frank rich revisits the pat tillman myth

A few weeks ago, after the New York Times first started hiding it’s op-ed writers behind a paid-subscription wall, I suggested a possible way around the system that involved linking a number of blogs together – the idea being that each blog could post a few paragraphs and then link to the next blog in the chain. The idea didn’t go over so well, but I still think it’s got potential…. At any rate, the Times is running an interesting piece by Frank Rich today on the coverup surrounding The Mysterious Death of Pat Tillman and I wanted to tell you about it, even though I know that most of you won’t be able to access it on the Times site. (It’s also not listed as being available anywhere else on the Never Pay Retail site.) So, here are the first few paragraphs. If you absolutely love them, order a subscription to the Times. Or, if you already have a subscription and feel like sharing, post the next few paragraphs on your site and leave a link in the comments section.

It would be a compelling story,” Patrick Fitzgerald said of the narrative Scooter Libby used to allegedly mislead investigators in the Valerie Wilson leak case, “if only it were true.”

“Compelling” is higher praise than any Mr. Libby received for his one work of published fiction, a 1996 novel of “murder, passion and heart-stopping chases through the snow” called “The Apprentice.” If you read the indictment, you’ll see why he merits the critical upgrade. The intricate tale he told the F.B.I. and the grand jury – with its endlessly clever contradictions of his White House colleagues’ testimony – is compelling even without the sex and the snow.

The medium is the message. This administration just loves to beguile us with a rollicking good story, truth be damned. The propagandistic fable exposed by the leak case – the apocalyptic imminence of Saddam’s mushroom clouds – was only the first of its genre. Given that potboiler’s huge success at selling the war, its authors couldn’t resist providing sequels once we were in Iraq. As the American casualty toll surges past 2,000 and Veterans Day approaches, we need to remember and unmask those scenarios as well. Our troops and their families have too often made the ultimate sacrifice for the official fictions that have corrupted every stage of this war.

If there’s a tragic example that can serve as representative of the rest, it is surely that of Pat Tillman, the Arizona Cardinals defensive back who famously volunteered for the Army in the spring after 9/11, giving up a $3.6 million N.F.L. contract extension. Tillman wanted to pay something back to his country by pursuing the enemy that actually attacked it, Osama bin Laden and Al Qaeda. Instead he was sent to fight a war in Iraq that he didn’t see coming when he enlisted because the administration was still hatching it in secret. Only on a second tour of duty was he finally sent into Taliban strongholds in Afghanistan, where, on April 22, 2004, he was killed. On April 30, an official Army press release announcing his Silver Star citation filled in vivid details of his last battle. Tillman, it said, was storming a hill to take out the enemy, even as he “personally provided suppressive fire with an M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon machine gun.”

It would be a compelling story, if only it were true. Five weeks after Tillman’s death, the Army acknowledged abruptly, without providing details, that he had “probably” died from friendly fire. Many months after that, investigative journalists at The Washington Post and The Los Angeles Times reported that the Army’s initial portrayal of his death had been not only bogus but also possibly a cover-up of something darker. “The records show that Tillman fought bravely and honorably until his last breath,” Steve Coll wrote in The Post in December 2004. “They also show that his superiors exaggerated his actions and invented details as they burnished his legend in public, at the same time suppressing details that might tarnish Tillman’s commanders.”

And, while we’re on the subject of creating myths in order to sell the war, I wonder what Jessica Lynch is up to these days.

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  1. Posted November 7, 2005 at 6:59 pm | Permalink had it in its entirety yesterday. They also had Krugman from a couple days ago.

  2. Teddy Glass
    Posted November 8, 2005 at 9:38 am | Permalink

    Thanks for the link, Dale.

  3. john galt
    Posted November 8, 2005 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    great quote from CNN

    “It’s been 11 days since two African-American teenagers were killed, electrocuted during a police chase, which prompted all of this.”–CNN anchorman Carol Lin, Nov. 6

    Crap I had no idea they were American, we should invade!

  4. mike_1630
    Posted November 8, 2005 at 6:23 pm | Permalink

    Hey Mark, Yes I did read your interview – that’s where I got the motivation to listen to his podcast, it was a very interesting interview.

    I liked the part where he got the news that “scooter” was indicted.

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