Rumor has it that the Cayman Islands and Bermuda have asked to join NATO. They insist they must be admitted because they protect more money than all of the North Atlantic Treaty Organization countries combined.

A lobbyist for the hundreds of banks located on the two islands said, "The Caymans and Bermuda are involved with the movement of billions of tax-free dollars around the world. While their depositors live in foreign countries, their money is in the Caymans and Bermuda and must be protected from the hostile tax collectors of every nation on the face of the Earth.

"We believe an attack on us is an attack on our numbered bank accounts."

I asked, "How many troops can the Caymans and Bermuda contribute?"

"Not many. But we can finance any war with cash."

"Why, historically speaking, should the two islands be admitted?"

Bermuda was discovered in 1503 by the Spanish explorer Juan de Bermudez, who declared it a tax shelter for the king in case he had to leave Spain in a hurry. It became a shelter for the English in 1609. From then on, citizens from all over the world have come to enjoy the sun, the beautiful beaches and visit their safe-deposit boxes."

"What about the Cayman Islands?" I asked.

"The Cayman Islands were discovered by Christopher Columbus, also in 1503, but he didn't make a big deal of it. Then in 1655, the islands became a home for pirates, who stashed their booty there. But they weren't getting any interest on their plunder, so an enterprising swashbuckler named Peg Leg Ken Lay opened the first bank in the islands.

"Pirates were the first to hear of it, and then word got out, and pretty soon legitimate businessmen were depositing their money. There's a famous story about a group of colonists in Boston who said, 'Taxation without representation is tyranny,' and then they dumped British tea into Boston Harbor. Instead of paying taxes to the king, they sent their money to the Caymans for safekeeping. To this day, Bostonians come to the islands in the winter to enjoy the breezes, snorkel and remember what their ancestors said about taxes."

I said, "That is still not a persuasive enough argument to be accepted into NATO."

"The islands are much older than the United States, and Americans owe a lot to us," the lobbyist replied. "If Poland and Hungary and the Czech Republic can be admitted into NATO, why can't we?"

"If NATO recognizes you, they will be admitting that they condone tax cheating, phony bookkeeping and unethical accountants."

"Doesn't everybody?"

"Yes, but they do it secretly and you advertise it," I said.

"Do you want Saudi Arabia to control all the money in the world?" the lobbyist asked.

"They do now," I replied.

"Nobody in the Middle East is going to attack Bermuda if it's a member of NATO," he said. "We will become the listening post for all the North Atlantic Treaty countries. As a matter of fact, right now, all the money from Saddam Hussein's family is pouring in. This means Saddam is starting to get scared."

(c)2003, Tribune Media Services