Tuesday, June 14


Mary Tillman says, "The case of Pat's death is not closed, as the Army suggests."

The documents that Mary Tillman is referring to are gathered in a six-volume record of the military's investigation, which were recently made available to the family but not to the media or public. Although heavily redacted, including one wholly censored volume, the files I have read make unmistakably clear that the true cause of Tillman's death was known in the field shortly after he was killed and reported as fratricide up through the military command. Yet those facts were systematically kept from the family — including Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger, Kevin Tillman, who was serving in the same unit in Afghanistan — while a markedly inaccurate story played itself out in the world's media.

The publicly unreleased files also present major contradictions of fact and logic as to how this fratricide occurred, including questions about the decision to split Tillman's unit; why the shooting continued even after the identification of the target as friendly by the driver of the attack vehicle; what were the light conditions and distances involved; what was the medical treatment administered; and how was it decided to burn Tillman's clothes and body armor, which bore tell-tale markings of penetration by U.S. ammunition.

The files also make plain that in the rush to honor Tillman with the Silver Star before a much-publicized memorial service, the Army deliberately obfuscated the fact that Tillman was a victim of friendly fire — implying in the official press release that he had been killed by Taliban or Al Qaeda forces while taking "the fight to the enemy forces … on the dominating high ground." In fact, no physical evidence was ever found that proves enemy fighters were even in the area.

None of this, of course, lessens the fact that Tillman died acting heroically in what he initially believed to be a battle with an enemy he had forsaken fame and fortune to fight.

That Bush has not acknowledged the controversy over Tillman's death, yet was so quick to invoke Tillman's heroism in the midst of the Abu Ghraib scandal and on the campaign trail, speaks volumes about how politicians exploit soldiers, both the living and the dead.


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