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Shakespeare: Don't Like the News, Then Kill the Messenger

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Public Domain Photo Taken By U.S. Army

In ancient times, as shown in the movie Gladiator, a messenger bringing bad news might return headless. Sophocles had expressed the concept even earlier: ""No one loves the messenger who brings bad news."

Shakespeare wrote of it at least twice. In Henry IV:

Yet the first bringer of unwelcome news
Hath but a losing office, and his tongue
Sounds ever after as a sullen bell,
Remember'd tolling a departing friend

While the U.S. is seeking to find allies who might arrest Wikileaks founder Julian Assange, who perhaps delivered the most voluminous message ever, there are other stories out there that they should be worrying about.

One is Pat Tillman. It just won't go away. Author Jon Krakauer came forward, much like Emile Zola's public letter "J'Accuse," and told of the repeated lies by the Army on how the former NFL star died.

His book, Where Men Win Glory, tells in great detail, down to the minute Tillman was killed by trigger-happy members of his own platoon. Thus was the fate of a man who had given up his career with the Arizona Cardinals to fight for his country after 9/11.

Tillman felt betrayed because he had enlisted to fight in Afghanistan but was sent to Iraqi to fight a war he called "Imperial Folly." Nevertheless, after he had completed his deployment there he turned down an offer from the Army to discharge him early so he could play for the Seattle Seahawks. The NFL and the military were very tight.

The Tillman family was not told how he died, even though it was determined right then and there that he had been killed by a fellow Ranger. Gen. Stanley McChrystal knew it and covered it up to the point of approving awarding of a Silver Star posthumously to Tillman.

It was much like the Dreyfus Affair, which divided France for years; ultimately the innocent Army officer, who was Jewish, was reinstated.

Now, a documentary movie will open at theaters Aug. 20 calledThe Tillman Story.

Hopefully the producers of that movie will not be threatened with arrest. One Congressman has even called for the execution of a soldier believed to have given classified documents to Julian Assange's group. More classified messages are expected to be released soon.

The government could easily minimize Wikileaks' impact by telling the truth from the start and stop the exaggerating.

These leaders know full well that Americans have no taste for reliving history. It is almost always deemed better to just get over it. "Get over it," Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia told a CBS reporter who wouldn't shut up about the court's decision to award the presidency to George W. Bush.

Still, telling the truth almost always works in your favor. Lying can make a small mistake large.

"The truth of war is not always easy. The truth is always more heroic than the hype," said Jessica Lynch.

The late Marshall McLuhan made sense of the babble that had taken over the media world. Initially it caught governments off guard. Now they have learned how to use it to manipulate public opinion. The Bush Administration should have won a Clio, the advertising industry's equivalent of the Academy Awards.

The military has proven especially prone to stretching or hiding the truth. In 1968, when a nerve gas escaped from the Dugway Proving Grounds in Utah, more than 6,000 sheep died. It wasn't until 1998 that a report was made public assigning the blame to the Army.

A story, perhaps apocryphal, circulated for awhile. It went something like this: "We had nothing to do with it and it will never happen again."

Other examples of how little American leaders value the truth include the stationing of 200,000 soldiers near nuclear tests, the Gulf of Tonkin incident, My Lai Massacre, Agent Orange, and Iraqi weapons of mass destruction.

Soldiers from Fort Carson, Colo., suffering from PTSD have been sent into combat zones in Afghanistan. The Army says they can treated there. That would seem to be a recipe for more friendly fire incidents as PTSD victims are overly sensitive.

PTSD causes victims to be easily startled. Being in the same or similar surroundings that created the psychiatric injury in the first place can cause problems.