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After Pat’s Birthday

October 20, 2006

(I lifted this directly from Truthdig.com. I hope neither they nor Mr. Tillman mind.)

After Pat’s Birthday

By Kevin Tillman

Oct 19, 2006

Editor’s note: Kevin Tillman joined the Army with his brother Pat in 2002, and they served together in Iraq and Afghanistan. Pat was killed in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. Kevin, who was discharged in 2005, has written a powerful, must-read document.

It is Pat’s birthday on November 6, and elections are the day after. It gets me thinking about a conversation I had with Pat before we joined the military. He spoke about the risks with signing the papers. How once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice… until we get out.

Much has happened since we handed over our voice:

Somehow we were sent to invade a nation because it was a direct threat to the American people, or to the world, or harbored terrorists, or was involved in the September 11 attacks, or received weapons-grade uranium from Niger, or had mobile weapons labs, or WMD, or had a need to be liberated, or we needed to establish a democracy, or stop an insurgency, or stop a civil war we created that can’t be called a civil war even though it is. Something like that.

Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few “bad apples” in the military.

Somehow back at home, support for the soldiers meant having a five-year-old kindergartener scribble a picture with crayons and send it overseas, or slapping stickers on cars, or lobbying Congress for an extra pad in a helmet. It’s interesting that a soldier on his third or fourth tour should care about a drawing from a five-year-old; or a faded sticker on a car as his friends die around him; or an extra pad in a helmet, as if it will protect him when an IED throws his vehicle 50 feet into the air as his body comes apart and his skin melts to the seat.

Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes.

Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started.

Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated.

Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated.

Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated.

Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe.

Somehow torture is tolerated.

Somehow lying is tolerated.

Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.

Somehow American leadership managed to create a more dangerous world.

Somehow a narrative is more important than reality.

Somehow America has become a country that projects everything that it is not and condemns everything that it is.

Somehow the most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world has become one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world.

Somehow being politically informed, diligent, and skeptical has been replaced by apathy through active ignorance.

Somehow the same incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals are still in charge of this country.

Somehow this is tolerated.

Somehow nobody is accountable for this.

In a democracy, the policy of the leaders is the policy of the people. So don’t be shocked when our grandkids bury much of this generation as traitors to the nation, to the world and to humanity. Most likely, they will come to know that “somehow” was nurtured by fear, insecurity and indifference, leaving the country vulnerable to unchecked, unchallenged parasites.

Luckily this country is still a democracy. People still have a voice. People still can take action. It can start after Pat’s birthday.

Brother and Friend of Pat Tillman,

Kevin Tillman

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  1. Thanks for adding this article. The entire Tillman episode has been, at turns, sad and disgusting. This article reminds us who Pat Tillman was.


  2. I received an email today from a friend, I thought it was appropiate to honor this soldier:

    Thought for the day:

    In case we find ourselves starting to believe all the anti-American sentiment and negativity, we should remember England’s Prime Minister Tony Blair’s words during a recent interview. When asked by one of his Parliament members why he believes so much in America, he said:

    “A simple way to take measure of a country is to look at how many want in… And how many want out.” Only two defining forces have ever offered to die for you:

    1. Jesus Christ
    2. The American G. I.

    One died for your soul, the other for your freedom. ”

    YOU MIGHT WANT TO PASS THIS ON, AS MANY SEEM TO FORGET BOTH OF THEM.


  3. I think the reason people want to get into the United States is so they can get the heck out of Mexico or Estonia and get a decent job and a better standard of living. That’s no small thing, but it’s hardly an answer to the grave concerns that Kevin Tillman writes about. Our country is taking some shocking and worrisome turns for the totalitarian. What some poor downtrodden would-be immigrant from Guadalupe thinks about us is not salient to that fact.

    About Jesus. He told me personally that he thinks we should have hunted down Osama bin Laden and left Iraq to rot. 🙂


  4. Despite the turns towards a “totalitarian government” which is composed of “incompetent, narcissistic, virtueless, vacuous, malicious criminals” causing a “most reasonable, trusted and respected country in the world” to become “one of the most irrational, belligerent, feared, and distrusted countries in the world”, I don’t see a lot of people leaving. There are still many coming into the US from Asian countries (that actually have the conditions described above) as well as western Europe and India.

    Did you ever consider the rhetoric is a little over the top?

    Look a little into the history of recent major wars this country has been involved in (WWII to the Civil War) and see what actions the government (many of them Democratic Presidents) implemented including the expulsion of dissidents, spying, suspension of rights, etc. I’m not saying all these actions were right, but some how the people and country all survived and continued as a democracy. The leaders of this county did what they had to do at the time to win the war.

