Archive for Tuesday, July 31, 2007

Tragedy, truth

Hiding the truth about his death doesn’t honor the memory of Cpl. Pat Tillman.

July 31, 2007


The service of Pat Tillman, the NFL player turned U.S. Army Ranger, is continuing years after his death.

Tillman was an instant celebrity when he gave up a multimillion-dollar professional football contract to join the military after the 9/11 attacks. Although the death of every man or woman in the nation's military service is tragic, the nation was particularly moved when Tillman was shot and killed in combat in April 2004.

The loss of such a promising young man was bad news that has continued to get worse.

First, it was revealed - five weeks after his death - that Tillman had been killed by "friendly fire." Until then, the Army claimed he was killed by enemy fire. Pentagon officials described a chaotic scene in which U.S. troops became confused and inadvertently fired on Tillman's company.

Tillman's family, however, continued to be distressed by the lack of information and details they received from military sources. Even as they mourned their son and brother, they pressed their case to learn more about Pat's death.

Now, more tragic news has come to light. Documents turned over to the House Oversight Committee indicate that Army medical examiners had noted the close proximity of three bullet holes in Tillman's forehead. The location indicate the shots were fired at a much closer range than indicated in the original Army report. That raised the suspicion that Tillman's death might not have been an accident.

The criminal investigation conducted by the Pentagon questioned whether Tillman was disliked by his men or comrades and whether anyone had reason to deliberately kill him. The military probe concluded that Tillman's death was a tragic friendly-fire accident, but the most recent information certainly raises doubt about that determination.

Documents included e-mails in which Army attorneys congratulated one another for keeping criminal investigators at bay. A three-star general, who has since retired, told investigators about 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall any details of the incident. It also has come to light that U.S. Army snipers were in the convoy that fired on Tillman and his comrades and soldiers at the scene were ordered not to tell the truth about the death.

Is it any wonder that Tillman's family still doubts it is getting a full and truthful accounting of the events surrounding his death?

Tragic things happen in war, but to cover up and lie about those events compounds the tragedy as well as undermining Americans' confidence in their military leadership. The House Oversight Committee is scheduled to continue its hearings Wednesday on what senior Defense Department officials knew about Tillman's death. Witnesses who have been invited to testify include former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld; retired Gen. Richard Myers, former chairman of the joint chiefs of staff; and retired Gen. John Abizaid, former commander of the U.S. Central Command.

It certainly seems that these men should be able to shed some light on the Tillman case and the investigation that followed. Their willingness to share that information could go a long way toward regaining the trust of the American public and the Tillman family.


Tychoman 10 years, 9 months ago

Why is the death of a former NFL player getting so much more attention than any other soldier? Is it because of the friendly-fire coverup or because of his status? I doubt that this could be the only friendly fire incident in the whole campaign.

Bill Chapman 10 years, 9 months ago

It is not the only FF incident. There have been a few of them (around 6-10 involving ground troops, I believe). The reason this is getting so much attention is because the death involved a famous person in an elite unit, the cover-up, and the military's avoidance of discussing the whole issue.

dlkrm 10 years, 9 months ago

This is covered because Tillman was a hero before he got there. In no way do I mean to diminish the sacrifice of 18 year olds with no wealth who go to war, but Tillman was motivated solely by love of country, not career, and gave up millions of future NFL dollars to become a Ranger. They are all heroes, but Tillman had made a huge sacrifice before he even stepped off American soil.

Bill Chapman 10 years, 9 months ago

On an earlier postings:

Dracul (Anonymous) says:

Posted on April 21 at 3:23 a.m. (Suggest removal)

And members of the armed forces wonder why the common citizen doesn't always trust the military. . . . .

I have the greatest respect for the individual members of the armed forces - but crap like this will always come out. When it does, all it really accomplishes is the loss of the citizens' trust in the military. Friendly fire is bound to happen during any close quarter combat engagement - training can help prevent the occurrence, but it WILL happen eventually. The conditions of urban combat make it even more likely to happen due to the confined spaces and the unfamiliar areas. This is not the fault of the individual soldier, but the fault of misguided commander(s) attempting to prevent the bad press such an event always has(the fact that Tillman was a public figure just makes it worse).

Attempting to cover it up however, is worse than the actual friendly fire because it lowers the honor of the entire military.

On After Tillman's death, Army clamped down on information

Twisting the facts of his death to encourge recruitment is WORSE even than covering up the circumstances of his death. There needs to be a SERIOUS overhualling of the command structure involved in this - these (I can't call them soldiers) people (would call them worse) need a SERIOUS kick in the a$$ and one in the head as well.

This is going to hurt the armed forces more than all the deaths to date. I'm NOT minimizing the deaths of US soldiers with that last sentence ! I'm speaking about the EFFECTS of the deaths.

On Ranger says he was told to conceal cause of Tillman's death

Bill Chapman 10 years, 9 months ago

The reason I made the comment about twisting the facts is because I had just recently seen a recruitment ad on the T.V. that featured the fact that Tillman joined the military in the ad.

lmpaul 10 years, 9 months ago

So how long will we allow our government to keep our troops overseas?

stuckinthemiddle 10 years, 9 months ago

Accidently shot three times in the head from ten yards away?

The investigation needs to continue and the media needs to continue informing the public of new developments...

mick 10 years, 9 months ago

The military bragged about their ability to cover up the coroner's report. The coroner's report cited the possibility of murder. It was suspected that Tillman was going to come out as being against the occupation of Iraq.

Commenting has been disabled for this item.