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Playing the Atheism Card Against Pat Tillman’s Family

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Posted on Jul 28, 2006
Tillman memorial service
AP /Gene Lower

Pat Tillman, father of former Arizona Cardinals football player and Army Cpl. Pat Tillman, speaks during a memorial service for his son in San Jose, Calif., May 3, 2004. Cpl. Tillman was killed by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan.

By Stan Goff

(Page 2)

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.

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I imagine a fish decal on Kauzlarich?s car, one that has a double significance:  Jesus, of course, cloning fish for the starving masses, but also a red herring.

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.


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By John, July 30, 2006 at 5:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

It is clear that all of us must get out the democratic vote this November.  The Democrats may be imperfect, but Bush and others must be put on trial for their organized coup of this country and its values.

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By bob, July 30, 2006 at 1:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Excellent article! It seems that Pat and his family are real heroes. They are standing for the actual principles Pat put himself in harms way to protect. The first casualty of war is the truth, something religious zealots regularly massacre and governments pummel at every turn.

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By Melissa, July 30, 2006 at 10:58 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Pat’s realization of how illegal the war is , was echoed by a young Israeli refusnik I saw on television last week.  The moderator asked him how it was that he realized the immorality of the occupation of Palistine while he was so young, and he answered that he didn’t know what took him so long.  He questioned why , as a boy, he wanted to be an heroic soldier.  Says a lot about the culture we live in.

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By Anon, July 30, 2006 at 10:43 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Anyone who willingly volunteers to join the armned forces; especially in a time of war, be it out of patriotic fervor or religious zeal, is putting himself in harms way. I repeat, putting HIMSELF in harms way. It is a very risky and very hazardous profession. Pat made a choice to serve. The military did not draft him.

Tragically, Pat’s choice cost him his life. It’s heartbreaking. Such a god-awful loss to his parents, loved ones, teammates, fans and friends made all the worse by the US Army lying about the circumstances of Pat’s death, covering it up, distorting the facts and then blatently using it to inspire more patriotic fervor.

But again, anyone who willingly joins the armned forces is putting himself in harms way. He or she is volunteering to be used by the military as it sees fit and as it deems necessary. Used, that is, alive or dead. As far as I am concerned, it is this reality which makes Pat’s voluntary sacrifice so tragic. And, unbearable.

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By cheryl, July 30, 2006 at 6:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

This story is the way in which Karl Rove uses people to help the Bushies. They don’t care about the person-only the persons situation so they can politically exploit it-Jessica Lynch, Terri Schiavo, 9-11 victims, etc.  It is absolutely inexcusable how they use tragedies like Mr. Tillman’s for political gain!!!!!

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By James Alsip, July 30, 2006 at 5:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

I hope and pray—to all of the gods—that the gavel of chairperson of the House Judiciary Committee does pass to Mr. Conyers come 2007.

And that he and his colleagues can lead this nation to the standards of liberty,justice, and mutual respect for the rights of others that our founding fathers envisioned.

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By Caradoc, July 29, 2006 at 11:58 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Will we ever know where the lies stop? Mr. Conspiracy wants to know whether Tillman was shot deliberately and, if so, why?

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By tribalecho, July 29, 2006 at 11:29 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Oops.  Sorry.  I see you know about all that video stuff.  Just got here from a dkos link to Stan’s story.  Hadn’t seen the rest of the site.  Nice.

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By tribalecho, July 29, 2006 at 11:18 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you very much for this article.  I think it’s very important to know that this happened.  I never heard that Tillman was going to vote for Kerry.  I did hear that he was a leader among his team-mates and he got them to talk about serious matters that they usually wouldn’t talk about.  I heard he was, uh, intellectually strenuous, as well as physically.  And I thought, uh-ohh.  One of those Limbaugh listening,  Boykin Army of God guys would really hate this guy.  I was very sad when I later heard about the “friendly fire”.

Is there any way to get this segment on YouTube or at crooksandliars.com ?  The guys at C & L might be able to help.  I don’t know them or anything but they seem to know how to get access and permission and stuff.

I think it’s important that this get as much chatter, a la The Today Show, that Ann Coulter got, a la The Today Show,  for her remark that the 9/11 wives were enjoying their husbands’ deaths.  It defines the people who turned liberal into a dirty word.  (like I wanna do to neo-liberals, after they win)

We should hire this guy a great publicist…get him exposure.  Let him flog himself as Coulter did on Today Show.

