Krakauer Says Pat Tillman’s Death “Didn’t Mean Anything”

Pat Tillman

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.

You can read a couple of more interviews with Krakauer at Entertainment Weekly and The Daily Beast, plus check out another story here at

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
Jon Krakauer
Daily Show
Full Episodes
Political Humor Ron Paul Interview
  • Doug

    I doubt this pinko, Jon Krakauer, knows anything about honor, duty, etc. Brave men and women have given their all so this jerk can make these comments. I will remember Jon Krakauer as an Ahole I would never buy or read anything he has his name on!

  • Johnj

    Pat Tillman is a California hero. Like many of us Californians that serve he was a tollerant intelligent man, that didn’t fit the stereotype of what it meant to serve this great country. He died a brave hero period. I am and always will be a proud California Veteran.

  • N.G.

    WAR is not prejudiced. My SON was also killed in Afghanistan by another American in 2004 and he was not glorified like Tillman was and has been, in fact he has been all but forgotten! The highest award he was given was the BRONZE STAR, as well deserved. As a matter fact we had no news of what had really happened until 4 months later!
    Angry Mother

  • chuck in st paul

    What a jerk.
    In addition, military action is merely an extension of political choices. They are inseperable. The military goes to war to accomplish political goals. Duh!
    Having said that, it is possible at any one time that neither major party truly represents the military properly. Viet Nam comes to (personal) mind.

  • Mike S

    Hope they put that quote on the dust jacket.

  • Daniel Ellcey

    I know the family of Pat Tillman was behind this book 100%. In it is many of the words of Pat and his feelings regarding the war in Iraq and the military in general. Much of it not very positive. The great thing about Pat is that he made a commitment to the Army for three yrs and even after given a chance to get out early….he refused. Like many of us who were in the military…we make think the governement, pentegon, our officers, and the mission is f-upped beyond belief….we will stay commited to them all for the sake of our own sense of loyalty to the soldier the the left and right of us.

  • redjoshman
  • phantom4597

    Pat Tillman had the courage of his convictions and put his life on the line because he believed in something positive.
    This yo-yo “author” believes in nothing but sensationalism, money and will say anything to sell books. The fact that he is such an excellent bullshitter only adds to his moral corruption.
    Why do we continually allow these blood suckers to live off honorable people?
    The mistake here was not Mr. Tillman dying for a cause he believed in; the mistake was a politically corrupt Pentagon machine who could not resist trying to profit from a tragic mistake of war.

  • Twenty-nine years in uniform and I can positively assert that the military covers-up bad news like Tillman’s death. Tillman was an honorable and brave man who died due to a stupid mistake. Mistakes are bad but they happen in war. The problem is that the Army purposely covered-it up. That’s not the only thing they’ve covered up. It wasn’t until the press called them on it did they come partially clean. Shame on the Army. I’ve experienced this with all of the services in joint assignments and experiences. Tillman was a patriotic and brave man that should be honored. However, I’ve encouraged my two sons to not stay in just because of this gross behavior by the Army. The Army is worried about retention but studies show that with virtually all leaders getting promoted due to shortages, we are saving the bad with the good. Cover-ups happen because of “toxic” and bad leaders. It only takes one but we’re getting more and more as we “save the whales” and keep those who would have been tubed 15 years ago. I follow the majority of officers polled in Retired Officer magazine that would not recommend the military as a career for these reasons. God bless the young folks who serve and protect them from the toxic leaders!

  • AJA

    Mr. Krakauer was on the Daily Show 30 Sep, very interesting interview.

  • jonnyb

    The greater myth is Kracpot’s self-inflicted lie that his opinion is of any valuable contribution to society, and most importantly, to the art of warfare. God Bless young Americans like Tillman.

  • Mark Kowal

    Pat Tillman died in the service of an ideal, and that’s not for nothing. Not many people would put their life on the line for their beliefs. The tragedy is the corruption of that idealism. As author Chris Hedges has said, “War in the end is always about betrayal, betrayal of the young by the old, of soldiers by politicians, and of idealists by cynics.”

  • BooMBooM.OsM

    I am pretty sure Pat Tillman joined the service like I did
    to server his country. That alone dignifies his death with
    honor. Nothing more needs to be said. I will not read
    any book that tells me different! The author will make
    no money from me disrespecting Pat Tillman death!

