I'm thankful nobody hates me for being a soldier. Al Franken, who some might know as Stuart Smalley from Saturday Night live and others might know as the author of "Rush Limbaugh is a Big Fat Idiot," came to Camp Anaconda just before Christmas to remind servicemembers that they're not hated. In fact, they might even be well liked.
"We want to show you that all of America -- that every American -- is behind you," Franken said to a crowd of soldiers who gathered for the USO morale show.
Many people erroneously associate support of the military as a solely Republican characteristic. But Franken, a raging liberal, has visited soldiers on USO morale tours since 1999. Rush Limbaugh, for all his bloviating, has never come to a combat zone that I've been in. (He did go to Afghanistan once, which is better than nothing.) In his defense, it's more dangerous for him because he's a much larger target. Also, they have a pretty strict no drug policy here.
I was in Kosovo in 2001 and missed Franken's show. I was determined not to miss it this time. Al Franken is to liberal soldiers as Oprah is to middle class housewives, he understands us. Although, I have to admit, his shows would be better if he gave away cars to the audience or at least a gift basket.
The show was still fun without the giveaway. The best part was when he outed Sgt. Maj. of the Army Kenneth Preston. Franken pointed out that the "don't ask don't tell" policy doesn't make any sense because even the best soldiers, like Preston, are gay.
"He's definitely, definitely gay. Very, very gay," Franken said.
I don't know if Preston is gay or not, but he sure did blush a lot. Was it a tacit acknowledgment?
Backstage I was able to ask Franken a few questions. I asked him if he found any incongruency with opposing the war and supporting the troops.
"That may be the one thing we learned from the Viet Nam War," Franken said. "Don't take it out on the troops."
Thank you Mr. Franken! It's that simple. Don't take it out on the troops. Still, several conservatives I know maintain that it's impossible to oppose the war and support the troops at the same time. This, of course, frustrates me to no end.
When I was in Kosovo, I remind my conservative friends, the Republicans were calling for the troops to come home and the Democrats were having us stay. Talk about a flip-flop. It's as if both parties got together and said, "OK, you guys were pro-war last time, and we were anti-troops. So this time, let's switch."
So for standing up in such confusing times, I think Franken deserves an award. What's the one Bush gave to Tennet, Rumsfeld and Bremmer for screwing everything up? Franken should get one better than that. "For meritorious service in reminding soldiers that all of America supports the troops in the face of pernicious Republican propaganda to the contrary," the citation will read, "Alawicious 'Al' Franken is awarded the super-duper medal of courageous bravery and strong strength."
Thank you Al.Photo caption: I'm talking with Al Franken and Ben Wikler at Camp Anaconda just before Christmas 2005. It looks like they're laughing with me, but I have a sneaking suspicion they're laughing at me. Photo by Engels Tejeda, freelance war correspondent.