This video NEEDS to be on the internet!

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By goob, July 29, 2006 at 6:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The guy who wrote this piece would have been comfortable sitting down with Jefferson and Franklin.

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By Dr. Trudy Bond, July 29, 2006 at 4:52 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stan:  interesting article until your very last line, in which you yourself slap the faces of tillman’s parents. 
there ain’t no pat tillman any more.  if you don’t understand atheism, don’t write about it.

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By lbbp, July 29, 2006 at 4:32 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Of course, I can almost see the point of the question, “If he didn’t believe in god why did he join the military?”  Because religious wars are really the only wars left.  Iraq is a crusade to impose <strike>Christianity</strike> democracy on it’s people.  The Arab world’s fight against the west is all about wiping out the “infidels”.  Israel in Lebanon, religion.  Etc., Etc..

Religion is not the answer to the world’s problems, it is the problem.

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By Billie Stone, July 29, 2006 at 10:30 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Mrs. Tillman has suffered a tragic loss, and has dealt with grief that has threatened to wrestle her to the ground.  I believe God’s Holy Spirit has given her a backbone of steele to fight this battle that she did not ask for and did not covet. My tears are real as I consider her pain.  Pat Tillman would be proud that his little Mother has garnered her strength to fight the military Goliath.

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By bob reynolds, July 29, 2006 at 10:16 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

What a great story for the military and the Bush administration.  Sports hero gives up millions to join the military.  But an even greater propaganda coup would be for the hero to give his life for his country.  And that’s what happened.

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By LonestarJR, July 29, 2006 at 9:09 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Spinoza: Are you seriously alleging that belief in god is the motivating force behind enlistments in military service?  Would that be just our military or would it include, say, the Cuban military?  If belief in god is driving enlistments, does the precipitous decline in enlistments signal a rise in disbelief?  And aren’t we just pissing away the money we spend on providing incentives for military service, say the G. I. Bill? I mean…if they’re going to join anyway, why do we need any additional incentives?

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By ETSpoon, July 29, 2006 at 9:08 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

When Pat Tillman the football player enlisted, to much hoopla and patriotic hyperbole by the Fox Sports NFL Sunday broadcast team, I held him in contempt.

When Pat Tillman the football player was killed in Afghanistan, again the Fox NFL Sunday broadcast team, piled on the hyperbolic hero-worship, and I was disgusted at the way the sports industry chauvinistically exploited his death.

Then the truth about Pat Tillman the man began seeping out, and I was ashamed that I had ever thought ill of him.

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By jon b, July 29, 2006 at 9:01 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Clearly Kauzlarich is a living dead who should end his own life for a better after life. After all, his present day life means nothing to this beautiful world.

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By Mythmenot, July 29, 2006 at 8:28 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Note to Spinoza750: You don’t have to believe in a deity to join the military. Although, believing when you die you will be accepted into a nicer place (with a bunch of virgins awaiting you? who knows?) surely makes it easier to face the gunfire.

Pat was an atheist. He knew death is permanent. There is no afterlife. There is no paradise. Heaven is a myth without basis in reality. Yet he joined the military believing it was the RIGHT THING TO DO. He knew he might die and, if that happened, he would indeed become worm food.

Surely this is strength. This is true heroism. To go into battle thinking death is only the beginning of an eternal existence in the presence of your lord and savior—where is the strength in this? But to go out to face death with the knowledge, certain and absolute, that nothing follows—that there is no magical escape clause—that was Pat Tillman.

Pat was betrayed. Not by his comrades, but by those so-called God-fearing Christians in power who are more concerned about their own fate than that of their fellow man. And if they could mold a dead atheist into a Christ-like legend while covering up the despicable truth, then all the better.

They already know the power of myth.

Now they need to be introduced to the power of justice.

