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Tillman opposed Iraq War

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Earlier this month, Colin Powell called his 2003 speech to the UN about WMD’s “painful,” saying that presenting false information about WMD’s to the world had left a permanent blot on his record.

During the last two years, the factual arguments for invading Iraq have continually faded away (e.g. – WMD’s, the alleged Al Qaeda-Iraq connection, the argument that invading Iraq would decrease terrorism), leaving only emotional rationales, such as the argument that not supporting President Bush’s unnecessary invasion of Iraq equates to “not supporting the troops.”

Now, Media Matters brings us another interesting story:

On the September 27 edition of Fox News’ Hannity & Colmes, co-host Sean Hannity and right-wing pundit Ann Coulter told co-host Alan Colmes that they “don’t believe” a report that Army Ranger Pat Tillman was a fan of leftist author Noam Chomsky, opposed the Iraq war, and planned to vote for Sen. John Kerry (D-MA) in the 2004 presidential election. But according to a September 25 San Francisco Chronicle report that Colmes cited, Tillman’s mother said that he had planned to meet privately with Chomsky and that “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war.” Tillman, a former pro football star, served in Iraq before being killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004.

Hannity and Coulter, predictably, tried to blame the “liberal media”:

Responding to Colmes’s statement that Tillman “was a Noam Chomsky fan, was going to vote for John Kerry, was against the war in Iraq,” Coulter insisted, “I don’t believe it.” Hannity concurred, saying, “I don’t believe it either.” After Colmes explained that Tillman reportedly supported the war in Afghanistan but opposed the war in Iraq, Coulter responded, “I think you got that from one of those documents Mary Mapes handed to Dan Rather” — an apparent reference to CBS’ controversial report on President Bush’s National Guard service, which was produced by Mapes and relied in part on unauthenticated memos.

Of course, Hannity and Coulter had absolutely no factual backup for their argument.

However, the Chronicle article, which focused on the military’s alleged efforts to conceal facts about Tillman’s death, quoted Tillman’s mother, Mary Tillman, directly:

Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat’s even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the anti-war author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan — a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war.”

The Chronicle also quoted Spc. Russell Baer, who recalled a conversation he had with Tillman during the March 2003 invasion of Iraq. Baer told the Chronicle, “We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f—— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.” Additionally, the Chronicle quoted Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White, who “said Pat ‘wasn’t very fired up about being in Iraq’ and instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan.”

In addition, the Chronicle cited an anonymous soldier who said Tillman had urged him to vote for Kerry in the 2004 presidential election.

It will be interesting to see if the absurd “support all of the President’s poor decisions or you don’t support the troops” argument can last much longer. I wish conservatives would stop treating our troops like a bunch of mindless robots, who can’t think for themselves, and can’t handle anyone disagreeing with their boss.

When you’re in the military, your duty is to do what the Commander-in-Chief tells you to do – regardless of who is elected. When you aren’t in the military, your duty is to make sure that our public servants make the right decisions, and that includes foreign policy, which is one of the President’s most important responsibilities.

A recent poll found that 59% of Americans believe that the U.S. “made a mistake” in sending troops into Iraq, and 67% disapproved of President Bush’s handling of the situation in Iraq. Once Bush is out of office, and Americans no longer feel compelled to defend him, it will be interesting to see how much those percentages increase.

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  • The Searcher

    The attitudes of Coulter and Hannity are very revealing of the black-and-white, excluded-middle thinking of the right in general. But this is not surprising considering that people of their ilk consider blind faith in the supernatural the paragon of human virtue.

    How blind must you be to deny the possibility that a soldier can fight in a war which they personally feel is unjustified. Remember, theirs is not to ask why, but to do or die.

  • Coulter proves every day that she’s an idiot.

    Tillman was a fascinating guy and a hero. That’s the definition of heroism, when you’ll fight and die for your country in a war you disagree with.

    Some more interesting stuff about Tillman from the Chronicle:

    “Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.


    A football star at Leland High School in San Jose and at Arizona State University, Tillman was chosen Pac-10 defensive player of the year in 1997 and selected by the Arizona Cardinals in the NFL draft the following spring.
    He earned a bachelor’s degree in marketing from Arizona State and graduated summa cum laude in 3 1/2 years with a 3.84 grade point average. Ever the student, Tillman not only memorized the playbook by the time he reported for the Cardinals’ rookie camp but pointed out errors in it. He then worked on a master’s degree in history while playing professional football.
    His 224 tackles in a single season (2000) are a team record, and because of team loyalty he rejected a five year, $9 million offer from the St. Louis Rams for a one-year, $512,000 contract to stay with Arizona the next year.
    Moved in part by the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, Tillman decided to give up his career, saying he wanted to fight al Qaeda and help find Osama bin Laden. He spurned the Cardinals’ offer of a three year, $3.6 million contract extension and joined the Army in June 2002 along with his brother Kevin, who was playing minor-league baseball for the Cleveland Indians organization.


    Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White — a Navy SEAL who served with Pat and Kevin for four months in Iraq and was the only military member to speak at Tillman’s memorial — said Pat “wasn’t very fired up about being in Iraq” and instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. He said both Pat and Kevin (who has a degree in philosophy) “were amazingly well-read individuals … very firm in some of their beliefs, their political and religious or not so religious beliefs.”
    Baer recalled that Tillman encouraged him in his ambitions as an amateur poet. “I would read him my poems, and we would talk about them,” Baer said. “He helped me grow as an individual.”
    Tillman subscribed to the Economist magazine, and a fellow soldier said Tillman created a makeshift base library of classic novels so his platoon mates would have literature to read in their down time. He even brought gourmet coffee to brew for his platoon in the field in Afghanistan.
    Baer said Tillman was popular among his fellow soldiers and had no enemies. “The guys who killed Pat were his biggest fans,” he said. “They were really wrecked afterward.” He called Tillman “this amazing positive force who really brought our whole platoon together.
    He had this great energy. Everybody loved him.” His former comrades and family recall Tillman as a born leader yet remarkably humble. White, the Navy SEAL, recalls one day when “some 19-year-old Ranger came and ordered him to cut an acre of grass.
    And Pat just did it, he cut that grass, he didn’t complain. He could have taken millions of dollars playing football, but instead he was just taking orders like that.”
    Mary Tillman says that’s how Pat would have wanted to be remembered, as an individual, not as a stock figure or political prop. But she also believes “Pat was a real hero, not what they used him as.”

    That is all.

  • I don’t know why Tillman’s thoughts on the war(s) is of that much importance to proponents or opponents of them.

    Tillman’s service and sacrifice stand alone regardless of what Hannity, Coulter, Chomsky, his mom, or anyone else says before or after his passing.

    Civilians disagree on the war(s). Members of the military disagree on the war(s). What’s the news?

  • By all accounts, Tillman was a fine fellow. But you have to wonder how sound his judgement was if he was a fan of Chomsky. Opposing the Iraq war is one thing – a reasonable, principled position – but if he got the idea from reading Chomsky, whose opposition to the war is virulently ideological and anti-American, then it sort of puts his whole perspective into question.


  • I really enjoyed this article and wheras I admired Tillman before now I’m even more impressed. I, too, was a fan of Chomsky when I was in my twenties and it wasn’t until his “chickens coming home to roost” view of the attacks of 9/11 that I began to realize there was something amiss with the simplistic idea that there are two things operating in the world; imperialistic greedy nations controlled by corporations and the reaction to them.

    I also take exception to yet another argument explaining the “No WMD and no Al Qaeda” cliche which is really designed to undermine the Bush administration and the effort in Iraq. Not that I have a problem with going after Bush, I just have a problem with defeatism when the Iraqi people have to pay the price.

    I was against the war, but I also admit there is any implacable enemy out there that doesn’t care what we do or have done, it cares who we are and it wants only our death. That was pretty clearly the message on 911, and the Iraq war was all about that; going into the mideast and smashing a major Arab power (who was actually a good villain for the left as well, curiously)and letting them know the score.
    You can thank Osama Bin Laden for the Iraq war.

  • The news is that his own family doesn’t like how he’s been used as a “political prop,” a right-wing icon for the war on terror and as some sort of celebrity justification for intervening in Iraq, a war he disagreed with.

    People in the media (especially conservative media) used him as an example of courage and “masculine” bravery to call out opponents of the war as feminine cowards in the build-up to the war.

    Tillman was clearly too smart to abide by that kind of simple reduction.

    That is all.

  • The Searcher

    DJRadiohead: Yes I agree, what *is* the news? I suppose I sometimes find it hard to fathom that people are still trying to justify the Iraq invasion. I’d imagine it’s alot easier for Clinton to justify his blow-job.

  • That is not all.

    Tillman symbolizes sacrifice and courage whether he agreed with the war(s) or not.

  • Of course.

    And his courage and sacrifice shouldn’t have been politicized to justify war and then covered up to maintain political appearances after his death.

    That’s what his family is mad about, and they have a right to be.

    That is all.

  • And his courage and sacrifice shouldn’t have been politicized to justify war and then covered up to maintain political appearances after his death.

    Fair enough. The coverup was flat wrong and his familt does have the right to be angry about it. The circumstances surrounding his death don’t change the courage or sacrifice or the symbolism thereof, either.

