Soon after the events of 9/11, newly-wed Pat Tillman and his brother Kevin signed up to fight for his country like so many other Americans at the time. Pat however was no ordinary recruit, but a major NFL football player who had turned down a multi-million contract so he could enlist and the Bush Administration made a point of welcoming this new high profile soldier as they were determined to use his celebrity to help promote a deeply unpopular war.
After one ‘tour’ in Iraq Tillman had grave doubts about the validity of the war that he was now a part of, but despite this he turned down a secret deal that the US Government and the NFL proposed to allow him to return to football early and forego the rest of his service. It was in his second tour, this time in Afghanistan, that he was killed in the field.
The Military Authorities immediately declared he had died whilst saving his own men’s lives, and weeks later George W eulogized Tillman as a great war Hero. However some weeks later the Army acknowledged that Tillman had in fact been killed by stray bullet in friendly fire, known as ‘the fog of war’. Confused by this new turnabout and all the subsequent conflicting accounts, Tillman’s family demanded, and eventually received, the full report of the Investigation into the whole affair. The Authorities assumed that the heavily redacted 3000 odd documents would simply swamp and confuse them, but they not accounted for his ferociously determined mother who studied them in minute detail uncovering the wholesale whitewashing of the whole incident.
Frustrated and angry at the cover-up, Tillman’s lawyer father sent a detailed letter of complaint about the Military’s fraud to the White House, which he signed off with a simple ‘Fuck You’. Obviously these are words that George W could understand as suddenly there was a Congressional Hearing to investigate the investigation. It subpoenaed all the Top Military Brass to testify, but ineffectual Congressmen let all the witnesses off the hook as they just sat and stated ‘I don’t recall’ some 81 times, and then they closed the Session achieving absolutely nothing. Seeing ex. Defense Secretary Rumsfeld openly smirking as they left the Committee room knowing that they had all lied their way out yet once again, makes one angry as hell.
Through this superb documentary we learn that despite being a Football Player, Tillman was hardly a classic brawny jack, but an intelligent, articulate and hugely private man. An avowed atheist who loved reading books like the works of Noam Chomsky, he had taken great pains not to ever publicly reveal why he had joined up. Fearful of the fact that the Administration may use his celebrity for their own political ends, he had written a note refusing any military or religious funeral if anything should happen to him, something that the Army tried to browbeat his widow to disregard ‘for the sake he nation’ the very minute after they told her he had died.
All Tillman wanted was to serve his country just like any other soldier, and instead of being allowed to quietly and privately grief their loss, his family … who proved to be fine, moral and extremely likeable folks …. had to deal with an endless bunch of lying, hypocritical and manipulative figures in Authority. All his family wanted was the truth.
It’s a devastating film that will enrage you. Totally unmissable.
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