It seems that Santa Claus has become the latest victim of the ‘War on Terror’, after US authorities announced that his sleigh would be shot down if it was detected overflying any US cities this Christmas. “According to reliable intelligence sources, extremist terror groups have been plotting to hijack Santa’s sleigh and crash it into a major landmark, possibly the Empire State Building or the Statue of Liberty,” claims Secretary of Homeland Security Tom Ridge. “We consider this to be a very real threat – what better cover could there be for a terrorist attack than an humanitarian mission of goodwill? Who would ever suspect a sweet, white-bearded old man bearing gifts?” Such an attack would not be without precedent; only last December the whole East Coast was put on terror alert when a sleigh and four reindeer were commandeered from a seasonal parade in New Jersey by a group of armed men disguised as elves. They subsequently crashed it through the front window of an electrical goods store in Hoboken, where they filled Santa’s sacks with several thousand dollars worth of TVs, stereos and DVD players before making their getaway in the stolen sleigh. The reindeer and sleigh were later found by police, burnt out in a Poughkeepsie car park.

“That time we were lucky – it was just a shop window destroyed, but imagine the damage that would have been caused if the ‘presents’ in that sleigh had been packed with explosives,” explains Ridge. “It just highlighted how easy it would be for real terrorists to hijack the genuine Santa’s sleigh.” It is thought that this latest alert may have been triggered by the capture of Saddam Hussein who, it is widely suspected, was planning to escape Iraq disguised as Father Christmas. “Not only had he grown a huge white beard, but we found a sleigh hidden under a tarpaulin in a nearby barn, and two reindeer tethered round the back,” claims Sergeant Joey Hock, who was involved in the military operation which uncovered Saddam’s hiding place. “His first words to us were ‘Ho, ho, ho’ and he tried to claim that his hole in the ground was his grotto – he had tinsel and Christmas lights up in it! He even offered to let us sit on his knee and tell him our Christmas wishes!” Nevertheless, intelligence experts have dismissed speculation that Saddam was directly involved in any plot to hijack Santa’s sled, pointing out that documents recovered from his hole clearly show that he had been offered the post of store Santa at Woolworths in Barnstaple.

Some commentators suspect that the alleged terrorist plot is simply a convenient excuse for the Bush administration to try and crack down on the activities of an individual they have long viewed as a dangerous subversive. “They’ve always viewed Santa wiith suspicion – some foreign guy dressed in red, giving away gifts to poor children. It all sounds suspiciously like a socialist-inspired redistribution of wealth to many in the administration,” explains veteran political analyst Jacob Keister. Indeed, some senior members of Bush’s cabinet appear to have an almost pathological hatred of Father Christmas; two years ago Defence Secretary Donald ‘Rummy’ Rumsfield notoriously attacked an actor dressed as Santa at the White House Christmas party, knocking the unfortunate man to the ground and giving him a severe kicking.

Retreating to the safety of the Pentagon, Rumsfield then held an impromptu press conference, during which he produced satellite imagery of the North Pole supposedly proving that Santa Claus was involved in the manufacture of Weapons of Mass Destruction. “Toy making factory, my ass,” he ranted, between taking swigs from a bottle of egg-nog. “We all know that kind of crap is really turned out by cheap labour in Mexico and Taiwan! How does he explain all those shipments of uranium, eh? That sick old bastard is using our children as a distribution network for delivering WMD! He may have the rest of the world fooled with his white beard and kindly old man routine, but I know the real Santa Claus! Oh yes, he needn’t think I’ve forgotten, all those letters asking for a bike, and what did I get every Christmas in my stocking? A bunch of crap like oranges, nuts and coal….”

There is no respite for Father Christmas on the opposite side of the Atlantic either, with Britain’s Home Secretary David ‘If you think you are hard enough come and have a go’ Blunkett threatening to have the jovial mince pie muncher prosecuted for offences under the Immigration Act. “I have no doubt that he has hundreds of illegal immigrants hiding under those presents in his sleigh every time he enters Britain,” declares the pugnacious politician. “Not to mention all the contraband he’s probably importing! Apparently he charges immigrants over five thousand pounds a head! How else do you think he pays for all those ‘free’ Christmas gifts?” The National Criminal Intelligence Service (NCIS) is believed to have advised Blunkett that Santa Claus’ entire annual present-giving operation is simply a cover for a variety of criminal activities including arms-smuggling, money laundering and drugs distribution.

Prime Minister Tony Blair has also weighed into the debate, declaring that Father Christmas is setting a very bad example to Britain’s children. “I’m worried that he’s sending them the wrong message entirely – that you can expect to receive some things for nothing, in a purely altruistic act. It will only encourage them to expect everything else to be free – education, health care and so on,” he argues. “Not only that, but can it be right that the spirit of Christmas is represented by a fat old man whose ruddy cheeks speak of his many years of alcohol abuse? At a time when we are trying to educate our children to the perils of obesity and excessive drinking, can he really be considered a suitable role model?” Although Santa Claus himself has so far not been available for comment, there have been unconfirmed reports from Washington of a drunken old tramp, beard matted with vomit and dressed in a tattered red suit, hurling drunken abuse and bottles full of (presumably his own) urine at the White House. In London, meanwhile, it is rumoured that police failed to catch a red-clad figure seen squatting over Ten Downing Street’s chimney, apparently crapping down it whilst chortling “Ho, ho, ho!”.