Here's what I learned: If you want to set up your iPhone as a prepaid account, do not--no that's not emphatic enough--do NOT, DO NOT attempt to set up the account in advance with AT&T.
Just don't. Trust me. Here's how you should do it:
Buy the iPhone. Connect it to iTunes. Sign up using 999-99-9999 as your social security number. After failing the credit check, select a GoPhone plan. After signing up for a GoPhone plan and being assigned a number and passcode, connect to the AT&T GoPhone funding page as prompted, enter your credit card or debit card information and you're good to go. DO NOT attempt to fund your iPhone over the phone with AT&T. DO NOT set up your iPhone prepaid account in advance with AT&T.
As for me? After a certain number of failed attempts (all on the part of extremely warm, wonderful, but ultimately unsuccesful AT&T employees), the fraud detection system kicked into gear. That's where I am now. I can't move forward until AT&T closes down all those well meaning but useless accounts and lets me activate the one, good account that started and ended in iTunes.
As for the AT&T and Apple personnel? I've been working with them now for nearly 22 hours of on-phone and in-person time. (Yes, I was up way late last night). With the exception of one person, they have all been fabulously kind, patient and supportive. Thank you to you all, especially Diana Cruzan the retail sales manager for the Aurora City Place AT&T store, Jamshed Mulla, AT&T iPhone Guru, and Dan Callahan of Fleishman Hillard.
 There's always one.
Update: 5:25. Just off the phone with AT&T fraud detection people. It LIVES!!!! "iPhone is Activated". Woot!