New Details on Pat Tillman's Death

From the time Army Ranger Cpl. Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004, the government's investigation, cover-ups, trickled lies, and invocations of security and privilege have made for a giant clusterfuck of a barrier to anything resembling the truth of what happened to him.

First, he was declared a hero, with the Army Special Ops claiming his unit had been ambushed by hostiles. Tillman was posthumously awarded a promotion, a Purple Heart, and a Silver Star, all based on a detailed account of a battle that never occurred, but had been invented out of whole cloth to solidify the myth that the well-known Tillman, who had given up a lucrative NFL career to join the military, had died a hero at the hands of the enemy.

But Tillman's family pressed for more details, probably because Pat's brother Kevin, also an Army Ranger and serving with Pat in the 2nd Platoon, A Company, 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, knew immediately, as did the other Rangers present that day, that Pat was killed by friendly fire. And so a new narrative began to emerge, one that had Tillman tragically falling at the hands of his comrades while desperately but futilely shouting that he was a "friendly," that he was "Pat fucking Tillman, damn it!"

Congressional hearings began on the cover-up, as the Tillman family pressed on for the whole truth; in his April 2007 testimony to the House Reform and Oversight Committee, Kevin Tillman explained: "We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family but more importantly the American public. … Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters ... so the truth needed to be suppressed."

And now, slowly, does the truth nonetheless push its way into the sunlight.

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
In other words, it appears that Tillman was not simply killed in a tragic accident by friendly fire, but killed deliberately by his fellow soldiers.

The medical examiners' suspicions were found in over 2,000 pages of testimony acquired from the Defense Department by the AP via a Freedom of Information Act request. Also found, most damningly, was the total absence of evidence of enemy fire at the scene—"no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck"—and congratulatory emails sent between Army attorneys for "keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments." Details of the day Pat died, long treated as truth, have also been undermined:
It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again.

But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.

The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, "crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."
Nothing Pat's family—nor the public—has been told can be presumed to be true.

Congress is preparing for another hearing next week, with "questions lingering about how high in the Bush administration the deception reached." The House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform has requested documents detailing communications between the White House and the Pentagon immediately after Tillman's death, but the White House refuses to comply, citing, naturally, executive privilege.

The White House has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussion of the friendly-fire shooting "implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests."
Never mind that unassailable "confidentiality interests" seems simply to be, in this case (and countless others), shorthand for "the ability to lie with impunity to protect our asses," which is not a guaranteed right of the White House.

"The bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away." This soldier was very likely murdered. Our White House doesn't seem to care, except insomuch as its attempts to cover up his murder may be exposed. And, meanwhile, justice for Pat Tillman—atheist, Chomsky fan, avid reader, liberal—isn't of much interest to the war-supporting shouters of "Support the troops!" who themselves are busily trying to destroy another solider who doesn't conveniently fit their definition of what an American soldier should be.

Justice for Pat Tillman, and the truth being told to a nation who mourns him, seems, curiously, to be a uniquely progressive pursuit.

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