    We are at war with an enemy that has attacked this country and intends to attack again – fact, not hype! There are now trying to create a totalitarian, religious dictatorship in the Middle East, with the intent to use oil revenues to fund a continued jihad against this country. This intent has been expressed by Bin Laden himself. He was kicked out of Afghanistan, so he’s trying Iraq. Iran, Syria. Egypt and the Saudi’s won’t put up with his BS. Iraq won’t rot, it will become the base of operations, training and funding for future attacks on the West while oppressing the people of Iraq with religious fascism.

    I also find it ironic how everyone is complaining about the rights of enemy, the enemy that attacked and killed 2000 innocent people, but you want to let Iraq “rot”. What about compassion for the innocent people of Iraq? Can you say hypocrite? I’m absolutely positive that if a Democratic President had been in power for the last four years conducting the war in the same way., you would not be complaining anywhere near as much. Don’t try “ a Democrat wouldn’t do this” – again check the history of past wars and Presidents at the time. Captured enemy combatants were detained, interrogated and held outside the US until the end of the war and then either tried for war crimes or returned to their country. As non-citizens of the US, they had no constitutional rights.

    P.S. – I’m glad your talking with Jesus, it’s a step in the right direction.


  5. Look a little into the history of recent major wars this country has been involved in (WWII to the Civil War) and see what actions the government (many of them Democratic Presidents) implemented

    Many people like to point to previous administrations and their warrantless spying in times of war. However, at that time none of those actions was illegal. There was no FISA. That was a law that came after Nixon, who, as you recall, was caught abusing the ability to spy on Americans. That is why we have that law and that is why Bush’s actions, though similar to those of some other presidents, is illegal, where theirs are not. It is also why it constitutes a crisis of government, calling into question the separation of powers. If Congress can’t make a law that the president must obey (FISA), then what can they do to check his power? Not much, some fear.

    We are at war with an enemy that has attacked this country and intends to attack again – fact, not hype!

    Nobody denies this, Bill. Nobody. I marvel at righties’ continual recitation of this, as if we lefties are simply unaware of it. I can assure you I’m aware that we were attacked, and I – unlike many on the right – know who attacked us.

    Iraq won’t rot, it will become the base of operations

    In the words of Regan, “there you go again.” Iraq was indeed rotting under sanctions. They had no weapons, had no weapons programs, had no control over their northern Kurdish region, and were not in bed with bin Laden or other al Qaeda representatives. The fact that Iraq today may have some of these guys in it setting off IEDs under our Humvees is begging the question; they would not be there if we hadn’t blundered in and destabilized the country.

    I also find it ironic how everyone is complaining about the rights of enemy

    I’m more concerned about our rights, Bill. Yours and mine. Tell me right now, unequivocally, that the CIA can’t arrest you tonight without a warrant. Tell me that they can’t take you away to a secret foreign prison, torture you, keep you indefinitely without access to lawyers or human rights groups. Tell me you’re absolutely sure that this can’t happen. Now tell me why you’re sure about that, because I could use some peace of mind.

    And anyway, yes, I am concerned that we treat even guilty terrorists humanely. Really. I think torturing people is, well, wrong. Do you think it’s right?

    but you want to let Iraq “rot”. What about compassion for the innocent people of Iraq? Can you say hypocrite?

    I can say it, but I’m not sure why you make this charge. The cold, hard fact is, the people of Iraq were lightyears better off five years ago under Saddam Hussein than they are today in the post-war mess that we have created, where 60 tortured bodies are found on the streets of Baghdad in a single morning. No, I don’t think you can defend the war by citing concern for the Iraqi people. There’s less electricity, less water, fewer jobs, and more violence.

    I’m absolutely positive that if a Democratic President had been in power for the last four years conducting the war in the same way., you would not be complaining anywhere near as much. Don’t try “ a Democrat wouldn’t do this” – again check the history of past wars and Presidents at the time.

    I think it’s you who need to check your history. Show me the Democratic president – no, show me ANY president – who a) broke American law a la domestic spying and b) signed laws abandoning the Geneva conventions against torture. Show me.

    I’m glad your talking with Jesus

    Yeah, we talk. But does he ever listen?? 🙂


  6. No laws were broken – it is the right of the executive branch under the war powers act. A district Federal Judge approved an injunction – the Supreme Court is yet to rule as to whether this is legal.

    Read a little deeper in WWII history concerning detainment, torture and FBI spying under FDR.

    In Bin Laden’s own words, his goal is drive the US out and make Iraq a base of operations as an islamic fundamentalist (fascist) state , funded by oil revenues to continue the jihad against the western evil. They will improve the infrastructure only as far as it serves their purpose. The people will be under a less chaotic, but tolitarian religious state with little tolerance for dissendent and few freedoms. Since most of Al Qaeda is Sunni Arab, I’m sure the Sheits (majority of Iraq’s populations) will suffer and the clerics killed or exiled. Is this the better solution?


  7. Did Congress or did it not pass a law specifically indicating what the executive branch had to do in order to spy on American persons? It did! Did the president comply with this law, or did he flout it? He flouted it! Ergo, he broke that law. Your argument that that law is unconstitutional is intriguing, but it’s for the supreme court to decide. In the meantime, he did in fact break the FISA.