  • TC Kurtz

    Obviously trying to profit off of Tilman’s sacrifice. An extreme statement to grab attention. I assume he must think freeing the world from tyranny falls only on the average, nameless, middle/low castes not worth of association with self-important pulp writers, sports figures, or his circle of “meaning”.

  • MEF US Army Retired

    I’m in agreement with many others. From my perspective if Pat Tilman died for nothing then so did a quarter of a million others during WWII, then Korea and over 50,000 in Vietnam. That’s not counting the many others in the other conflicts and current wars that are going on. He died doing what he wanted to do. My question is, who the hell are we glorifying? Why aren’t we making the same big deal about the other service members who gave their all?
    Pat Tilman was a football player that decided to join the Army then got killed by, “in my opinion one of his comrades that he pissed off.” WOW, for some of us life goes on doesn’t it.

  • ssgchester

    It’s sad when any soldier dies. What’s even more sad what how our elected officials like Mr. Bush and Chaney look upon them as their “tools.”
    Mr. Tillman and his brother enlisted after the US was attacked. Many joined. But many many more did not.
    Most just sat on their forth point of contact and watched it on FOX or CNN. Even before he died Tillman and his brother were not happy with how the “war” was going.
    Many in uniform aren’t.
    Personally, many prior service like myself expected there’d be a draft. There wasn’t so the burden of the country was shifted to a small segment of it. Had it been shared by the majority of the American People a lot of what we’re now facing would never had existed.
    I’ll have to read the book. Should be interesting.

  • RLS

    God, Country and Family. War is hell. The old send the young to die.

  • Jim

    Again, with the Personal attacks. Who cares what Rush thinks, he avoided service. The fact is Pat Tillman chose to serve when many with his career choices did not.
    The problem was after he was killed when the Bushies lied about the circumstances surrounding his death. And then the Demo’s jumped on the other side of the bandwagon as has been happening in this country since the end of the Carter Administration with the Iran hostage sit.
    By lying about the circumstances surrounding his death. Then lying again to make him a Hero by awarding him a Silver Star. It devalues all those who have been awarded the Silver Star for actual heroism.
    I am not saying Pat Tillman wasn’t heroic. As a Combat vet of another era I think all the Men and Women who serve are heroic. I am just tired of all the lies on all sides.

  • SavageBlood122

    Sgt Tilman didn’t fall for “no reason” He was prepared and ready to fight, serve, protect and if necessary die for his loved ones and country as all soldiers who serve are. Every soldier lost is a tragedy but its war and instead of focusing of the dead and trying to get public recognition by writing a book of a fallen soldier he and everybody else should be thinking about what they can do for the soldiers still fighting.

  • SSgt phantomphish

    Pat Tillman is a local hero. He was also the right guy in the wrong place at the wrong time. As many have said since the beginning of warfare: Sierra Hotel! All GIs understand FUBAR and there is no doubt that since 9-11 we are FUBAR! But that FUBAR starts at the top with our elected officials who are more interested in their own personal agendas than the interests of the USA. Unfortunately, political generals are willing to kiss butt as well with Alpha Hotels like BHO in order to get ahead; they are also simply using the GIs as their own means to an end.
    If you want an end to this, throw out the rat-bastards in the Senate and House and put some real men and women in there who have a commitment to our country, the Constitution and the Bill of Rights. If General McCrystal (sp?) cannot get what he needs to fight and win the Afganistan Campaign, he should resign. If he thinks that under the current administration he can accomplish this fight and win the battle, he should resign because he is a fool.
    My dad never served, but he gave me the best military advice I ever got when he said ” avoid a battle to the greatest extent possible. But if you are pushed into a must fight situation, there are no limits; you cannot play fair and there is always going to be a looser. You cannot afford to have the looser be you!”
    Pat Tillman personified the “winning attitude” and was willing to give that last full measure of devotion because his personal commitment and honor demanded it! Shouldn’t we expect and demand equal measure from those who lead these fine men and women? Take your country back from the despoilers and clowns before they give it away or foolishly spend / gamble it away from us.

