Monday, May 23, 2005

THE WASHINGTON POST has a piece about Pat Tillman's parents, and the anger they feel toward the military and toward the Bush administration for covering up the real circumstances of their son's death and only telling them the truth after they had used Tillman for public relations points. The Tillmans feel that even now they are being lied to, and that they will never know the entire truth of what happened.

Mary Tillman keeps her son's wedding album in the living room of the house where he grew up, and his Arizona State University football jersey, still dirty from the 1997 Rose Bowl game, hangs in a nearby closet. With each new version of events, her mind swirls with new theories about what really happened and why. She questions how an elite Army unit could gun down its most recognizable member at such close range. She dwells on distances and boulders and piles of documents and the words of frenzied men.

"It makes you feel like you're losing your mind in a way," she said. "You imagine things. When you don't know the truth, certain details can be blown out of proportion. The truth may be painful, but it's the truth. You start to contrive all these scenarios that could have taken place because they just kept lying. If you feel you're being lied to, you can never put it to rest."

Patrick Tillman Sr. believes he will never get the truth, and he says he is resigned to that now. But he wants everyone in the chain of command, from Tillman's direct supervisors to the one-star general who conducted the latest investigation, to face discipline for "dishonorable acts." He also said the soldiers who killed his son have not been adequately punished.

Earlier in the article, Tillman's father calls his son's death a "botched homicide investigation"; apparently he thinks that Tillman's fellow soldiers killed him deliberately. I don't know if that's true; it's certainly not impossible. What is undeniable at this point is that the mission was misconceived and mismanaged from the start, and that serious errors in judgment were made by higher-ups. Given that reality, it seems entirely possible and even plausible that when Tillman was killed in a hail of gunfire from his own side, it was caused by the miscommunications and confusion that resulted from a series of very bad decisions, and not because Tillman's buddies meant to kill him.

It's hard to fault Tillman's parents for believing it was homicide, though. Like Mary Tillman said, when you're lied to, you don't know what's true anymore. Why should the Tillmans believe anything the government tells them about their son now, when they were told lies for so long?

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