Monday, March 26, 2007

Tillman: just Horst Wessel to conservatives

Most of you know by now, boys and girls, that football star Pat Tillman was killed by "friendly fire" in Afghanistan, not by the swarthy terrorists. Tillman's death had much better story potential than that, however, and a cover up and recasting of the story in heroic terms began immediately.

Tillman's death came at a sensitive time for the Bush administration — just a week before the Army's abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror."

The right-wing punditry picked up the meme immediately:

His killing was widely reported by the media, including conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, who called him "an American original — virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be." His May 3, 2004, memorial in San Jose drew 3,500 people and was nationally televised. [italics are Spot's] [Spot's seventh grade grammar teacher would also have been disgusted by Coulter's grammar.]

But the prevarication unraveled, as it usually does (just ask Alberto Gonzales):

A [San Francisco] Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman's family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military's attempt at self-protection.

And now, several Army officers, including four—count 'em four—generals are in trouble for their prevarication, according to Greg Mitchell of Editor and Publisher:

(March 25, 2007) -- By all accounts, the belated official military probe of the Pat Tillman killing and cover-up on Monday will call on the carpet nine officers, including up to four generals, for badly mishandling information. This is what The Associated Press reported yesterday, adding that the investigation found there was no "orchestrated" cover-up.

But even if Tillman's outspoken family affirms that justice has finally been done -- don't count on it -- it is vital to look back two years at why the case stirs such anger and reveals so much about military deceit and (too often) media acceptance of it.

You remember Horst Wessel, boys and girls? He's the songster who wrote a little ditty for the Nazis, got killed in a partisan dust up, and was lionized by Goebbels' propaganda machine:

The lyrics of the song were composed in 1929 by Horst Wessel, a Nazi activist and local commander of the Nazi militia, the SA, in the Berlin district of Friedrichshain. Wessel was assassinated by a Communist activist in January 1930, and the propaganda apparatus of the Berlin Gauleiter, Dr Joseph Goebbels, made him the leading martyr of the Nazi Movement. The song became the official Song of Consecration (Weihelied) for the Nazi Party, and was extensively used at party functions as well as being sung by the SA during street parades.

That's pretty harsh, Spotty.

Yeah, it is. But when you lie to suit your political purposes, it's propaganda, regardless of who does it. Tillman's situation may be even worse, since it appears that good ol' Horst was offed by a Communist. According the linked San Francisco Chronicle article, Tillman had misgivings about what was going on in Iraq, where he had been stationed on an earlier tour:

"I can see it like a movie screen," Baer said. "We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren't in the fight right then. 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."

Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush's Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.

Clearly, Pat Tillman was used, just like Horst Wessel.

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