By Jon Christian Ryter
May 9, 2004
Because I'm not a football fan, before I read about his death on Friday, April 23, 2004, I had never heard of Pat Tillman. I never watched him play football for the Arizona Cardinals, nor did I know that he had turned down a 5-year $9 million contract with the St. Louis Rams out of loyalty to his teammates on the Cards. Nor did I know that he walked away from a $3.6 million contract with the Cardinals for a better deal from the United States Army—$188 thousand per year, three squares, a bunk and the camaraderie of likeminded patriots who believe that when the enemy comes knocking on America's door, America needs to knock back—hard, and with the force of a deadly scorpion. Tillman, in my opinion, became a hero the moment he enlisted in the Army long before the 75th Ranger Regiment shipped out to Afghanistan. Not because he's any more special than any other soldier in the American military, but because as a celebrity, had he wanted, either he or his agent could have easily wrangled a "photo op" commission for Tillman through the Pentagon. Tillman could have spent his enlistment as an Army recruiter, persuading America's youngbloods to join the Army After all, that's what many of Hollywood's elites did during World War II. But, Tillman didn't join the Army to be a celebrity enlistment shill. He joined the Army because an enemy of America—Muslim extremists who had declared war on his nation—killed over 3,000 American citizens on American soil on September 11, 2001 and he was convinced his nation needed to respond to that threat with lethal force.
Twenty-seven year old Corporal Pat Tillman was killed in a firefight around 7:30 p.m. local time on April 22, 2004. He died on a dusty road near Sperah, Afghanistan, about 40 kilometers (25 miles) southwest of a U.S. military base at Khost. Tillman's patrol came under heavy fire. The Rangers got out of their vehicles and gave chase. A firefight with Muslim extremists, lasting 15 to 20 minutes, ensued. Tillman was killed. Two other coalition soldiers were wounded. Tillman has been awarded the Silver Star for his actions that day.
A memorial to Pat Tillman was set up outside the Arizona Cardinals building. People have been bringing flowers, balloons and teddy bears. The Cardinals announced that they were going to retire Tillman's jersey—number 400—and name the plaza around the new stadium in suburban Glendale the Pat Tillman Freedom Plaza. NFL Commissioner Paul Tagliabue praised Tillman as a hero and said that he "...personified the best values of America...Like other men and women protecting our freedom around the globe, he made the ultimate sacrifice and gave his life for his country." Seattle Seahawks general manager Bob Ferguson (who was the manager of the Arizona Cardinals when Tillman was a draft choice) said:
"In today's world of instant gratification and selfishness, here is a man that was defined by words like loyalty, honor, passion, courage, strength and nobility. He is a modern day hero."
While most Americans felt that way about Pat Tillman, at least two apparently did not. And, before the week was out, one of them would be in hiding and the other one was dodging verbal bullets. The first was a graduate student at the University of Massachusetts. His name is Rene Gonzalez, a staff writer for the university's daily student newspaper, The Daily Collegian. Gonzalez's column suggested that Tillman was less than a hero. His column (excerpts below) was so inflammatory that a firestorm of threats forced Gonzalez into hiding. When excerpts of the article appeared in various newspapers around the country on Wednesday, the traffic on the Collegian site was so heavy it caused its server to crash.
Gonzalez's column began: "When the death of Pat Tillman occurred, I turned to my friend who was watching the news with me and said: 'How much you want to bet that they start talking about him as a hero in about two hours?'...I've been mystified at the absolute nonsense of being in 'awe' of Tillman's 'sacrifice' that has been the American response. Mystified, but not surprised. True, its not everyday that you forgo a $3.6 million contract [to join] the military. And, not just the regular army, but the elite Army Rangers. You know he was a real Rambo, who wanted to be in the 'real' thick of things. I could tell he was that type of macho guy, from his scowling, beefy face on the CNN pictures. Well, he got his wish. Even Rambo got shot in the third movie. But in real life, you die as a result of being shot...But does that make him a hero? I guess its a matter of perspective. For people in the United States, who seem to be unable to admit the stupidity of both the Afghanistan and Iraqi wars, such a tradeoff in life standards (if not expectancy) is nothing short of heroic. Obviously, the man must be made of stronger stuff to have decided to 'serve' his country rather than take from it. It's the old JFK exhortation to citizen service to the nation, and it seems to strike an emotional chord. So, its understandable why Americans automatically knee-jerk into hero worship
"However, in my neighborhood in Puerto Rico, Tillman would have been called a 'pendejo,' an idiot. Tillman, in the absurd belief that he was defending or serving his all-powerful country from a seventh rate, third world nation devastated by previous conflicts it had endured, decided to give up a comfortable life to place himself in a combat situation that cost him his life. This was not 'Ramon or Tyrone' who joined the military out of financial necessity, or to have a chance at education. This was a 'G.I. Joe' guy who got what was coming to him. That was not heroism, it was prophetic idiocy.
"Tillman, probably acting out his nationalistic patriotic fantasies forged in years of exposure to Clint Eastwood and Rambo movies, decided to insert himself into a conflict he didn't need to insert himself into. It wasn't like he was defending the East Coast from an invasion of a foreign power. THAT would have been heroic and laudable. What he did was make himself useful to a foreign invading army, and he paid for it. It's hard to say I have any sympathy for his death because I don't feel like his 'service' was necessary. He wasn't defending me, nor was he defending the Afghani people. He was acting out his macho, patriotic crap and I guess someone with a bigger gun did him in....For that, he shouldn't be hailed as a hero, he should be used as a poster boy for the dangerous consequences of too much America is #1, frat boy propaganda bull."
