Cardinal sacrifices


APRIL IS INDEED THE cruelest month – with the number dead in this global war on terror exceeding the century mark, averaging roughly 5 soldiers killed per day in Iraq alone – we received yet another subtle reminder that this war on terror is indeed global… and does still include Afghanistan where former Arizona Cardinal Pat Tillman died last Thursday night in an ambush.

And though Pat Tillman’s death be no more tragic than the deaths of hundreds of other sons and daughters of America killed since 9-11, Tillman’s death can help Americans better understand all the sacrifices born by America’s servicemen and women, especially when placed alongside the reckless procurers of this war on terror.

U.S. spokesman, Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers said, “Specialist Tillman exemplified the patriotism of every soldier,” and reminded Americans of the considerable risks for U.S. soldiers still in Afghanistan today, despite the fact that fighting in Iraq draws more headlines.

“If you speak to every soldier here, his value is not diminished because there are less news clips about what we are doing in Afghanistan,” Beevers said. “Every soldier knows exactly what he is doing and why he is here.”

And why did Pat Tillman go to Afghanistan?

Why did he give up a $9 million contract with the Rams to stay with the NFL’s bottom-tier 3 and 13 Arizona Cardinals? Why had he walked away from a $3 million NFL contract in 2002 to defend America in the war on terror? And why did he do it without any pomp or circumstance – instead integrating himself into the Bush crusade sans self-promo.

Make no mistake, Tillman’s reasons for going to war are inconsistent with President George W. Bush’s reasons for going into Iraq – while Vice President Dick Cheney can claim no parallel spiritual sacrifices of the likes of Tillman, Bush-Cheney can only take credit for the dynamics that make up the context of Tillman’s sacrifice: a nation of arm-chair warriors that (when their time to serve was upon them – to quote Dick Cheney in a Washington Post interview), “had other priorities.”

Tillman knew his priorities. Self-promotion, bossism, tit-for-tat, and score-settling were not in his cards. Sacrifice, loyalty, humility – in a word – “duty” were.

But the choice of duty over fame has never been easy in a culture like ours – especially when the dutiful acts are meant to line the pockets of the shiftless, greedy, and over-entitled. In some ways, George W. Bush is the perfect president for the United States but he, nevertheless, seems hopelessly unfit to prosecute this war on terror. How do George Bush and Dick Cheney perceive duty? Is it a chance for them to line the pockets of their Halliburton and Enron contributors? Where do Bush’s allegiances lie and what has been his sacrifice for America?

Consider the free-for-all in Iraq. Consider the American corporations and their questionable allegiance to America’s working class. Consider the U.S. appointed Iraqi Governing Council (mostly comprised of Iraqi ex pats that weathered Saddam’s reign amid the un-Tillman like comforts of London’s pubs and New York’s cafes) – the Bush campaign at home and abroad is about financial self-enrichment – with as little sacrifice possible from the beneficiaries and the maximum reward for those who have done the least.

It’s the fuzziest math we’ve seen to date.

Tillman would have had no part in such a calculus: the selfless Tillman said he wanted to remain loyal to the people that were loyal to him. Before leaving for his date with destiny, Tillman said: “At times like this you stop and think about, not only how good we have it, but what kind of system we live under. My great-grandfather was at Pearl Harbor. And a lot of my family has gone and fought in wars. And I really haven’t done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that.”

To be sure, neither have George and Dick.

But this business of empire is hard work: you can’t expect to subdue a country without casualties, and Tillman’s death has already drawn attention to enlistment rates, as arm-chair warriors in Washington transform this Cardinal loss into cheap fuel for enlistment into Bush’s war. Arizona Senator John McCain, deeply saddened by the news of Tillman’s death (and having already called for significantly more troops to be deployed in the war on terror), said that Tillman “represented what’s finest in America because he left a very comfortable and rewarding lifestyle after 9-11 in the belief that he needed to fight for his country and fight against his enemies.”

Belief is a powerful tool in this war. Folks from both sides of this war on terror have been driven to do the unthinkable – from self-sacrifice to suicide-bombings and martyrdom – we are a world in search of real heroes, capable of doing what we ourselves could never do. In some way’s Tillman’s flight from the world mirrors that of another man that forsook millions and comfort for an untidy ideology – only to live (and ultimately die) in an Afghan cave. And while Tillman died in pursuit of his mirror, the home team looks to rebuild; guided by Tillman’s spiritual sacrifice – we are infused with a renewed commitment and energy that will certainly translate into victory for America’s team.

Let’s go Cardinals.

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