “Weapons of mass destruction,” above. 

• Millions of dollars in cash, packaged as “bricks” of U.S. currency, flown to Baghdad to finance the democratic nation of Iraq after “shock-and-awe” destroyed much of the country. Vanished somewhere between the U.S. Air Force transport plane that brought it and the various contractors it was supposed to fund. Also thousands of Iraqi Army weapons left unguarded after the mission was declared accomplished. 

• Etan Patz, last seen setting out for school at the age of 6 in Manhattan’s Soho district on a May morning in 1979. No arrests were ever made. Soho, a working-class and artists’ neighborhood of low-rent loft buildings at the time, has in the nearly three decades since become one of the borough’s most fashionable and most expensive. 

• Thousands of votes in Florida in the 2000 presidential election, as well as in Florida and Ohio in 2004. Margins in both were close enough for recount and there were charges of underreporting and voter intimidation in minority, Democrat-heavy districts. The Supreme Court closed the books without recounts in 2000, and John Kerry threw in the towel in 2004. Bush was declared victor both times, the second time with a clear minority of the popular vote nationwide. 

• The Nixon tapes, 18 minutes of former President Richard M. Nixon, allegedly relating to the Watergate burglary coverup in 1973 that led to his resignation. A song was written about the famously incomplete tape and Nixon’s secretary, Rose Mary Woods, who more or less transcribed it.

• James R. (Jimmy) Hoffa, former head of the International Brotherhood of Teamsters; presumed murdered in summer, 1975. His body was never found. Many believed it was encased in cement in the foundation of Giants Stadium in the New Jersey Meadowlands. An end zone and seating section were excavated. No body found. 

• The Peace Dividend, the great windfall from major cutbacks in U.S. defense spending after the collapse of the Soviet Union. Billions of surplus $$ piled into the vaults. Well, we do know where that went, don’t we. 

Not to mention: Amelia Earhart; uncounted “disappeared” in Argentina and Chile; and the backbone and rhetorical skills of the Democratic Party.