Who Am I?

Alan Alda


I'm Alan Alda, best-known for playing a psycho Korean War vet for what seemed like an eternity on the small-screen. But here I am in one of my earlier screen triumphs, To Kill a Clown, in which I play a psycho Vietnam vet who literally torments a mime to death (this was back when Hollywood still cared about making movies, not just money).

This 1972 flick—called "Boring, but Watchable" by a semi-literate yet insightful fan at the Internet Movie Database—didn't just earn me some of the best notices of a film career that includes such towering achievements Sweet Liberty, Besty's Wedding, and A New Life. It helped establish an entire genre that includes such works as Taxi Driver, Magnum Force, Apocalypse Now, First Blood, and on and on.

But with the arrest of John Allen Muhammad in the Beltway sniper shootings, it's time to update things and create a new stock character: the psycho Gulf War vet. Muhammad, like Oklahoma City bombing terrorist Timothy McVeigh, served in that conflict, and the experience clearly helped unhinge both (or, same thing, helped unhinge both more). According to retired Army man and current columnist, David "Hack" Hackworth, a "staggering 28 percent" of Gulf War vets have filed claims for service-related disability, most related to Gulf War Syndrome, which is best understood as a version of what used to be called "battle fatigue."

The obscene actions of McVeigh and (allegedly) Muhammad, and a massive legacy of impairment, make the likelihood of a repeat of the Gulf War that much more ominous.