Quantcast

Wednesday, August 16, 2017

Book Review: Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman by Jon Krakauer, narrated by Scott Brick (audio)

This book is so frustrating. Don't get me wrong--that's Mr. Krakauer's goal and he's very successful. Nevertheless, there are moments where you just wish you could reach in to the book and shake people. In particular, the members of his own company who didn't follow protocol and who didn't listen when they were told to stop firing. Argh.

You probably know, as I did, that Pat Tillman was a NFL player who joined the Army Rangers after 9/11 and was killed by friendly fire. I also sort of knew there was a cover-up, but I wasn't sure how much of that was an actual cover-up, and how much of that was sensationalism by the media for headlines. And that's the grand total of what I knew going into this book. Well that, and Mr. Krakauer never picks a dull subject.

Turns out Pat Tillman was a pretty unusual guy, very thoughtful and introspective, rather unique in the NFL and in the Army (how many other men were reading The Odyssey while in Afghanistan? I'll bet zero.) He had one bad incident as a teenager which had a very good impact on his life, and he was a very moral, very intelligent, very esoteric man. At the same time, he was a huge and successful football player who did triathlons in the off-season. He did not fit any mold, and yet he usually fit in and was well-liked. He signed up at the end of the season after Sept. 11, 2001, along with his younger brother (a baseball player) and they trained to become Rangers. On their second tour, which was when Afghanistan was already an afterthought with no funding, after Bush declared it "Mission accomplished." And the day he was killed several things went wrong. And a lot of them were stupid. And those weren't the stupidest things that went wrong either--Mr. Kraukauer also explains how Jessica Lynch's convoy never should have been where they were to get ambushed a few months earlier (they'd taken not one but two wrong turns) and that in the rescue, 17 of the 18 Americans killed were killed by, that's right, you guessed it, Americans! Yes, our own Air Force was firing on our ground troops. So what happened to Pat was by no means an isolated or unexpected incident. What I did not expect is that unlike in the Jessica Lynch rescue situation, these were guys from his own company. He knew them! (It was not malicious.) And his brother was in the same company, too.

And yes, it was very much covered up. The army hastily conferred posthumous medals on Pat that he didn't deserve and wouldn't have wanted (if deserved, fine, but he'd never want credit for something he didn't do. He was not that kind of man.) The Army repeatedly said that they didn't tell the Tillmans the truth, because they didn't want to accidentally tell them something untrue. So instead they knowingly told them untruths for quite some time, in order to not tell them the truth. Hm. Very fishy in my book and I am very glad Pat's mother was so dogged in her search for the truth. The truth was destined to get out, considering how many people knew what had really happened, and who were no only friends of Pat's but of Kevin's, his brother, and I feel confidant someone would have told him eventually. I know they were just following orders, but I do wish at least one of them had let his ethics supplant those orders earlier. And the cover-up seems to have gone all the way to the top. If not Bush himself, certainly his speechwriters knew, as his multiple public statements about Pat were expertly crafted so as to not say anything demonstrably wrong, while also not saying the truth.

I think this book would have been hard to read when it first came out, when the war was still going on, before Osama bin Laden was killed. From this distance now of 10+ years, it's still maddening, and yet it's also easier to view with some equanimity.

I checked this eaudiobook out of the library via Overdrive.

No comments: