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.'
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."
- More Troops for Afghanistan - Pros and Cons
- Gen. McChrystal Goes MacArthur on Obama's Afghanistan
- Afghanistan: The Deadliest Month
- Bloody Day in Afghanistan, Bloodier Arguments for Staying On
- Losing Afghanistan