‘San Fran Chronicle’ Probes Pat Tillman’s Death, and Life

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By: E&P Staff

For a lengthy page one probe of the life and death of former pro football star Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, the San Francisco Chronicle examined more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Tillman’s family members and soldiers who served with him. Sunday’s article by Robert Collier said the newspaper ?found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military?s attempt at self-protection.?

While the Tillman controversy has gained international attention, it’s a local story for the Chronicle because he hailed from, and his family lives in, nearby San Jose.

The Pentagon belatedly confirmed that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire last year in Afghanistan. His family hopes a new inquiry launched by the Pentagon in August will answer some of their questions, for example, why testimony was changed and why the military waited five weeks to notify the family of the friendly-fire aspect.

?There have been so many discrepancies so far that it?s hard to know what to believe,? his mother, Mary Tillman, told Collier. ?There are too many murky details.? The files the family received from the Army in March were heavily censored.

The Chronicle also revealed that interviews ?show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought, and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.?

The massive Chronicle article contains the testimony of a colleague who watched him die: “I could hear the pain in his voice as he called out, ‘Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat f?ing Tillman, dammit.’? Tillman said this over and over until he stopped, having been hit by three bullets in the forehead.

After 9/11, Tillman decided to give up his career, saying he wanted to fight al-Qaeda and help find Osama bin Laden.

A colleague who served with Tillman for more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, said: ?We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. … We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f? illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.?

Another soldier in the platoon said Tillman urged him to vote in the 2004 election for Sen. John Kerry.

The Chronicle article can be found here.

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