Sick of reading about Stanley McChrystal yet? Brace yourself. The newly retired general won't be getting in many relaxing golf games or afternoon naps anytime soon—at least not if a new documentary about the death of professional football player turned Army ranger Pat Tillman has any say about it. In the film, which will open next month, documentarian Amir Bar Lev explores the mythmaking by both the government and the media following the death of Tillman, who was killed in Afghanistan in 2004. Bar Lev points his finger directly at McChrystal for perpetuating what the Tillman family believes is a massive, ongoing cover-up. Initial accounts claimed Tillman was shot in an ambush by Taliban fighters; later the government admitted he was killed by friendly fire. In the documentary, Tillman's parents allege the government is still lying about what really happened the day Tillman died, and has used their son's death to further its pro-war agenda.
After Tillman's death, McChrystal, who doesn't appear in the film, was involved in the decision to award Tillman a posthumous Silver Star for valor, based on the report that he had died under enemy fire. McChrystal then sent a memo to several top generals and to White House personnel warning that there might be questions about Tillman's death and cautioning speechwriters against making direct reference to what happened the day Tillman died in President Bush's speech for the White House Correspondents' Dinner.
One of the most disheartening scenes in the film is the footage from a 2007 congressional hearing featuring recipients of McChrystal's memo. One by one, the military brass, including Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, come up with one excuse or another for why they, literally, "didn't get the memo." (Gen. John Abizaid blames a faulty fax machine—a crazy notion until you realize that this is the Army.) No one, including McChrystal, takes responsibility for the alleged cover-up; the Army continues to insist blame lies solely with Lt. Gen. Phillip Kensinger, who was in charge of the Army Rangers and is conveniently the only general involved in the situation who is retired.
By the time The Tillman Story comes out in August, McChrystal will be a civilian as well. Maybe, at that point, he'll be as forthcoming about what the Army really knew about Pat Tillman’s death as he was in his career-killing interview with Rolling Stone. Or maybe further requests for clarification about Tillman will be mysteriously lost by one of those darn unreliable fax machines.