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Pat Tillman, Soldier, War Dissenter, American Atheist, Martyr

was the very discomforting Pat Tillman murdered?

This is Dark Cloud on Wednesday, August 01, 2007.

Today, the Sunni Arab Bloc of the Iraqi Parliament left the government, and no, it wasn’t to hit the beach on their month long August vacation. The Sunni Arab Bloc is, of course, mostly - but not totally - a front for Baathist Party remnants, the guys who wept when Saddam swung. It’s also the religious faction that hosts the Wahhabists, of which Bin Laden is an adherent, and notionally al Qaeda Wahhabists are Islam’s answer to our own, home grown, fundamentalist Christians, only they don’t hide their desire to kill their enemies. No skulking after bombing abortion clinics for them. They’ll lock girls in a burning dorm rather than have them ill dressed in public. And brag about it.

Without the Sunnis participating in the entirely pretend government of Iraq, an entirely notional but demanding pink elephant of last century’s British Foreign Office when real men were not sober after 1500 hours during the week, and with the government not functioning anyway, and because none of the numerous factions really want it to work, I thought now might be a good time to drop kick Iraq from contemplation and let it go.

While this was going on, Donald Rumsfeld, flanked by now retired military brass, was questioned by Congress about the death of one Pat Tillman, a posthumous corporal in the U.S. Army, a Ranger, and victim of friendly fire three years ago. Or, murdered. Hard to say. Tillman stood out almost entirely because he was a successful NFL player with million dollar contracts who cast all that aside to serve his nation, as his father and grandfather had done. There is a great deal of horse hockey about Tillman. He had done nothing, as yet, to qualify himself as a hero, something his own brother, a fellow Ranger, announced before Congress last year. Tillman’s medals were for fabricated behavior that supposedly led to his death.

Tillman had served in Iraq and then was assigned to Afghanistan, where he was killed. He thought the Iraq War was a fraud, and the Afghan War badly done, and in both conclusions he has been proven more correct than not. But worse, he had written Noam Chomsky, an anti-war and Left Wing giant, to inquire about how to set up a veterans against the war group. Given that the Bushies had made a big deal about Tillman joining, and he was an impressive young man, the notion that he might return to castigate the administration would have been viewed as disastrous, especially with a Presidential election that year. This can be constructed to look ominous.

And three shots from an M-16 fired at less that ten yards into a two inch square of Tillman’s forehead, and this after he’d been hit in the legs and body, and the sudden need to burn his uniform, and the withholding of his journals from his family, all of that does not subsume us with feelings of confidence in the honor and integrity of our government or that section of our Army. We need those feelings, always.

But it is not unusual, nor modern. At the Battle of the Washita in 1868, the 7th Cavalry attacked a village of Cheyenne in an ethical parallel on a far lesser scale to our invasions of the Middle East. One the soldiers killed was a grandson of Alexander Hamilton, who was a popular officer as well as the descendant of a Founding Father. Because of the way Hamilton wore his coat unbuttoned it looked as though the bullet had come from the rear and he’d been murdered. Nobody disliked him, though. However, the commanding officer he rode close to – George Custer – was not so well regarded by many in the 7th, and the story was forwarded that a bollixed fragging of Custer killed Hamilton. It gained some from the telling, but there was no evidence other than wishful thinking. But Hamilton was dead, and his family was not without friends back East.

Pat Tillman was an announced atheist, thought the Iraq War illegal, and urged his friends to vote for John Kerry. He corresponded with people beloved by the Left, but he may have been more of a contrarian than anything. He certainly was not the right wing rah-rah type that many, including myself, silently assumed when he enlisted. We Americans forget how much of our unity is based on trust: that our money is worth what we’re told it is, that the military obeys civilian control to support the Constitution only, that we are, in the final analysis, fighting the good fight. Tillman enlisted to fight a war he did not believe in, but it was his duty, perhaps to make things right as well as to fight.

I do know that if the story isn’t soon put right, this will eat at the American electorate and damage our unity far more than today’s Sunni Arab Bloc’s exit will harm Iraq’s, which was never were united anyway, never a nation that produced a Pat Tillman, treated so shamefully in life - and death - by our government, our Army, our Christian equivalents to Wahhabis who tried to damn Tillman’s family for not floating in the Blood of the Lamb. People used to be praised for putting aside partisan politics in the nation's need. Wouldn't it be nice to know the party in power wouldn't kill them at opportunity? But with this administration, we cannot.