Click amount to donate direct to CounterPunch
  • $25
  • $50
  • $100
  • $500
  • $other
  • use PayPal
Keep CounterPunch ad free. Support our annual fund drive today!

Inspired by Pat Tillman?



You fasten the triggers
For the others to fire
Then you set back and watch
When the death count gets higher
You hide in your mansion
As young people’s blood
Flows out of their bodies
And is buried in the mud.

Bob Dylan, “Masters of War”

Here’s how the New York Times described Pat Tillman: “A graduate of Arizona State University, Tillman, a safety, played for four seasons with the Arizona Cardinals. But as an unrestricted free agent in 2002, he turned town a three-year, $3.6 million contract offer from the Cardinals and enlisted in the Army.”

Thus, when Tillman was killed in action in Afghanistan last week, the predictable platitudes followed.

For example, former teammate Corey Sears said: “All the guys that complain about it being too hot or they don’t have enough money, that’s not real life. A real life thing is he died for what he believed in.”

There was no mention if Sears views Iraqis or Afghanis dying for what they believe in to be “a real life thing” or if that experience if reserved exclusively for Americans. There are a lot of people, like Sears, speaking for Tillman since his death but none have elaborated upon what it was he “believed in” enough to die for..except bland statements about “defending freedom” or “giving something back.” Here is a brief sampling:

* Former Cardinals head coach Dave McGinnis said Tillman “represented all that was good in sports” and “proudly walked away from a career in football to a greater calling.”

* “Pat Tillman personified all the best values of his country and the NFL,” said commissioner Paul Tagliabue.

* “Where do we get such men as these? Where to we find these people willing to stand up for America?” asked Rep. J.D. Hayworth, R-Arizona. “He chose action rather than words. He just wanted to serve his country. He was a remarkable person. He lived the American dream, and he fought to preserve the American dream and our way of life.”

We’ve all heard this kind of talk before (Does the space shuttle crash ring a bell?) but it does little except soothe Americans who want to believe in heroes. Talk of “best values,” “a greater calling,” and “the American dream” roll off the tongues of the average citizen but how would that same citizen react if a “war hero” came home sick from exposure to depleted uranium and decided to speak out against the U.S. government and its crimes? Would he/she still be revered for “preserving our way of life” if s/he organized protests and boycotts and reached out in solidarity across international borders to those who have suffered from U.S. foreign policy?

We all know the answer to that last question, don’t we? Tillman (or someone like him) could’ve chosen to “serve their country” by challenging the corporate-mandated status quo…but that’s not how things work around here, is it?

Instead we get endless talk about preserving freedom and defending our way of life and standing up for America. Such cliches are designed to discourage critical thought but the questions must be asked: Which freedoms? What way of life? Standing up for whom and why?

Are those men and women in Afghanistan and Iraq in agreement with, say, for-profit health care for the few or pre-emptive wars or corporate welfare or the death penalty or maybe unelected presidents? Are they fighting to defend strip malls, SUVs, or cell phones…or maybe the right to vote for the next “American Idol”? I’d just like some clarification.

Is it really a “greater calling” for an ex-NFL player to hunt down CIA-created Taliban fighters in Afghanistan (with much “collateral damage,” of course) in a misguided, myopic attempt to avenge 9/11?

What values is NFL commissioner Tagliabue referring to…the values canonized in our history texts (but ignored in reality) or the values of militarism and greed this nation has lived by for over 200 years?

Which America was Tillman standing up for…the bosses at Halliburton or the homeless guy I see every day on the subway steps? The country personified by war criminals like Bush and Kerry? The country defined by corporate pirates? Indeed, soldiers like Tillman aren’t serving the 2 million behind bars or the 2 million locked in nursing homes against their will. The actions they chose over words don’t make our air or water cleaner or stop the suburban sprawl. If anything, they have the exactly opposite effect.

What American dream are Tillman’s eulogizers talking about? The dreams of Wal-Mart, Nike, and The Gap? Whose way of life…Wall Street speculators, professional athletes, and digitally- or surgically-enhanced celebrities? I certainly didn’t ask him (or anyone) to kill for me and he sure wasn’t protecting anything I hold dear. Soldiers like Pat Tillman, to me, seem like heavily-conditioned American males…the spawn of decades of corporate conditioning and State-sponsored patriotism.

I know many will say Tillman was defending my right to voice dissenting opinions: “In other countries, you can’t write this kind of stuff.” But none of those critics will ever explain how Pat Tillman’s actions or his death impacts on anyone’s freedom to write an article in America. That question is left unasked…as if the answer were obvious.

But yet again, the opposite is true. As Arundhati Roy explains, “The organizations that control the world todayÐthe WTO, the IMF, the World BankÐoperate in complete secrecy.” This nefarious system guarantees that the Tillmans of the world will be revered as heroes…while the beat goes on.

Pat Tillman walking away from millions to “fight for his country” (by becoming a mercenary for Corporate America) does not awe me as much as the dangerous skill to manipulate humans into consistently acting against their interests and the interests of the entire planet.

“People often are conscripted into armies, but sometimes they enlist with gusto,” explains Steven Pinker, director of the Center of Cognitive Neuroscience at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. “Jingoism,” Pinker declares, “is alarmingly easy to evoke.”

“War itself is venal, dirty, confusing and perhaps the most potent narcotic invented by humankind,” says New York Times columnist Chris Hedges. “It allows us to suspend individual conscience, maybe even consciousness, for the cause. And few of us are immune… The contagion of war, of the siren call of the nation, is so strong that most cannot resist.”

