Veteran actor Alan Alda has announced that he will be touring Iraq this winter with the USO to entertain U.S. troops serving as advisers and embedded trainers with the Iraqi military fighting against the Islamic State.
Friends and colleagues say the move is motivated by Alda’s guilt over his starring role in “M*A*S*H,” the hit 1970s TV show featuring the lives of army medics in Korea that is widely seen as a thinly veiled attack on American involvement in Vietnam.
The show relentlessly characterised Americans who cared about the struggle to keep South Korea free or wanted to defeat communism as buffoons or mentally unhinged, and ridiculed notions of patriotism and honor, while humanizing North Korean communists and portraying the boozing, womanizing, cynical medics and a combat-shirking, cross-dressing clerk as the real heroes of the conflict.
“Alan now realizes that ‘M*A*S*H’ belittled the sacrifices of the thousands of American and United Nations troops who died fighting for a just cause that they believed in,” said a close confidante of the actor, who added that there was no point naming himself as no one would know or care who he was. “What’s more, it contributed to the climate of anti-patriotic cynicism which in turn fuelled the anti-war movement and the demonizing of those who served in Vietnam as psychopaths and baby-killers.”
Alda, 79, will tour austere special forces forward operating bases across Iraq for two months, bringing his one-man show to audiences of elite Green Berets and Navy SEALs, many of whom are hardened veterans of multiple combat tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.
The show, “I Was Ray Clissold,” is a poignant three-hour monologue which features an aging homosexual thespian dying of AIDS in his Greenwich Village loft apartment and reflecting on a life of bittersweet memories, doomed love affairs and missed opportunities.
Asked how he expected the material to be received by burley, sex-starved special operators amped up on caffeine, hate and the adrenaline of combat, Alda’s friend said that Alda wasn’t concerned about critical acclaim, or what the theater critic of Stars and Stripes might have to say.
“Alan just cares about giving something back to those who served our nation,” said the friend. “Also, he hasn’t worked in years, and the USO gig comes with free food and lodging.”