May 21, 2008 I shook hands with Mary Tillman, mother of Pat Tillman. a U.S. Ranger who died on April 22, 2004 in Afghanistan, near the Pakistan border. Tillman was slaughtered by American troops for no reason, with gross indifference and in direct violation of the rules of engagement.
“Friendly fire” and “fratricide” are oxymorons to describe this outrage by out-of-control soldiers lusting for blood and raging to kill someone, anyone, even their own, as it turned out. The whole episode reeks with insanity.
Tillman’s death was wrong.
Worse was the cover-up by the military afterward, first reported by the
Washington Post on May 4, 2005. That was when the lies began to unravel.
There is strong evidence that complicit in the torrent of fabrications, distortions and lies that followed Tillman’s death was the whole chain of command, including the Secretary of Defense. That is what Ms. Tillman’s book is about.
Speaking before a hometown crowd of 400 attending a San Jose Chamber of Commerce evening to honor women, Ms. Tillman read the following except from her book “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: My Tribute to Pat Tillman.”
As she spoke, I was struck by power of this mother delivering in quiet, strong tones an eloquent message that pulled no punches. It struck my heart. I whispered to Meri Maben, a senior assistant for Congressional Representative Mike Honda, a San Jose Democrat, who was seated next to me, “we stand for this.”
When Mary Tillman concluded I stood to applaud and the words “right on” came easily. Meri Maben stood too.
We were the only people in the room of 400 to stand and applaud a powerful patriotic statement condemning a government that truly deserves to be condemned. Wish I had asked everyone at our table to stand as well.
Perhaps all in the room were dumbstruck and immobilized by the truth.
I cannot believe they disagreed or that many were supporters of this war, since nobody is willing to sacrifice to support this war, unless paying $4.50 a gallon for gasoline is suffering.
And I cannot believe the whole room was filled with fire-breathing neo-cons.
Maybe this is the way they act at Chamber of Commerce dinners, shying away from the overt political statement to avoid offending anyone.
Anyone who supports this war deserves to be offended, when they get up in the morning, when they go to bed at night and several times during the day.
Maybe they were embarrassed by Ms. Tillman’s forthright condemnation of the Bush Administration.
Maybe they are just afraid to stand up and wrap their arms around this grieving mom. Not me. Not Meri Maben.
Maybe I shouldn’t attend Chamber of Commerce dinners, even when they are for a good cause.
Below are the words written by Pat Tillman‘s brother Kevin that brought me to my feet.
“Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is.
“Something like that.
“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 covert 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 kindergartner scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cares, 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 of a fie 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 fifty 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 in 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 the tragedy and horror is tolerated.
“Somehow the deaths of tens, in not hundreds of thousands of people are 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 American leadership managed to created a more dangerous world.
“Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.
“Somehow America has become a country that projects every thing 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.”
The sooner a new U.S. Senate ratifies the Treaty for the International Criminal Court of Justice, and a new President signs it, the better. That will provide The Hague with jurisdiction to conduct a proper and complete investigation of all the atrocities of the Iraq war.
There’s a lot to investigate.
The morning after Ms. Tillman spoke the New York Times reported on May 22, 2008 the existence of a ” painful report by the Justice Department’s inspector general, based on the accounts of hundreds of F.B.I. agents who saw American interrogators repeatedly mistreat prisoners in ways that the agents considered violations of American law and the Geneva Conventions. According to the report, some of the agents began keeping a “war crimes file” — until they were ordered to stop.”
“Hundreds of F.B.I. agents?” This abuse isn’t simply widespread. It is rampant.
And know this. Those agents are patriots.
No matter what the orders, they are keeping those war crimes files where no one will ever find them until the day of reckoning arrives.
Mary Tillman, thank you for telling this brutal story, this black page in our history, that has so wounded you, your family and the nation. Your loss is a nightmare. I am grateful for your sharing it with such eloquence. It rings hard and clear. It resonates with unmistakable truth.
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