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Ted Rall On His Response To Jon Krakaeur (PR)
posted September 18, 2009


September 18, 2009

In his new book about Pat Tillman, Jon Krakauer equates me with Ann Coulter and accuses me of "invent[ing]" Tillman's personality in my controversial May 3, 2004 cartoon about him. It's not a lengthy passage, but it is placed in an extremely important place: the end of his Krakauer's foreword. Chapter one starts immediately after this section.

I have enjoyed Krakauer's writing in the past, especially his books "Into the Wild" and "Into Thin Air." Now, however, I am forced to question Krakauer's intellectual honesty and integrity as a writer. He uses Coulter and I as political stalking horses (of the "right" and "left") in order to portray himself as a fair-minded moderate (centrist?) whose research led to the "biographical insight" that lets him know "what motivated Pat Tillman":

Neither Coulter nor Rall had any idea what motivated Pat Tillman. Beyond his family and a small circle of close friends, few people did.">>

I drew the cartoon in question after watching Tillman's nationally televised memorial service. The event featured speeches by Republican politicians who already knew that their official account of Tillman's "heroism"—he actually died from "friendly fire"—wasn't true. One such politician, Senator John McCain, said that Tillman offered a "welcome lesson in the true meaning of courage and honor...few of us will ever live a better life." In the manner characteristic of Bush-era jingoism, flags were everywhere. The rhetoric was militaristic: the bravery, heroism and sacrifice of a man who had given up millions of dollars as professional football player in order to fight in the war on terror. No one -- not even his family -- mentioned what we learned much later about him: that his politics leaned left, that he thought the war against Iraq was illegal, etc.

Would I have drawn the same exact cartoon had I known then that Tillman really joined the Army to try to watch his brother's back? Or that he had been shot by a fellow U.S. soldier? Of course not. Every cartoon based on current events would benefit from being able to read into the future. But I still think his decision to join the Army -- especially under Bush, who started two unprovoked wars against Afghanistan and Iraq -- was idiotic.

No one should enlist in the U.S. military. Period.

I'm not a pacifist. I would fight to defend the United States from its enemies. But the United States military has not fought against an actual enemy since World War II. Since then, without exception, it has been the tool of aggressive, economically motivated expansionism. Until that changes, every act of "heroism" by an American soldier on a foreign battlefield will be an act committed in the service of a bad cause. There is no ethical basis, not even "watching your brother's back," that can justify that.

If anything, Tillman should have known better. He had read Noam Chomsky. He was, by American standards, well read. His decision to join the Army—especially under Bush!—was even more reprehensible than if he had been the dumb brutish jock portrayed in the media in the weeks and months after his death. When you join Bush's army, and now Obama's, you know there's a better than even chance you'll be asked to "kill Arabs." In fact, Obama first did a tour of duty in Iraq before meeting his end in Afghanistan—which was, back in 2004, "the good war." If you're not interested in killing Arabs, there are lots of other jobs... playing football, for example.

Krakauer's attempt to posture himself as the moderate, reasonable middle between Ann Coulter and Ted Rall is belied by publicity photos showing him carrying an AK-47 while "patrolling with Afghan Special Forces" (the U.S. puppet army) against indigenous Afghan resistance =0Afighters. So much for journalistic integrity -- he literally served with a hated and reviled army of occupation, endangering the real independent journalists who work in war zones.

His attempt to equate Coulter and I (I'll leave aside the innate sexism in his referring to her as a "harridan") cleverly omits the fact that Coulter was parroting a tsunami of media propaganda at the time. On the other hand, I was trying -- virtually alone -- to counter the death cult of American militarism that was trying to use Tillman to lure more to murder and die in Afghanistan and Iraq. There is a difference, and Krakauer knows it.

Finally, for a man who claims to require "biographical insight" to understand a man's motivations, Krakauer chose not to apply those standards to me. I don't know whether he tried to contact Coulter, but he certainly never got in touch with me to ask why I drew the cartoon that I did.

In 2001, I filed a piece from the frontlines in northern Afghanistan called "How We Lost the Afghan War." Finally, eight years later, most Americans finally agree that we have no business there. How ironic that I'm being insulted by someone whose actions in Afghanistan directly promote the cynical machinations he claims to deplore.