In an interview with the Wall Street Journal where he talks about his new book Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman, author Jon Krakauer declares that Tillman’s sacrifice “didn’t mean anything.”
It speaks to the mythology of war and how we glorify it for our national interests. There is nothing glamorous or romantic about war. It’s mostly about random pointless death and misery. And that’s what his death tells us. It reminds me that the good aren’t rewarded, there’s no such thing as karma.
That’s rough talk, especially from an author whose compelling books about survivalism in Alaska (Into the Wild) and the dangers of Mt. Everest climbing (Into Thin Air) have made him a favorite with military readers. Krakauer even claims that Tillman had a copy of his book Eiger Dreams in his backpack when he died.
Pat Tillman was a former Arizona Cardinals safety who walked away from a multimillion dollar contract to join the Army Rangers in the wake of the 9/11 attacks. After serving eighteen months in Iraq, Tillman was killed on patrol in Afghanistan in what was eventually declared a friendly-fire incident.
Initial Army reports declared that Tillman was killed by enemy fire and he was posthumously awared the Silver Star and a Purple Heart. Almost immediately, that story came into question and, as suggestions that Tillman was murdered arose, the family pressed for an investigation that established the friendly-fire version of events.
Tillman’s widow allowed Krakauer to read Pat Tillman’s private journals. Krakauer uses those writings to portray Tillman as a “liberal” who opposed the war as it was being conducted but whose sense of honor and duty compelled him to finish his service.
In the course of researching the book, Krakauer spent five months embedded with troops in Afghanistan and convinced at least some of Tillman’s platoon-mates to give their first interviews about what happened on the day of his death.
What’s fascinating here are Krakauer’s attempts to separate Tillman’s life from political forces that would use his death as basis to debate one side or the other. Krakauer, never one for easy conclusions in any of his books, suggests here that the interests of military personnel (as symbolized by Tillman) are too complex to be served by the interests of any one party and that military service is a calling that necessarily exists outside the political debates going on at any given moment.
That’s a powerful notion, one that neither Rush nor Keith will be particularly happy to hear.
UPDATE: Jon Krakauer talks about the book on the 9/30 edition of The Daily Show:
|The Daily Show With Jon Stewart||Mon — Thurs 11p / 10c|