How we treat our heroes: on Pat Tillman's death

When Arizona Cardinals football star turned Army Ranger Pat Tillman was killed in combat in Afghanistan, he was universally heralded as a patriot and a hero. Ann Coulter called him “an American original — virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.” But an inquiry into more than 2,000 pages of documents relating to Tillman's death—which the Pentagon immediately reported as caused by enemy fire, when it in fact was immediately known to be a friendly fire killing—shows a more nuanced picture of the man, beyond the posterboy many in the right took him to be.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports that Tillman opposed Bush and the war, but enlisted to fight anyway; that a favorite author is Noam Chomsky, and that he sought a private meeting with Chomsky upon his return to the states; and he reportedly supported John Kerry in the last election. But, The Cunning Realist points out some of the key outrages in the Army and Pentagon's handling of Tillman's death: the fact that the Army waited five weeks to inform Tillman's family that he was killed by friendly fire; the systematic destruction of evidence, including Tillman's combat armor, which was burned by another soldier; testimony by a fellow soldier who said that Tillman died calling out to fellow Rangers, "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat f—ing Tillman, dammit," before his head was ripped off by three bullets; and testimony by an army official that "Army officials allowed witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements so his finding that certain soldiers committed 'gross negligence' could be softened."

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