“If it was good enough for your daddy/granddaddy’s war it’s good enough for yours,” seems to be what the Pentagon is saying with regards to trying to hype the accomplishments of Pat Tillman – whose character assassination by the left continues to this day – and Jessica Lynch, the young woman whose convoy was ambushed resulting in severe injuries and her capture by the Iraqis.
The problem is times have changed and trying to manufacture heroes for public admiration and to build support for military action has long since outlived its usefulness, not to mention that the tactic has fallen victim to an ever more intrusive and curious press whose sympathies cannot be counted on to cover up the truth when what really occurs on the battlefield comes to light.
That last is especially relevant in Tillman’s case where higher ups evidently tried to enlist Tillman’s comrades in a scheme to suppress the truth about his death by friendly fire:
The last soldier to see Army Ranger Pat Tillman alive, Spc. Bryan O’Neal, told lawmakers that he was warned by superiors not to divulge—especially to the Tillman family—that a fellow soldier killed Tillman.
O’Neal particularly wanted to tell fellow soldier Kevin Tillman, who was in the convoy traveling behind his brother at the time of the 2004 incident in Afghanistan.
“I wanted right off the bat to let the family know what had happened, especially Kevin, because I worked with him in a platoon and I knew that he and the family all needed to know what had happened,” O’Neal testified. “I was quite appalled that when I was actually able to speak with Kevin, I was ordered not to tell him.”
Asked who gave him the order, O’Neal replied that it came from his battalion commander, then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey.
“He basically just said … ‘Do not let Kevin know, that he’s probably in a bad place knowing his brother’s dead,’ ” O’Neal told House Oversight and Government Reform Committee Chairman Henry Waxman. “And he made it known I would get in trouble, sir, if I spoke with Kevin on it being fratricide.”
How Tillman’s commanding officer and higher ups in the Pentagon thought they could keep secret the circumstances surrounding the young man’s death is indicative of a military mindset not attuned to the times we live in. The fact that Pat Tillman was a high profile enlistee and that his death would generate intense scrutiny seems to have escaped the mossbacks and pencil pushers in the Pentagon who only saw propaganda gold when viewing Tillman’s death. A similar denseness captivated the officers and higher ups at the Pentagon when Jessica Lynch was rescued. The young woman was made into a “Little Girl Rambo” according to Ms. Lynch herself:
The former US private Jessica Lynch today condemned what she said were Pentagon efforts to turn her into a “little girl Rambo”, and accused military chiefs of using “elaborate tales” to try to make her into a hero of the Iraq war.
Speaking at a congressional hearing on the use of misleading information, an emotional Ms Lynch described how she suffered horrific injuries when her vehicle was hit by a rocket near the Iraqi town of Nasiriya in March 2003, killing several of her companions.
The Pentagon initially put out the story that Private Lynch – a slight woman who was just 19 at the time – had been wounded by Iraqi gunfire but kept fighting until her ammunition ran out. In fact, her gun had jammed and she did not fire a shot.
Pat Tillman was a hero not because of how he died but because of how he lived, eschewing a huge contract with the Arizona Cardinals of the NFL to enlist following 9/11. And Jessica Lynch’s heroism is the heroism of hundreds of thousands of young Americans who have answered the call to serve a purpose higher than themselves and enlist in the US armed forces. She also endured her injuries and capture with a singular stoicism while remaining true to her fallen friends and comrades in arms.
Isn’t this enough for the myth makers in the Pentagon? The American people today are much more sophisticated and skeptical than their counterparts who manned the homefront during World War II and Korea. Viet Nam saw to that. Aided by a skeptical and at times, openly hostile press, we look upon military pronouncements about the war with a cynicism born of experience and leavened by pundits and talking heads who tear into the information coming from the military using as a baseline the idea that nothing that comes from the Pentagon can be believed.
This situation was not helped by Rumsfeld’s rosy scenarios and “the glass is half full” press conferences. It drove many of us who support the war absolutely bonkers to hear the former Defense Secretary or the Vice President (“last throes,” anyone?) give briefings that bore little resemblance to the worsening situation in Baghdad and Anbar province not to mention downplaying the numbers of insurgents, the infiltration of the militias into the police and military, the Interior Ministry death squads and secret torture chambers, and a host of other “glass half empty” benchmarks that, while certainly not good news, would have given the American people a more complete picture of what was going on in Iraq.
The point that propaganda doesn’t work anymore – not in the current atmosphere of press scrutiny and suspicion – seems to be lost on the Pentagon officials who tried to pump up the circumstances surrounding the death of Pat Tillman and rescue of Jessica Lynch. They are living in the past if they believe they can get away with it. And the hell of it is, it besmirches the life and yes, legend of Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch; two Americans who were simply answering the call to serve and fulfilled their obligations with a startling devotion to duty and their country.
I sincerely hope the Pentagon has learned a lesson from this very public and humiliating expose of their PR machinations. Perhaps they could highlight the very real and unbelievable heroism of people like Petty Officer 2nd Class Michael Monsoor who threw himself on a live grenade and died saving his comrades. Or the 19 Navy SEALs and Special Operation Aviation Regiment (SOAR) members who lost their lives on a rescue mission in Afghanistan. Or any of the countless other Americans, living and dead, who have honored the flag, their comrades, and their country by sacrificing so much in the cause of freedom.
Good for Don Surber:
Why did Pentagon officials lie? Their distortions gained so little in the short-term and undercut the war efforts in the long-term. Heads should roll.
Contrast that with the myopia exhibited by Powerline:
There is no question that the initial misreporting of the circumstances of Tillman’s death was stupid and improper. The claim of a government conspiracy to cover up the facts, however, is ludicrous. If you read the fine print in the article linked above, you find that Tillman died on April 22, 2004. His family was told that the cause was friendly fire on May 29, 2004, barely a month later. The same day, the Army publicly announced that friendly fire was the apparent cause.
So once the facts became clear and the matter rose to a level above the commanders in the field, the Army publicized the result of its investigation. For the Democrats and Kevin Tillman to try to make political hay out of this one-month delay, three years after the fact, casts them in a worse light than it does the Army.
Conspiracy? Perhaps too strong a word. But the fact that there is direct testimony from one of Tillman’s comrades that he was told not to divulge the circumstances surrounding Tillman’s death in the immediate aftermath of the incident is telling indeed. And the fact that both Tillman’s commanding officer and higher ups in the chain of command knew right away that Tillman’s death was due to friendly fire calls into question the 5 week delay in giving Tillman’s family the truth.
I don’t care about Kevin Tillman’s politics (which were radicalized by this incident, him being a conservative prior to the death of his brother) but I sure would be angry if I had to wait 5 weeks to find out the truth about my brother’s death.