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Military Moms and Families Speak out About Narcissists, Bad Leaders and Cover-ups

by Jim Taggart August 23, 2010

From Jim's blog Changing Winds

I occasionally watch CNN and happened to tune into Larry King on August 16. His guests that evening were family members of American soldiers killed as a result of fratricides in Afghanistan and Iraq. What drew me to the program was that one of the guests was Mary Tillman, mother of Pat Tillman who was, according to accounts I’ve read, shot in the back of the head during a firefight in Afghanistan in 2004. The compelling Tillman story is one of the vignettes I use in my Becoming a Holistic Leader e-book.

Initially Tillman, a former star college football player who turned down a $3.5 million offer from the NFL because he believed in serving his country in Iraq, was made out to be a hero. The fratricide was not something that the U.S. government wanted made public. Indeed, disgraced General Stanley McChrystal, who was fired by President Obama a few months ago, stands accused of overseeing the cover-up of how Pat Tillman actually died.

The Larry King interview was painful to watch. Other mothers were also part of the program, speaking about their sons’ deaths in combat. These women asked the question, why won’t the U.S. government own up to its mistakes? Mary Tillman, a grim-faced mother with iron resolve to get at the truth and to have it made public, stated that those connected to her son’s death and to numerous other fratricides are “narcissists,” and that “…it was an orchestrated cover-up.” She wants the truth told. Her 2008 book Boots on the Ground by Dusk is a blunt account of her son, warts and all. In a 2008 interview with USA Today she states: “Pat was all about integrity. There is absolutely no integrity in any of this.”

Of note to those interested in this subject. The new film The Tillman Story opened on August 20, 2010.

Karen Meredith, whose son was slain in a similar manner as Tillman, is frustrated and confused: “Why not tell the truth now?” she asked King. She believes that junior officers were partly responsible for putting her son and other young soldiers in dangerous situations.

I’ve recently written posts on two topics that can be applied to the issue of military leadership. Just How Smart Are You? Teaching Smart People How to Learn looked at the incredibly dumb and foolish mistakes supposedly well-educated people make in positions of authority and influence. There are clear applications to the Iraq and Afghanistan experiences with respect to how leadership has been practiced–or abused. More to the point is the issue of leading with integrity, of which I wrote about 11 Elements of Courage.

What I fail to understand is why do people strive to be promoted or elected to positions of authority and public trust, only to deceive their followers and citizens? On the issue of military leadership, why did Stanley McChrystal apparently engage in a cover-up of Pat Tillman’s death? Why did he later show absolute stupidity in making outrageous comments about President Obama and Vice President Joe Biden to Rolling Stone magazine? Forget your political affiliation; it has NO bearing here. You DON’T crap on the President of the United States–
the Commander in Chief–when you’re a general. Grow up! Where’s the intelligence, judgement and ethical conduct?

Please forgive me, but I can’t restrain myself from making a sidebar comment about the unbelievable lapse in judgement and grossly unethical conduct by former Illinois governor Rod Blagojevich. You couldn’t make a believable movie about this story, but yet a jury ended up deadlocked on all but one of 24 felony charges by an 11 to 1 vote last Tuesday. Blagojevich had been accused of racketeering, conspiracy, wire fraud, extortion and a litany of other crimes.

I love Chicago (fantastic city), and I suppose that given its history of crooked politicians and gangsters this is what we should expect. But it’s a very sad story when a manipulator like Mr. Blagojevich subsequently gets a reality show on TV because of his narcissistic skills in attracting attention to himself. What is America becoming?

End of tangent; back to our main story.

If this is what we’re to expect from senior political and bureaucratic leaders, then we’re in a heap of trouble as a society. Call me a country bumpkin if you wish, but I like to believe that there are people in America’s, Canada’s, Britain’s, etc. political systems who would rather fall on the proverbial sword than resort to reckless, unethical behavior.

These military moms and their families deserve to have the truth told to them about how their sons died halfway around the world, for a cause that was ostensibly about protecting America, while simultaneously bringing some form of democracy to their corrupt political systems, in which females in particular have been grossly abused and mistreated.

President Obama: you were highly critical of President G.W. Bush during his two-term tenure in the White House, most notably about how he pulled the United States into Iraq through deceit and how he let his guard down following the ouster of the Taliban in Afghanistan. Fair enough. Now it’s time to tell the truth about Pat Tillman and his peers.

Mr. President, do you have the moral courage to do so?

If fear alters your behavior, you’re already defeated. (Brenda Hammond)
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