Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Soldier Fitness Tracker: How Would It Grade Pat Tillman?

DENIGRATION IS A FINE WAY TO TREAT A HERO - Many patriotic people stake a claim on Pat Tillman's heroism. However, it turns out he's an atheist (hero) in a foxhole denigrated, along with his family, by some Christians for his beliefs. Click here for more about his story >>

In joining the military, young troops give up some basic Constitutional rights given the civilian population. The vagaries of war sometimes require it. The military is not a democracy and that’s as it should be.

However, there are some rights they don’t and shouldn’t give up, including the right to worship or not worship as they see fit. A slew of recent events and complaints about the religious components of the Army’s mandatory Soldier Fitness Tracker (SFT) test show abuses that cannot stand.

I’m not a militant atheist. I’m not particularly troubled by most of the many Christian symbols and deeds that appear in clearly secular places. Whether you want to worship Jesus, Mohammad, Buddha, or rocks and trees is none of my concern. I even say Merry Christmas and not Happy Holidays on occasion.

In God Some of Us Don’t Trust

However, I strongly believe that one’s rights stop at the point where they infringe upon others’. Scribbling “In God We Trust” on a dollar doesn’t make it  worth less. It doesn’t infringe on my right to spend the dollar as I see fit. I prefer to see it as a label that identifies God’s cash when it goes into a collection plate or tithe, even though you’d think an omniscent being could figure it out on their own. No harm and no huge foul. More of a bum call actually, but nothing to get dangerously huffy over.

War is Hell, even if Hell is a religious construct. It’s a dark place that breaks bodies and minds and that’s why I’m not against SFT in principle. Everyone could use a little help on the battlefield. If God is your answer, who am I to deprive you of that comfort? If God isn’t, who are you to deprive me of that comfort?

My objection stems from non-Christians and non-theists being tested against a purely Christian scale. Not only are they deemed failures if they don’t answer questions “properly”, but they receive help clearly not right for them. In effect, they get no help at all. Worse yet, they’re compelled to see the chaplain about arrangements for being “born again” or attending Christian concerts.

The problem is less SFT than the measuring metrics used, how the Army interprets the results,  and whether or what kind of emotional support the non-Christians may need. There’s nothing in the test that can’t be remedied with more attention to the needs of all soldiers, not just the select few.

The Army is No Theocracy
As a group, it’s probably safe to say that the majority of those agreeing with such Christianization of the military are the same ones who prattle on about DADT victims being such grave dangers to “unit cohesion and morale”. Doesn’t it seem a soldier labeled a failure, told their beliefs are wrong, and deprived of support offered to Christian soldiers wouldn’t have such great morale and possibly feel alienated enough to damage unit cohesion? The Army may not be a democracy, but it’s not a theocracy either.

American Christians represent a far greater portion of the population than non-theists, polytheists, and non-christians combined. Yet, their constant hosannas are about their rights being lost to the Great Godless Hordes – even to the point that the new Alabama governor publicly suggests his relationship with Christian constituents is greater than his relationship with other Alabamans.

Christians’ insistent imposition of their beliefs on other Americans is exactly what drives the more militant Atheists to distraction. Christians have built a slippery slope not unlike the NRA‘s where many Atheists feel the need to fight every new slight as though it means the death of the Constitution and their inevitable excommunication as Americans. And we’re all – Christians and non-Christians alike – going for a long slide if it continues.

My Christian friends – this isn’t persecution of you, but by you.

Cross posted at The Omnipotent Poobah Speaks!

Tillman the Iraq War Critic, Murdered?

It is open to speculation whether or not Pat Tillman planned to become a high-profile critic of the Iraq War and the Bush administration upon his return home.  What we do know is that he had planned a private meeting with Noam Chomsky, and his strong anti-Bush sentiments are public record.    In light of a recent AP report saying Army investigators asked higher-ups to consider Tillman's death a possible murder, Tillman's portrait reads chillingly like that of a man the administration would have preferred out of the way.

The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

[Tillman's mother] Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat's even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwar author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan -- a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, "Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war."

Tillman served in both Afghanistan and Iraq.  Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White -- a Navy SEAL who served with Tillman said he "wasn't very fired up about being in Iraq" and instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan.

An AP report recently caused a stir when it said:

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

Moreover, Vietnam Veteran and sharpshooter Billl Perry is claiming it is impossible for the three closely-spaced shots in Tillman's forehead to be the result of anything but an execution:

"When the 1st shot hits something like a head or arm, it swings wildly BEFORE the 2nd or 3rd shot can hit it. A "Shot group" indicates the head was up against something..."

Defusing any suggestion that speculation of a murder rather than accidental friendy-fire is cruel to the Tillman family, Mary Tillman herself "has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades,"according to AP. (italic mine)

While sports-crazed Americans can easily dismiss a grieving mother like Cindy Sheehan, a handsome white All-American who turned down a $15 million contract with the NFL in order to serve his country in the wake of 9/11 could have become a real problem for the admimistration, especially when he was Bush's original poster boy for war on terror. Upon his death Bush called him "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror." Tillman's funeral was nationally televised, and Bush addressed fans on the Arizona Cardinals' stadium Jumbotron.

Deeper investigation into Tillman's character reveal a deep thinker who kept a journal from the age of 16 and kept up the practice on the battlefield.  The Nation's David Zirin writes:

The very private Tillmans have revealed a picture of Pat profoundly at odds with the GI Joe image created by Pentagon spinmeisters and their media stenographers. As the Chronicle put it, family and friends are now unveiling "a side of Pat Tillman not widely known--a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty...Tillman had very unembedded feelings about the Iraq War. His close friend Army Spec. Russell Baer remembered, "I can see it like a movie screen. We were outside of [an Iraqi city] watching as bombs were dropping on the town.... We were talking. And Pat said, 'You know, this war is so f***ing illegal.' And we all said, 'Yeah.' That's who he was. He totally was against Bush."

