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Tuesday, March 21, 2006

Hey George, you messed with the wrong military family
Posted by Jill | 7:06 AM

George W. Bush is going to rue the day he ever decided to use Patrick K. Tillman's son to warflog his adventure in Iraq. Because the Tillman family is not going to sit down and they are not going to shut up....nor should they:

Patrick K. Tillman stood outside his law office here, staring intently at a yellow house across the street, just over 70 yards away. That, he recalled, is how far away his eldest son, Pat, who gave up a successful N.F.L. career to become an Army Ranger, was standing from his fellow Rangers when they shot him dead in Afghanistan almost two years ago.

"I could hit that house with a rock," Mr. Tillman said. "You can see every last detail on that place, everything, and you're telling me they couldn't see Pat?"


"All I asked for is what happened to my son, and it has been lie after lie after lie," said Mr. Tillman, explaining that he believed the matter should remain "between me and the military" but that he had grown too troubled to keep silent.

Senior military officials said Defense Secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld had expressed outrage to top aides that the Army was having to conduct yet another inquiry into the shooting, prolonging the family's anguish and underscoring the failure of the Army's investigative processes to bring resolution.

Gary Comerford, a spokesman for the inspector general, said the Army Criminal Investigation Command was "dealing with events leading up to the death, and we're looking at anything after that." Though Mr. Comerford did not say so, that could include the possibility of a cover-up, the Tillmans said they had been told by the inspector general's office.

No one wants answers more than the Tillmans. But by now, they said, they have lost patience and faith that any Army entity, even the Criminal Investigation Command, can be trusted to find the truth.

"I am sitting here on my own, going over and over and over this for two years," Ms. Tillman, 50, said in a telephone interview. "The whole thing is such a debacle. I am beyond tears. It's killing me."

Like her former husband, she has spent days reading the files, researching the episode, calling members of Congress, even trying to contact some of the soldiers involved. She criticized the military, as well as the news media, for failing to get to the bottom of what occurred, leaving her family, in essence, to figure it out themselves.

All of it, her former husband said, has even left him suspicious of the military's central finding in their son's case so far: that the killing was a terrible but unintentional accident.

"There is so much nonstandard conduct, both before and after Pat was killed, that you have to start to wonder," Mr. Tillman said. "How much effort would you put into hiding an accident? Why do you need to hide an accident?"


After the shooting, the Rangers destroyed evidence that would be considered critical in any criminal case, the records show. They burned Corporal Tillman's uniform and his body armor.

Months later, the Rangers involved said they did not intend to destroy evidence. "It was a hygiene issue," one soldier wrote. "They were starting to stink."

Another soldier involved offered a slightly different take, saying "the uniform and equipment had blood on them and it would stir emotion" that needed to be suppressed until the Rangers finished their work overseas.

"How could they do that?" Mr. Tillman said. "That makes no sense."

The family still wants to know, he said, what became of Corporal Tillman's diary. It was never returned to the family, he said.

Ms. Tillman said her family could not rest until they knew what really happened. All of it, Ms. Tillman said, has left her wondering what other families who have lost service members in Iraq and Afghanistan may really know about the circumstances. In addition to Corporal Tillman, at least 16 service members have died in Afghanistan and Iraq as a result of shootings or bombings by fellow Americans, and none of the deaths, so far, have led to criminal convictions.

"This is how they treat a family of a high-profile individual," she said. "How are they treating others?"

Exactly. So here's the question: Did someone want Pat Tillman dead, and if so, why? We know that Tillman was no warflogging conservative, but instead admired Noam Chomsky. Was he planning to communicate what was really going on over there? Or is it simple incompetence and an inadequately trained unit? And if that's the case, why the destruction of not just Tillman's uniform, but also the diary in which he may have revealed his innermost thoughts and observations about what he experienced and what he saw?

Why WAS Pat Tillman silenced, anyway?

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