Tillman Family is McChrystal-Clear

When NFL player-turned-Army Ranger Pat Tillman died at the hands of US troops in a case of “friendly fire,” the spin machine at the Pentagon went into overdrive. Rumsfeld and company couldn’t have their most high-profile soldier dying in such an inelegant fashion, especially with the release of those pesky photos from Abu Ghraib hitting the airwaves. So an obscene lie was told to Tillman’s family, his friends and the American public. The chicken-hawks in charge, whose only exposure to war was watching John Wayne movies, claimed that he died charging a hill and was cut down by the radical Islamic enemies of freedom. In the weeks preceding his death, Tillman was beginning to question what exactly he was fighting for, telling friends that he believed the war in Iraq was ” [expletive] illegal.” He may not have known what he was fighting for, but it’s now clear what he died for: public relations. Today, after five years, six investigations and two Congressional hearings, questions still linger about how Tillman died and why it was covered up.

Now the man who greased the chain of command that orchestrated this great deception is prepared to assume total control of US operations in Afghanistan: Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal. It was McChrystal who approved Tillman’s posthumous Silver Star, a medal given explicitly for combat, even though he later testified that he “suspected” friendly fire.

Yet despite this, both Democrats and Republicans are rushing to heap praise on McChrystal, including Sen. John McCain. It was McCain who rushed to speak at Tillman’s funeral and then, when the cover-up became known, pledged to help the Tillman family expose the truth. McCain later turned his back on the Tillmans when they raised the volume and demanded answers. As Pat’s mother, Mary Tillman, said last year, “He definitely eased out of the situation. He didn’t blatantly say he wouldn’t help us, it’s just that it became clear that he kind of drifted away.”

And now the Tillman family, amidst bipartisan praise for Obama’s new general, must once again raise the inconvenient truth.

Pat’s father, Pat Tillman Sr., told the Associated Press, “I do believe that guy participated in a falsified homicide investigation.”

Mary Tillman, who excoriated McChrystal in her book, Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman, said, “It is imperative that Lt. Gen. McChrystal be scrutinized carefully during the Senate hearings.”

Pentagon spokesman Geoff Morrell said in response:

We feel terrible for what the Tillman family went through, but this matter has been investigated thoroughly by the Pentagon, by the Congress, by outside experts, and all of them have come to the same conclusion: that there was no wrongdoing by Gen. McChrystal.

Morrell’s statement has more spin than a washing machine powered by a V-8 engine. McChrystal has never explained why the early reports of Tillman’s death were covered up, why his clothes and field journal were burned and destroyed on the scene or why Pat’s brother Kevin, serving alongside him in the Rangers, was lied to on the spot. Even the cover-up was covered up. This should be a cause for dismissal–or indictment–not promotion.

What particularly rankles about Obama’s choice of McChrystal, whose background is in the nefarious and shadowy world of “black ops,” is that his actions in the Tillman cover-up feel emblematic instead of exceptional.

When an anonymous Army interrogator “at great personal risk” blew the whistle to Esquire in August 2006 on an extensive torture enterprise at Camp Nama, he described the then unknown McChrystal as being an overseer who knew the ugly truth. Torture at Camp Nama included using ice water to induce hypothermia. It was not a rogue operation unless we consider Generals like McChrystal “rogues.” As Esquire reported:

Once, somebody brought it up with the colonel. “Will [the Red Cross] ever be allowed in here?” And he said absolutely not. He had this directly from General McChrystal and the Pentagon that there’s no way that the Red Cross could get in–they won’t have access and they never will. This facility was completely closed off to anybody investigating, even Army investigators.

Later in the piece, when asked where the colonel was getting his orders from the interrogator said, “I believe it was a two-star general. I believe his name was General McChrystal. I saw him there a couple of times.”

Clearly President Obama is trying to “own” the war in Afghanistan: upping the troop levels, making it his “central front” in the battle against terrorism and now placing his own general in charge. But the president is also disappointing a generation of antiwar activists who voted for him expecting an end to imperial adventures and torture sanctioned by the executive branch. Now a man who should perhaps be on trial at the Hague is in charge of Afghanistan. Obama needs to know it’s not just the Tillmans who are enraged by this terrible choice.

Dave Zirin is the author of Bad Sports: How Owners are Ruining the Games we Love (Scribner). He can be reached at: edgeofsports@gmail.com. Read other articles by David, or visit David's website.

10 comments on this article so far ...

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  1. RH2 said on May 17th, 2009 at 12:30pm #

    Dave Zirin,

    “Now a man who should perhaps be on trial at the Hague is in charge of Afghanistan. Obama needs to know it’s not just the Tillmans who are enraged by this terrible choice.”

    The so-called super powers China, Russia and the U.S. have signed the Rome Statut (the basis for the “court“ in The Hague), but have not ratified it. The U.S. has even withdrawn its signature subsequently and excluded its citizens from being delivered up to this court. Moreover, the American Service Members Protection Act became effective in 2002 authorizing the U.S. president to militarily free U.S. citizens, who should answer for something (crimes) in The Hague. U.S. authorities are forbidden to cooperate with the court. This is obviously a travesty of justice. The “court” in The Hague is thus an Imperial stage performing against politicians from countries, which do not suit U.S. Imperialism. This selective performance is illegal and morally deficient. An a American war criminal is best served by a process at home. But who would initiate that? You have a long history of slavery, submissiveness, illiterate voters and war criminals.

