The Bowe Bergdahl saga has been used by Republicans to shape a convenient narrative; one that claims President Obama jeopardized the nation by freeing a deserter. However, not too long ago, these same conservatives utilized the lives of soldiers for a different purpose.
When President Bush began both wars, fabricating a false narrative around the lives of soldiers happened with more frequency, but with a different purpose. Not too long ago, Pat Tillman's death in 2004 was used to promote the virtues of the Iraq and Afghanistan wars. He was the antithesis of Bergdahl in almost every way: a former NFL football player who gave up glory to serve his country and protect the nation. Tillman, because of his noble intentions and fame, was quickly utilized by conservatives to further a narrative. An ABC News article in 2007, entitled Pat Tillman's Fictional Heroic Death: Did Bush Know?, explains the sordid affair that took place when Republicans ruled the White House and needed to justify military interventions:
The Bush administration and the Pentagon came under fire today for creating false myths of military heroes, and the criticism came from unlikely sources -- one of the heroes, and the family of another.
Former Army Ranger Kevin Tillman, who enlisted in the military along with his pro-football star brother, Pat, in 2002, charged the Pentagon with telling "deliberate and calculated lies" after his older brother was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan in April 2004. And he speculated that the facts were known by the White House long before his family learned the truth of Pat's death five weeks after it happened.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing was titled "Misleading Information From the Battlefield, and it began with Private Jessica Lynch saying that administration stories about her war heroics were false...
Kevin Tillman was far more critical, as was his mother, Mary Tillman. He read an abridged version of the Silver Star award his brother was awarded posthumously...Tillman said that the story "inspired countless Americans, as intended. There was one small problem with the narrative, however: It was utter fiction."
Tillman today speculated that his brother's myth was created to change the headlines.
"It shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib ... to a great American who died a hero's death," he said.
The same people condemning Bergdahl today weren't showing outrage over the "deliberate and calculated lies" and "utter fiction" they propagated during the Bush years. To the benefit of Republicans, Pat Tillman's death "shifted the focus from the grotesque torture at Abu Ghraib" as stated by Kevin Tillman. Whereas the article starts by explaining the Bush administration was "under fire" for "creating false myths of military heroes," such accusations never caused outrage among conservative pundits.
Strangely, the same people eagerly citing the words of Begdahl's fellow soldiers weren't so eager back then to utilize the viewpoint of soldiers in Tillman's platoon. According to author Jon Krakauer in an NPR interview, the cover-up began as soon as Tillman was killed:
"Within hours, certainly, and probably less, the Ranger regiment -- officers, high-ranking officers back in the States -- were conspiring to cover this up," Krakauer says.
Tillman's uniform and body armor were burned, says Krakauer, and his weapon, helmet, even a part of his brain, which fell to the ground after the attack, disappeared. Army officials told the medical examiners that Tillman had been killed by the Taliban -- and they stuck by this story when they reported the death to his family.
"The Army intentionally lied," Krakauer says. "They just broke regulation after regulation."
One soldier, Russell Baer, was sent back to the United States with instructions not to reveal to the Tillman family that their son had been killed by friendly fire.
After attending the funeral, Krakauer says, "He was so upset at having to lie to Pat's mother that Russell Baer went AWOL."
While Fox News pundits today will enthusiastically exploit the words of Begdahl's fellow soldiers, they never showed the same consideration of Tillman's platoon back in 2004. Conservative lawmakers never demonstrated the outrage and contempt for George Bush (like they do for Bergdahl and Obama) after finding out the truth and government cover-up behind Pat Tillman's death.
As for other soldiers, Jessica Lynch was the first conservative media casualty, even before Pat Tillman's fate was covered-up to serve a political goal. An ABC News Article in 2007 detailing Tillman's death also explained Jessica Lynch's story:
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee hearing was titled "Misleading Information From the Battlefield, and it began with Private Jessica Lynch saying that administration stories about her war heroics were false. Despite stories leaked to the media that she went down fighting when she was captured in March 2003, in reality her weapon jammed and she prayed for help.
"I'm still confused as to why they chose to lie and try to make me a legend when the real heroics of my fellow soldiers that day were, in fact, legendary," Lynch said in her testimony this morning. "The American people are capable of determining their own ideals for heroes, and they don't need to be told elaborate tales."
Like Tillman, the Bush Administration needed Jessica Lynch for propaganda. While Lynch was "still confused as to why they chose to lie," conservative lawmakers never demanded that President Bush explain why his administration propagated a myth. Interestingly, they're up in arms today over Obama's decision to save a POW.
The manner in which Republicans handled Pat Tillman's death and Jessica Lynch's capture speaks volumes of how conservatives view patriotism. When it's politically expedient to utilize virtues like honor, sacrifice, and loyalty, then Republicans will cover-up the death of a patriot, or lie to promote "false heroics." When it comes to an American POW who might have deserted, then it depends on who is sitting in the White House.
If Obama is President, then giving up terrorists to save an American is wrong. To them however, Ronald Reagan giving money and weapons to Iran-for the same reasons-is still right.
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