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.
Now, admittedly, when it comes to the history of dictators with goofy headgear, Saddam is standing on the shoulders of giants, and you don't even have to reach as far back as Genghis Khan. And for pure lunacy, if it comes to that--and I mean full blown, skipping-through-the-garden-throwing-rose-petals, sliding-down-banisters-dressed-as-Teddy-Roosevelt lunacy, Kim Jong Il may have them all beat by a country mile. (How'd you like to be one of the call girls on his speed-dial?) Finally . . .
The League Of--Oops, I mean, The United Nations. Tom Friedman had a brilliant op-ed piece in the New York Times yesterday that dealt with the future use and necessity of diplomacy in general in Iraq, and the United Nations in particular. Since he did such a good job taking care of rational, linear logic in the matter, I'm going to be flippant and emotional.
We've been too selfish keeping the United Nations to ourselves and should give other countries a chance. Soon. Like, tomorrow. Let all the other delightful regimes in that body have a chance at hosting thousands of leeches who'll run up endless parking tickets they won't pay.
The only good idea the U.N. has come up with in fifty years is those diplomat license plates. (In fact, that's how they should've done the inspections in the first place. Hey, you pull up to a chemical plant in Baghdad in a Lincoln Town Car with DPL tags, even the Iraqi cops would have to say, "Okay, pal, keep moving, you can't . . . Oh.")
I'm not happy to say this, but I think the main mission of far too many bureaucrats at the United Nations is simply to never have to move out of Manhattan. (After all, there's no Ritz Carlton in Paraguay.) That's what Hans Blix means by "stability": not having to sell his place on the Upper East Side and move back to a low-ceilinged cottage from a Strindberg play. But you know what? The far worse thought is that Blix and the rest of them think they're doing a great job.
This article has been about things like hairy backs and silly hats and license plates, and there's a reason for that. I'm nervous about what's going to happen, and this is how I deal with nervousness.
What's about to happen in Iraq, and what's going to continue to happen in the rest of the world for many years to come is as serious as life gets, and I'm scared. Any sane person must be. I respect those who sincerely disagree with an armed invasion of Iraq. But I support our administration and our soldiers on the job they're going to do. I think they're going to liberate a country, defend their own, and continue to crack the ice on the pathology of cruel, authoritarian regimes in the Middle East.
But our people and theirs are going to die. If I'm wrong, then part of the responsibility for those lives is on my shoulders, because I supported it. We may all, someday, God forbid, be victims of related attacks, but soon, over there, others will be paying the price first. Please, God, let it be a price worth paying.
Larry Miller is a contributing humorist to The Daily Standard and a writer, actor, and comedian living in Los Angeles.