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Too-green pastures: Members of the Washington State Cougars stretch in front of a memorial painted on the field for the late Pat Tillman, #42, once of the Arizona Cardinals, back in 2004, before the truth of Tillman's death broke through the U.S. military's cover-up. (Donald Miralle/Getty Images)

I'm not a fan of Gen. Stanley McChrystal, the U.S. commander in Afghanistan--the less so since he orchestrated a series of fawning portraits about himself in the press in the last few weeks to burnish his call for a 40,000-troop escalation in the deepening graveyard that is Afghanistan. It's difficult to trust a general who, eight years into a losing war, levies an unveiled ultimatum at the defense secretary, as McChrystal did in a recent report, claiming that unless he got his way, Afghanistan would be lost in the next year. It's more difficult to trust a general who has a questionable history regarding torture and prisoner abuse in Iraq.

And now this: Writing about "Gen. McChrystal's Credibility Problem" in the Daily Beast, John Krakauer, author of Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, reminds us who was part of the chain of command that covered up the killing by "friendly fire" of Tillman, the NFL start who turned away from his multi-million dollars to enlist in 2002 and fight in Afghanistan and Iraq.

Tillman did. He was branded a hero by the right-wing press back when the right-wing press didn't know that Tillman came to doubt the value of the war in Afghanistan and to call the war in Afghanistan outright "illegal."

He was killed by his own troops during a firefight on a craggy hill in an Afghan dusk. The military didn;t say that to his family. It concocted a whole story out of the kind of thin air Kraukauer is familiar with, and sold it to family, government and media the way the military had concocted the story of Jessica Lynch's bogus heroism in Iraq.

"McChrystal," Krakauer writes, "has lately been the subject of numerous media profiles, most of them adulatory. Dexter Filkins has a long story in the upcoming New York Times Magazine. In an October 5 Newsweek article, Evan Thomas referred to the general as a 'Zen warrior... with a disarming, low-key style, free of the bombast and sense of entitlement that can come with four stars.... He has great political skills; he couldn't have risen to his current position without them. But he definitely does not see himself as the sort of military man who would compromise his principles to do the politically convenient thing.'

Krakauer continues:

In the week after Tillman was killed, however, this is precisely what McChrystal appears to have done when he administered a fraudulent medal recommendation and submitted it to secretary of the Army, thereby concealing the cause of Tillman's death.

Read the full piece, which reminded me of a piece of my own I wrote some time back about the death of Tillman being emblematic of a culture of deceit about the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and within the military fighting them. Deceit is inherent to those wars, whose legitimacy, slim to start with, no longer goes much beyond drum-beating and standard-issue militarism--the kind of drum-beating that drowned out the truh of Pat Tillman's killing.

Here's "The Many Deaths of Pat Tillman."

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October 16, 2009 at 11:20 am
(1) GuyMontag451 says:

“War is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians.”
— Chris Hendges

Three years ago, shortly before the 2006 mid-term elections, Kevin Tillman wrote his eloquent letter “After Pat’s Birthday” (Truthdig 10-19-06). Kevin wrote, “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.”

Kevin had hoped that a Democratic Congress would bring accountability. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping,torture, etc. those responsible for the cover-up of his brother’s fratricide have not been held accountable by the Democratic Congress.

In his book, “Where Men Win Glory,” Jon Krakauer blamed the Bush administration. However, the cover-up has been a thoroughly bipartisan affair. The Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency have protected General McChrystal from punishment for his central role in orchestrating the cover-up.

Shortly before the August 2007 Tillman hearing, McChrystal was dropped from the list of witnesses. Sometime after his April 2007 hearing, Congressman Waxman got the word the “fix” was in, to lay off McChrystal. Perhaps because of McChrystal’s covert contribution to the “surge” in Iraq?

Senator James Webb conducted a secret “review” of McChrystal’s role. On May 15th 2008, the Senate Armed Services Committee (headed by Levin and McCain) held their secret “executive session” where McChrystal testified about his actions “in detail.” Shortly afterwards, the Senate promoted him to Director of the Joint Staff.

Like Pat Tillman, James Webb has been a maverick and a fascinating character. I’ve read his novels for thirty years. If anyone in Congress should have cared, it would have been him. But, as an old man and politician, he’s turned into exactly what he once reviled as a young combat Marine!

On May 12th 2009, despite McChrystal’s role, President Obama handpicked McChrystal to be his new commander of the Afghan War and for promotion to the Army’s highest rank.

Ironically, on the following day Obama gave the commencement address at Arizona State University inside Sun Devil Stadium without once mentioning Pat Tillman! [Note: see “Text: Obama’s Commencement Address at Arizona State University” (May 13, 2009 NYT) and Bob Young’s “Obama’s Big-Time Fumble” (Arizona Republic 5-17-09].

After a pro forma June 2nd hearing by the Senate Armed Services Committee, the Senate (begged by Senator Reid) confirmed McChrystal’s promotion on June 12th.

It’s not surprising that after the initial fratricide cover-up fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. Reprehensible, but understandable. But the Democratic Congress, after they took control of both Houses in 2006, could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them! Their hands are dirty as well with the betrayal of Pat Tillman.

The media’s been complicit as well. The New York Time’s Thom Shanker wrote a piece “clearing” McChrystal of all wrong-doing shortly before his confirmation hearing. Thom’s enjoyed favorable access to McChrystal since then (so much for the NYT’s coverage “without fear or favor’!)

And Andrew Exum’s review of Krakauer’s book for the Washington Post covered for McChrystal as well. Andrew never mentioned that he was a “fan” of McChrystal and just worked with him during the 60-day review of the Afghan War.

Five years ago, Pat Tillman’s family were handed a tarnished Silver Star. It was a travesty of justice that McChrystal was promoted to the Army’s highest rank, and handed his fourth star.

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