Tags: Afghanistan, Afghanistan War, amir bar-lev, andrew o'hehir, football, irag, jon krakauer, nfl, Noam Chomsky, pat tillman, patriotism, roger hollander, sports, tillman story, war
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Friday, Aug 20, 2010 17:50 ET
The Chomsky-reading NFL star killed in Afghanistan wasn’t who you think he was — no matter who you are
The death of Pat Tillman, the National Football League star turned Army Ranger who was killed by friendly fire — or “fratricide,” as the military puts it — in Afghanistan in April 2004, was a strange event in recent American history. On one hand, Tillman’s death was covered far more extensively than those of any of the other 4,700 or so United States troops killed in the Iraqi and Afghan combat zones. To put it bluntly, he was the only celebrity among them.
On the other hand, Tillman’s story remains poorly understood and has little social resonance. As a colleague of mine recently put it, Tillman didn’t fit, either as a living human being or a posthumous symbol into the governing political narratives of our polarized national conversation. That’s true whether you’re on the right or the left. If he struck many people at first as a macho, hyper-patriotic caricature — the small-town football hero who went to war without asking questions — it eventually became clear that was nowhere near accurate. Yet Tillman was also more idiosyncratic than the equally stereotypical ’60s-style combat vet turned longhair peacenik.
Mind you, Tillman might well have become a left-wing activist, had he lived longer. He had read Noam Chomsky’s critiques of U.S. foreign policy, and hoped to meet Chomsky in person. But as Amir Bar-Lev’s haunting and addictive documentary “The Tillman Story” demonstrates, Tillman was such an unusual blend of personal ingredients that he could have become almost anything. It’s a fascinating film, full of drama, intrigue, tragedy and righteous indignation, but maybe its greatest accomplishment is to make you feel the death of one young man — a truly independent thinker who hewed his own way through the world, in the finest American tradition — as a great loss.
“The Tillman Story” was made with the close cooperation of Tillman’s parents and siblings, who have worked tirelessly over the past six years to expose the circumstances of Tillman’s death and the extensive military coverup that followed it. The film is also meant, to some extent, as an antidote to journalist Jon Krakauer’s 2009 book “Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,” which the family strongly disliked. (Tillman’s widow, Marie, allowed Krakauer to read Tillman’s journals, a decision other family members apparently regret.) Bar-Lev’s dual goals are to document the family’s long crusade to pry the grisly truth about Tillman’s death and the ensuing campaign of lies from the military bureaucracy, and, perhaps more important, to capture the unconventional background that produced someone as unusual as Pat Tillman in the first place.
To use the Shakespearean cliché, Tillman was a man of many parts, and that goes back to his childhood in a rural California valley south of San Jose, where his parents, Pat Sr. and Mary, encouraged an almost libertarian blend of self-reliance and free thinking in their sons. (The Tillmans are now divorced, but have worked closely together on the campaign to unpack the military’s deceitful behavior.) He emerged as a mixture of qualities that seem simultaneously liberal and conservative, all-American and heterodox. He was a football star and avid outdoorsman who read Emerson; an agnostic or atheist who read the Bible, the Quran and the Book of Mormon out of intellectual curiosity; a man who relished the high-testosterone simulated combat of sports, and excelled at it, while also maintaining an introspective personal journal he allowed no one to read.
As a friend of mine recently observed, many of Tillman’s characteristics would seem completely normal among the metropolitan educated classes: He never went anywhere without a book, and typically rode his bike rather than driving a car. But Tillman wasn’t a bearded, chai-drinking grad student riding that bike to yoga class in Brooklyn or Silverlake or Ann Arbor. He was the starting strong safety for the Arizona Cardinals, and parked his bike next to his teammates’ Porsches and tricked-out Escalades. Bar-Lev’s film is a bit light on Tillman’s football career, and doesn’t include any interviews with teammates. You have to wonder how much they liked or understood him.
Now you’re asking the obvious question: If Pat Tillman was such a smart and interesting fellow, why did he walk away from an easy life of fame and money and volunteer for combat on the other side of the world, where he wound up standing on an Afghan hillside and shouting, “I’m Pat fucking Tillman!” at somebody who was shooting him in the head with a machine gun? There’s no easy answer, and in making his film with the Tillmans, Bar-Lev has agreed not to go too far in trying to answer it directly. The Tillman brothers and parents want to respect Pat’s refusal to discuss his reasons in public, so the film never quotes from the journals that Krakauer read.
