But it was the Fallujah front page that brought me to my knees. The other papers splashed on untidy pictures of gangs of soldiers leaping walls, aiming weapons and generally going gung-ho. The Post's front page showed only the hard, set face of a single US Marine.Then, the reaction of some Post readers astounds her still further.
The picture was cropped tight and wide, from the rim of his battered helmet down to his chin-strap. His face was streaked with sweat and filth, his nose gashed, his eyes narrowed, his jaw clenched, and he had a half-smoked cigarette dangling. It was a very Second World War image, like a still from The Battle of the Bulge. Brilliant job by the picture editor, frankly. Other papers had the same photograph of the same Marine, but ran it full-length instead of homing in on the fag-end and the thousand-yard stare.
Its headline was: "SMOKIN' MARLBORO MEN KICK BUTT IN FALLUJAH."
The majority of letters were savagely critical and full of spleen.
But about the cigarette.
Only one reader picked up on my first thought - that the butt-kickin' leatherneck was a lot safer lighting up his Marlboro in Fallujah than in New York City.
Thrilled with his success at banning smoking in all public places - including greasy spoons and cigar bars - Mayor Bloomberg is now hoping to extirpate the weed in private apartments. Anybody moving into a Manhattan condominium will soon have to sign a legal agreement not to smoke inside the confines of their own flat.
Tell that to the Marines, somebody.