kill with no pain
a dog on a chain
ain't got no name
it ain't him to blame
only a pawn in their game.
- Bob Dylan
Arizona Cardinals football-player-turned-Army-Ranger Pat Tillman
died in Afghanistan, sonorous bugles moaned from coast to coast.
We were told he died a "warrior's death" charging up a hill, urging
on his fellow rangers. His funeral was a nationally televised
political extravaganza with Senator John McCain among others delivering
eulogies over his open grave.
His Commander in Chief George W. Bush took time during last fall's
Presidential campaign to address Cardinals fans on the Jumbotron
at Sun Devil Stadium. Republican Rep. J.D. Hayworth was one of
many singing Tillman's praises. "He chose action rather than words.
He lived the American dream, and he fought to preserve the American
dream and our way of life."
Tillman had joined the Rangers for ideals like freedom and justice,
fought in a war for oil and empire.
I wrote that in death he was little
more than a "pawn in their game."
the time, I wrote a small column stating that Tillman, who refused
"hundreds if not thousands" of offers by the Pentagon to shill
publicly for the "War on Terror," would be repulsed by all the
attention. I wrote that to Bush, McCain and their pro-war ilk,
Tillman was proving far more useful dead than alive. He had joined
the Rangers for ideals like freedom and justice, but he fought
in a war for oil and empire. I wrote that in death he was little
more than a "pawn in their game."
observation didn't click with the pro-war/occupation camp, as
mail and death threats poured into my sleepy newspaper. People
claimed that the bipartisan war brigade was celebrating his heroism,
not exploiting his death - and by not simply standing and saluting,
I deserved a similar fate.
I want to
know how the hate mongers and internet thugs feel now, knowing
that they were duped about Tillman's death. Duped like the country
was duped about WMDs [weapons of mass destruction]. Duped into
cheerleading a war that's made the world a more dangerous place
and accomplished little more than a new generation of mass graves,
containing 100,000 Iraqis and 1,600 US soldiers as Bush and his
chickenhawks smirked knowingly in the background.
and Mary now know that Pat
did not die at the hands of the
Taliban while charging up a hill,
but was shot by his own troops in an
instance of what they call "fratricide."
I can only
wonder if those so protective of Pat Tillman's memory will exhibit
a fraction of the bravery being shown by Pat's parents Patrick
and Mary. The divorced couple has decided to go public with their
fury at a government that lied over the body of their dead son.
and Mary now know that Pat did not die at the hands of the Taliban
while charging up a hill, but was shot by his own troops in an
instance of what they call "fratricide." Patrick and Mary now
know that Tillman's men realized they had gunned him down "within
moments." They know that the soldiers
in an effort to cover up the killing of the All American "poster
boy" - burned Tillman's uniform and body armor.
that over the next 10 days, top-ranking Army officials, including
the all too appropriately titled "theater commander," Army Gen.
John P. Abizaid, hid the truth of Tillman's death, while Pentagon
scriptwriters conjured a Hollywood ending. They know that the
army waited until weeks after the nationally televised memorial
service to even clue them in about "irregularities" surrounding
their son's death. They know that the concurrent eruption of the
Abu Ghraib prison scandal may have played a role in the cover-up,
as the army attempted to avoid a double public relations disaster.
you feel you're being lied to,
you can never put it to rest."
- Mary Tillman
happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of
their way to script this," Patrick Tillman said earlier this week
to the Washington Post. "They purposely interfered with the investigation,
they covered it up. [T]hey realized that their recruiting efforts
were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his
death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
like her ex-husband and son, a fiercely private person, spoke
with a frankness that should put dissembling military planners
to shame. "It makes you feel like you're losing your mind in a
way," she said. "You imagine things. When you don't know the truth,
certain details can be blown out of proportion. The truth may
be painful, but it's the truth. You start to contrive all these
scenarios that could have taken place because they just kept lying.
you feel you're being lied to, you can never put it to rest."
lie was to cover their image.
I think there's a lot more yet that we
don't even know, or they wouldn't
still be covering their tails."
- Mary Tillman
the Tillmans, consciously or not, are lending their voice to a
growing chorus of military
family members determined to speak out against this war. New organizations,
like Gold Star Mothers for Peace and Military Families Speak Out,
are made up of people handling their grief by refusing to be political
props and instead making a country bear witness to their pain.
is sort of emotional," Mary Tillman said. "It just keeps
slapping me in the face. To find that he was killed in this debacle
- everything that could have gone wrong did - it's so much harder
to take. We should not have been subjected to all of this. This
lie was to cover their image. I think there's a lot more yet that
we don't even know, or they wouldn't still be covering their tails.
If this is what happens when someone high profile dies, I can
only imagine what happens with everyone else."
is exactly for "everyone else" dying throughout
the Middle East, that we must follow the Tillmans' example and
regard silence as a luxury we can no longer afford.
essay also appeared on Counterpunch on May 27, 2005.
Dave Zirin's new book, "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance
in the United States," will be in stores in June 2005. Check out
his revamped website edgeofsports.com. You can receive his column
Edge of Sports, every week by e-mailing firstname.lastname@example.org.
Contact him at email@example.com.