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Tillman fell to friendly fire

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In an effort to explain why I think the word ‘hero’ is often misused, I offered several hypothetical situations involving the death of former National Football League player Pat Tillman a few weeks ago. The discussion, at a Right Wing blog, occurred before the luster on the word ‘hero’ had been eroded by revelations that American troops in Iraq have been torturing helpless Iraqi detainees. Along with a couple allies, I was roundly condemned for not declaring Tillman a hero. It appears that one of my examples of non-heroic death in the military, an accidental shooting by a comrade, is the truth about what happened to the pro athlete turned soldier.

FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) – Pat Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan after a U.S. solider mistakenly shot at an Afghan soldier in the former NFL player’s unit, military officials said Saturday.

Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Previous military statements suggested he was killed by enemy fire.

According to an Army investigation, Tillman was shot to death on April 22 after the friendly Afghan soldier in Tillman’s unit was mistakenly fired upon, and other U.S. soldiers then fired in the same direction.

. . .But an Afghan military official told The Associated Press on Saturday that Tillman died because of a “misunderstanding” when two mixed groups of American and Afghan soldiers began firing wildly in the confusion following a land mine explosion.

Speaking on condition of anonymity, the Afghan official said, “(There) were no enemy forces” present when Tillman died.

The circumstances of Tillman’s death do not detract from his willingness to put his body where his mouth was. Many people who share his Right Wing politics eschew any actions that might put them at risk. Other people are supposed to sacrifice themselves to protect them. Pat Tillman was not a coward. But, based on what is now known, I cannot say he is a hero, either. Tillman died because of an accidental shooting. He was not in the process of sacrificing his interests for anyone else’s at the time, the key component of being a hero.

I hope that any American personnel or agents who performed ineptly at the time will be disciplined appropriately. The needlessness of Tillman’s death should not be ignored.

Reasonably related

Why did white, middle-class America want Pat Tillman to be a hero?

Note: This entry also appeared at Mac-a-ro-nies.

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About The Diva

  • Hello! Yo! Hey, look! Callin’ all pro-war people who think Pat Tillman died kickin’ Iraqi butt. This one is for you.

  • I know you’re desperate for attention, MD, but no one (except perhaps you) thought Tillman was even in Iraq…

  • The U.S. declared war on Iraq, so that is the key component of the so-called war against terror. The key component of this entry is that Tillman died as the result of friendly fire. It is not something I would get someone who steals his ‘blog entries’ verbatim to grasp.

  • Sandra Smallson

    MacD, I don’t think it matters that he died by friendly fire. The fact that he died while off defending his country instead of talking about it on blogcritics like you and I makes his sacrifice something that should be applauded. If it’s the word “hero” you object to then you can ignore the word.

    I don’t elevate him above all other soldiers. I was simply impressed by his actions. Not many with such a luxurious life would have done what he did. That’s why he stands out. Sometimes I look at all the young soldiers in their late teens and early twenties and think, “Are they mad?” Were they forced to join this army? Goodness! When I was in my late teens and early twenties the only time I risked life and limb was because I was driving too fast. The thought of defending my country never entered my mind. It still hasn’t entered my mind:)

    I am grateful to those who think about it, talk about it and actually go and DO it. Who knows? But for them I would be told what to think, say or do by some dictator. Matter of fact, we may all have been killed knowing the residents of blogcritics. Those of us with our big mouths and strong opinions..LOL. Our tongues would have been chopped off long ago and we would have neen elimintaed just for some peace and quiet. Hopefully they would have started off with those ignoramuses with the misguided opinions(names witheld:) before they got to us, then I would have the time to repent knowing the kingdom of heaven was at hand.

    I am pro-war but that doesn’t mean I don’t sympathise with those who will have sudden death hanging over them during the war. That’s my worst fear. I pray to be afforded the blessing of knowing I am about to meet my maker before I actually pass away.
    Then again, sometimes, war is the answer.

  • Sandra Smallson

    elimintaed..correct to eliminated….Oh dear! Sometimes, I think I must be typing with pig’s hoofs. Bloody hell! I notice this happens the morning after the night of some kind of drinking. Perhaps there’s a causal link there but I can’t see it:)

  • Given the outrage by the ‘murrican neo-fascist league about Ted Rall’s cartoon (y’know lines on a page) does this make Adriana a hero, too? ‘Cause it was real bad she died in the line of duty, especially ’cause she some hot snatch.

    No, we don’t need to hear from the right-wing nut gallery, you boys just keep singing “The Horst Wessel Song”.

  • “you boys just keep singing “The Horst Wessel Song”.”

    Hmm, is this comment comparing conservatives to Nazis? If so, then Godwin’s Law applies.

    But why would conservatives want to sing a Socialist song?

  • Mileage varies. To some, war is never the answer. Never. And not everyone grants validity to Godwin’s Law.

    As for Tillman, I don’t consider him a hero either. His courage can’t be argued — obviously, the man walked his walk. And whatever killed him, his death, like all other deaths, is a sad occurrence. But learning that so-called friendly fire got him… well, it doesn’t paint a positive picture of the US Death Brigade, does it?

  • Hmm, is this comment comparing conservatives to Nazis? If so, then Godwin’s Law applies.

    No, this comment compares liars to liars. And it’s all coming out, the last thing troops want to be near is the US military since they mostly kill themselves and their allies what with their charging around like some John Wayne sumbitches. Secondly it is about the hypocrisy of chicken-hawks, you try to elevate some guy to hero status, then it turns out that he was killed by his fellow “heroes”. Dumbass. The Horst Wessel Song was a propaganda tool which was transparently false.

    At least the USA is being consistent in lying about almost everything being carried in the name of the Bush junta.

  • Chris Kent

    I am glad my gut instinct on this Tillman mess was essentially correct at the very beginning. Nice post MD. I only received about five anonymous e-mails (which I could not reply to) calling me a “miscreant shitbag.”

  • P Bowman

    “But why would conservatives want to sing a Socialist song?”

    I think you’re missing the first part of Nazi… Nationalist. It seems it’s the extreme nationalism leading to lies and spin that is an apt comparison to the Nazis. The Horst Wessel Song is all about nationalism. Any socialist ideals are not addressed in that little diddy.