Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Introduction: Feral Firefighter's Tillman Files

Note: This introduction to the Feral Firefighter's Pat Tillman Files was originally writeen in January 2010.

I’ve taken the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death a bit personally. Like Stan Goff, I feel a sense of kinship with Pat Tillman. In 1983, when I was “young and dumb,” I enlisted with an Airborne Ranger Long-Range Recon Patrol (LRRP) company. I grew up in the Army, enjoyed the camaraderie and the challenges. But, the lies of the first Gulf War were the last straw. After eight years, I finally left the Army in March 1991, and have been a firefighter the past 18 years.

Four years ago, I believed Pat Tillman was a patriotic “dumb jock”. I refused to watch any of the flag waving coverage of his memorial service. It seemed like a sideshow distraction to the Abu Gharib story.

But, the reality of Pat was much deeper than his iconic image. In October 2005, I read David Zirin’s article, “Our Hero.” I discovered a side of Pat Tillman not widely known –a fiercely independent thinker, avid reader (a favorite author was Noam Chomsky), and critic of the Bush administration and the Iraq war (“…this war is so fucking illegal”). Pat was a remarkable man who was driven by a core of honesty and integrity, led by personal example, and lived his life intensely.

I was angered that the truth about Pat’s life and death had been buried by the media and government. Tillman was enshrined as an icon while the man fell by the wayside, his parents used as props at his funeral. Pat’s family still don’t have the meager consolation of knowing the truth about his death. “The truth may be painful, but it’s the truth,” his mother said. “If you feel you’re being lied to, you can never put it to rest.”

Let us honor Pat Tillman’s memory by honoring the man, not the myth. The iconoclast, not the icon. As his mother said, “Pat would have wanted to be remembered as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop. Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as.”

Pat Tillman, never at a loss for words himself, is now silent. Of the many tragic aspects surrounding his death, one is that he cannot define his own legacy. Now, it’s been up to his family and friends to reclaim the truth and integrity of Pat’s life and death.

. . .

A link to Gary Smith's 9-11-06 cover story "Remember His Name" is found within "Remember the Iconoclast, Not the Icon". Smith's piece is probably the single best short introduction to the Tillman story.

If you would like to learn more details about the Tillman story(much of which has never been covered in Mary Tillman's nor Jon Krakauer’s books or any other media accounts),take a look at the "Blog Archives" on the right-hand column (or scroll down).

There,I've posted the following "Tillman Files" in scrollable pdf format (click on "fullscreen"):

"REMEMBER THE ICONOCLAST, NOT THE ICON -- Pat Tillman 1976 -- 2004"

"BATTLE FOR THE TRUTH -- Iddo Netanyahu, Kevin Tillman and the Cover-Up of Their Brother's Death"

"THAT'S MY HERO" -- Rachel Corrie, Pat Tillman, and Yoni Netanyahu

"A SENSE OF HONOR -- April 2008 Letters to Mary Tillman & Senator James Webb

. . .

"THE EMPEROR'S GENERAL" -- President Obama and the Whitewash of Gen. McChrystal's role in Cover-Up of Pat Tillman's Friendly-Fire Death

"BARELY A FOOTNOTE" Superbowl XLIII & Pat Tillman

WHERE MEN WIN GLORY” --Andrew Exum, the Center for a New American Security(CNAS), and the Whitewash of General McChrystal’s Role in the Cover-Up of Pat Tillman’s Fratricide

“LIES … BORNE OUT BY FACTS,IF NOT THE TRUTH” -- Senator James Webb, Thom Shanker & The New York Times and the Whitewash of General McChrystal’s Role in the Aftermath of Pat Tillman’s Death

DID THEY TEACH YOU HOW TO LIE YET? -- Senator James Webb, General Stanley McChrystal,and the Betrayal of Pat Tillman

. . .

I fully realize there's a lot of material posted here, but I've tried to summarize my material at the beginning of each of the binders.

As an introduction to my "Tillman Files", here's a slightly edited comment I wrote to on Pat Tillman's birthday on November 6th:

“War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians."
-- Chris Hendges

Three years ago Kevin Tillman wrote in his eloquent letter “After Pat’s Birthday”:
“Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country. ... Somehow this is tolerated. Somehow nobody is accountable for this.”

Kevin hoped a Democratic Congress would bring accountability. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping and torture, those responsible for the cover-up of his brother’s fratricide have not been held accountable by the Democratic Congress.

In his book, “Where Men Win Glory,” Jon Krakauer blamed the Bush administration. However, the cover-up has been a thoroughly bipartisan affair. The Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency have protected General McChrystal from punishment for his central role in orchestrating the cover-up.

Sometime after his April 2007 hearing, Congressman Waxman got the word the “fix” was in, to lay off McChrystal. Perhaps because of McChrystal’s covert contribution to the “surge” in Iraq? Shortly before the August 2007 Tillman hearing, McChrystal was dropped from the list of witnesses and never interviewed despite his central role in the cover-up.