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By Joy Mcclellan, July 29, 2006 at 8:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

We atheists are the last group to come out of the closet.  I am not waiting for an afterlife—-this life is important to me because I know that some invisible being to which superstitious folks pledge allegiance does not exist.  Wish he did for my grandchildren’s sake.  I will just have to teach them to have a good life, follow the golden rule, and that’s enough for me

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By upperleftedge, July 29, 2006 at 7:41 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

“If he didn’t believe in god why did he join the military? ”  What does that mean? Is the military some kind of church? Are only Christians allowed? Is God on the side of our Army?  I don’t know if you are kidding or not? When you join the military you swear to defend the Constitution not the Bible.  I don’t understand your thinking.

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By Jim Egolf, July 29, 2006 at 7:33 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whether one agrees with Pat Tillman’s decision to quit a lucrative sports career to join the military, his motives were honorable.  For anyone to attack Pat Tillman or his family because of alleged atheism shows lack of character and decency.  Whether the Tillman’s were church attendees or born again atheists is not an issue. Pat Tillman did what he thought was right and showed courage which is more than the religious lunatics and flag waving war wimps have ever done. I offer encouragement and sympathy to the Tillman family, and I hope they prevail

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By Bill Wetzel, July 29, 2006 at 7:21 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Stan is always right on.

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By Jim Egolf, July 29, 2006 at 7:13 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whether one agrees with Tillman’s motives for joining the military, his motives were honorable. For some nutcase to attack the Tillman’s for pushing for the truth is a disgrace.  I do not care of the Tillmans were church attendees or born again atheists, these are honorable people deserving of better treatment.  Pat Tillman quit a lucrative professional sports career to do what he thought was right.  I do not see any of the flag wavers and religious nutcases and lunatics coming close to this sort of valor.  They ought to be ashamed of themselves, and they owe the Tillman’s an apology.

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By Jason, July 29, 2006 at 7:12 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Boykin and Kauzlarich might want to consider conversion to Atheism; an endless black void would be far preferable to where they will spend eternity, given their current theology. I imagine it will be a lot like Iraq outside the greenzone.

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By alan poorman, July 29, 2006 at 7:00 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Great article and comments within it.

I set up a Google alert on the Tillman investigation after reading Steve Coll’s account of Pat’s death in the Washington Post.

Yours is the first article I’ve found with new information of such a personal nature and profoundly put.

You and Coll are the only writers that mention the argument between the platoon leader and the battalion commander, Kauzlarich, over spliting the platoon.  To overide the combat commander takes a lot of ego.  That order was given to save a Humvee which had to be towed by other vehicles - doesn’t seem worth it to me.  I doubt it was reasonable to split the force.

Again, great article and keep it up.

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By Lance, July 29, 2006 at 4:42 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Poor Kaularich.  He’s obviously struggling with his own religious beliefs.  As a religious man he knows there is an afterlife and he won’t be “worm dirt.”  However as a devout Christian he also knows that his career devoted to killing has earned him a place in everlasting hell.

Ronald Reagan once said that all of the solutions to the world’s problems could be found in the Bible.  Perhaps.  But most of the world’s most serious problems come from the manner in which true believers in the Old Testament, the New Testament and the Qoran have put their beliefs into practice. 

Pull the “worm dirt” away from the trees of war and bigotry and you’ll generally find religious roots.

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By Alejandro Quinonez, July 28, 2006 at 11:15 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Thank you for this very revealing articale. I am a great fan of Pats. I even have his Cardnal’s jersey; but more than that, for our government to conspire in a cover-up is sickening. I want his parents to know that Pat will always be a hero to me. The fact that he chose his duty speakes volume’s to his character and dignity. Please keep up the fight for truth.

My Condolence’s and love
Alejandro Quinonez
USN/PBR (NSA/VINH LONG VIETNAM 1965,1968)

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By William Belote, July 28, 2006 at 10:51 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Whew!  How did the depraved and reprehensible people in charge of our government and military ascend to this rank?  I still have faith that with individuals like Mr. Goff, the Tillmans, and Rep. Conyers, the long dark tales of greed and cowardice will be told, hopefully in the full light of a courtroom.  If we as a country are to make the neccesary amends for the many wrongs we have committed, we had better be prepared for years of war crimes trials, from low rank service people to the President.  As far as I’m concerned, we can begin now.

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By Spinoza750, July 28, 2006 at 10:49 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

If he didn’t believe in god why did he join the military? I assume patriotism.  I just can’t understand that.

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By Michael Bott, July 28, 2006 at 8:12 pm Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

The truth shall set you free.

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