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Happy Birthday, Pat Tillman

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Happy Birthday, Pat Tillman

Posted on Nov 6, 2009
Pat and Kevin Tillman
Courtesy of the Tillman Family

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.

By Kevin Tillman

Editor’s note: Pat Tillman would have been 33 years old today. We at Truthdig wish to commemorate his life by republishing an article by his brother, Kevin Tillman. Tillman’s story speaks volumes not just about those we have lost, but about a history of lies, deceits and cover-ups that have helped to perpetuate war and kill thousands of U.S., coalition, Iraqi and Afghan people. As we await a decision by President Barack Obama, being pressed by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, on whether or not to send more troops to Afghanistan, we can remind ourselves of the life that Pat Tillman led and let it guide us to better understand both the conflict in Afghanistan and its consequences. 

Kevin Tillman joined the Army with Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. The government deceived his family—and the nation—about the circumstances of his death for five weeks. McChrystal, who led the Joint Special Operations Command, of which Pat was a member, was central to the top-level military deceit in Tillman’s death through his fast-tracking of a fraudulent Silver Star medal recommendation and later warning in a high-priority memo of possible “public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public.” Not when, but “if.” 

Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, wrote a powerful, must-read document on the occasion of Pat’s birthday anniversary in 2006.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after.  It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military.  He spoke about the risks with signing the papers.  How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people.  How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition.  How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we got out. 

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them.  Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet.  It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

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.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated. 

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense. 

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people.  So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity.  Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites. 

Luckily this country is still a democracy.  People still have a voice.  People still can take action.  It can start after Pat’s birthday. 

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman


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