  • LZ53


  • WD

    This is from a typical author trying to get publicity for his book. What made Pat Tillman’s sacrifice special is not that he joined the military to go fight, young people do that everyday (I served mine from 1984-2004). What made his sacrafice special is that his dedication and beliefs made him quit a multi-million dollar career to join for the pittance of money we get paid defending the interests of this nation. Show me another multi-millionaire that has done the same. I’ve known “rich kids” in the military, that joined because they wanted to make it on their own and I commend them as well. Long gone is the stigma that people joined the military because they had no other options. It’s more than that, it’s about duty, honor, country. I salute each one of my Brothers and Sisters in uniform. If I had a Barret 50-cal sniper rifle, I’d pay “proper respect” to this author, as well.

  • Gary Gault

    It was indeed a tragedy that such a brave, heroic, and selfless American died in this friendly fire incident. War does not discriminate between the good, the bad, or the ugly! Yet, for Krakauer to say that Tillman’s death was “meaningless” only points to the fact that it is Krakauer who is a “meaningless” arrogant and crass slob! How vile, mean and low can a selfish and conceited person be!

  • Just me

    There is so much to say so many mixed feeling I dont know where to start. I have yet to read any books. Now im interested and curious. We soldiers do our jobs not looking for anyones opinions. We take this job for a reason then changes along the line. If you ask me Tillmans death as a soldier didnt mean much to me or make any difference. A lot of other good soldiers who are no bodys in the eyes of america who never will be or were never know have done so much more than tillman. Tillman in my eyes was looking for attention. I been to war I been in Battle I know what it is like and if you haven’t been there been shot at heard bullets whizzing by your head, been motared then really I dont think you have any room for an oppinion of something you know absolutely nothing about. Yes war is deffinately hell but —- happens and thats life.

  • Iservedmytimedidyou?

    The Silver Star is not the highest medal for valor. If you get the simple facts wrong…. how can anyone believe the rest of the story?

  • Bill Branson

    Mr. Krakauer is like many others, that seek to capitalize on something. Wars are fought for many reasons, idealism, politics, patriotism, and finally for the almighty dollar, but mostly for the last one. Only someone that knew Mr. Tillman’s thoughts and reasons could say if he died as a waste. If Pat Tillman did not believe in what he was doing, then in my opinion his death was a needless waste. If Pat Tillman believed in what he was doing then he died for the greater good that he was helping to create. That good is the freedom of anyone in the world from tyranny and opression. The freedom for Mr. Krakauer to write his book and say what he has said and at the same time for me to oppose it vehemently. Voicing ones opinion in a non belligerent way and not fearing repercussions for doing so. This is what Mr. Tillman and so many others have died for.

  • Jeff

    He got one thing right “There is nothing glamorous or romantic about war”. I agree with Gary, Krakauer opinion doesn’t mean anything.

  • Greg McCarthy

    I’m assuming Mr Krakuer’s experiences with survival have been for financial gain rather then “duty, honor, country”. For anyone to disrespect the sacrifice made by Pat Tillman, and for that case, every man and woman serving in the US armed forces, only shows how narrow his money motivated tunnel vision is. I feel sorry for people lie him who will never experience the pride the sacrifice brings

  • T. Tillman

    I would hope that Pat’s death was not “meaningless”. I can think of nothing worse than to die “for nothing”. Maybe his death and all surrounding it will serve those still serving by culling out those who did it and those who covered it up. We have often killed our own, but mostly by accident. On purpose should be punished to the nth degree. To those who still serve “Bravo Zulu!”

  • FS

    We all know that there are two things certain in life: death and Taxes. We are all going to die sooner or later. 1000 years from now, a Jeopardy question will be “What was the name of the patriotic football player who died in Afganistan following the 9/11 attacks in New York” All of the contestants will know the answer. If the people at Jeopardy can not make a question with the answer being your name, then you will have truly lived and died for nothing. Tillman’s name will live for thousands of years as a patriot. Will Krakauers’?

  • cmbtdvr

    Being a retired 30 year Marine combat veteran, when you join the Corps, you are hired to fight and sometimes die. you do your job, what you are trained to do. Nobody wants to die but in war people do. you risk your life to save your fellow Marine because he will do the same for you, at any cost.
    Political agenda don’t mean squat to the jarhead in country.
    Staying alive, surviving,accomplishing your mission, caring for your wounded,honoring your fallen, thats what we care about.
    Semper Fi Marines.