The article concluded with a tirade against America's participation in a war against the Taliban, Osama bin Laden and al Qaeda. Gonzalez angered thousands of Tillman fans all across America. Most of them (at least those that did not want to do him any immediate bodily harm) nevertheless wanted to carry Mr. Gonzalez—none to gingerly—down the coast of Florida to a small dingy headed to Puerto Rico and bid him bon voyage—after drilling holes in the bottom of the boat.
As Rene Gonzalez was looking for a dark room in which to hide from Pat Tillman fans, liberal antiwar advocate and syndicated cartoonist Ted Rall was preparing his own moment of Hell by creating an inflammatory cartoon that was briefly posted on MSNBC's website on Monday, May 3 and circulated by Universal Press Syndicate to about 70 newspapers nationwide. Rall, like Gonzalez— and most of the antiwar activists in the United States—view Tillman as an idiot because he chose to give up to his life for a principle. On his own website, www.tedrall.com, Rall said his cartoon was merely "...a reaction to the extraordinary lionizing of Mr. Tillman as a national hero..." and the media's "...decision to genuflect to a cult of death [that was] terrifyingly similar to the cult of Palestinian suicide bombers in the Middle East and the glorious coverage given by the Japanese during World War II to fallen kamikaze fighters."
This asinine rhetoric aside, none of the antiwar-protest Tinseltown crowd who profess to possess selfless liberal high moral ideals and utopian principles would ever place their lives in jeopardy for a principle. Does anyone think for one moment that the NOT IN MY NAME or NOT IN OUR NAME bunch—particularly Susan Sarandon and her husband Tim Robbins, or the other anti-Bush, antiwar activists like Alec Baldwin, Richard Gere, Sean Penn, George Clooney, Robert Altman, Whoopie Goldberg, Woody Harrelson, Dustin Hoffman, Ed Harris, Michael Moore, Jessica Lange, singer Natalie Maines, and former M.A.S.H. star Mike Farrell who now heads an antiwar group called Win Without War that is financed by groups like:
• The Tides
Unlike the antiwar crowd that belittled his sacrifice, Tillman knew, when Muslim extremists brought Osama bin Laden's Jihad to New York and Washington, DC on September 11, 2001, that they really had declared war on America just like the Japanese declared war on America on December 7, 1941 when they attacked Pearl Harbor, killing 2,343 American soldiers, sailors and Marines and wounding another 1,276. Al Qaeda terrorists killed more Americans on September 11, 2001 than the Japanese did on the day that will live in infamy. But unlike the Pearl Harbor disaster, the 3,000 plus people who were murdered (we will never have a truly accurate tally of how many actually died) in the Word Trade Center collapse were civilians.
That's the point that Gonzalez and Ted Rall failed to grasp. Like the rest of their ilk, they think Tillman was an idiot for allowing himself to be guided by his principles. In his Universal Press Syndicate cartoon, Rall said Tillman "falsely believed" that the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq were linked to 9-11. Rall further called Tillman a "...cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources." (This explains why the "ban the fossil fuel" environmentalists have joined forces with the "America is the Great Satan" liberal activists who want to return the planet to medieval days when the world was not polluted with man-made toxins and feudal lords ruled indentured serfs with the compassion of Atilla the Hun.)
When MSNBC jerked Rall's anti-Tillman cartoon they issued a statement saying that many items on their website are "auto-posted" and are, therefore, never seen by human eyes (MSNBC personnel) before they go up. If that statement had even a grain of truth in it, MSNBC is suggesting that the major news syndicates and wire services have the ability to edit MSNBC's website at their leisure—without MSNBC's webmaster's approval of the content being posted. I seriously doubt that. MSNBC pulled the cartoon on Wednesday, May 5 saying "...it did not meet MSNBC.com standards of fairness and taste." Clearly, MSNBC's webmaster approved the content of that cartoon by either posting it themselves or allowing it to be posted by the syndicate.
The backlash to the anti-Tillman cartoon was immediate. When Rall's cartoon went into distribution on Monday, May 3, Rall said he received about 6 thousand email messages about it. He said that the mail initially ran 100 to 1 against the cartoon, but added that in the last couple of days about 80% of the mail he is receiving is supportive. I guess the liberal anti-Bush, antiwar groups have mustered enough unemployed union workers and feminist and gay rights activists to get a liberal spin on it. But anyway you look at it, Rall can't discount the 300 or so death or "bodily harm" threats that came—not from Republicans—but from Pat Tillman fans. Rall, like most arrogant liberals, even made the mistake of going on The O'Reilly Factor. (Maybe Rall thought he was appearing on the O'Franken Factor.) Rall's appearing on O'Reilly is like a male chauvinist who regularly beats his wife and refuses to feed and clothe his children agreeing to have his small claims dispute settled on television by Judge Judy.
Well, once again, you have my two cents worth.
© 2004 Jon C. Ryter - All Rights Reserved
Jon Christian Ryter is the pseudonym of a former newspaper reporter with the Parkersburg, WV Sentinel. He authored a syndicated newspaper column, Answers From The Bible, from the mid-1970s until 1985. Answers From The Bible was read weekly in many suburban markets in the United States.
Today, Jon is an advertising executive with
the Washington Times. His website, www.jonchristianryter.com
has helped him establish a network of mid-to senior-level Washington insiders
who now provide him with a steady stream of material for use both in his
books and in the investigative reports that are found on his website.
"A memorial to Pat Tillman was set up outside the Arizona Cardinals building. People have been bringing flowers, balloons and teddy bears."