But resist we must…and unless we in America create powerful and urgent ways to resist, we cannot expect the victims of our indifference and ineptitude not to hold each of us accountable.

“[T]he brown-skinned folks dying in the millions in order to maintain this way of life…[can’t] wait forever for those who purport to be the opposition here to find some personally comfortable and pure manner of affecting the kind of transformation that brings not just lethal but genocidal processes to a halt,” explains Ward Churchill in a recent interview.

Churchill warns ominously that those “brown-skinned folks dying in the millions” have “no obligation-moral, ethical, legal or otherwise-to sit on their thumbs while the opposition here dithers about doing anything to change the system.”

The world doesn’t need any more “heroes” like Pat Tillman. It doesn’t need young men and womenÐheads filled with noble aspirations sent off to die to defend corporate profit. The world needs the American people to snap out of their propaganda-induced fog ASAP and seek a “greater calling” in the truest sense.

MICKEY Z. is the author of two upcoming books: “A Gigantic Mistake: Articles and Essays for Your Intellectual Self-Defense” (Prime Books/Library Empyreal) and “The Seven Deadly Spins: Exposing the Lies Behind War Propaganda” (Common Courage Press). He can be reached at

Mickey Z. is the author of 12 books, most recently Occupy this Book: Mickey Z. on Activism. Until the laws are changed or the power runs out, he can be found on the Web here. Anyone wishing to support his activist efforts can do so by making a donation here. This piece first appeared at World Trust News.  

More articles by:

2016 Fund Drive
Smart. Fierce. Uncompromised. Support CounterPunch Now!

  • cp-store
  • donate paypal

CounterPunch Magazine


October 26, 2016
John W. Whitehead
A Deep State of Mind: America’s Shadow Government and Its Silent Coup
Eric Draitser
Dear Liberals: Trump is Right
Anthony Tarrant
On the Unbearable Lightness of Whiteness
Mark Weisbrot
The Most Dangerous Place in the World: US Pours in Money, as Blood Flows in Honduras
Chris Welzenbach
The Establishment and the Chattering Hack: a Response to Nicholas Lemann
Luke O'Brien
The Churchill Thing: Some Big Words About Trump and Some Other Chap
Sabia Rigby
In the “Jungle:” Report from the Refugee Camp in Calais, France
Linn Washington Jr.
Pot Decriminalization Yields $9-million in Savings for Philadelphia
Pepe Escobar
“America has lost” in the Philippines
Pauline Murphy
Political Feminism: the Legacy of Victoria Woodhull
Lizzie Maldonado
The Burdens of World War III
David Swanson
Slavery Was Abolished
Thomas Mountain
Preventing Cultural Genocide with the Mother Tongue Policy in Eritrea
Colin Todhunter
Agrochemicals And The Cesspool Of Corruption: Dr. Mason Writes To The US EPA
October 25, 2016
David Swanson
Halloween Is Coming, Vladimir Putin Isn’t
Hiroyuki Hamada
Fear Laundering: an Elaborate Psychological Diversion and Bid for Power
Priti Gulati Cox
President Obama: Before the Empire Falls, Free Leonard Peltier and Mumia Abu-Jamal
Kathy Deacon
Plus ça Change: Regime Change 1917-1920
Robin Goodman
Appetite for Destruction: America’s War Against Itself
Richard Moser
On Power, Privilege, and Passage: a Letter to My Nephew
Rev. William Alberts
The Epicenter of the Moral Universe is Our Common Humanity, Not Religion
Dan Bacher
Inspector General says Reclamation Wasted $32.2 Million on Klamath irrigators
David Mattson
A Recipe for Killing: the “Trust Us” Argument of State Grizzly Bear Managers
Derek Royden
The Tragedy in Yemen
Ralph Nader
Breaking Through Power: It’s Easier Than We Think
Norman Pollack
Centrist Fascism: Lurching Forward
Guillermo R. Gil
Cell to Cell Communication: On How to Become Governor of Puerto Rico
Mateo Pimentel
You, Me, and the Trolley Make Three
Cathy Breen
“Today Is One of the Heaviest Days of My Life”
October 24, 2016
John Steppling
The Unwoke: Sleepwalking into the Nightmare
Oscar Ortega
Clinton’s Troubling Silence on the Dakota Access Pipeline
Patrick Cockburn
Aleppo vs. Mosul: Media Biases
John Grant
Humanizing Our Militarized Border
Franklin Lamb
US-led Sanctions Targeting Syria Risk Adjudication as War Crimes
Paul Bentley
There Must Be Some Way Out of Here: the Silence of Dylan
Norman Pollack
Militarism: The Elephant in the Room
Patrick Bosold
Dakota Access Oil Pipeline: Invite CEO to Lunch, Go to Jail
Paul Craig Roberts
Was Russia’s Hesitation in Syria a Strategic Mistake?
David Swanson
Of All the Opinions I’ve Heard on Syria
Weekend Edition
October 21, 2016
Friday - Sunday
John Wight
Hillary Clinton and the Brutal Murder of Gaddafi
Diana Johnstone
Hillary Clinton’s Strategic Ambition in a Nutshell
Jeffrey St. Clair
Roaming Charges: Trump’s Naked and Hillary’s Dead
John W. Whitehead
American Psycho: Sex, Lies and Politics Add Up to a Terrifying Election Season
Stephen Cooper
Hell on Earth in Alabama: Inside Holman Prison
Patrick Cockburn
13 Years of War: Mosul’s Frightening and Uncertain Future