  • John Chemycz

    Most of you are missing the author’s point … and Tillman’s. Pat saw the Afghanistan conflict as a righteous war. That is why he gave up his football career and a lucrative contract to serve in defense of his country. His disillusionment started when Bush and his boys moved the emphasis from Afghanistan to Iraq, a country Pat saw as tangential to the cause. He recognized the Neocon agenda and did not support it. He had the chance to go back to his life in Arizona but refused to leave his fellow soldiers.
    Krakauer’s point is that BUSH didn’t even value the Afghan war enough to make Tillman’s, or any other soldiers’ death in that theater, “worthwhile” !! The author respected everything Pat Tillman brought to the table … courage … conviction … resolve … and loyalty. But, even Pat questioned why they were there if the administration could abandon their mission and divert needed resources elsewhere, to a country that had nothing to do with attacking America. Damned right he was disillusioned and upset at his upper echelon chain of command !!
    This book praises the character and conviction of Tillman to persevere, despite feeling betrayed by is Commander in Chief. Bush used his enlistment and his death to stir the emotions of the folks at home … for his own ends !! The cover up on the story of his death was pure, unadulterated POLITICS !! That is what made Tillman’s death “meaningless”.
    I know the Tillman’s feel the same way, as would Pat, if he could share his opinion !! The book and the author have the full faith and blessing of the Tillman family. Save your vitriol for the Bush Administration … not the author !!!

  • swd3007

    It’s a shame that this self-serving author has decided to ponitificate about the tragedies of war, having never served his country in combat. After 20 years in the Army and 27 months in Iraq, I can tell you that Soldiers, Marines, Airmen, and Sailors serve out of commitment to this great nation, no other reason. Self-interest means nothing and this JAG-OFF is getting paid by demeaning the profession of arms on the pretense that war is “not glamorous or romantic.” Pick up a weapon and stand a post or shut the hell up Mr. Krakauer! Everyone wants to know everything that goes on in combat and what our forces are doing. We’ve done more to jeopardize them with over-exposure through the media than anything else. We know what sells newspapers and keeps people watching TV but it has and continues to affect the safety of our troops because the media wants to “keep people informed…”

  • Road Dog

    I was an Airborne Para-medic way back when and have spent the last 30 years as a Police Officer. I have seen lots of death, especially in my duties as a Deputy Coroner. I always tried to comfort the families of the deceased, just as the Military did in Tillmans case. He died during a combat situation. Sadly, it was from friendly fire. Cops have died from friendly fire too. Never once did I ever tell a family: Oh, your son died screaming in pain from being crushed in the car wreck. Or he was shot by another officer. What good does that do? They always dies instantly, I said. If families dig too deep they might not like what they find. Tillman died a hero . . . just like ALL the other soldiers have died. Don’t lessen the Honor.



  • murph

    I used to watch Pat Tillman practice at Camp Tontozona by Kohl’s Ranch in Arizona when I lived in Payson, AZ. I admired him them – and thought what he did by entering the military was the noblest act I have seen someone do in my lifetime. His loss would not have been better had it been enemy fire – but the lack of honesty after the fact was pathetic. Krakauer’s conclusion sucks, but he still wrote about a great man.

  • Kevin

    I just want to say to everyone out there reading this and the other comments. We do live in a country that gives peolpe the right to speak their oppion rather we like it or not. Pat Tillman’s death no matter the reason was a lose of a great man. That fact that he and so many others have died in both countries is a shame but speaking as soomeone who has been there more times then I want to count (4 years in Iraq and 2 in Afganistan) I think I can say that yes we who are in country don’t gave a damm about the POLITIC’s we only care about each other. For someone to say A SOLDIER’S DEATH WAS WORTHLESS THEN THAT PERSON NEEDS TO RETHINK WHAT IT IS THEY ARE TRYING TO SAY AND USE THE RIGHT WORDS TO SAY IT. NO SOLDIER’S DEATH IS WORTHLESS THE REASONING BEHIND OR COVER UP OF THAT DEATH MAY BE WORTHLESS BUT THE LIFE AND DEATH OF THAT SOLDIER ISN’T. TO MANY OF MY FELLOWS SOLDIERS HAVE DIED SOME I KNEW OTHERS I DIDN’T BUT EACH ONE IS A LOST TO THEIR FAMILY AND TO THE FELLOW SOLDIER TO THEIR LEFT AND RIGHT.
    So either figure out what you are trying to say and say it better or shut up.
    For the Tillmans I a fellow soldier am sorry that Pat had to GIVE ALL for this great country. I wish you all the best.

