Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Introduction to the Feral Firefighter's Pat Tillman Files (DRAFT February 28, 2012)

NOTE 2/27/12: I've been cleaning up this blog over the past couple of days. Later today I will have a separate post for an up-to-date Table of Contents (or use the "Blog Archive" tabs to the right).

Sometime ... always time permitting, I will also post an updated Introduction to the blog, and add an Executive Summary. But, as a really rough draft for an introduction to this blog, read on ...
. . .

Here's a slightly edited comment I wrote to on Pat Tillman's birthday on November 6, 2009 (it needs to be updated quite a bit:

“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.

Shortly after his April 2007 Tillman 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 2nd Tillman hearing (August 2007) McChrystal was dropped from the list of witnesses and never interviewed despite his central role in the cover-up.

The following year, Senator James Webb conducted a secret “review” of McChrystal’s role. On May 15th 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee (headed by Senator Levin and Senator 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!)

The following year, on May 12th 2009, despite McChrystal’s role in both torture at Camp Nama and the Tillman affair, President Obama nominated McChrystal to be his new commander of the Afghan War and for promotion to the Army’s highest rank. Ironically, 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 pathetic pro forma June 2nd hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee,with softball questions by Senator McCain, Levin, and Webb (the real hearing had been held behind closed doors in 2008),the Senate (literally begged by Senate Majority Leader Harry 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 26, 2009 piece “exonerating” McChrystal of all wrong-doing shortly before McChrystal’s Senate confirmation hearing, despite receiving strong evidence to the contrary.

Since then, Thom’s enjoyed favorable access to McChrystal. For example, he wrote in his "Counterstrike" book that McChrystal gave himself a private tour of his new Pentagon HQ the day he was confirmed. And Shanker was a "writer in residence" at the Washington think-tank Center for a New American Security (CNAS) that had close ties to both Gen. Petreaus and Gen. 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 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 other words, the Tillman family can go to hell!

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. And, 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."

Note: I've also got problems with Jon Krakauer, in large part because he failed to tell how both President Obama and the Democratic Congress white-washed McChrystal's role. See "Jon Krakauer's Credibility Problem"

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 had 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.
. . .

In my blog posts (see the Table of Contents), I also discussed topics including: how the NFL betrayed the Tillman family, Bob Woodward's whitewash of McChrystal, President Obama's decision to oppose the court-ordered release of torture photos to protect McChrystal, how Rachel Corrie was Pat Tillman's hero, the parallels between Yoni Netanyahu (died at 1976 Entebbe Raid)and Pat Tillman.

. . .

Here's an edited version of a letter I wrote in October 2005 which partly explains how I got onto the Tillman Story.

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.

Aside: 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.

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.
. . .

To Dig Deeper:

To learn more, I'd suggest watching "The Tillman Story" DVD. An Oscar-nominated 2009 documentary is a good introduction to Pat Tillman and his family (although it rushes through the material.

The best magazine profile is Gary Smith's 9-11-06 cover story "Remember His Name" Smith's piece is probably the single best short introduction to the Tillman story.

I would also recommend Mick Brown's UK Telegraph October 7, 2010 piece "The Betrayal of an All-American Hero." One of the last substantive interviews the family has given on the subject.

As far as books go, I would suggest Mary Tillman's 2008 "Boots on the Ground by Dusk" (with preview of the 2010 updated paperback at

Jon Krakauer's 2009 book "Where Men Win Glory" (in the revised paperback edition) gives a decent description of the Army's cover-up and the friendly-fire incident. However, it is a flawed book that failed to describe the Democratic Congress and President Obama's role in the whitewash and because the Tillman family (except his widow), after seeing his draft, refused to further cooperate with him or let him quote them in his book. (See "Jon Krakauer's Credibility Problem" for more info).

And Michael Hastings recent book, "The Operators," is worth reading. It details his June 2010 "Rolling Stone" article that contributed to McChrystal being fired by Obama. It's like Bob Woodward without the subtle low-key BS (and with all the F-bombs). He briefly discusses McChrystal's role in the Tillman affair and why he thinks the Afghan war is so F-uped. It's refreshing to read an honest journalist who's not ass-kissing the powers-that-be.

Of course, I'd suggest you dig further into this blog. There's a wealth of material that is not found in the Tillman DVD or books. 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. I would suggest starting with "Something to Die For" (DRAFT 4-11-12) or "The [Untold] Tillman Story." It summarizes some of the material and has selected portions from most of the other posts.

1 comment:

  1. enjoying the blog.

    you wrote:
    "I would also recommend Mick Brown's UK Guardian October 7, 2010 piece "The Betrayal of an All-American Hero." One of the last substantive interviews the family has given on the subject."

    I looked for it -- the story appears in the Telegraph, not the Guardian. (which is kinda like attributing a Steven Colbert joke to Rush Limbaugh...!)