Senator James Webb conducted a secret “review” of McChrystal’s role. On May 15th 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee (headed by Levin and McCain) held a secret “executive session” where McChrystal testified behind closed doors about his actions “in detail.” Shortly afterwards, the Senate promoted him to Director of the Joint Staff.

(Like Pat Tillman, James Webb has been a maverick and a fascinating character. If anyone in Congress should have cared, it would have been him. But, as an old man and politician, he’s turned into exactly what he once reviled as a young combat Marine!)

On May 12th 2009, despite McChrystal’s role, President Obama handpicked McChrystal to be his new commander of the Afghan War and for promotion to the Army’s highest rank. Ironically, on the following day Obama gave the commencement address at Arizona State University inside Sun Devil Stadium without once mentioning Pat Tillman! [Note: see Bob Young’s “Obama’s Big-Time Fumble” (Arizona Republic 5-17-09].

After a pro forma June 2nd hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate (begged by Senator Reid) confirmed McChrystal’s promotion on June 10th.

It’s not surprising that after the initial fratricide cover-up fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. Reprehensible, but understandable. But the Democratic Congress, after they took control of both Houses in 2006, could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them!

. . .

The media’s been complicit as well with the whitewash of the Tillman story. The New York Time’s Thom Shanker wrote a May 26th piece “clearing” McChrystal of all wrong-doing shortly before McChrystal’s confirmation hearing, despite receiving strong evidence to the contrary. since then, Thom’s enjoyed favorable access to McChrystal (so much for the NYT’s coverage “without fear or favor’!) On September 21st I sent a copy of my binder "Lies ... Borne Out by Facts, If Not the Truth" to the New York Times Public Editor Clark Hoyt. I never received a reply from him.

. . .

Just before McChrystal’s June 2nd Senate confirmation hearing, Andrew Exum (a Fellow at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS)wrote a blog entry entitled "Confirm Him!":

“The bottom line is, nothing is ever going to heal the wounds inflicted on the Tillman Family … And while I have nothing but respect for the Tillman Family…, their personal grief should not be a veto on the nomination of the man the president, the Secretary of Defense, and General Petraeus all feel gives the United States and its allies the best chance of victory in Afghanistan …”

In his subsequent September 13th Washington Post review of Jon Krakauer’s book,“Where Men Win Glory – The Odyssey of Pat Tillman,” Andrew Exum neglected to mention General McChrystal’s central role in cover-up of Pat Tillman's fratricide.

Exum also failed to disclose his close personal and professional ties with McChrystal: Exum is a “fan” of McChrystal, worked with him closely during the past summer Afghan War assessement, and works for Nate Fick’s [LT in “Generation Kill” book and HBO series]CNAS that meets with McChrystal weekly and is leading the push for the Afghan surge.

On November 1st's "Meet the Press" show, Jon Krakauer accused General McChrystal of lying about his role in the cover-up of the Tillman fratricide. In response, Andrew Exum posted an entry in his CNAS “Abu Maquwama” blog blasting Krakauer, “On Martial Virtue … and Selling Jon Krakauer’s Crappy New Book."

Andrew Exum wrote: “Stan McChrystal stands out as one of the guys who made mistakes but ultimately did the right thing … probably the least culpable guy in Tillman’s chain of command … Stan McChrystal is one of the finest men I have ever known, and I hope I have sons who serve under men like him.” Well, as one blogger commented, “Phew, talk about a man crush.”

Before reading Exum’s blog entry, I had assumed that Andrew Exum and CNAS were part of the bipartisan “conspiracy” protecting General McChrystal, and Exum had written his book review to whitewash General McChrystal’s central role in orchestrating the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s fratricide.

Now, I think Andrew Exum is either good at feigning self-righteous outrage or is woefully ignorant of the most basic facts of the Tillman case. Regardless, he and CNAS obviously have personal and professional conflicts of interests with writing about General McChrystal's role in the Tillman case.

Five years ago, Pat Tillman’s family were handed a tarnished Silver Star. It was a travesty of justice that General McChrystal was promoted to the Army’s highest rank, and handed his fourth star.

. . .

One of my binders is entitled “Battle for the Truth.” Jonathan (Yoni) Netanayahu was another character cast from the same mold as Pat Tillman. When I first learned of Pat the iconoclast (vs the media icon), I was immediately reminded of Yoni. Although they were separated by 27 years, both were charismatic individuals driven who lived and died with intensity and integrity. Both Achilles-like and “slain in the high places.” The similarities, despite the obvious differences, between their stories is eerie. Ironically, Yoni truly died heroically, killed while saving hostages at Entebbe. But it would have been embarrassing to mention that he died because the mission went FUBAR and that there were friendly fire deaths, so the IDF told the story he was shot in the back by a stray burst of fire.