Nonetheless I think “The Tillman Story” and Krakauer’s book paint roughly the same picture, in that Tillman’s decision to go to war was more personal and philosophical than ideological. He believed that the U.S. was at war after 9/11 — with Osama bin Laden and al-Qaida, not Iraq or Afghanistan or Muslims in general, Krakauer says — and decided he had a moral responsibility to take part. He believed in an old-fashioned code of masculine honor and valor, but he had also begun wondering whether his life as a professional athlete was shallow and meaningless. You could almost say he joined the Army in a search for personal meaning and moral purpose.
After serving a tour of duty in Iraq, Tillman returned home with grave doubts about the morality and efficacy of that conflict, and began to make contact with people who opposed the war. (This is the Chomsky-reading period.) Bar-Lev makes clear that Tillman could have asked for a discharge at that point to resume his football career; the owner of the Seattle Seahawks was eager to sign him, and the NFL would no doubt have made a big show of welcoming a returning hero. Again that old-fashioned moral code intervened: Tillman disliked military life and thought the war was wrong, but he wouldn’t use his fame to avoid fulfilling his three-year commitment. (He had joined up as an ordinary enlisted man, although he would almost certainly have been given an officer’s commission had he requested one.)
I’m only guessing here, but one of the things the Tillman family hated about Jon Krakauer’s book was probably the author’s tendency to view Pat Tillman’s death as a case study in the evils of war and the limits of idealism. I might incline toward that view myself, but the Tillmans don’t. Right-wing propagandists quickly learned that the Tillman family wasn’t going to stick to the pious, patriotic script. (Pat’s drunken younger brother, Rich, at the nationally televised funeral: “Pat isn’t with God. He’s fucking dead.”) But the Tillmans aren’t interested in starring in an antiwar morality play either. As they see it, Pat Tillman died as he lived, as an American who thought for himself, hewed to his own course and kept his word. It’s the rest of us who have betrayed him.
“The Tillman Story” opens Aug. 20 in New York, Los Angeles and other major cities, with wider national release to follow.
General Mcmoreland in Vietistan October 16, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Iraq and Afghanistan, War.
Tags: Afghanistan, afghanistan corruption, afghanistan occupation, Afghanistan War, al-Qaeda, bin Laden, counter-insurgency, Karzai, mcchrystal, nation building, Obama, pat tillman, roger hollander, saul landau, westmoreland
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Late last month, five U.S. troops died within 24 hours in southern Afghanistan. Taliban militants have killed more Americans and other troops deployed by NATO this year than in any of the previous years since President Bush ordered the invasion in 2001.
Will President Obama supplement the 21,000 soldiers sent to Afghanistan during the summer? If he heeds the experience of the Vietnam War, he’ll find a gracious way to leave the place and save his presidency.
But Gen. Stanley McChrystal, commander of U.S. and NATO forces, whose career should have ended when he admitted participating in the cover-up of the “friendly fire” killing of football star Pat Tillman, has reportedly asked Obama for up to 45,000 new troops. That would bring the total number of U.S. troops to 100,000, equaling the number of Soviet troops in Afghanistan at the height of their failed occupation. “I think that in some areas that the breadth of the violence, the geographic spread of violence, is a little more than I would have gathered,” the general admitted on 60 Minutes. How can that be? Didn’t he read Pentagon reports on U.S. casualties?
In Washington, Congress is debating sending more troops to back a government that engaged in election fraud in the August and has earned the reputation of extreme corruption.
That sure sounds familiar. In 1968, Gen. William Westmoreland assured President Lyndon Johnson that 200,000-plus troops would stabilize a corrupt puppet South Vietnamese government, provide security for the local population, and win hearts and minds. We all know how well that worked out.
This should provoke obvious questions in the White House: Does the enemy have a deeper source of recruits throughout the Muslim world than the United States and NATO? If so, how are we to reach our goals of nation-building and destroying terrorist bases? How long can the United States stay in Afghanistan? How long can the Taliban remain there? They disappeared when U.S. forces arrived Oct. 7, 2001; they reappeared in larger numbers when U.S. troops got “distracted” by Iraq.
McChrystal plans to stay in Afghanistan for years. A New York Times/CBS News poll released last month indicated that approximately half of the country opposes increasing troop levels in Afghanistan. Only 29 percent of respondents thought Obama should increase troop levels.