    But someone is politicizing this by publishing what they claim to be Tillman’s view on the war. Pat is not speaking for himself. Other people are purporting to speak for him.

    Using the name of Tillman to oppose the war is no more noble than using his name to support it. Even if those were his true beliefs, he chose not to be interviewed and chose not to be public about his service or his opinions. No one should be making him a poster boy.

  • that should say family… sorry about the poor typing.

  • The Searcher: Wrong behaviors are wrong whether justifiable or not and whether easily justifiable or not. And that goes for Bush, Clinton, Tillman, Hannity, Colmes, Coulter, Chomsky, or whomever.

    And just to be clear… I am not carrying water for Bush/Hannity/Coulter or Chomsky/Colmes in this discussion.

  • DJRadiohead: It’s his family and friends who are quoted saying Pat resented that portrayal of him. I think there’s a difference in the level of cynicism there.

    And why do you lump Tillman in there? What did he do wrong exactly?

    And I don’t think this is going to become some big anti-war thing. Hardly. Lots of soldiers who don’t believe in the war have died as well who weren’t famous.

    But Pat Tillman should never have been turned into a pro-war thing, either, and I’m glad we can agree on that.

    That is all.

  • The Searcher

    Is Tillman’s mother using his name to oppose the war?

  • No, the article says specifically that it’s all personal for them, to get answers from a reluctant administration that covered up the truth from them for so long.

    They’re not involved with any anti-war organizations or protests and don’t seem very political, from the article, even though they respect Pat’s views.

    That is all.

  • Tillman did not do anything wrong… I threw his name in there to try and illustrate the point that I am not a zealot for the right or the left.

    There probably is a little less cynicism when the comments come from family members.

    I don’t know what his mother’s motives are/were when she was quoted in this article.

    I remember multiple reports at the time of his death mentioning the repeated requests for interviews Tillman denied. He did not want to be anyone’s symbol. Pat chose not to speak for himself in life. I don’t think other people should purport to speak for him in death- even his family members. And I sure don’t think people who don’t know him ought to turn him into something he wasn’t.

    What he was and is speaks volumes without anyone’s spin machine.

  • The Searcher

    As I recall, didn’t someone at Tillman’s funeral try to say how he was in heaven and then was later corrected by someone else who knew of Tillman’s non-religious inclinations?

  • I don’t remember the funeral comments specifically but a lot of eulogies reference someone going to Heaven regardless of a person’s religious affiliation. I don’t know that there is anything scandalous in that.

  • From the San Francisco Chronicle following Pat’s funeral:

    Tillman’s youngest brother, Rich, wore a rumpled white T-shirt, no jacket, no tie, no collar, and immediately swore into the microphone. He hadn’t written anything, he said, and with the starkest honesty, he asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.

    “Pat isn’t with God,” he said. “He’s f — ing dead. He wasn’t religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he’s f — ing dead.”

    Tillman is one of my quiet American heroes. He walked away from a lucrative sports contract; his wife and family; and the relative safety of living stateside. He loved his country. He loved his family. He believed in the war against bin Laden in Afghanistan while being opposed to the occupation of Iraq. He was well-read, open to all lifestyles and had a profound respect for his fellow human beings. Pat Tillman serves as a great model for the youth of America and we can best honor him and his family by emulating that which was good about him.

  • Bill B.

    A minor issue that has been skirted around in most of these responses:

    Colmes did a pretty good job of exposing Coulters bs that somehow passes for political commentary.

    When faced with proof that Tillman, a hero worthy of Coulters praise, didn’t fit into her neat little “hero package”, complete with all the corresponding right wing positions, Coulter had three choices. Two tough, one easy.

    She could have:

    A. Changed her opinion of Tillman and stay consistent with her blather.

    B. Acknowledged that she was wr… wr…wr…wrong and noted the complexities of the human condition.

    C. Deny the validity of the story.

    Obviously she chose the path of least resistance. C

    If she were even remotely decent she could have expressed skepticism of Tillman’s leanings and acknowledged (B) as a possibility.



    Unfortunately it says more about us as a whole that a cretin like Coulter could prosper in our society. One day we’ll demand more.

  • The motivation of Tillman’s mom is to get to the truth and cut through the BS she was fed about what happened to her son. And she had a right to be outraged because the truth was being obscured by PR spin and a cut-to-fit hero story.

    Does anyone else get a Henry Rollins type vibe off Tillman the more you read about him? I’m almost positive that Pat was a big fan of his from these articles — he even kind of looks like him with the jawline.

    That is all.