  • Frank Millen

    Krakauer has no clue….I spent 26 1/2 years in the USAF three of those years in Vietnam….No one serves with out a cause. None of my brother GI died in vain. And no
    GI will ever speak badly of others. This guy should wear the uniform for a few years and then state his feelings. I WILL NOT BE READING HIS BOOK!

  • vern

    Krakauer Says Pat Tillman’s Death ‘Didn’t Mean Anything’
    Very misleading headline. Read the book. Krakauer is saying that Tillman’s death was meaningless (in relation to how the army and government tried to use his death for political gain).

  • C.J. Cheetham

    Here’s what I find amazing. Jon Krakauer says that Tillma’s service and death were meaningless; yet at the same time Krakauer believes that writing about Tillman’s service and death somehow has deep meaning.
    Otherwise he wouldn’t have written the book.
    This is part and parcel of the illogic that rules the day.

  • Dave

    Anyone who claims that any american service persons death was “meaningless” while fighting for this country, truly takes the freedoms that the service member died for, for granted. I spent 7 years of my life ready to die for this person to say one of my comrade in arms death was “meaningless”….makes me sick. I bet he thinks 9/11 was meaningless.

  • Chad

    I would have to agree with the comments about meaningless deaths…I am a veteran myself and how are political leaders view us is utterly digusting…if we could just have our way with these people I would line them up and march them right into NOW Afghanistan on foot without any weapons

  • Mike

    Killed by friendly fire, then covered up for propoganda reasons.Sad. I won’t read the book but being an 0311 Sgt USMC Vietnam I have no respect for our leaders, be it Bush/Cheney you know the yellow streak boys. Or the current crop. In the end the grunts die good or bad reason they pay the price. I am a firm believer that you let the enemy die for his country we live for ours. No glory in death.

  • Tim V

    “It reminds me that the good aren’t rewarded (WRONG), there’s no such thing as karma (RIGHT)”.
    The tragedy of war is that it often takes the best and brightest – many others come to mind. The greater tragedy is that so many people don’t appreciate the the value of the freedom paid at such a dear price.

  • Larry “AirBase&

    Krakauer is a hack. He makes heros out of people who do stupid things causing their death and takes heros and belittles the true heros. Everyone needs to know that this guy is out to make money and doesn’t give a damn about THE TRUTH. His statements show him to be one step above a tratior.

  • Larry “AirBase&

    How is Christopher McCandless, a kid who had NO business hiking around Alaska, with little food, no money, map, watch, 5 lbs of books and NO exit plan a hero and Pat Tillman isn’t?
    How about blaming everyone else for that fiasco on Everest?
    Hey Hackauer, Tillman died so that you would have the freedom to climb mountains and write your dribble. Get a life AND see the facts that point to the truthes you are blind to.

  • James Spry

    I agree with Gary, Krakauer is and his comments are meaningless. I can’t believe that Mr. Tillman’s family would be behind his book 100% as stated by Daniel above after he made such a comment! Any person who serves our country and loses their life doing so, even in the most-unfortunate event of friendly fire, has still made the most patriotic sacrifice possible for their country and are certainly deserving to be remembered as heroes, not that they have died in vein. That makes me sick! Whether or not one believes in the war, conflict, or polical climate, they put voluntarily put themselves in harm’s way for all of us! That’s what should be remembered. Not what someone whose trying to make a profit off of their death has to say!

  • Neil

    To paraphrase John Stuart Mill- “War is an ugly thing, but not the ugliest o things. A far uglier thing is a man who has nothing for which he is willing to fight and die for, fo he has no hopes of remaining free, unless made and kept so by men far better than he.” That my friends, has meaning, as does the life and death of Pat Tillman

  • Tom

    Sent by others who avoided the draft, loved by family and friends, Pat Tillman was killed by his own.

    Lies are a cowards tool. bush/cheny/rove/oil industry/nazi tactics got us involved in wars that are un-winnable by any measure.

    Gone are the days when a nation is allowed to be fooled by a few greedy industries. Information is now available to find torture, rendition, bribes and other lies with a small amount of search.

    Bush didn’t understand this. “I didn’t do coke”,” I never had a drinking problem”, “the US would never tap civilian phones”, “the US does not torture”………..

    How this F’tard ever got to be president is a dire indication of the once proud USA’s future.