Patrick Daniel Tillman

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Love it, hate
it, or ignore it, it's football season again. We evidently need
professional sport circuses to keep us distracted from the empire's
latest gaffes. At the beginning of each of the last four football
seasons, though, I found myself wishing that Pat
Tillman
was still wearing a football uniform and knocking players
down on the field and not just another casualty in our now permanent
state of war and imperial aggression. This football season is no
exception.

Pat was a standout
linebacker at Arizona State University, although he was supposedly
undersized for the position. As a senior, he was voted the Pac-10
defensive player of the year. Pat also graduated with a degree in
marketing (in 3.5 years) with a 3.84 GPA. The Arizona Cardinals
selected Pat as the 227th pick in the 1998 NFL Draft.
Pat played safety for the Cardinals and started 10 of 16 games in
his rookie season. I watched Pat play his entire career and very
early in that time period he became my favorite player to watch
— college or NFL. Pat played football with a spirit and intensity
that is difficult to describe. Anyone that watched him play the
game knows what I mean. Pat had something extra inside him — some
intangible — that made me want to watch him play. Pat always seemed
to be around the ball making plays. He personified the "team
player" concept. And man, could the guy put a hit on somebody.

Following 9/11,
Pat completed the 2001 NFL season, enlisted in the U.S. Army in
May 2001 (along with his brother Kevin), and completed the Ranger
Indoctrination Program in late 2002. It has been well publicized
that Pat turned down a multi-million dollar contract from the Cardinals
to instead join the Army. It has also been reported that Pat turned
down a much larger contract from the St. Louis Rams earlier in his
NFL career because he wanted to remain loyal to the Cardinals.

Pat Tillman
was a perfect recruiting story for the U.S. military machine. A
highly paid professional athlete forgoes millions of dollars to
supposedly "fight for our freedom." My first reaction
was hard to describe, but it was a combination of sadness and disgust.
Sadness because deep inside I knew our post-9/11 country was being
hijacked, and disgust because I wrongly believed Pat to be just
another shallow flag waver for our dying empire. I'm not afraid
to admit that I was wrong as I could be. (Others were also dead
wrong about him. The cartoonist Ted Rall did a very inflammatory
editorial cartoon
about Pat that portrayed him as an "idiot"
who joined the Army "to kill Arabs.") My subsequent reading
and research about Pat and his death told me a much different story
than my initial impressions about him. It also reminded me about
not being hasty to reach conclusions.

Pat and his
brother were deployed to the Middle East as part of the 2003 Iraq
invasion. Pat was later deployed to Afghanistan and was killed
on April 22, 2004
near Sperah. He was only 27 years old. It
is now well known that the Army blatantly lied about the circumstances
of Pat's death and desperately tried to obscure them from the public
and Pat's family, obviously concerned about losing its star recruiting
tool. As disgusting as it is to write, Pat's death may have been
more than a basic case of "friendly fire." In fact, Pat
may have been murdered.
In the most pure form of irony imaginable, Pat Tillman went from
the military machine's perfect poster boy to its perfect nightmare.
As it turns out, Pat was extremely intelligent and very well-read.
He held views that were critical of the Iraq war, (calling
it illegal
) and he did not support the re-election of George
W. Bush. It has also been reported that Pat
intended to meet
with noted anti-war activist and writer Noam
Chomsky when he returned from Afghanistan. Pat also kept a detailed
diary, the whereabouts of which remain unknown. We can only wonder
about the interesting stories that diary would tell, should it still
exist. With any luck, it has not been destroyed, but waits patiently
somewhere.

When I came
to understand more facts about Pat's death, I could only think that
the end of our empire is closer than I would have believed. Our
former great Constitutional Republic is terminally ill and Pat Tillman's
death is but one symptom of its impending death. Our country was
once a beacon of freedom that shone brightly to the world. Pat Tillman
was an intelligent, strong, vibrant young man. Now, our Constitution
is gasping its last breaths as its life is stomped out by crazed
authoritarians and tyrants and Pat Tillman is gone forever — his
death shrouded in outright lies, deception, mystery, and investigations.
Pat willingly gave his life to the military machine, which gladly
took it, exploited it, destroyed it, and then despicably obscured
the circumstances of his death.

It is good
for us and for Pat's family that truth is persistent. Truth is like
grass. It can be burned, stomped out, covered up, or mowed down
to nothing, but fresh green spouts will still tirelessly emerge
into the sunlight. Truth especially hates to be covered in lies
and deceit. Our military machine, with its cold, calculated agenda
desperately wants the truth about Pat Tillman to remain underground
and obscured from our view. I mourn the imminent death of our once
great Republic, hijacked by hateful warmongers, liars, tyrants,
and criminals. I miss Patrick Daniel Tillman. I wish he was still
wearing #40 and playing in football games. I think the world and
especially Pat's family will eventually find
the truth
about his death. Truth after all, is very persistent.

September
15, 2007

John J.
Smalanskas [send him mail]
is a construction attorney who lives in Phoenix, Arizona, with his
wife Carrie and their sons Devlin and Connor.

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