Friday, April 23, 2004

One Death Has Turned My Anger at Bush Crowd to Rage

When this blog was just a few days old, last April to be specific, I wrote about the tragic death of the talented and influential journalist Michael Kelly, who died as an embedded observor of his second Iraqi conflict. It was one of the first deaths of the war, and it sent shock waves throughout the small community of people who care about great writing and reporting. He was a superstar in that world, but then it's a modest little world, relatively speaking. But this morning brings the even more haunting news of the death of a guy who will quickly become a much larger martyr to the savage arrogance of this ignorant gang that occupies the upper rungs of our government.

Pat Tillman became an instant American folk hero last year when he walked away from a million-dollar-plus-a-year contract as an NFL cornerback to quietly volunteer to serve as an $18,000-a-year Army Ranger. He told friends that he was shaken by the events of 9/11 and felt the need to pay back some of the advantages he had been given. As far as I know, he NEVER spoke to a single member of the media about his uniquely inspiring decision, thus earning even a greater measure of respect--awe, really--from those who watched this incredible story unfold. Through his initial selflessness and his subsequent insistence on avoiding all attention, he became the embodiment of what patriotism is, or should be, all about.

Now, in death, he will offer one last incredible, mind-numbing service to his country: illustrating to even the dimmest among us that this war has been a disaster unique in American history, for which the architects must pay with their jobs and then their reputations, their names dragged through the mud of history as the bullies and cowards they are. As the tart-tongued Ariana Huffington observes today in Salon, speaking of the shocking disclosures in the new Bob Woodward book, the shame isn't reserved solely for the obvious moral villains of the drama such as Boy Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld, but also for the secondary tier of advisors who knew better but didn't speak up: "Woodward's portrait of this last group is particularly damning: an assemblage of cowards and sycophants who knew full well that the truth was being sacrificed on the altar of Dick Cheney's "fevered" obsession with Saddam, but who did nothing to stop the butchery. A very special Circle of Hell must be reserved for them."

Indeed, there's plenty of blame to go around. But that's for other days (and elections). Today is Pat Tillman's day. May this brave and inspiring American accomplish in death what even he could not do in life: teach us lessons about the inevitable limits of powerful people's cleverness, and about their almost unlimited potential to do the world harm.


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