Warning: The following post reflects bad taste and vulgar language. Reader Glen Kissel writes:
Al Franken’s brother, Owen, a ’68 MIT alum, has written a concise description of Al’s December USO trip to Iraq for the MIT alumni class notes (password protected, but I’m an MIT alum, so I’ve pasted it in below).
Kissel notes the following regarding brother Owen’s account of Al in Baghdad:
(1) Al joked about WMDs during his USO show. (Was he criticized by the Left?)
(2) Al yelled F- Y- to soldiers while playing Saddam in a skit. (Couldn’t broadcast this.)
(3) Al lit Hannukah candles in Saddam’s palace and joked about Jews burning the palace if the candles fell over. (If Mel Gibson held a Catholic service in the palace and joked about Christians burning the palace, what howls of outrage would we hear from the Left?)
(4) Did Franken give a prayer of thanks to the troops and President Bush for the privilege of lighting those candles in Iraq?
Other sources on this topic are a CNN interview, a U. of Pitt. review of a recent Franken appearance, and an extended Mother Jones article by Franken.
The following is brother Owen’s MIT 1968 Class Note for April 2004:
The Holidays aren’t over yet, but here goes: I just came back from eight days as the USO photographer on a trip with my brother, Al, in Kuwait, Iraq, Afghanistan, and Uzbekistan. [Owen did not mention it, but the CNN piece mentions that this was Al's fourth USO trip.]
Al and I seemed to be the only “Liberals” on the trip, and we got along with everyone fantastically including some real redneck country singers and two people from Fox News, the Army’s favorite. We did run into a lot of soldiers who asked Al to sign his book, Lies and the Lying Liars Who Tell Them, a Fair and Balanced Look at the Right. It was great to be around so many people with a crazy sense of humor, including a very jolly fat guitar player, who when told that in Iraq in the summer it is 140 degrees in the sun, told us that he might go back there then and sell his shade.
One highlight of the trip was the lighting of Hannukah candles in one of Saddam’s Palaces in Baghdad. We had this funny idea that the candles would fall over and CNN would be reporting that the Palace of Saddam Hussein was burned down by Jews.
Other highlights: The Taliban Cheerleaders. Al introduced them, but they could not perform because they could not dance or even listen to music. He convinced them that Afghanistan had been liberated so they did a raunchy routine and stripped off their burkas to reveal that they were in fact the Washington Redskin Cheerleaders, much to the joy of the screaming troops.
Al Franken as Saddam Hussein in handcuffs trying to make a deal to tell where the WMD’s are if they uncuffed him and gave him a fifteen minute headstart (“That’s all I need”). When refused, he broke away from his MP guards and ran to the edge of the stage yelling “f___ y__” at all the soldiers. [A G-rated version of this skit was done on Garrison Keillor's Prairie Home Companion and can be found at this link.]
Darryl Worley’s moving song, “Have You Forgotten?” about 9/11 and the war in Afghanistan. Even I was in tears when he sang it, especially the night he made a private concert for about five of us in Saddam’s marble Palace at one am, after the Hannukah lighting. As for the soldiers, they all want to go home, and they individually have different senses of their missions.
The soldiers in Afghanistan have a better sense of why they are there than the ones in Iraq, especially those National Guard persons and reservists. In Iraq they are very nervous about their security, as you can imagine, but realize that now there, they have to stay and stick it out and try to secure the place. They are the victims of an administration that only considered the best case scenario.
As for me, I’m overcome by nostalgia for Bob Hope. It sounds like our soldiers in Iraq are more the victims of bad jokes than of an incompetent administration.