Afterwards, Max Hastings wrote a book “Yoni - Hero of Entebbe” similar to Krakauer's “Where Men Win Glory” in that it provided a bibliography of Yoni, described the battle at Entebbe, and used interviews with family members and his own words from his letters. Later, Yoni’s brothers edited Yoni’s letters and published them as “Self Portrait of a Hero.” A powerful book.


  1. Nice post, bro. Me, I'm steamed about the Guantanamo Three.

  2. One of the panel discussions at SundanceTwentyTen covered what occurs when truth meets power. An engaging concept within the media and politics. The camera doesn't lie, but while the media may not be able to tell us what to think, they can surely tell us what to think about.

    Well done here, Guy and thank you.

  3. Thanks for all the information Guy. I had the good fortune to meet Pat before he left for boot camp and it is a day I will never forget. He always be one of my heroes.

  4. i'll see if i can get you a copy of the movie before it comes out, if that's something you'd like.

    i imagine some folks would prefer to watch this at home.

  5. Concerning the Krakauer book, the blood family did not participate nor do they endorse the stylized central figure created. The Pat Tillman part of “Glory …” comes across as much of a legend building tale (which might sell more books) as did DoD's attempt at defining the perfect hero in order to promote Neo-Con imperialism.

    Pat would be the first to say he deserves no more accolades than any of his also fallen brothers-in-arms.

    It was obvious since high school that Pat had a talent for American Football, which earned him renown, but fame and fortune were never Pat's motivations.

    If the renown requires a story to be told, Pat would prefer that facts and events, not he himself, be central. He would want a story that would be representative of some 4000+ other stories that will never be told.

    That's the Pat I knew, a man off the gridiron who had a boundless intellectual curiosity, an infectious laugh, a spirit that turned the routine into an adventure and a heart as big as his native California. He was a man whose word was as good as gold. His love for family and friends was unwavering.

    Former bad boy whipped by the love of a good woman? Not hardly.

  6. @calabashe

    I just finished briefly browsing thru your Tribute website. It was nice to read your informed commentary based on your aquaintance with Pat Tillman. I never met Pat, didn't even know what he was about until a year and a half after his death (Mary Tillman has called me a couple of times).

    Nice site; I especially enjoyed a couple of the editiorial cartoons bashing the Army's cover-up. I share your concerns about Krakauer's book (Mary mentioned the family wasn't happy with him last year).

    Have you looked thru the pdf docs posted on my site? I think you would find it worth your time. I would greatly appreciate your review and criticism of my site. What did I get wrong? What did I miss?

    I haven't seen "The Tillman Story" yet, but it appears that Bar-Lev missed the story that the Democratic Congress covered General McChrystal's ass during Waxman's "investigation" in 2007 and the Senate in 2009 when he was promoted to his fourth star after his nomination by President Obama. (Senator Webb conducted a secret review back in 2008 behind closed doors). I thought Webb would have helped the family given his background and personality. I guess he's just another "suit" in Washington now.

    I would love to see some footage in Bar-Lev's film exposing President Obama's complicity along with Senator Webb, McCain, etc. At least they could be embarassed and maybe hurt politically. Truth, honor, and integrity doesn't mean anything to them.

    Thanks again for your comments and tribute site. Once again, I'd appreciate your review and criticism of my Tillman Files.


    Ellis Paul wrote a song about Pat Tillman several years ago.

    I'll be posting several documents in the next week on Pat's treatment by the NFL, Pat's Hero (Rachel Corrie), and President Obama's role.

    You mentioned Bibi Netanyahu in your blog. One of my docuemnts discusses the parallels between Pat Tillman and Yoni Netanyahu, Bibi's brother who died at Entebbe in 1976.

  7. Thanx Guy. Haven't done an in depth study of your resources.

    As I understand, McChyrstal started to open up to Mary but subsequently towed the military line, which really ticked her off. Krakauer concentrates on the medal. My feelings about that are known.

    I did a review of "Krakauer's crappy book." It's published on Pat's IMDb site. - - Although unconfirmed, I think horatiohellpop is the Krak-head himself. He and the Widow made a lot of money off the tragedy. The Foundation is now run by a board from ASU and continues its noble work. Marie is the nominal chair.

    Haven't seen the film yet either. Hoping Rich can get me a copy. Any biopic is going to be subject to stylizing. Pat wouldn't like anyone going Ann Coulter on him, trying to pass that off as fact, even though her column did invoke the laugh. A documentary would better suit Pat's meat and potatoes - just the facts - style of talking about him(self), which he rarely did.

    Have respect and admiration for Yonitan but Bibi is way too out there for me.

  8. @calebashe:

    I found your comments at Pat's IMDb site to be illuminating.

