The recent revelation that the facts of the encounter resulting in Osama bin Laden's death were not reliable calls to mind the cover-up of the death of Pat Tillman, an All-Pro linebacker killed by fellow Americans in Afghanistan.
The Stanton Peele Addiction Website, May 4, 2011. This blog post also appeared on Stanton's Addiction in Society blog at PsychologyToday.com.
Why Do We Lie in Wars? You Tell Me
Why do you think the entire, elaborately ritualized rendition of Pat Tillman's death was required? Does it in any way resemble the recasting of the story of Osama bin Laden's assassination, along with the death of a woman and others at his compound, where apparently bin Laden had no security , to make it seem even more heroic?
In the summer, I go to a New York beach to swim. (I can't reveal the identity of this beach, or else I would be kidnapped and assassinated by the locals.) I go to a bar there that isn't, shall I say, upscale Manhattan chichi.
On the wall in this bar is an inscribed painting of a famous picture of Pat Tillman running in his football uniform holding his helmet.
You remember Pat, don't you?
He died in the mountains of Afghanistan in 2004. Oh, he volunteered to go there at the cost of interrupting his all-pro career as an NFL linebacker.
His death as an Army Ranger was widely promoted as a hero's fate.
But the story of his heroic death slowly unraveled. Posthumously awarded a Silver Star for his bravery by General Stanley McChrystal, it was eventually revealed that he had been killed - accidentally - by fellow Americans - that is, "friendly" fire.
Of course, Tillman is still a hero. But the ultimate story didn't go down as well, particularly with Mary Tillman, his mother, and the rest of the Tillman family. Mrs. Tillman went to great lengths to uncover the military's intentional obfuscation -- including to his parents -- of the actual events surrounding Pat Tillman's death.
Why was Mrs. Tillman so pissed off? You tell me. In a sense, revealing the truth diminished her son's heroic stature -- didn't it? Some might even claim it made his life -- and the war in which he was engaged -- seem futile. But, for some reason, she sought to expose the truth.
Tillman was an unusual guy, as his leaving his glamorous and lucrative football career to fight in the most distant corners of Afghanistan might suggest. He was quite opinionated (like his mother), and he actually opposed the Iraq War.
It wasn't just the military brass who covered up the circumstances of Tillman's death. His fellow soldiers burned his body armor and - perhaps strangely - the notebook he carried.
All of this led his mother to suggest that he might have been assassinated. (Wikipedia reports that the bullet wounds that killed Tillman were neatly placed in his head, and were inconsistent with the final official account of his death. I simply won't go there. But the story is recounted in Jon Krakauer's book, Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman).
So, dear reader, what do you think of Pat Tillman? What do you think of his mother? What do you think of the brass who congratulated themselves on disguising the truth of his death? What do you think of his fellow soldiers who collaborated in the cover-up?
You tell me.