Thursday, September 2, 2010

The Tillman Story

The story of Pat Tillman at this point feels like a legend-- NFL football star at the top of his game enlisting into the army for patriotic pride.  He was killed in April of 2004.  We were all lead to believe his death was an ultimate act of heroism; the Taliban had courted, and Tillman is ultimate American valor put his life in danger to protect his brothers in arms.  His family was even awarded the Silver Star.  However, as we would all soon learn, there was much more to that story.  In fact that story was complete fiction.  Amir Bar-Lev's thoughtful, angry, straight-forwardly compassionate documentary, The Tillman Story, tries to unravel the mystery of his death, as well as the truths of his life, with the participation of his family, army buddies and witnesses, and first commanding officer.  The fact that the film itself can't come to an answer calls into the question, what happened that fateful day in Afghanistan the day Tillman was killed.  It feels almost like a Cold War conspiracy tale than anything else.

What's prominent first off is the fuller, more complete view we get of Tillman himself, antithetical to the one that sold to all of us later.  A secular, adrenaline junkie, who enjoyed reading Chomsky and had a fondness for the f-word, Tillman is presented as a deeply private civilian, uninterested in doing public relations when he decided to enlist.  He did so with his younger brother, giving up his multi-million dollar job.  The first half of the documentary is more or less a paint by numbers biography of the man.  The rest is illuminating and insightful because instead of merely being a liberal attack on an unpopular war, it more about the humanity of the issue itself, the ultimate question being not so much why the American public was lied to about Tillman's death, but why was family lied to, repeatedly and vehemently?

Soon after the initial hero report was deemed false, it became apparent Tillman died as a result of fratricide, or friendly fire.  This realization occurred after the media had a field day covering Tillman's heroism, and conveniently after a televised service.  What sparked was an outrage from his mother and father.  Pat Tillman Sr., wrote an incendiary letter to the powers that be, while his mother Mary dissected nearly 3,000 pages of military texts regarding the investigation of her son's death.  In that dissection (a feat that its purported the military espoused in an effort to drain her), she noted the various inconsistencies of the report, and the ridiculous claims of many of the transcripts of the witnesses.

And whats the truth in The Tillman Story-- was his death a marketing tool in the ever-growing unpopularity of the war?  Was it merely an accident from a trigger happy con-patriot?  Or was it something bigger; reports surfaced that Tillman was outwardly critical of the actions taking place in Iraq-- was it comeuppance once it was revealed he wouldn't play right-wing poster child?  The infuriating aspect is, we, as alas unfortunately his family, likely will never know.  Small justice does prevail in the film however.  Especially in the archived footage of the Tillman's taking their case all the way to Congress against Mr. Donald Rumsfield and other powers-that-be.  The ridiculous proceeding provides no specifics, but in the the tentative no answers these powerful men give, I call there bluff.  Unfortunately Congress didn't.

Whatever the answer, the point is clear-- whatever happened that sad day in April 2004 is a small, but eventful litmus test for the entire war in general.  The cover up looked tacky and ever so desperate, and that Mr. Tillman, the man, not the myth was far more human and complex than any manufactured media story could ever proclaim.  B+

No comments:

Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...