    I was especially struck by your 2006 dream about the "Tillman dude". I didn't "discover" Pat Tillman until October 2005. He reminded me of one of my hero's from 30 years ago, Yoni Netanyahu (I wrote about that in "BATTLE FOR THE TRUTH" -- Iddo Netanyahu, Kevin Tillman and the Cover-Up of Their Brother's Death"). It was a surprise to discover that Yoni's death had been whitewashed by the IDF as well!

    My Aunt hand-delivered a copy of "LIES … BORNE OUT BY FACTS,IF NOT THE TRUTH” to Krakauer at a book-signing in Denver last September. I suspect my binder gave him the info used in his October article saying the McChrystal lied.

    Unfortunately, he never had the courtesy to contact me for thanks or follow-up.

    . . .

    I laughed when you referred to your book review of "Krakauer's crappy book."

    Last November, After Krakauer accused McChrystal of lying on Meet the Press, Exum ripped into Krakauer on his Abu Mugawama blog ( the same "crappy language". But Exum was pissed because Krakauer had the audacity to accuse McChrystal of lying when he was "one of the guys who did the right thing." I ripped into Exum in the Comments and have bird-dogged him since (see “WHERE MEN WIN GLORY”)

    Last September, Exum wrote a review of Krakauer's book for the Washington Post. Interestingly enough, in his review he mentioned personally seeing the Predator drone footage of the Tillman incident when he was the LT of the Ranger QRF at Bagram!

    . . .

    In one of your comments on Pat's IMDb site you seemed to lean toward the assassination theory of Pat's death. I've run into that quite a bit, but I've quite skeptical. Pat's death appears to be the result of an clusterfuck resulting from a series of events, trigger-happy and tunnel-visioned troops, and plain bad luck.

    Stan Goff (retired Army; 173rd Vietnam vet, Ranger, Delta, Special Forces) presents his argument against assassination in his "Fog of Fame" series posted at Stan assisted the Tillman family and was with them during the IG briefing in March 2007. I've personally met him and trust him.

    Basically, Pat Tillman was hit from a SAW burst from only 35 meters away. The SAW is a light machinegun that fires 600-800 5.56 (same as M-4/M-16) rounds per minute. That Pat was hit in the forehead by 3 bullets from a burst(others hitting his chest armor and others missing)is no mystery. The Army didn't lie to cover up an assassination. They lie about every screw-up as a matter of course just to cover their ass and for good PR.

    . . .

    Thanks again for your tribute site and other comments.


    If you do manage to get an advance copy of the film, I'd appreciate if you could pass a copy to me. It's difficult to comment on the film without having seen it, although it appears that if doesn't go into the Democrat's role in covering for McChrystal etc.

  9. Guy, Pat and I were not joined at the hip. There was an age difference that made me uncomfortable about "hanging" with him. We first met when he was 17. I last saw him around the time he went pro. I didn't even know his last name and believe it or not - we didn't talk football.

    When we were together it was like we could hear each other's thoughts - like maybe being on the same frequency. That was special for me, but Pat did have the ability to make each friend feel special.

    I do dream about him a lot, not just memories, in spite of outside demons. At times it's like I can hear him or feel his presence. The "laugh" is definitely a gift from him but that all does get into the schizophrenic. Suffice to say I believe, when it's my turn, we will pick up our friendship better than where we left off with age being irrelevant.

    There are similar background experiences. Independently, our first cars were both Copper and Black, a bit cute perhaps. Looking forward to the high dives and the Tarzan swings at the swimming holes - both his and mine - and even anxious to try on a couple of those flying tackles. LOL

    The crappy book quote comes from you. (Above) I was interviewed in a 20 min phone call about 2 weeks before Krakauer pulled the original book. Don't know if there was cause and effect. Found Krakauer easy enough to talk to, at least until he got what he wanted. There was also an air of arrogance just below the surface. I asked Krakauer to let me see a couple of journal entries that I know concerned me. Gave him specific dates but never heard from him again until hortiohellpop and still can't be sure of that.

    As for the assassination theory, there's less evidence of conspiracy than there was with JFK. You got to remember, at the time, there were so many lies and redirects that who knows what really happened. In her book "Boots...," Mary asks why did CentCom based in the US, take charge and issue orders contrary to protocol after the Hum-Vee broke down? What happen to the recording made by the drone present at the event? Rumsfeld was a known micro manager. The wars were not going well for him and after the " ... *uckin' illegal" comment, was Pat on Rummy's she-it list? That's the kind of stuff we'll never really know.

    Pat was/is a very unique soul not easily categorized or pigeonholed. It's very difficult to compare him at length to any other individual except maybe for a particular aspect or trait. Nothing on which one can build a common profile. I think it was Benny or maybe Jeff who pointed out that if you ever met Pat, even if only once, you knew you met one rare and special likable dude.

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