  • The motivation of Tillman’s mom is to get to the truth…

    I’m with Tillman’s mom. My question, though, is why aren’t the rest of us? Pat Tillman is an American hero. His was a life that is worth celebrating. In an era where heroes are sorely lacking, we’ve got a simple man here, who lived his life with grace and dignity. He was so moved by the tragedy of September 11 that he gave up everything to serve the country he loved. In the end he was extinguished, not by the enemy, but by his own. Those on the right hesitate to raise his story up as a beacon because he didn’t conform to their version of heroics. Those on the left fail to appreciate that this man did more to champion the causes of the downtrodden by following his convictions in an arena where they would not be welcome.

    He was an independent thinker yet that did not make him stray from what he saw was his moral obligation to his country. Not many of us can come close to meeting that level of courage. Not many of us have the wherewithal to challenge the status quo. Pat died as he lived — a true American hero. We owe it to Pat Tillman, his mom, his wife and America to demand the complete disclosure of what happened the day his brief life came to a violent end. Anything less should bring shame upon this land.

  • Regardless of Tillman’s alleged politics (and it’s a little difficult to verify anything now, isn’t it?), he did what he believed was right.

    I find it rather callous that anyone would assert that the deceased “said” or “thought” or “believed” a certain way when there is no way to prove it. But, then again, we know that there are many people who like to rewrite history to further their agenda.

    If I were Tillman’s family, I’d do whatever it took to stop the speculation.

  • Banjo

    Dave Nalle says that Chomsky’s opposition to the war is “virulently ideological and anti-American.” What the f… does that mean? An “ideological” position? Wow. Imagine that. When did opposing the federal government, in particular foreign policy, become anti-American? It seems to me that opposing the central government is very American. Mr. Nalle might be right that some of Chomsky’s arguments are virulent (I’m not sure why that is necessarily a bad thing), but at least his statements have meaning, which is more than can be said for Mr. Nalle’s.

  • Banjo, an ideological argument is one which originates in belief rather than reason. It’s one which has as its starting point a theoretical principle rather than a practical reality. Chomsky opposes the war in Iraq not on the merits or flaws of the war, but because he believes America is imperialistic and inherently bad. That’s ideology, not reason.

    And when I call him anti-American, it’s not in a McCarthyite sense, it’s in a literal sense. He is literally opposed to America and thinks the country is evil. He has an absolute right to that belief, but again, it’s an ideological one not based on logic or reason.


  • I think he’s a better American than Dave Nalle is. He’s certainly more valuable to society as a scholar, teacher, commentator and even as a rabid, outraged political ideologue.

    That is all.

  • If nothing else, a better strong safety than Dave Nalle.

  • I was talking about Chomsky, but all those things plus the macho for Tillman too.

    That is all.

  • I don’t think Pat would consider himself a “better American” than Dave Nalle. If you admire him so much, perhaps adopt his attitude.

  • And that’s precisely WHY he’s a better American. He never went around calling people who are against the war or against his politics “bad Americans” or “anti-American.”

    He was smarter than that. That was my point, Wallace.

    That is all.

  • ss

    Joanie & DJ:

    If Tillman’s family and friends hadn’t felt his death had already been used for political reasons and his views had been distorted, they probably would not have given interviews for the article.

  • ss

    Although I would have to say it sounds like his views on the matter were very complex, and if people opposed to the war try to simplify them in the same way people for the war did, the family may well have to give another interview to try to get that across.

  • willcodfish

    How many of you spent time in Iraq during the Saddam regime ??

  • The Searcher

    Human rights violations = ex post facto justification for the invasion. But what was the reason GIVEN for the invasion?

  • Ray

    Pat Tillman is/was a hero. His act of enlisting in the military was an exceptional act of patriotism. Whether he approved of the war in Iraq is totally irrelevant. He chose to serve his nation & commander in chief. We should honor his service.

    That being said, i believe that his [parents are doing a grave injustice to his honor, legacy and service by even suggesting that the soldiers that were responsible for his death should be punished. Sadly, fratricide is a by product of war – it always was and always will be – For his parents to suggest that the poor soldier that was responsible for Tillman’s death should be punished – is not worthy of discussion.

    I can only imagine the pain the Tillman family must feel……however, that doesn’t give them a free ticket to attack their son’s commander in chief –

    Last, how could the military cover up the details of Tillman’s death when in fact his very own brother was in the same unit and with his brother on the day he was killed?

    Is it possible that there was no cover up as suggested by the family but rather an initial incorrect report fed immediately to the family before the details of the death were fully known by the military brass?

    I have heard that Tillman’s mother has even suggested and asked if the President of the United States had her son killed for political purposes.

    I pray that this is her grief speaking and not her intellect.

    God Bless Pat Tillman.

    God Bless his family.

    God Bless America.

  • Not Thad Anderson, formerly of WXYC???