Robert Collier has an outstanding piece in the San Francisco Chronicle about the life and death(s) of Pat Tillman. It makes for a fascinating read–a story about a person much more complex than the media orginally depicted–and one more nuanced than I believed. Pat Tillman truly was a hero–but not for the reasons that Rumsfeld and the Bush Administration wanted us to believe.
As most people know, Tillman gave up a $3.6 million contract to enlist in the Army, because he “wanted to fight al Qaeda and help find Osama bin Laden.” What most people don’t know is that Tillman believed that the war in Iraq was not legitimate.
Spc. Russell Baer, a solider who was beside Tillman when he died, said:
“I can see it like a movie screen,” Baer said. “We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren’t in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.”
And yet, the military lied–to Tillman’s family and the nation–to continue to justify the war on terror. Evidence was destroyed, testimony changed, lies told because the truth might just expose the absurdity of this war, and its limits. And Pat Tillman’s father doesn’t believe these decisions were low level. How could he? How could any of us, after the lies we have been told?
“The administration clearly was using this case for its own political reasons,” said the father, Patrick Tillman. “This cover-up started within minutes of Pat’s death, and it started at high levels. This is not something that (lower-ranking) people in the field do,” he said.
The real hero was the man who gave up his wealth and his family for what he believed in. The man who brought classic books and coffee for his squadmates, who encouraged a young solider to write poetry, who read Chomsky and questioned the war.
He was not the carricature the Adminstration wanted to present…or the person they vicariously pretend to be. We need more heroes.