By: E&P Staff
A belated military report released today concludes (see other stories) that former NFL star Pat Tillman, who died in Afghanistan in 2004, was not the victim of foul play by fellow troops, and no one engaged in an organized cover-up of what transpired.
Tillman’s family firmly rejected the Defense Department’s findings, calling for congressional investigations and press probings into what they see as broad malfeasance and a coverup.
“Perhaps subpoenas are necessary to elicit candor and accuracy from the military,” his family said in a statement Monday night, after hearing the results of the latest probes.
The men who shot Tillman have always claimed the April 22, 2004, incident was a terrible mistake in the fog of war, and the Army officially agreed Monday, declining to press charges. But possible punishments still hang over several high-ranking officers who allegedly botched the investigations and key administrative tasks.
Nine Army officers, including four generals, made errors in reporting the friendly fire death to their superiors and to the Tillman family, the Pentagon said. Defense officials said one or more of those officers who provided misleading information as the military investigated could be charged with a crime.
Late Monday, Tillman’s family released the following statement, following a briefing the family received from Pentagon officials. The family expressed extreme disappointment in the findings and said this fit a pattern of cover-up by the military and this administration.
“Now we ask the assistance of Congress and the press,” the family members explained.
Our family will continue to pursue the full truth about the circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death and the so-called “missteps” of the Army, the Department of Defense, and this administration.
The briefing we just received was unsatisfactory.
The characterization of criminal negligence, professional misconduct, battlefield incompetence, concealment and destruction of evidence, deliberate deception, and conspiracy to deceive are not “missteps.”
These actions are malfeasance.
In our opinion, this attempt to impose closure by slapping the wrists of a few officers and enlisted men is yet another bureaucratic entrenchment.
The Army continues to deny the family, and the public that pays for the Army with its taxes, access to the original investigation and the sworn statements from that investigation, conducted by Capt. Richard Scott, former commander of Headquarters and Headquarters Company, 2nd Ranger Battalion.
His investigation contained the unaltered statements, taken when memories were still fresh, by witnesses to the events surrounding Pat’s death.
We know from subsequent sworn statements that more than one of the original statements was altered, after Captain Scott’s investigation “disappeared.”
This is not a misstep.
It is evidence-tampering.
The Army has yet to provide the family with a copy of the original narrative required by Army Regulation to support the award of the Silver Star.
While they admitted today that there were improprieties in the submission of the award, they appear to have intentionally stopped short in every single “misstep” of actual criminal actions.
Submitting fraudulent awards is a crime.
More than one person participating in the construction of a fraudulent award is conspiracy.
The general officer who appears to bear the brunt of this so-called investigation is Lt Gen. Kensinger.
While he is not blameless, we believe he is the pawn being sacrificed to protect the king, that king being secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld.
Investigators from the Army … tell us that Secretary Rumsfeld was not even aware that Pat’s death was friendly fire for almost a month.
Anyone familiar with former Secretary Rumsfeld’s reputation as an unforgiving micromanager must find this claim to be extremely disingenuous.
The Army regulation on the award of the Silver Star requires a detailed summary, elicited from witness statements, of the exact circumstances of the event which precipitates the award.
We know, from sworn statements, that the award was directed by then-Regimental Commander Col. James Nixon on April 23rd, before the unit with the witnesses had even returned from the field for debriefing.
We know, from sworn statements, that the original draft of the award falsely claimed that Pat was killed by enemy fire, when Pat was not subjected to enemy fire throughout the entire incident.
We know, from sworn statements, that the draft was changed to exclude explicit reference to enemy fire?probably as a precautionary legal measure?while maintaining the impression that Pat was killed in an intense firefight with the enemy … which he was not.
The Army can still not cite a single instance of any Silver Star, before Pat, that was awarded in the case of fratricide, when the subject of the award was never fired upon by the enemy.
No one who knew Pat ever doubted his physical or moral courage.
But the award of the Silver Star appears more than anything to be part of a cynical design to conceal the real events from the family and the public, while exploiting the death of our beloved Pat as a recruitment poster.
The characterization of this fraudulent award as a list of “deficiencies” has the powerful odor of intentional minimization to a level just below criminal, in a case for which the accumulation of errors and missteps has long past the laws of probability for coincidence.
Emails discovered in the conduct of investigations refer to a “Silver Star Game Plan.” This certainly at least suggests conspiracy.
The entire military, we believe, compelled by the Secretary of Defense’s office, was seeking to accentuate the positive and eliminate the negative, as it was embroiled in a huge tactical setback in Iraq in April 2004, and as the Pentagon was preparing to deal with the public affairs crisis engendered by the about-to-be-revealed horror stories from Abu Ghraib.
This investigation draws conclusions, conclusions that are meant to be implanted in the minds of the American public, that say the wrongdoing flowed from bottom to top.
We base our beliefs on the relentless pattern of the Bush administration of deception, evasion, and spin in the conduct of the entire dual-occupation of Iraq and Afghanistan.
We remain convinced that the priority of the Pentagon was to prevent the public knowing that Pat was killed by the military’s highest priority shock infantry unit; and that he was killed by a combination of shoddy leadership and clear violations of the Rules of Engagement, as well as violations of the Law of Land Warfare.
We detail only two major themes in a much larger story.
These themes exemplify the way this case has been handled, and the way it continues to be handled.
These examples show that we are not dealing with “missteps.”
There is an overpowering suggestion of violations of law, regulation, and policy that reaches from the vehicle that fired on Pat and took his life to the Office of the Secretary of Defense, who?with his reputation as a world-class micromanager?was certainly aware of every move made in this case.
In three years of struggling with the Pentagon’s public affairs apparatus, we have never been dealt with honestly.
We will now shift out efforts into Congress, to which we appeal for investigation.
Perhaps subpoenas are necessary to elicit candor and accuracy from the military.
We do not think that Pat’s notoriety?about which Pat himself was self-effacing?gives him a special qualification for Congressional attention.
But if that notoriety can serve as a catalyst to open dozens of cases?many of the families known to us?of troops who were killed in Iraq and Afghanistan by fratricide, and whose families, like us, were deceived about the circumstances of these deaths.
We believe Pat would approve of this.
These cases will further establish a pattern?now well-known by the American public?of spin and deception by the Pentagon and the administration it serves.
Our family has worked hard to stay out of the spotlight.
We have continued to hope that we might receive satisfactory answers from the Pentagon and the executive branch.
Now we ask the assistance of Congress and the press.
Human beings continue to be sacrificed on the altar of a dual foreign military occupation.
Thousands of Americans and Afghans, hundreds of US allies, and hundreds of thousands of Iraqis lives have been lost and shattered.
We say these things with disappointment and sadness for our country.
Nonetheless, we will persevere in our search for the truth.
The truth is not what we received today.
Once again, we are being used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise.
See E&P Editor Greg Mitchell’s latest “Pressing Issues” column on the Tillman “cover-up” on this Web site.
To readclick here.