In Defense of Pat Tillman
Mickey Z has just written a piece reacting to the phony-baloney “leak” from the Department of Defense that people — including officers — will be “punished” for the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death at the hands of fellow Rangers in 2004. But Mickey Z’s article didn’t delve into the question of governmental malfeasance. It attacked Pat Tillman.
“This is as good a time as any to contemplate how and why Pat Tillman ended up in position to be killed by his fellow soldiers,” said Mickey Z.
Having had substantial contact with Pat Tillman’s family, and having read the 2,000-plus pages of investigation documents, I can say without any reservation that Mickey Z’s article displays not one shred of understanding of “how and why Pat Tillman ended up in position to be killed by his fellow soldiers.” Instead, he quotes other people who made fairly predictable comments about Pat after he was killed, then uses the jingoism of some of those statements as a foil to show how much more enlightened Mickey Z is than the rest of the world. The problem with this nasty bit of sanctimony, from my perspective, is that — just like the Army that tried to erase the real Pat Tillman and substitute an iconic caricature — Mickey Z erases the real Pat Tillman to paint an anti-iconic caricature.
As both a friend of the family and a former soldier myself and having worked with many former soldiers who came to oppose the war, I am offended by this devaluation of all who don’t — like Mickey Z, apparently — emerge from the womb with a full understanding of U.S. history and imperialism. The fact is, the soldiers who have come to oppose this war have done more to discredit the war in the eyes of the American public than all the textual revolutionaries of cyberspace put together. Pat Tillman had come to oppose the Iraq war by the time of his death. His family opposes both fronts of the war now. That includes his brother Kevin, who was assigned to the same Ranger unit with Pat at the time of Pat’s death.
Pat Tillman was gifted in a way that precluded his exposure to the narratives of the left (as we are all insulated from those narratives); and he went to war. But while he was in Iraq, he concluded from his own experience, “This war is so fucking illegal.” Perhaps Mickey Z was unaware of this.
“Which America was Tillman standing up for?” Mickey Z asks. “[T]he bosses at Halliburton or the homeless guy I see every day on the subway steps? Do you know anyone who needed Tillman to ‘stand up’ for them by bringing indiscriminate death and destruction upon Iraq and Afghanistan?”
Of course, this was in response not to anything Pat said. Pat had a powerful aversion to personality cults, and never made public statements about why he had decided to join the Army. He was explicit with friends and family that he wanted no part of the inevitable hype. When he deployed to Iraq (prior to his fatal deployment to Afghanistan), he brought an English copy of the Quran to study. Under no circumstances was Pat Tillman interested in “bringing indiscriminate death and destruction upon Iraq and Afghanistan,” any more than my volunteering for Vietnam in 1970 was based on a wish to “bring indiscriminate death and destruction on Vietnam.”
Pat Tillman’s aversion to hype can be matched by the infantile left’s aversion to complexity.
“Did … Tillman ever read, say, Zinn’s People’s History or Blum’s Killing Hope?” asks Mickey Z. Uh, Pat Tillman was actually reading Chomsky between operations in Afghanistan. I don’t mean to piss on your shoes, Mickey, but it is awfully easy to misrepresent dead people.
This kind of shooting from the hip, this kind of moral exhibitionism, is doubly offensive to me, because Mickey Z is seen as someone from the left. I feel tainted by this kind of uninformed and easy moralism. Pat, like 95 percent of the rest of us lesser beings in the heart of Empire, was not a fully-formed anti-imperialist. He was, however, extremely well read and a diligent student of history. He did not deserve to be used as a posthumous recruiting poster by Donald Rumsfeld’s ministry; and he does not deserve being reduced to a straight man for Mickey Z’s homilies.
“Pat Tillman,” Mickey writes, “to me, seemed like a pre-programmed American male … the spawn of decades of corporate conditioning and State-sponsored patriotism.”
To me. Me. Mickey Z.
In a final shameless flourish, Mickey Z compares Pat Tillman to Osama bin Laden, demonstrating once and for all what kinds of conclusions can be tortured out of this pseudo-revolutionary moral hyperbole.
If Pat had survived, he would have been a powerful voice against the war. Obviously, Mickey Z didn’t do even rudimentary research on Pat, or he would have known that. But hey, what the fuck! Who needs facts when we are engaging in cheap polemics?
Pat’s family has persisted in its struggle for the truth because it was deeply offensive to them that the right wing was willing to replace the life of this real and quite remarkable human being with a caricature. That Mickey Z would do the same thing in a fit of sanctimonious posturing is a slap in the face of that family. His suggestion that they have no empathy with the suffering of Iraqis or Afghans is patently false, but then Mickey never made the least attempt to find out about them. We have talked about the scope of the war’s criminality again and again.
The population that bears the greatest responsibility for stopping the war, however, is us — the Americans. Even the ones who remain attached to patriotic platitudes.
The fact is, Pat Tillman’s family has not rested in its struggle to hold the military to account for covering up how Pat Tillman died; and they have done so because they believe without exception that that is exactly what Pat would have wanted. And I can promise that the U.S. government is far more concerned about the impact of the family’s ongoing investigation and its forthcoming congressional investigation than they are with the facile Manicheans of the infantile left.WAIT, BEFORE YOU GO…
If you're reading this, you probably already know that non-profit, independent journalism is under threat worldwide. Independent news sites are overshadowed by larger heavily funded mainstream media that inundate us with hype and noise that barely scratch the surface. We believe that our readers deserve to know the full story. Truthdig writers bravely dig beneath the headlines to give you thought-provoking, investigative reporting and analysis that tells you what’s really happening and who’s rolling up their sleeves to do something about it.
Like you, we believe a well-informed public that doesn’t have blind faith in the status quo can help change the world. Your contribution of as little as $5 monthly or $35 annually will make you a groundbreaking member and lays the foundation of our work.