Over 3,600 American servicemen and women have died in Iraq and Afghanistan since September 11, 2001. All of their sacrifices are significant and equal; none are more indicative of our involvement than that of Pat Tillman.
Tillman enlisted at the height of the greatest outburst of patriotism since December 8, 1941. Everyone who enlisted then, or since, gave up whatever life they might have had otherwise. Only Tillman walked away from a millions dollar career that would not be there when he returned.
His enlistment alone should have been enough to shame the Young (and Old) Republicans who beat the drums and waved the flag from the safety of this country. Tillman wasn’t finished; he joined Special Forces and went to Afghanistan.
He died there, a victim of friendly fire, much as the American effort to bring Osama bin Laden to justice died short of Tora Bora due to misguided priorities of the same leaders who swore so sincerely to protect the troops and ensure that no American casualty would be in vain. He was used even more cynically than his fallen comrades by those who promoted the war, as his presence was routinely trumpeted as symbolic of the best and the brightest this country had to offer, stepping up to shoulder a reasonable and justifiable burden.
The Bush Administration is no more forthcoming about what really happened to Tillman than it is about the true roots of the war. All that is left to his family are broken promises and lies, and a feeling that, no matter what the government admits to, the reality is worse. When what passes for truth dribbles out over months, each revelation more dismaying than before, how can anyone know which is the last, or if any can be believed past a certain point?
We’re no more likely to get answers about the larger questions than we are about Pat Tillman’s final moments, unless Congress finds the will to exert its Constitutional responsibilities and provide some effective checks and balances to the unitary executive. It won’t repay the debt we owe for the 3,600 lives this nation bilked from their rightful owners, but it’s a place to start.