  2. bozh said on May 17th, 2009 at 3:48pm #

    RH2, more on “illiterate” voters. One cannot adapt to a fictitious reality. Ruling class in US, which had developed an ideal fascist structure of society, had bombarded children with an ocean of lies.
    children are very trusting; very eager to please adults. They have no inkling that their seniors are lying to them.
    the purpose being to rule them once they become adults; enamored with americanism.
    even slavery, lynching, cld not shake or rattle their feelings about america being the greatest land on the planet.
    lies work! We know how/where/when/why! Some 200mn amers are victimised by US by words! That’s all it takes.
    The aliens are victimised by missiles, bombs, invasions, terrorism, or threats of invasion/terrorism.

    in fact, US ruling class has been behaving just like the ruling classes in perhaps all lands and empires.
    clero-political or clero-patrician class of life had been lying to us for millennia.
    natch, the more evil/greedy/scared an empire, the more it lies; covering lies by more lies. It never ends.
    only a very fearful [fearful of losing primacy or wealth because planet is getting poorer and warmer] wld wage serial wars; while denying domestics even healthcare. tnx

  3. rg the lg said on May 17th, 2009 at 8:17pm #

    This is the ‘change’ we voted for?

    Well, to be honest, I didn’t vote. When younger, I voted once for Carter (the first time) … didn’t before, haven’t since.

    Why? Because the idea of change was/is an illusion. O’Bushma, and his predecessors, work for the same rather loosely and somewhat disorganized quasi-cabal … it isn’t that they have conspired … it is more that the capitalists have a general (c0mmon) agenda … and the role of president is/was/will be to protect their interests/wealth/influence/power.

    Personally, I think we would have been better off with a monarch and a parliamentary system … Washington let us down, or maybe more accurately sold us out!

    I remain a fan of the Articles of confederation. Has anyone actually read them … or just taken it a face value that they should have been changed ” in order to make a more perfect union ” … but, for whom?
    If you haven’t, try Wikipedia … oh, I know … it isn’t reliable! Bull! It is no less reliable than Britannica, Americana, or any of the others and has the virtue of being open source! Just because no one is being PAID for the articles does not mean the articles are not generally very reliable!

    One more capitalist myth: Britannica is best because what … it is more expensive?

    Bull s–t!

    Read the Articles … the decide which one would have better protected your own individual interests! Once you do that, by a copy of any of Howard Zinn’s books … they are at least accurate!

    RG the LG

  4. rosemarie jackowski said on May 18th, 2009 at 3:04pm #

    rg the lg… “…better off with a monarch…” I agree. Almost anything would be better than the current system. I often advocate for a lottery system. Just pick a name out of the hat or phone directory, or off any list of humans in the US. That might be the only way that we get to be governed by one of our peers – someone who is not a member of the wealthy/ruling/elite class. It would be a pleasant change to have a plumber, or truck driver, or nurse, or stay at home mother for a president.

    RH2… “…illiterate voters…”… I agree. It is the voters, it is always the voters who have the ultimate responsibility. It happens after every election. The laments about ‘we were duped – he lied to us’. Voters’ remorse till the next election and the same thing happens all over again. You’d think they’d have learned by now.

  5. bozh said on May 18th, 2009 at 4:26pm #

    do voters confuse a gov’t with governance? And thus do not see that it wld profit them much more to pay attention to it and not to mere managers; oops, govt’s.
    cldn’t the voters start their observation of the governance by carefuly reading US constitution; the base for all that goes on in US?
    true, what goes on in US is not based on that writ but on the interpretation of that writ.
    and all interpretations of a constitution are correct/just/wise, etc.
    by reading constitution, one might discover that nowhere is to be found the basic human right to have healthcare, among other basic rights.

    and one just might wonder why their dear fathers of the confederation never put that in? Or that they never said, Thou shall have health care once the country get’s rich and ye shall be enlightened and not deceived?
    and the present Dear Leader said, Thou shall not have healthcare nor any goodies.
    and all that without permission from the holy constitution. Some holiness! Like that of a pope! Another dear father! tnx

  6. HR said on May 18th, 2009 at 9:02pm #

    Hey, what’s wrong with the present system of having a senate where the 25 most populous states, with about 84 percent of the population, get 50 senators, while the smallest 25, with about 16 percent of the population get the remaining 50 senators? I’ll take a parliamentary system any day, though not a monarchy. Currently, we’re a nation ruled by second-rate states.

  7. Russell Olausen said on May 18th, 2009 at 9:42pm #

    It makes perfect sense to have unaccountable militarists increase their power when the main business of state is unaccountable wars.This road America is on does not have any U turning on it.So far the trip has been fast and relatively smooth but sooner or later some real Boogie types are bound to show up as a moth is attracted to light.The more secure you get the more security you need.Any way I wish you well, there is a lot of fun types among you.

  8. Ryan Martin said on May 18th, 2009 at 11:39pm #

    What scares me the most is the media is not reporting any off this. They are reporting the glowing praise coming from Obama and the Republicans. What has happened to the media?

  9. HR said on May 20th, 2009 at 11:58am #

    What has happened to the media? Nothing at all. But, people are finally awakening, at least a little, to what a brainwashing effort the media here has always been.

  10. HR said on May 20th, 2009 at 11:59am #

    What has happened to the media? Nothing at all. But, people are finally awakening, at least a little, to what a brainwashing effort the media here have always been.