Wednesday, February 09, 2005

Good Morning Iraq 

The S.F. Chronicle interviewed Robin Williams about his experiences on a USO tour with Leeann Tweeden, Blake Clark and John Elway, entertaining the troops in Iraq and Afghanistan:

RW: You travel in between bases all over -- we never went into to the cities. Like in Kandahar, it used to be like a minor equivalent of what La Guardia was. A little TWA-built, shot up, shot to s -- , man, with all sorts of Farsi on the wall, "F -- you." And big blown-up buildings, especially when we went there the first time because it was right after the invasion. ... And that was the one thing about Afghanistan. You'd fly over it and realize, this is bleak, and then you land and you realize it's even bleaker. And they said at one point, that whole valley was the most fertile valley in Afghanistan. It was beautiful. And obviously for poppies -- opium. And it's back, big. The good news for heroin addicts, the opium is back, big! And you saw the article in the paper, where they go, "We don't know if it will affect the election if we stop poppy growth." Livelihood: "Potatoes? Poppies? Your call." We found that nobody's freebasing French fries. "What are you, chasing the potato?" . . . .

Chronicle: What always struck me after being in combat and war zones for so long, was that "wounded" and "killed" never fully describe the kind of indignities the human body can go through.

RW: No you can't even think. I mean, there was a guy sitting in front and he'd obviously been burned, and they had him with that burn gel on and he was watching the show and his hands were in the blanket and at first everyone thought he'd lost his arms. He was still kind of shell shocked but he was OK and he was kind of laughing like this -- you saw that he'd been pretty badly burned but they're reconstructing. But it wasn't like the hideous burns but he'd taken a major hit. A lot of those guys were there. But they didn't have the hardcore in the front. But it's still like you said, no one can explain this -- especially the more brutal the weapons are.

Chronicle: Have you heard from people who saw you over there?

RW: Yeah, we get all sorts of amazing letters. Yeah, you get letters from them, you get letters from their families, you get letters from spouses, you get letters saying thanks. I got this weird kind of bittersweet letter from this woman who said thank you for my son -- saying he's having a really tough time but you performed and he had a really great day and he said it helped him so much. Sorry to say that he passed away, he was killed. That was last year.

Even Blake said, when he was in Vietnam sometimes the only things you can kind of get were those shows. The first time we went we got to see more people, and they actually would take you to all the different extremities of the base and you'd met the guys at the perimeter who were like, "What the f -- are you doing here, man?" And you'd see them and they'd come out dressed like mosquito men in the night-vision and go "Hey, Mr. Williams, how are you dude?" And they'd show you the stuff, which is pretty wild. I'd say put on the night- vision goggles. And one guy said one night he was looking out with the night- vision goggles in Afghanistan and saw an Afghan with a goat and he said, "I don't want to see that again." He was like: "That f -- me up for a week, Jack. " (In calm, clinical accent) "What's he doing to the goat?" "Don't ask." A good goat'll do that . . . .

Chronicle: But you probably didn't do a lot of Bush stuff, or did you?

RW: The first time we did and you could make fun of him not being the brightest bulb. We didn't do a lot of political stuff. We'd try and it would be kind of like "Hoooooo," and we'd go, "Hmmm, so: This is a red state." In one place we made fun of Rumsfeld, because it was -- I kind of went off on Rumsfeld, that he kind of sounds like my dad after a couple of gin and tonics. And they would laugh about that. We didn't hardcore bash him. The first time you could get pretty close to the line. This time I didn't go after it so much. Elections were over, and it seemed like you're here. For me, personally, I kinda find it pretty hypocritical -- (Bush) didn't show up for his unit, but they did for theirs. I find that kind of like, he was in the same National Guard unit as Big Foot and he couldn't show up for his physical but these guys did -- and they're going back. I find that a little hypocritical. But did we do a lot of that stuff? No. Some politics, some. You can talk about the election a little bit, but I think mostly it was just riffing and, I don't know, I tried it a couple of times, and it seemed to be like, "Wooooooo, heeey, easy, (switches to military voice) 'Don't make fun of the MAN.'"

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