The Pentagon made Tillman many offers to become a recruitment poster child, but Tillman turned them all down.

In the unfolding drama of the truth behind Tillman's death some have charged that some of Tillman's comrades may have been envious of Tillman's celebrity and considered him "arrogant," but his comrades are on-record saying that Tillman was well-liked and had no enemies.  

Tillman subscribed to the Economist magazine, and a fellow soldier said Tillman created a makeshift base library of classic novels so his platoon mates would have literature to read in their down time. He even brought gourmet coffee to brew for his platoon in the field in Afghanistan...[Spec. Russell Baer] said "He had this great energy. Everybody loved him." His former comrades and family recall Tillman as a born leader yet remarkably humble. White, the Navy SEAL, recalls one day when "some 19-year-old Ranger came and ordered him to cut an acre of grass. And Pat just did it, he cut that grass, he didn't complain. He could have taken millions of dollars playing football, but instead he was just taking orders like that."--San Francisco Chronicle

From May 8th

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Pat Tillman the Iraq War Critic, Murdered?

It is open to speculation whether or not Pat Tillman planned to become a high-profile critic of the Iraq War and the Bush administration upon his return home. What we do know is that he had planned a private meeting with Noam Chomsky, and his strong anti-Bush sentiments are public record. In light of a recent AP report saying Army investigators asked higher-ups to consider Tillman's death a possible murder, Tillman's portrait reads chillingly like that of a man the administration would have preferred out of the way.The San Francisco Chronicle reports:
[Tillman's mother] Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat’s even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwar author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan — a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war.”
Tillman served in both Afghanistan and Iraq. Senior Chief Petty Officer Stephen White— a Navy SEAL who served with Tillman said he "wasn’t very fired up about being in Iraq” and instead wanted to go fight al Qaeda in Afghanistan. An AP report recently caused a stir when it said:
Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
Moreover, Vietnam Veteran and sharpshooter Billl Perry is claiming it is impossible for the three closely-spaced shots in Tillman's forehead to be the result of anything but an execution:
"When the 1st shot hits something like a head or arm, it swings wildly BEFORE the 2nd or 3rd shot can hit it. A "Shot group" indicates the head was up against something..."
Defusing any suggestion that speculation of a murder rather than accidental friendy-fire is cruel to the Tillman family, Mary Tillman herself "has long suggested that her son was deliberately killed by his comrades,"according to AP. (italic mine) While sports-crazed Americans can easily dismiss a grieving mother like Cindy Sheehan, a handsome white All-American who turned down a $15 million contract with the NFL in order to serve his country in the wake of 9/11 could have become a real problem for the admimistration, especially when he was Bush's original poster boy for war on terror. Upon his death Bush called him "an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror." Tillman's funeral was nationally televised, and Bush addressed fans on the Arizona Cardinals' stadium Jumbotron. Deeper investigation into Tillman's character reveal a deep thinker who kept a journal from the age of 16 and kept up the practice on the battlefield. The Nation's David Zirin writes:
The very private Tillmans have revealed a picture of Pat profoundly at odds with the GI Joe image created by Pentagon spinmeisters and their media stenographers. As the Chronicle put it, family and friends are now unveiling "a side of Pat Tillman not widely known--a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty...Tillman had very unembedded feelings about the Iraq War. His close friend Army Spec. Russell Baer remembered, "I can see it like a movie screen. We were outside of [an Iraqi city] watching as bombs were dropping on the town.... We were talking. And Pat said, 'You know, this war is so f***ing illegal.' And we all said, 'Yeah.' That's who he was. He totally was against Bush."
The Pentagon made Tillman many offers to become a recruitment poster child, but Tillman turned them all down. In the unfolding drama of the truth behind Tillman's death some have charged that some of Tillman's comrades may have been envious of Tillman's celebrity and considered him "arrogant," but his comrades are on-record saying that Tillman was well-liked and had no enemies.
Tillman subscribed to the Economist magazine, and a fellow soldier said Tillman created a makeshift base library of classic novels so his platoon mates would have literature to read in their down time. He even brought gourmet coffee to brew for his platoon in the field in Afghanistan...[Spec. Russell Baer] said "He had this great energy. Everybody loved him.” His former comrades and family recall Tillman as a born leader yet remarkably humble. White, the Navy SEAL, recalls one day when “some 19-year-old Ranger came and ordered him to cut an acre of grass. And Pat just did it, he cut that grass, he didn’t complain. He could have taken millions of dollars playing football, but instead he was just taking orders like that.”--San Francisco Chronicle

Military plays at re-enactments, continues to fuck up Pat Tillman investigation

Kevin Tillman testified today before a House Government Reform and Oversight Commitee hearing regarding the military's misrepresentation of the  death of his brother, NFL football player Pat Tillman, by friendly fire in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004.

An aspect of the Army's investigation into the incident apparently included staging a series of "re-enactment" photos, in which Army investigators  attempted to recreate and photograph the circumstances in which Tillman was fired upon by his fellow troops.  This sort of staging is typical of civilian crime scene investigation, except that usually the investigators try to get their re-creations right.

Not the Army though.  In the AP caption for one of the photos, Army investigators say that "the photos were actually taken about 90 minutes before the time of the actual incident, making the resemblance to actual lighting conditions imprecise."

I guess when you're more worried about covering up your mistakes, the little details of accuracy aren't that important.

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