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A Last Look Back

Some final thoughts on terrorists, the press, and the United Nations before we go to war.

11:00 PM, Mar 9, 2003 • By LARRY MILLER
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I BELIEVE MOST AMERICANS, irrespective of their personal views on the matter, expect that we will shortly be engaged in Iraq. In the held breath before this begins, I want to reflect on several minor aspects of major issues before we cross the Rubicon--or the Euphrates--and change our world forever.

Khalid Sheikh Mohammed. It seems to have been some pretty deft intelligence work that allowed us to nab this character, and I understand the value of hoisting these folks in the middle of the night to add to their disorientation. However, I feel most stridently that this is one guy they should've let get dressed before taking the picture.

It goes without saying that if you woke me up at three in the morning and shoved me out of the house and into a Kodak Instamatic, I wouldn't exactly look like Ava Gardner. But, come on. Americans were eating breakfast when they saw that photo. At the very least, give him a turtleneck. A high one.

I don't know if it's dawned on anyone, but, so far, none of the terrorists are at all what you would call comely. Is that a factor in their career choice? Perhaps not, but it's difficult to imagine someone who looked like Kevin Costner strapping on a dozen pounds of C-4 and jogging into an ammo hut. "Yes, my leader, I believe it's righteous to kill all Americans, but could you get someone else for this one? I just found out I'm next in line for Heather Graham."

On a related matter, how in the world do all these guys manage to have so many kids? Talk about a society where women have no say. On the other hand, maybe the women do have the final word, and that's why terrorists continually need to keep moving on to (or "onto") greener pastures. It's not hard to imagine one of bin Laden's wives saying, "Uh, look. I just can't do that with you again for at least another year, okay? Fine, then, get yourself another woman. Get ten. Better for both of us." And, lest we leave out our own countrymen in this regard . . .

The White House Press Corps. At the press conference the other night, I couldn't help noticing that most of our top reporters are, er, not slender. Well-dressed and polite, sure (or, at least, not too snide), and scrubbed behind the ears for the occasion. But there's a difference between twenty pounds overweight--like most of us--and eighty pounds overweight--like, well, most of them. I don't know what they do in between filing stories, but isn't there a gym in the basement of the White House? Or is it just donut shops down there?

It did cross my mind that some eager beaver in the administration might be stacking the first few rows these days with pot-bellies and comb-overs to make the president look better. But Mr. Bush is already a manifestly well-favored man, especially when he speaks about the mission he so clearly believes in. And most especially when his eyes deepen at the mention of God.

But can't we do anything about that hundred-foot entrance and exit down the hall? Isn't that a tad awkward for both the president and us?

As a veteran of hundreds, maybe thousands, of auditions, I can tell you that when it's over, no matter how well it went (and, of course, all mine go beautifully, except for the ones where I stink), the longest walk in America is from the chair you were in to the door to get out. It's all I can do a lot of the time not to grab one of the producers by the lapels and scream in his face while touching noses. Any president faced with that long green mile after the speech must be thinking to himself, "Okay, whatever you do, just don't start skipping. Don't . . . start . . . skipping."

Saddam's Hats. I know that sounds like the title of a short story you read in junior high right after "The Lottery," but I really do want to talk about Saddam's hats. Principally: What's with them?

One day he's wearing a custom-made, Savile Row suit . . . with a hat that looks like something Burt Young wore in "Rocky." You know, the ones with the brim that's never folded down? As a result, the effect of the ten-thousand-dollar suit is neatly cancelled, and Hussein looks very much like a guy waiting on line at the two-dollar window at Rockport.

Other days he has the military beret--those are the times when he's out on the balcony firing a .45 into the air and wincing with each shot--and still other days (cold ones, one imagines) he's wearing the Walter Matthau winter hat with the ear flaps that fold up inside. The one we all had in fourth grade.