Friday, March 05, 2010

The Pat Tillman Tragedy

We just finished a terrific book: "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman" by Jon Krakauer.

Krakauer is a great writer, whose books include "Into Thin Air" and "Into The Wild." In "Where Men," he explores the tragic death of former NFL defensive back Pat Tillman, who left the NFL at the peak of his career to join the Army after the 9/11 attacks. As an Army Ranger, Tillman was sent to Afghanistan, where he was killed in a friendly fire incident, the details of which initially were covered up by the military.

Krakauer's book is a thorough examination of what happened, as well as of the intensely interesting life of Tillman.

The book is also a reminder of just how awful the Bush presidency was. Before serving in Afghanistan, Tillman did a tour in Iraq. There, he played a bit role in the Jessica Lynch "rescue" operation.

Krakauer reveals new details of the Lynch case--at least details we'd never heard before--that reveal the depths of cynicism of the Bush administration. You may recall that Lynch was the young woman wounded in a battle with Iraqi soldiers after her convoy was ambushed; she was captured and held in a hospital in the city of An Nasiryah until her dramatic rescue by U.S. special forces.

Or so that was the story we were told. In fact, Lynch's convoy got lost after a collossal set of blunders. It was eventually fired upon by Iraqi troops (who military intelligence had said weren't there). Contrary to stories that Lynch fought it out with Iraqi troops until she was wounded, she never fired her weapon; she was injured when her humvee collided with another American truck. The Iraqis took her to their best local hospital, where she was treated well and given excellent care.

Several of the doctors at the hospital contacted American forces to let them know where she was. At one point, they even tried to deliver her to an American base in an ambulance, but the ambulance was fired upon and had to turn back.

At the time, things weren't going too well for the Americans. There had been a number of friendly fire incidents, and a force of Marines in Nasiriyah had spent an entire day shooting at each other, with considerable fatalities. The Bushies needed some good news. A Bush PR operative on the ground in Iraq--Jim Wilkinson--seized on the Lynch situation as a means to manufacture that good news.

Instead of sending a unit in to pick Lynch up, he had the military commit nearly 1000 special forces troops (including Tillman in a supporting role), accompanied by a video crew, to storm the hospital and rescue Ms. Lynch. He then helped fabricate an entire story about her capture, which the media couldn't get enough of. Tillman saw through the whole thing at the time. Unlike many soldiers who served in Iraq, he never thought it was a legitimate war--he wanted to be in Afghanistan instead.

In any event, Krakauer has some other Wilkinson exploits that ought to nauseate you.

All of this is by way of prelude to what happened in Afghanistan after Tillman was killed. His own brother was in the same Ranger unit, but didn't witness what happened. The other men in the unit were instructed not to talk to him about it, and Tillman's family did not learn that he was killed by friendly fire for several weeks after his death. Meanwhile, Bush and the military (who were aware of the circumstances) made the most of Tillman's fame while they covered up the facts as long as they could.

It's a fascinating read, one that will make you SO glad that Bush, Cheney, Rumsfeld, Rove and their merry band of lying incompetents are gone. It will also make you very sad for Tillman, his sweet wife and his family.

No comments: