Tuesday, November 11, 2008

Tillman and Atheism.
The influence of the religious right in the US military.

(This came from the Internet)

Pat Tillman (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004), the millionaire NFL Arizona Cardinals player, grew up in a household without a television, but with books and the freedom to play outdoors. A natural born athlete, he led his team to a Football Championship in High School, and helped lead the Sun Devils at Arizona State University to the 1997 Rose Bowl. He graduated summa cum laude and became the Arizona Cardinal's starting safety, competed in marathons and the Iron Man Triathlon. He also volunteered in youth groups and schools, while pursuing his master's degree in history.

Pat married his high school sweetheart in the spring of 2002 and then made a stunning announcement: he was placing his NFL career on hold to become a U.S. Army Ranger with his brother, Kevin! He subsequently served tours in Iraq and in Afghanistan where, on April 22, 2004, he died in action. It took the military five weeks to disclose to his family that Pat had actually died from “friendly fire”.

His family was not satisfied with this explanation and a more thorough investigation was conducted. This concluded that two allied groups fired on each other in the confusion following a nearby explosion. Then, on September 25, 2005, the San Francisco Chronicle reported that Tillman had been critical of the Iraq war and did not support President Bush's re-election. This caused right-wingers tp attack the family. Then, nine months later on July 26, 2007, Associated Press received official documents that revealed the results of an autopsy: Tillman was actually murdered! Three shots to the head were fired from a USN Mark 12 Mod X Special Purpose Rifle from 10 yards away! Subsequently, Chris Matthews reported in Hardball that Tillman's death may have been a case of fragging, a term coined in the Vietnam War by the U.S. military, meaning that Tillman was assassinated.

Then, Brig. Gen. Gary M. Jones reported that there were never-before-mentioned US snipers in the group that made up Pat's squad and that they had burned his body armor and uniform after his death in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire. Several soldiers had been removed from the United States Army Rangers as “punishment”. Later on, the three-star general who had withheld details of Tillman's death from his parents for a number of months because he “had a bad memory”, and Army attorneys, congratulated each other in emails for impeding the criminal investigation into Tillman’s murder.

The motive for his murder are not entirely clear, but Tillman was highly educated, particularly in religious matters, but he was not a believer. Lieutenant Colonel Ralph Kauzlarich, Regimental Executive at the Forward Operating Base Salerno in Khowst, Afghanistan, under which Tillman was serving at the time of his death, was aware of that and called Tillman an atheist. About the Tillman family’s search for the truth he said: “These people [atheists] have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs" and "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don’t believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing! You are worm dirt. So for their son to die for nothing and now he is no more... I do not know how an atheist thinks; I can only imagine that would be pretty tough."

Defense Inspector General Thomas Gimble testified that he was "shocked" that Lt. Col. Kauzlarich would make these statements, but Tillman's mother continues to reject the Pentagon's characterization of the officers' offenses as "errors" because several others had said that they made conscious decisions not to tell the Tillman family that fratricide was suspected.

Finally there was an article, in October 2006, in Truthdig, in which Richard Tillman, the frustrated father, wrote:

"Somehow the suspension of habeas corpus is supposed to keep this country safe, somehow torture is tolerated, somehow lying is tolerated, and somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense. Hold your spiritual bromides . . . Pat isn't with God. He's f---ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f---ing dead!”

It is a bitter summing up of the condition into which the USA, founded by enlightened men, and its army, once led by enlightened and brave men, have sunken, thanks to the religious right. May the election of Mr. Obama mark the turning point in our country that leads us out of this morass of stunted thought?

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