McChrystal told Obama that U.S. military strategy should focus less on protecting our troops and more on securing Afghan communities. He admitted such a plan “could expose military personnel and civilians to greater risk in the near term.” However, the general concluded, successful linking of U.S. troops with the Afghan people would transcend the losses. “Accepting some risk in the short term will ultimately save lives in the long run,” he wrote in his report sent to the Defense Department in August. It was leaked to The Washington Post in late September.
The report contains echoes of Westmoreland. Mr. Bush claimed he needed to invade Afghanistan to get bin Laden and the al-Qaeda training camp there. Yet, the 9/11 attackers planned and prepared in Germany and the United States with Saudi (not Afghan) money and backing. Eight frustrating years later, Pakistan seems to have imported the terror war–not war against terror. The real goal, getting al-Qaeda and bin Laden, has been replaced with securing the population and backing the government. This is also known as nation-building.
McChrystal’s plan involves NATO committing to long-term military counter-insurgency, ending corruption in the Afghan government and having NATO soldiers eschew body armor and secure bases and instead secure remote Afghan villages. NATO’s mission, wrote McChrystal, “cannot succeed if it is unwilling to share risk, at least equally, with the people.”
Vintage Mao Zedong and Che Guevara! But in 2006, when Canadian Air Force Capt. Trevor Greene removed his helmet “to parley with the locals…an Afghan brained him with an axe,” wrote Thomas Walkom in the Toronto Star. Capt. Greene shared the risk, but the military obviously neglected to educate the axe wielder–and the hundreds of thousands like him.
Tags: afghanistan command, Afghanistan War, allen roland, assasination, counterinsurgency, Dick Cheney, joint special operations, josoc, juan cole, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, mary tillman, mcchrystal, Obama, pakistan, pat tillman, pat tillman murder, pushtun, roger hollander, rumsfeld, Seymour Hersh, special ops
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www.opednews.com, May 14, 2009
Seymour Hersh recently described the JSOC as an “executive assassination wing” controlled for many years by the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney. From Sept 2003 to August 2008 ~ Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal headed that command and now President Obama moves to the dark side by giving him command of US forces in Afghanistan: Allen L Roland
Make no mistake about it, President Obama’s selection of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal as commander of US forces in Afghanistan is a blatant move to the dark side of our current Middle East adventure.
McChrystal is director of the Joint Chiefs staff, but from September 2003 to August 2008, he headed the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), which oversees such elite units as the Army’s Delta Force and the Navy SEALs.
Muriel Kane, ICH, writes ~ Famed investigative reporter Seymour Hersh recently described the JSOC as an “executive assassination wing” controlled for many years by the office of former Vice President Dick Cheney. Speaking to a University of Minnesota audience in March, Hersh called JSOC “a special wing of our special operations community that is set up independently. … They do not report to anybody, except in the Bush-Cheney days, they reported directly to the Cheney office…. Congress has no oversight of it. … It’s an executive assassination ring essentially, and it’s been going on and on and on.” http://informationclearinghouse.info/article22606.htm
Newsweek did run a brief article on McChrystal in June 2006 and gave evidence of America’s gradual move toward the dark side ~ ” Rumsfeld is especially enamored of McChrystal’s “direct action” forces or so-called SMUs ~ Special Mission Units ~ whose job is to kill or capture bad guys, say Pentagon sources who would speak about Special Ops only if they were not identified. But critics say the Pentagon is short-shrifting the “hearts and minds” side of Special Operations that is critical to counterinsurgency ~ like training foreign armies and engaging with locals.” http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/13392189/site/newsweek/print/1/displaymode/1098/
And don’t forget that in April 2004, General McChrystal ( who reported directly to Dick Cheney ) approved paperwork awarding Pat Tillman a Silver Star after he was killed by enemy fire ~ even though he suspected the Ranger had died by fratricide, according to Pentagon testimony later obtained by AP. The testimony showed that McChrystal sent a memo to top generals imploring “our nation’s leaders,” specifically the president, to avoid removing the “devastating enemy fire” explanation from the award citation for their speeches. In 2007, the Army overruled a Pentagon recommendation that McChrystal be held accountable for his “misleading” actions.
Did Cheney Assassination Ring Target Pat Tillman ? April 2, 2009Posted by rogerhollander in Criminal Justice, Dick Cheney.
Tags: allen roland, assassination ring, cheney assassination, Dick Cheney, john hannah, pat tillman, pentagon generals, r.j. eskow, roger hollander, syemour hersh, tillman friendly fire, tillman murder
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Pat Tillman ( Ho / Reuters file )
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