The story of Pat Tillman’s death in 2004 in Afghanistan by friendly fire, and the military’s cover up of the tragedy, has been resurrected this week as the film concerning those events opened. “The Tillman Story” is being billed as a documentary, but if the published reviews are any indication, it’s anything but. It is simply a version of the truth that the Tillman family believes about their son’s tragic death. According to those reviews, it editorializes and promotes an anti-war point of view and conspiratorially suggests unproven sinister motives about his death.
That sounds like propaganda to me. If this film comes to Chicago, I won’t be seeing it, just as I chose not to see Michael Moore’s film “Fahrenheit 911” for the same reason. I can find propaganda for free all day long on the internet. I don’t need to go to the cinema for it.
Instead, I have watched many interviews this week that the Tillman family has given to promote the film, to promote the book Mary (Dannie) Tillman has written, and to promote the Patrick Tillman Foundation. Understandably, their pain and anger is palpable. I have also read the military’s final report, which admits that lies that were told to “spare” the Tillman’s feelings and that mistakes were made, and I concluded too that they were trying to use Pat Tillman for propaganda purposes. They did the same thing with Jessica Lynch when they rescued her with a full film crew in tow. In fact, Hollywood propagandized WW II on a regular basis. This is what happens during war. Every administration has done it, and every administration will continue to do it, as wrong as it may be. Additionally, there have always been deaths from friendly fire during wars, and there will continue to be, because the nature of war dictates it. Pat Tillman is not special in that way. Many soldiers who are not famous have died throughout history due to friendly fire.
The Tillman family has accused the government and the military of shameless propaganda in the handling of their son’s death, which has been their main complaint. Because their son Patrick turned down a $3 million NFL contract to enlist after 9/11, he became a symbol. It wasn’t just the military who made him a symbol, but also the media which carried his story relentlessly, and took the symbolism over the top.
It has now been over 6 years since their son Patrick has died, and they hope the film and book will keep the wrongs of the military and the government in people’s minds. The problem is that we all know the story, and we know what the military did was wrong in waiting five weeks to tell them the truth about how Pat died, but now it seems as if the Tillman’s are using propaganda themselves by pushing an anti-war agenda while telling their son’s story.
Apparently, Pat Tillman turned against the war during his first tour of duty. He felt the Iraq War was an unjust and illegal war, and felt that Afghanistan wasn’t being handled correctly. In short, he turned against President Bush and his men. He began reading Noam Chomsky, and family and friends set up a meeting with Chomsky to take place after he returned from Afghanistan. So the seeds of the anti-war agenda were already being sown before Tillman died. Was he planning on becoming another John Kerry upon his return determined to speak out against the war? Are his parents carrying on their son’s intentions by keeping this story alive and cooperating on this film?
The Tillmans are angry at a lot of people. The military, the government, the Bush administration, and the American people who support the troops’ efforts. They have written books, they’ve been interviewed by all the major players, and now the film. What appears to be one family’s tragedy in coping with the loss of their loving son to friendly fire, and the military’s initial cover-up of that fact, also becomes a propaganda film in the process….the very propaganda the Tillman’s purport to hate.