More Editorials Join Call for Probe of Tillman ‘Coverup’

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By: E&P Staff

Three newspapers joined The New York Times today (see separate story on this site) in calling for a further probe of the death — and surrounding coverup — of former NFL star Pat Tillman in Afghanistian in 2004.

Excerpts follow.

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The Miami Herald:

Two Pentagon reports on the killing of Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan in 2004 make it clear that military officials engaged in a cynical hoax when they turned this friendly-fire incident into a heroic tale. In the process, the soldier’s family was ill-used, the American public was rudely deceived and everyone in the chain of command was embarrassed. The incident cries out for a congressional investigation….

The most serious accusations involve Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., who learned of the real nature of Cpl. Tillman’s death two days after it happened but told investigators he didn’t learn of it until a week later. Meanwhile, he and others continued to burnish the Tillman legend until the real story began to emerge.

Under the circumstances, it is hard to believe, as one of this week’s reports by the Pentagon declared, that no cover-up was involved. The claim, however, is part of a consistent pattern of minimizing the damage that has been done. Gen. William S. Wallace, commander of the Army’s training command, has been ordered to review the case and decide what disciplinary action is needed. We hope his ultimate decision does not follow this shameful pattern and instead holds those who are guilty of wrongdoing accountable for their conduct.

Lies were told. There was apparent destruction of evidence and professional misconduct. A fraudulent award was made. These are not mere errors in judgment – “critical errors,” to quote from one of the Pentagon reports this week – but rather actions that suggest malfeasance.

Ultimately, Congress needs to hold hearings to find out why it took the Pentagon three years to get this far. Congress also should look beyond the uniforms and ask the civilians who were running the Pentagon what they knew about this elaborate charade and when they knew it.

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The New York Daily News:

Pat Tillman was an emblem of patriotism, courage, self-sacrifice and honor above riches. He gave up pro football to join the Army, was killed in Afghanistan in 2004 and was held up justly as a hero.

And the brass betrayed him by issuing a false account of how he died, rather than report in honorable fashion that Tillman had been felled by friendly fire. As acting Army Secretary Peter Geren said Monday of this disgrace, “We as an Army failed in our duty to the Tillman family, the duty we owe to all the families of our fallen.”

That duty is simply to tell the truth.

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The San Jose Mercury News:

The Army has failed utterly to come to grips with its mishandling of the “friendly fire” death of San Jose’s Pat Tillman. Now Congress must step in.

Tillman’s family deserves an accounting, but that’s not the only reason for congressional hearings. The credibility of the military is at stake.

Tillman’s death in Afghanistan in April 2004 at first was reported as combat heroism. But weeks after his memorial service, his family was told he had been killed accidentally by his own comrades. That began the family’s fight to learn what actually happened and why the truth was hidden.

The latest report released Monday was supposed to be the Army’s definitive answer. Instead, as the family and local Congressman Mike Honda said, it raised more questions. Honda asked the House Armed Services Committee to convene hearings. The sooner, the better.

Tillman was a popular NFL player when he enlisted to become an Army Ranger after Sept. 11, 2001. If truth is so elusive in this high-profile case, who knows what misrepresentations or outright lies are routinely promulgated by the military to cover up failures? Military families deserve better.

With each of several reports over the past three years, revelations showed more Army personnel from the lowest to the highest ranks had known immediately, or soon after, how Tillman died. Monday’s report spreads the knowledge to four generals.

It concludes there was no conspiracy to conceal the facts, but it fails to explain why nobody came clean. The report says people could not explain their silence – as if that’s an answer. An explanation is precisely what investigations are supposed to produce.

Friendly-fire deaths are a fact of war. It was the failure to acknowledge what happened that raised suspicions of negligence or deeper culpability in this case. Through its continued failure to explain its misinformation, the Army has kept alive those suspicions and further damaged its credibility.

What does not change is the reverence felt by Pat Tillman’s family and by this community for the soldier’s sacrifice. Giving up a dream career in the NFL to answer the call of patriotism, he became an inspiration to us all. The tragedy of his death is etched in our consciousness.

Sadly, so is the Army’s botched accounting.

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Related E&P Stories:

‘NYT’ Backs Congressional Probe of Pat Tillman Case

The Pat Tillman Case Reaches a Climax: ‘They Blew Up Their Poster Boy’

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