Ruminations of a Red Dirt Hussy

December 10, 2011

What I’m Reading 1

Filed under: Books worth reading . . . mostly — Vadasmaker @ 11:49 am
Tags: , , ,

Where Men Win Glory, by Jon Krakauer, is exactly the kind of thing I avoid. All I know about war is I’m agin it. However, being a card-carrying pacifist doesn’t make me stupid, and I’m not idealistic enough to think that we can all play nice together. I just don’t want to read books or watch movies about it. And football. I’m agin it, too, so until Pat Tillman’s death, I knew nothing of his life.

As I learned in Krakauer’s book, Tillman turned down a lucrative contract in order to become an Army Ranger. While in Afghanistan, he was shot and killed by American troops, and although all parties agree it was not intentional, the errors and misjudgments that led up to his death would be ridiculous had they not ended in such tragedy.

Krakauer makes it clear that in the heat of battle even the best make mistakes, but he spares no official, be it military or civilian, in the illumination of the misconduct following Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire.

After Tillman’s death, the actions of Army commanders, aided and abetted by members of the Bush administration, bordered on the criminal as they went to extraordinary lengths to cover up the fratricide and use Tillman as a propaganda tool, an eventuality he had feared. Army regulations were flouted when Tillman’s clothing and notebooks were burned. In addition, he was fast-tracked for a posthumous Silver Star, which, as Krakauer shows, was a fraud. Members of his unit were ordered to remain silent, even though they served every day with his brother, Kevin. Even part of Tillman’s body disappeared.

Krakauer used Tillman’s journals, thousands of redacted documents, and interviews with Tillman’s family, friends, and comrades-in-arms in writing this book, and his prose is, as always, lyrical and precise.  A lot of reviews have said he could have written the story with a hundred fewer pages, but I’m assuming they meant leave out everything but the events after Tillman’s induction into the army.  While I do think the book could have used some tightening, the descriptions of Tillman’s life before his enlistment are part of what made the book so heartbreaking and intense. Krakauer’s deft portrayal of Pat Tillman as a man of great principle and honor, one who endeavored at all times to do the right thing, makes his death and the actions surrounding it all the more appalling.

While reading it didn’t make me any more in favor of war or football, I feel like a better person for having read it.

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1 Comment »

  1. I remember watching the Congressional hearings on this coverup on C-Span. My heart went out to Tillman’s family who were so dignified in the face of such obvious injustice. My sons are serving also, both in Special Forces; I raised them to be poets with warriors’ hearts, and though they’ve chosen careers I didn’t want for them, they have more integrity in their pinkies than what passes for leadership in Washington. These young men and women are committed and dedicated and display so much courage. They and their families deserve truth and commitment in return, especially as to how they spent their last moments in their country’s service. I wish all these politicians would just man up and be honest for once and just say they’ve been on the wrong track and would like to start over if we’ll let them. They’d probably be surprised at how far honesty with their own citizens could take them. I’m tired of being treated like an idiot who can’t handle the truth in any form. The circumstances surrounding Tillman’s death were appalling enough, but our government’s response to it could only be characterized as obscene.

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    Comment by Michelle — December 12, 2011 @ 3:04 am | Reply


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