Sunday, October 22, 2006

Why did Patrick Tillman die?

"While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Corporal Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces." --LT. GEN. PHILIP R. KENSINGER JR, May 2004
"The war in Iraq is so fucking illegal!"
--Pat Tillman, 2003

The United States of America--Pat Tillman was an extraordinary individual. As an accomplished athlete--and a student--he was the best and the brightest America had to offer. To his fans, he was an all-American, and friends and family have all stated that he really loved his country and its people.

Football players are part of the central iconography of this country--regardless of our feelings about "the game"--and the sport is often used as a metaphor for America's past-role in the world.

But, football is also used to stir-up a mindless super patriotism and an unthinking obedience to business, the State, and a competitiveness that is uniquely-American. It can contribute to a mindset of life being only 'winners-and-losers', but Pat Tillman wasn't a believer in all of this. He was a true believer in decency and what is right, and by all indications, he was a wonderful guy who genuinely wanted to protect his nation in the wake of the attacks of September 11th, 2001.

In 2002, he and his brother enlisted for a three year tour with the Army Rangers. There are more than 2,000-pages of testimony in the account of his 2004 killing in Afghanistan by fratricide ('friendly fire'). There are many contradictions in the testimony, and it was a full five weeks before his family was even notified of his death by the US Army. This fact alone is deeply-troubling, and doesn't serve the football iconography well for Statists. Neither did the real Pat Tillman--he was practically a closet-Leftist, and a critic of the War in Iraq.

Tillman's family was only told of his "friendly fire" death a few days before his burial (they were previously lied-to and told he was killed by enemy fire). It's unfortunate that his family thought John McCain would get any results for them, because he hasn't and won't. Entire sections of the reports on Tillman's death are still classified, and McCain hasn't delivered any major goods, just some belated consolation that earns him political points in Arizona.

A 2005 San Francisco Chronicle piece highlights Tillman's persona a bit:
Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author. (SFC, 9/25/2005)
It doesn't sound like your typical football-player, does it? My hunch is that Tillman saw something that night he wasn't supposed to, and had been pretty opinionated about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan around his fellow-solidiers.

I believe he went to Afghanistan to bear-witness as nobody in civilian life could. He was well-equipped to be a fighter for truth when he got back, and he was a very intelligent man who had graduated from college Summa Cum Laude. How many football players study to get a degree in history while playing professional football?

What's so disheartening is that immediately following his death, the Bush administration and their allies in the media seized-upon the icons, using a dead man who disagreed with them. This wasn't new to them as they used the bodies of 2,700 9/11 victims for political capital, until recently.

More disgusting epitaphs were the social Darwinist prose vomited by people like Ann Coulter [who] described Tillman as "an American original -- virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be."' Right, there are no people anywhere else like this. Pat Tillman would have disagreed strenuously and he respected the underdog. Imagine if he had survived, and gotten to meet Dr. Chomsky as he had planned. Coulter and her ilk would have dragged him through-the-mud, or ignored him entirely.

It is possible that one-or-more of his comrades in A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment wanted him dead? We'll probably never know, since their stories keep-changing. It could easily be gross-negligence, but why wait five weeks? Why classify so much? Why was all of SPC Tillman's uniform and flak-jacket burned under orders? One investigating officer suggested some of the troops present at Tillman's death should be charged with "criminal intent." Why?

The questions are all troubling ones. Tillman also had a habit of keeping a journal all the time. What happened to his journal from Afghanistan? The Army began a criminal investigation in March of this-year. The prospects for human-survival are dimming, made-possible by your inaction.

Lightly Revised, 09.19.2008