Yale Dems pull support for war documentary

The Yale College Democrats have withdrawn their sponsorship of a screening of “The Tillman Story,”a documentary about the military cover-up of football star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman’s 2004 death in Afghanistan, out of concern that the screening is meant to demonize retired Gen. Stanley McChrystal, who is teaching a course at Yale this fall.

A publicist working with the film’s director contacted the Dems in August about sponsoring the screening, which will be held Sept. 11 at the Whitney Humanities Center and will be followed by a town hall discussion. But upon receiving more press materials, which called the screening a “teachable moment” in light of McChrystal’s new position at Yale, Dems President Ben Stango ’11 said he feared the event would focus on McChrystal as a “bad guy.”

“Clearly the aim was to make this about McChrystal, and that wasn’t something that we were going to sponsor,”Stango said.

Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in 2004 in Afghanistan, where McChrystal was commander of a Special Operations task force at the time, but the military originally presented his death a result of enemy combat.

Stango said his organization supports the film and its message, but that the Dems, who he said consulted Yale faculty and other advisors about the decision, did not want to use the event as a means to protest McChrystal.

“The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes,” Stango said. “We do not attack members of the Yale faculty.”

Yale announced McChrystal’s appointment as a senior fellow in the Jackson Institute for Global Affairs in August, just two months after he was relieved of his command for comments he and his staff made to Rolling Stone magazine that insulted top White House officials. McChrystalis teaching a graduate seminar on leadership this fall.

The film’s director, Amir Bar-Lev, said in an interview that he respects the Dems’ positionbut that “it’s an issue of standards of leadership — the absolute arrogance that Gen.McChrystal showed in his lies before, not only after Tillman death, but as recent at his confirmation hearing for Obama. That kind of arrogance is something that I would challenge anybody to defend. Gen.McChrystal or anybody.”

University spokesman Tom Conroy said everyone has a right to protest and that Yale students will benefit from learning from someone like McChrystal.

Film Studies professor Charles Musser, who will be speaking with Bar-Lev at the screening, said he is gladthe film is being shown at Yale and that it hasbeen positively received in the press.

“I think that I understand why they decided to withdraw, and I think the context of the film studies program can provide a better framework or context for presentation of the film,” he added.

Musser, who invited Bar-Lev to attend, said the screening is no different from other screenings of documentary films Yale holds frequently. Just this month, there will be showings offour other documentary films on campus.

“I think that the film will speak for itself, and what people take from the film and how people want to frame the film is something we can all discuss,” Musser said.

The film is set to screen at at 7 p.m.


  • comment

    Yale Dems are so lame! It is spineless and immoral to avoid taking a stand in order to preserve campus decorum. So what? McChrystal is teaching a class–does that mean we all should support him? He is a war criminal and a reprehensible human being. I am embarrassed that he has been giving a teaching position at the university, and saddened at the rubbery political turnabout of the Yale Dems. Lame lame lame.

  • rhedbobbin

    *“The Yale College Democrats do not attack war heroes,” Stango said. “We do not attack members of the Yale faculty.”*

    This is an embarrassing statement for the Yale Dems. Why does Stango construe the film and discussion as an “attack”? Why does he refer to the general as a member of Yale’s faculty in lieu of his much larger role as a prosecutor of our nation’s wars? Just to avoid debate? Apparently the Yale Dems assume our student body is not better served by discussion of complicated issues. Thanks for looking out for us, guys!

    The statement above also suggests the “war hero” he is referring to is McChrystal, not Tillman. That weird in slip in itself says a lot about the Yale Dems. I found it shocking that McChrystal was here to teach a seminar on ‘leadership’ coming on the heels of his willful abnegation of duty and honor showcased in the Rolling Stone piece. But for Stango to justify canceling Yale Dem support in those terms is absurd, pineless, and an embarrassment to anyone (even mildly) Dem oriented at Yale..

  • JackJ

    Shouldn’t the group have previewed the documentary before deciding? This sort of amounts to pre-censorship. It’s also a little like closing your eyes before a scary scene in the movie. The scene still happens whether you close your eyes or not. If the documentary depicts Gen McChrystal as a “bad guy” closing your eyes won’t stop it nor will it garner other than critical comments for Yale and especially the Yale College Democrats.

    To some this would be seen as a propitious opportunity to have a useful and productive dialogue regarding a variety of topics including but not limited to Afghanistan, use of conventional forces in the fight against “terrorism,” the burdens, perils and shifting sands of leadership, the effects of modern media on day to day governance, et alia.

    This situation presents a perfect teaching and learning moment. Not to use it would be to squander a rare opportunity.

  • guymontag425

    Amir Bar-Lev, the director of “The Tillman Story,” said: “… there’s been no culpability on the second half of this tragedy, which is the higher ups trying to cover it up. … to borrow a football metaphor, they [the Tillman family] ran the ball 99 yards over four years time, they handed it off at the one-yard line to Congress and they fumbled it….”

    However, the film doesn’t tell the ”untold story” that both the Democratic Congress and the Obama Presidency shielded General Stanley McChrystal from scrutiny and punishment for his central role in the cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death. This cover-up was a thoroughly bi-partisan affair. It wasn’t just a case of the Bush administration and the Army stonewalling the Democratic Congress. Congress didn’t just “fumble” the ball, they threw the game.

    It’s not surprising that after their initial cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death fell apart, Army officers and the Bush administration lied to protect their careers. But after they took control of both Houses of Congress in 2006, the Democrats (including Congressman Waxman, Senator Levin, and Senator Webb) and Republicans such as Senator McCain could have gone after those responsible. Or at least not promoted them twice!

    Just before the 2006 mid-term elections, Kevin Tillman published his eloquent letter, “After Pat’s Birthday”. Kevin had hoped a Democratic Congress would bring accountability back to our country. But, just as with warrantless wiretapping and torture, those responsible for the cover-up of his brother’s friendly-fire death have never been held accountable for their actions.

    If you’ld like to learn more , a couple of weeks ago I posted my 160 page “book”, “The [Untold] Tillman Story” — President Obama & the Bipartisan Congressional Whitewash of Gen. McChrystal’s Key Role in the Cover-up of Pat Tillman’s Friendly-Fire Death, at http://www.feralfirefighter.blogspot.com

    SSGT Co. “F” (Ranger) 425th Infantry 1983 –1991

  • jugurtha656

    this is seriously pathetic. What would the Yale Dems of the Vietnam era think of this weaksauce?

  • observer

    How very Yale-like.

  • theantiyale

    **Chilling your OWN freedom of thought. Interesting idea at a university.