    Read a little deeper in WWII history concerning detainment, torture and FBI spying under FDR.

    Spoil the surprise. What is it you want me to see? That someone spied on Americans without judicial oversight before FISA? I’m quite aware. And it wasn’t illegal then. That someone was tortured? Whomever did it should have been prosecuted vigorously. But I don’t recall when torture was formally embodied in United States law like it is today. You can’t deny that there’s a sea change here. We have strictly observed the Genevea conventions against torture since its inception. At least from a policy perspective. Now that’s changed. For the first time ever. And I don’t like it. And neither should you.

    In Bin Laden’s own words, his goal is drive the US out and make Iraq a base of operations as an islamic fundamentalist (fascist) state , funded by oil revenues to continue the jihad against the western evil.

    That would suck! How I wish we hadn’t blundered into Iraq and toppled Saddam for no apparent reason. Bin Laden wouldn’t have had a prayer of doing a single thing in Iraq if we’d left it alone.

    Is this the better solution?

    Heck no! But… who’s advocating that solution? Not me, surely.

    It seems to me that the surest recipe for failure in Iraq is to do exactly what we’ve been doing. This “plan” hasn’t improved things on the ground in Iraq and it’s been over three years. Are we to just sit there with our finger in the dike while we spend a dozen lives and a couple hundred million dollars a day? It’s time to admit where we’ve gone wrong and come up with a new plan. I don’t think Rumsfeld/Bush are going to do that without significant pressure. The kind of pressure a divided congress may bring.


  8. “Spoil the surprise”

    Internment of thousands Japanese-American citizens during WWII without due process or legal representation was illegal and unconstitutional back then as it is today. FDR (Democrat) approved this act with little resistance or challenges at the time due to the mood of the nation. Just think if a President tried this today with citizens of Middle Eastern background or Islamic religious beliefs. This far overshadows anything Bush has allegedly done illegally. This past Presidents committed a gross illegal act, but was not challenged by those in power or position at the time.

    FISA states:

    Without a court order
    The President may authorize, through the Attorney General, electronic surveillance without a court order for the period of one year provided it is only for foreign intelligence information [5]; targeting foreign powers as defined by 50 U.S.C. §1801(a)(1),(2),(3) [6] or their agents; and there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.[7]

    This includes non-United States persons residing in the US. Not all surveillence without court order is illegal under FISA. Monitoring phone calls between suspected terrorists within (non US Citizens) and outside the US without a court order is legal according to FISA. This is what Bush has been doing. Do you know for a fact that calls of US citizens have monitored without court orders?


  9. Internment of thousands Japanese-American citizens during WWII without due process or legal representation was illegal and unconstitutional back then as it is today.

    True, that. On this issue, yes, there is a historical analogy. It is also among the darkest and most shameful periods in our nation’s history. This is what we aspire to today? Not me.

    Okay, FISA says the president can spy without court approval provided that “there is no substantial likelihood that the surveillance will acquire the contents of any communication to which a United States person is a party.” I get that. I’m with you so far. But then you contradict it completely when you dubiously assert that this “includes non-United States persons residing in the US.” How, exactly, does it include them? “US person” actually means anyone legally on United States soil. I’m sure you realize that.


  10. FISA defines “US person” as:

    If the target is a “U.S. person,” which includes permanent resident aliens and associations and corporations substantially composed of U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens, 50 U.S.C.A. § 1801(i), there must be probable cause to believe that the U.S. person’s activities “may” or “are about to” involve a violation of the criminal statutes of the United States. § 1801(b)(2)(A),(B); see also § 1801(b)(2)(C) (knowingly engages in activities in preparation for sabotage or “international terrorism” on behalf of a foreign power); § 1801(b)(2)(D) (knowingly enters the United States under a false or fraudulent identity for or on behalf of a foreign power or, while in the United States, knowingly assumes a false or fraudulent identity for or on behalf of a foreign power).

    A “United States person” may not be determined to be an agent of a foreign power “solely upon the basis of activities protected by the first amendment to the Constitution of the United States.” 50 U.S.C. § 1805(a)(3)(A).

    People temporarily and legally in the USA for vacation, education or occupation visas are not considered “US persons” by FISA just because the are on US soil. This definition is still a littl grey and may be clarified in a Supreme Court ruling.

    Based on this FISA definition – do you have factual evidence that illegal surveillance was conducted on “US persons” ?


  11. People temporarily and legally in the USA for vacation, education or occupation visas are not considered “US persons” by FISA just because the are on US soil. This definition is still a littl grey and may be clarified in a Supreme Court ruling.

    I did not know that!

    Based on this FISA definition – do you have factual evidence that illegal surveillance was conducted on “US persons” ?

    If it hasn’t been done, why is the Bush administration saying they don’t have to obey FISA?



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