Playing the Atheism Card Against Pat Tillman’s Family
Posted on Jul 28, 2006
By Stan Goff
I don?t doubt for a minute that Kauzlarich?s version of spirituality is a kind of quid pro quo—a simple exchange of belief for immortality would strike the hardest of bargainers as a pretty good deal. It even trumps the dissonance of the Warrior Jesus, the Prince of Peace mounted on a Humvee, perhaps manning the .50-cal, in Mazar-i-Sharif or Fallujah.
If you can sustain that contradiction, it is not particularly remarkable to believe you are a Lamb of God at the same time you deploy religious belief as a disingenuous dodge in defense of your career.
?So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more,? continued Kauzlarich, ?that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don?t know how an atheist thinks?. You know what? I don?t think anything will make them happy, quite honestly. I don?t know. Maybe they want to see somebody?s head on a platter. But will that really make them happy? No, because they can?t bring their son back.?
So we get to it at last. Kauzlarich imagines himself as John the Baptist, and Mary Tillman as Salome. Poor, poor man. Wretched, wretched woman.
Square, Site wide
Kauzlarich is in a state of dread—not the existential variety, since he has already cut the deal to survive death. His dread is more immediate and secular.
A Ranger captain was assigned to investigate the death of Pat Tillman—Richard Scott, then commander of Headquarters Company, 2/75 Rangers. Scott carried out his task with integrity, and the Article 15-6 investigation was completed in two weeks. That investigation determined two things: (1) The fellow Rangers who shot Tillman (and an Afghan that the military has never credited with a human being?s name) violated their own rules of engagement and were possibly criminally negligent and (2) that the order that led to splitting the platoon—one vigorously and rightly opposed by the platoon leader on the ground—was responsible for setting up the communications breakdown that resulted in the incident.
It is not legal in the military to dispose of investigations or to compel or allow witnesses to change statements, and then make the original statements disappear, but that is precisely what happened in the case of Pat Tillman. When Kauzlarich took over the investigation from Scott, Kauzlarich?s role in the alleged coverup disappeared and criminal charge recommendations were transformed into wrist-slapping nonjudicial punishments.
Even before the first investigation was complete—nay, even before Tillman?s unit returned from the field to conduct an ?after-action review? to determine what happened—everyone in Tillman?s chain of command, including Kauzlarich [http://www.fromthewilderness.com/free/ww3/062306_tillman_files4.shtml], appears to have conspired to draft a recommendation for a Silver Star award as part of the intentional development of a fictional account to cover up the fratricide.
This was in April-May 2004. And for those who don?t remember, these months were a catastrophic cascade of setbacks, bad news and rank scandal, including the dual rebellion in Iraq and the first public release of the Abu Ghraib photos. The death by fratricide of a famous young man (who was resisting the Department of Defense efforts to turn him into a jingo icon) ran headlong into the DoD public affairs narrative of precision and professionalism (in an elite unit). That was very bad news.
But with every stick, there is a carrot.
If this story could be covered up, for just a while, it had spin capacity. Pat could be turned into a martyr-jingo icon. An account could be constructed that would map directly onto the television-stunned social imagination of the American public. A tale worthy of the arrested development of a nation that believes in the fantasies of masculine adolescence.
And that is precisely what they did, Kauzlarich included. They drafted a Silver Star and a docudrama lie about an intense encounter with a determined enemy in which the obedient patriot sets an example worthy of a recruiting poster. A Tom Clancy joint. The real Pat Tillman was not only of no use, he was a net negative. Real people get in the way.
They never counted on his brother Kevin discovering that there was an initial investigation that vanished. They never counted on a mother and father who were strong enough to demand the truth about what had happened, and determined enough to rescue the real person that was Pat Tillman from the spin machine into which the Pentagon tried to feed his body.
Pat himself, after seeing the Iraq war firsthand and declaring it to be ?so fucking illegal,? quipped to his fellow soldiers that the military seemed to be so inept that it couldn?t even construct a credible lie. How prescient was that?
Kauzlarich, like Boykin and all their ilk, has the spiritual depth of his own skin, which is what he is trying to save ? whether in an exchange of faith for immortality or in deflecting the sorry truth onto a bereaved and angered family with cheap revival-tent accusations of ?atheism.?
Mary Tillman, Pat?s mother, showed me a page from Pat?s journal when he was 16 years old. It was Pat?s reflection on why he had decided, once and for all, that he didn?t need organized religion. The entry was motivated by Pat?s grief at the death of an old family cat. Pat wasn?t comfortable with the idea that one could love another creature that was being excluded from the bargain in the afterlife. He and his brothers grew up between a river and the mountains, where they roamed countless miles and delighted in the ceaseless interplay of geography, climate, flora and fauna. In his journal entry, Pat speculated about this singular universality, and made up his mind that one didn?t need some anti-material monarchy buzzing with angels to accommodate himself to mortality.
Pat never felt separate enough from the world to despise the worms. And so Kauzlarich?s expression of fear and loathing for the world would have amused Pat.
Pat?s ashes are adrift from where they were scattered along the Pacific Ocean, mixing back into the elements with which he was so at home; while Ralph Kauzlarich and the Pentagon fret about a five-foot-two-inch mother who refuses to make them an offering of her fear. Surely Pat Tillman is laughing.
Previous item: Marie Cocco: The Meltdown We’re Not Supposed to Talk About
New and Improved Comments