The Tillman Story (4/10)
by Tony Medley
Run time 94 minutes.
OK for children.
A “documentary” is a film that
dispassionately tells a factual story without a point of view. In fact,
the dictionary definition of a documentary is “Presenting facts
objectively without editorializing.” If it is a controversial subject, a
documentary tells both sides and doesn’t take a position.
Any film that tells a
“factual” story with a point of view is not a documentary, it is
propaganda, which is defined as “the systematic propagation of
information reflecting the views and interests of those advocating such
a doctrine or cause.” The Pat Tillman Story, lauded by almost all
critics (Rottentomatoes has it with an 86% positive rating with 30
"fresh" valuations vs. 6 "rotten," including mine), is propaganda, pure and simple.
Tillman was an NFL defensive
back who enlisted to fight in Afghanistan. He was killed by friendly
fire. The Army did not disclose the facts of his death until forced to.
The family seized upon this and fought a battle about it. It’s unclear
what they were fighting about, except that they claim they were misled
about the facts of his death, which was originally reported as Killed in
Action. Because he was killed by friendly fire the Tillmans have made a
federal case out of it.
This film presents the
Tillman’s side of the story without one person explaining the other
side. So let me set something straight here. Even in World War II, the
armed forces, when reporting the death of a serviceman, did not reveal
if the serviceman died from friendly fire, which many did in World War
II. What are they going to do, write a letter and say, “We regret to
inform you that your son was killed by mistake by his comrades. So
sorry.”? No, that’s not the way to treat a tragic mistake. When people
were killed by friendly fire in World War II their deaths were reported
to their next of kin that they died in action, period. That is just
common sense and respect for the bereaved. This film never explains
this. It makes it look as if Tillman’s death was treated differently
from all the other servicemen who have been killed in action by friendly
fire. Not so!
Never in this documentary is
it explained in detail what happened from the shooters’ POV, although it
is pretty evident that what they did was understandable. There was an
explosion. Tillman was accompanying an Afghani, dressed like an Afghani,
into the hills to explore. Another part of his squad saw the Afghani,
thought he was the enemy, and shot him. Tillman and another member of
his squad were high in the hills. The other guy kept down behind rocks
so he couldn’t be shot. Tillman exposed himself, apparently yelling,
“I’m Pat f---ing Tillman!” Obviously unable to hear or identify him,
thinking he was the enemy, Bang! They shot him.
That raises several questions
in my mind. The first is, if people are shooting at you, why not protect
yourself by hiding behind rocks, like the soldier accompanying Tillman
did? That guy wasn’t killed. What kind of person stands up in front of
people hundreds of yards away with high powered guns shooting at him and
yells who he is, even if he does know they are his comrades? The movie
is silent on this point, never raising the issue.
The second is, don’t they have
walkie-talkies, or similar, so they can communicate with one another? In
this day and age? Why wouldn’t he get behind a rock to protect himself
and try to contact them by electronic communication to tell them they
were friends? The film doesn’t raise this issue. Clearly his buddies
wouldn’t have killed him if they had known the identity of the person at
whom they were shooting. So isn’t it possible that Tillman’s death was
partly his fault, maybe more than his buddies?
The third is, what are the
positions of the people who shot him? They aren’t identified, aren’t
interviewed, and are basically ignored.
Fourth, where are the people
from the Army or the DOD who might have a different point of view? They
aren’t in this film.
Regardless, if this weren’t
propaganda but a real documentary, these are issues that would be
covered in a documentary on Tillman’s death.
But this film ignores all
these questions. All it does is further the Tillman Family’s vendetta
against the Army and Dept. of Defense with a 100% biased film.
I’m not taking any position on
who is responsible, whether the Army covered up, whether a medal was
given for political purposes, or any of the other issues involved here.
What I’m criticizing is a biased piece of propaganda that adds nothing
to the public discourse. Had the filmmakers covered all the issues and
not taken sides, they would have served a useful purpose. What they
produced is basically worthless when it comes to finding out what
happened and why, and that’s a shame.