Thursday, May 06, 2004

Of knights and knaves

Andrew Sullivan has responded to the Ted Rall cartoon on Pat Tillman by saying that he is "eager to show that the left can be as stringent with its own haters as it should be" and that "[Rall offers the mainstream left] an opportunity to condemn him. Why has, say, Salon not weighed in? Why has Slate not barred his work permanently from their site? If National Review could can Coulter, the mainstream left can certainly can Rall. My bet is: they won't. Nothing should be allowed to detract from the war against Bush. Not even elemental decency and taste."

I fully agree with Andy's objective to call the Left on its sh*t but I vehemently disagree with his call for Slate, the mainstream left or anyone to "can" Rall. Liberalism gives citizens the right to call for censorship, but nothing would be more illiberal than heeding that call. Ted Rall has every right to say what he damn well pleases and his publishers have every right to print what they damn well please.

Here's a transcript of of the cartoon in question.

panel 1

Caption: You may remember Pat Tillman, the N.F.L. pro who enlisted in the army rather than accept a $3.6 million football contract.


A SIGN BEHIND TILLMAN READS, "ARMY. We're Looking For Guys Who Don't Read the Paper."

Tillman:Never mind the fine print. Will I get to kill Arabs?

panel 2

Caption: Tillman, who earned $18,000, falsely believed Bush's wars against Iraq and Afghanistan had something to do with 9/11.


Bush:We're attacking Afghanistan to get al Qaeda, which is based in Pakistan and funded by Saudi Arabia, and Iraq to get al Qaeda, which hates Saddam Hussein.

Tillman:Makes sense.

panel 3

Caption: Actually, he was a cog in a low-rent occupation army that shot more innocent civilians than terrorists to prop up puppet rulers and exploit gas and oil resources.


Soldier:Museums? Let 'em burn! Get down to Basra and repair that pipeline!

panel 4

Caption: So when Tillman got killed by the Afghan resistance, one word naturally came to mind:


Reporter 1:Uh - idiot?

Reporter 2:Sap?

Sullivan only briefly touches on Rall's opposition to the war in Afghanistan so I'll go into it further here. Rall alleges that the Afghanistan war was fought, not as a retaliation against al-Qa'ida, which he maintains is based wholly in northern Pakistan, but to build a pipeline for oil from Kazakhstan and natural gas from Turkmenistan along the Herat-Kandahar highway to the Indian Ocean. (Where the f*ck does a magazine that calls itself Satya get off publishing apologia for the descendants of the genocidal imperalists who exterminated Hindus, Buddhists, Zoroastrians and Manicheans from Afghanistan and the rest of central Asia anyway? Ignorant, sheltered, privileged First World hippies.)

Cute Arab girl tried to convince me of this version of events and failed for two reasons. First, long before September 11th, the same anti-American Far Left used this proposed pipeline to the Indian Ocean explain the lack of an American response to the outrages of the Taleban regime. Second, and more importantly, AFGHANISTAN IS F*CKING LANDLOCKED! TAKE A QUICK F*CKING LOOKING AT THE MAP! AFGHANISTAN HAS NO MOTHERF*CKING COASTLINE! Moreover, the distance from the Caspian Sea to the Indian Ocean through unstable, no-infrastructure-having Afghanistan is much, much longer than the distance from the Caspian Sea to, say, Novorossiysk in comparatively stable, infrastructure-rich Russia on the Black Sea.

Until the World Trade Center, Islamic terrorists primarily targeted official symbols of an American presence overseas: the Marine barracks in Beirut, the US embassies in Kenya and Tanzania, the USS Cole. The American Right now criticizes previous administrations (read: the Clinton Administration) for not taking greater action against Islamic terrorism sooner, but I think a distinction could be fairly made between government and military targets and civilians in airplanes and office buildings. Most of the 3,000 who died on September 11th were neither soldiers nor official representatives of the US government, but civilians of all classes, men, women and even children, on American soil. I'll be frank. I wasn't optimistic about the Afghanistan war. Given the failure of the Soviets and the British to subdue the place, I didn't think our chances were so great. But the mass murder of American civilians on American soil left us no choice but to go in, no matter the outcome. I've made my opposition to the war in Iraq known. However, I've read more than my share of history and the war in Afghanistan is the only war I can recall of that was started by the unprovoked mass murder of thousands of civilians which makes it, by my reckoning, the most just war ever fought, full stop.

So Tillman was a football player who turned down a $3.6 million contract to get shot at for $18,000. Based on this, Rall portrays Tillman as a "typically American," unquestioning, gullible, bloodthirsty football jock.

Gwen Knapp, "True hero athlete/Day's theme: Challenge yourself," San Francisco Chronicle, May 4, 2004.
Tillman's youngest brother, Rich....with the starkest honesty...asked mourners to hold their spiritual bromides.

"Pat isn't with God,'' he said. "He's f -- ing dead. He wasn't religious. So thank you for your thoughts, but he's f -- ing dead.''

What? This didn't happen for God, as well as country? A professional athlete turned soldier, and we're supposed to believe that he'd have no use for piety? Robbed of a cliche, where does that leave us?

Challenge yourself.

His brother-in-law and close friend, Alex Garwood, described how Tillman handled his duties when he became godfather to Garwood's son. He came to the ceremony dressed as a woman. Not as a religious commentary. He was doing a balancing act.

"We had two godfathers, no godmother,'' Garwood explained. And what NFL player turned Army Ranger wouldn't don drag to make that math work?

Who on earth was this guy?

He was the same person who often talked late into the night with his linebackers coach at ASU, prying apart stereotypes about college football players and future soldiers.

"He talked about gays,'' Lyle Setencich, the former ASU assistant said. "He asked me, 'Could you coach gays?' " Setencich told Tillman yes. He could, and he had. He repeated that at the memorial service, televised on ESPN, in front of the sports world, showing another side of a coach, another side of an American hero.

Challenge yourself.

Tillman talked about everything, with everyone. According to the speakers, he had read the Bible, the Koran, the Book of Mormon, Ralph Waldo Emerson, Henry David Thoreau, and he underlined passages constantly.
A reading list like that makes me wonder whether Tillman would fare as well in the Blogosphere Best-Read Competition currently making the rounds as he did on the football field. The spiritual and philosophical emphasis is surprising for someone his own brother describes as non-religious. And he was apparently tolerant of gays and secure enough in his own masculinity to attend his godson's christening in drag. (Tillman's cross-dressing implies a familiarity with customs concerning the choice of godparents that most laypeople would be unaware of. According to the traditions of Catholicism and Orthodoxy, when two godparents are chosen, there must be one of each gender.) His choice of reading material and tolerance of gays seem awfully uncharacteristic of a typically American, illiterate, incurious, macho, anti-intellectual jock. Rall may be right and Tillman may have never read the paper, but he sure as hell seems to have read everything else.

So thanks, Pat Tillman (and all the other servicemen and servicewomen), for putting your life on the line to send the message that, When Americans are attacked where we live, we return the favor. There seems to be nothing else to say given that you weren't religious and, for that matter, neither am I.

Welcome to the Way of the Intercepting Fisk Official List of "Fackin' Eedjits," Ted Rall and f*ck your ignorant, dissembling ass and the horse it rode in on, bitch.