Notes & Quotes: Where Men Win Glory by Jon Krakauer

The following are my favorite notes from Jon Krakauer's Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman.
  1. As Aeschylus, the illustrious Greek tragedian, noted in the fifth century B.C., "In war, truth is the first casualty."
  2. Young Pat and his brothers were instructed to tell the truth, to respect their elders, to stand up for the vulnerable, and to keep their promises. Tillman pere also impressed upon the boys the importance of defending their honor, with their fists if necessary.
  3. When Pat fought, he fought to win and never capitulated, which earned him the reputation at Leland and beyond as a guy not to be trifled with. In the pack he ran with, there was no question in anyone's mind that he was the alpha male.
  4. In Afghan society, individual loyalty belongs foremost to the family and then -- in rapidly descending order -- to one's extended clan or tribe, one's ethnic group, and one's religious sect.
  5. The bomb [used in the first bombing of the World Trade Center] had been assembled, delivered, and detonated by a Kuwaiti named Ramzi Yousef, under the supervision of his uncle Khalid Sheik Mohammed, who would later be identified as "the principal architect" of the attack against the same buildings on September 11, 2001. Yousef had learned the art of making bombs from a manual written by the CIA for the mujahideen to use in their struggle against the Soviets. He was given the CIA instruction booklet while attending an al-Qaeda camp in Khost, Afghanistan, in 1991 or 1992.
  6. His good looks, cocky deportment, and status of a football star led some people to assume that he was a stereotypical jock -- entitled, self-absorbed, intellectually shallow, incurious about the world beyond football. Actually, Pat was none of those things. A diary he kept as a sixteen-year-old reveals an introspective youth who mourned the death of a beloved cat, opined that religion was inadequate to elucidate the mysteries of existence, and ruminated on the downside of his empathetic nature. "I can't even be an asshole to someone anymore," the journal sardonically notes, "without feeling bad. I'm too conscious of their feelings."
  7. If he was considered a long shot for playing at the Division 1-A college level after high school, even fewer people believed Tillman stood much chance of making it to the NFL. Athletes who manage to reach that rarefied stratum must survive a ruthless culling process: only 6 percent of the kids who play high-school football go on to play in college; and only about 1 percent of those college players advance to the NFL.
  8. One of the sacred tenets of Pat's moral code was that it's unacceptable to let a hangover interfere with one's duties and commitments.
  9. "War is always about betrayal of the young by the old, of idealists by cynics and of troops by politicians." - Chris Hedges, "A Culture of Atrocity"
  10. I [Pat] know what decision I must make. It seems that more often than not we know the right decision long before it's actually made. Somewhere inside, we hear a voice, and intuitively know the answer to any problem or situation we encounter. Our voice leads us in the direction of the person we wish to become, but it is up to us whether or not to follow.
  11. If fratricide is an untoward but inevitable aspect of warfare, so, too, is the tendency by military commanders to sweep such tragedies under the rug. It's part of a larger pattern: the temptation among generals and politicians to control how the press portrays their military campaigns, which all too often leads them to misrepresent the truth in order to bolster public support for the war of the moment.
  12. In January 2003, the White House created the Office of Global Communication, a $200 million program to manipulate public opinion about the coming war, and installed Jim Wilkinson to oversee its operation in the Persian Gulf. According to an article by James Bamford in the November 17, 2005 issue of Rolling Stone, as the war in Iraq has spiraled out of control, the Bush administration's covert propaganda campaign has intensified. According to a secret Pentagon report personally approved by [Donald] Rumsfeld in October 2003 and obtained by Rolling Stone, the Strategic Command is authorized to engage in "military deception" -- defined as "presenting false information, images, or statements."
  13. The Iraqi staff at the hospital treated [Jessica] Lynch well, according to doctors and nurses interviewed by the British newspaper the Guardian. Dr. Harith al-Houssona, one of the physicians who supervised her care, said that the hospital personnel even donated two pints of their own blood to give her. On March 30, al-Houssona actually put Lynch in an ambulance and instructed the driver to drop her off at a nearby American military checkpoint, but Marines shot at the ambulance as it approached, forcing it to turn around and take Lynch back to the Iraqi hospital.
  14. Pat's suspicions about the Lynch rescue were well founded. The resources devoted to the mission were astonishing by any measure, and had been put in place primarily to ensure that it would be a public relations jackpot for those promoting the war. At least seven other American servicemen and servicewomen were also being held captive in Iraq at that time, including five soldiers from Lynch's convoy; yet almost nothing at all was being done to find and rescue the less marketable prisoners of war.
  15. Eventually Wilkinson's rendering of Lynch's ordeal was exposed as propaganda, but by then it had already accomplished what it was meant to accomplish: covering up the truth in order to maintain support for the president's policies. To this day, very few Americans have any inkling that seventeen U.S. Marines were killed by U.S. Air Force jets on the fourth day of the Iraq War.
  16. For the Tillman brothers to denounce the war while on active duty in Iraq would no doubt have struck many Americans as treasonous. But Pat and Kevin had been raised to speak their minds, so speak they did.
  17. Pat and Kevin were familiar with the words of Hermann Goring, Hitler's Reichsmarschall, who in 1946, shortly before he was sentenced to death for crimes against humanity, notoriously observed: Naturally, the common people don't want war; neither in Russia nor in England nor in America, nor for that matter in Germany. That is understood. But after all, it's the leaders of country who determine the policy, and it's always a simple matter to drag the people along whether it's a democracy, a fascist dictatorship, or a parliament, or a communist dictatorship... Voice or no voice, the people can always be brought to the bidding of the leaders. That is easy. All you have to do is tell them they are being attacked, and denounce the pacifists for lack of patriotism and exposing the country to greater danger. It works the same way in any country.
  18. As much as Pat hated being in the military and forcing [his wife] Marie to endure all that his enlistment entailed, breaking the commitment he'd made to the Rangers would have violated principles he considered inviolable. The handful of people who understood what made Pat tick knew that leaving the Army early was something he would never consider. It was absolutely out of the question.
  19. Rumsfeld was obsessed with achieving positive "metrics" that could be wielded to demonstrate progress in the Global War on Terror, or the illusion thereof.
  20. At 10:00 p.m. on April 22, when Kevin stepped out of a helicopter at Forward Operating Base Salerno after being flown from the canyon where Pat was shot, he was summoned to the TOC -- the Tactical Operations Center -- to meet with Major David Hodne. Hodne testified, "and I attempted to console him... He declined my offer to meet the chaplain that was inbound. He asked me to promise to exact revenge on the ambushers." Hodne assured Kevin that whoever was responsible for Pat's death would pay dearly for their actions. This would turn out to be the first in a long string of broken promises and self-serving lies proffered to the Tillman family by commissioned officers of the U.S. Army.
  21. Despite praising Tillman's patriotism and courage at every opportunity, the White House in fact used every means at its disposal to obstruct the congressional investigation into Tillman's death and its aftermath.
  22. Pakistani forces have cooperated both passively and actively in numerous attacks on American and NATO troops -- notwithstanding the fact that Pakistan is a putative ally of the United States and that Islamabad has received more that $17 billion from Washington since September 2001 to fight al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
  23. Decades from now, when the president of the United States declares yet another war on some national adversary, a great many men (and more than a few women) will doubtless stream forth to enlist, just as eager to join the fight as the Americans who flocked to recruiting offices during the previous armed conflicts -- regardless of whether the war in question is a reckless blunder or vital to the survival of the Republic.
  24. The Oxford Companion to American Military History estimates that between 2 percent and 25 percent of the casualties in America's wars are attributable to friendly fire.
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