Monday, October 23, 2006

Pat Tillman's birthday

Pat Tillman (left) and his brother Kevin stand in front of a Chinook helicopter in Saudi Arabia before their tour of duty as Army Rangers in Iraq in 2003.
(Photo courtesy of the Tillman Family, via Truthdig)
To get beyond the talking points of those self-styled patriots who have promoted America’s occupation of Iraq as proper duty for other people’s children to shoulder please read “After Pat’s Birthday” by Kevin Tillman. It’s a short piece that overflows with an authenticity that simply can’t be blown off by election year politics.

In case you don’t recognize the author’s name, he is the brother of Pat Tillman, the pro football player who became a headline when he turned his back on millions of dollars the Arizona Cardinals were offering him in a new contract to enlist in the Army in 2002. Then he was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004, a terrible fact the Army has tried in vain to both hide and investigate, which made more headlines. (Click here to read a report about the investigation by WTVR-TV6)

To me, Kevin Tillman’s piece struck a familiar chord. It took me back to the late-1960s, when brave young veterans were returning from the bloody quagmire in Vietnam, crying out to a nation divided by politics that their brothers were dying in Southeast Asia for no good reason. Dying with honor, but for lies. As their words were in that turbulent time, the surviving brother’s words are bitter.

“...Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

“Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

“Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

“Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

“Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.”

Kevin Tillman, who joined the Army with his brother and was discharged in 2005, is fully entitled to write bitter words. In his must-read piece for Truthdig, he reminds us that Nov. 6th, the day before election day, will be Pat’s birthday.

Supporters of the absurd stay-the-course slogan/policy of the Bush administration should take a few minutes away from trashing Jim Webb, John Murtha and others running for office this year -- veterans who are calling for a new policy to end the quagmire in Iraq -- to read “After Pat’s Birthday.”

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