Monday, December 06, 2004

The Truth About Pat Tillman's Death

I caught the second part of a two-part series in the Washington Post about the circumstances surrounding the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan last April. At the time, we were told that Tillman had died in the line of fire bravely leading his men forward against the enemy after they attacked his unit. He was given a posthumous Silver Star for "combat valor."

Obviously, Tillman's courage is not in question. The man volunteered for duty in Afghanistan and by all accounts was a committed, professional, and valiant soldier. Unfortunately, the rosy account of how and why he died that the military presented to us is more fiction than truth. The real story is that he was killed by friendly fire, as the result of severe miscommunication, an ill-considered decision by a commander to split Tillman's platoon, and reckless, undisciplined shooting by Army Rangers in the other half of the split unit.

This is not a question of the true circumstances not being known until now, because at the time the rosy account was put out, the Army had already received at least 14 sworn statements from other members of Tillman's unit who saw what actually happened. One of the Rangers standing close to Tillman when he died told about how he (Tillman) shouted "Cease fire! Friendlies!" just before he was shot.

I don't understand why the military seems to believe it's better to lie and cover up the truth than to honestly and straightforwardly acknowledge that mistakes were made, and why. The truth always comes out eventually, and the fact that the military has deliberately misled family and friends, not to mention the American people, always makes them look worse than if they had simply told the truth in the first place.

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