Patrick Daniel "Pat" Tillman Jr. (November 6, 1976 – April 22, 2004) was an American football player who left his professional career, sacrificing a multi-million-dollar salary to enlist in the US Army in the aftermath of the September 11, 2001, attacks. He joined the Army Rangers and served several tours in combat before he died in the mountains of Afghanistan.|
The Army at first reported that Tillman had been killed by enemy fire, and Lieutenant General Stanley A. McChrystal approved the award of a Silver Star. The actual cause of Tillman's death was later revealed to be from friendly fire.
The Army initially claimed that Tillman and his unit were attacked in an apparent ambush on a road outside of the village of Sperah about 25 miles (40 km) southwest of Khost, near the Pakistan border. An Afghan militia soldier was killed, and two other Rangers were injured as well.
A report described in The Washington Post on May 4, 2005, prepared at the request of Tillman's family by Brigadier General Gary M. Jones revealed that in the days immediately following Tillman's death, Army investigators were aware that Tillman had been killed by friendly fire, shot three times in the forehead.
Jones reported that members of Tillman's unit burned his body armor and uniform in an apparent attempt to hide the fact that he was killed by friendly fire.
He also reported that senior Army commanders, including General John Abizaid, knew of this fact at the time but nevertheless approved the awarding of the Silver Star, Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion.
Tillman's family was not informed of the finding that he was killed by friendly fire until weeks after his memorial service, although at least some senior Army officers knew of that fact prior to the service. According to Krakauer in his book Where Men Win Glory, the extensive cover-up that followed his death included the military's order to Tillman's comrades to lie to his family at the funeral.|
Tillman's parents have sharply criticized the Army's handling of the incident; Tillman's father charges that the Army "purposely interfered in the investigation" because of the effect it could have on their recruiting efforts, while Tillman's mother charges that "this lie was to cover their image."
After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation; they covered it up. I believe they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about Tillman's death became public. They blew up their poster boy.
Tillman's brother Kevin Tillman testified at the same hearing that: "The deception surrounding this case was an insult to the family: but more importantly, its primary purpose was to deceive a whole nation. Once again, we have been used as props in a Pentagon public relations exercise."
One investigation of the autopsy report and photographs by two forensic pathologists in November 2006, concluded that Tillman was most likely killed as a result of fire from a M249 light machine gun, previously designated the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW). The M249 uses the same ammunition as the M16 but is capable of a substantially higher rate of fire. The higher rate of fire would have allowed for a competent user to place three bullets within a several-inch target from forty or fifty yards away, even from a moving vehicle.
On July 26, 2007, Chris Matthews reported on Hardball that Tillman's death may have been a case of deliberate murder by Tillman's fellow soldiers – specifically that the bullet holes were tight and neat, suggesting a shot at close range. Matthews based his speculation on a report from the doctors who examined Tillman's body.
The following day the Associated Press reported that a doctor who examined Tillman's body after his death wrote, "The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described," also noting that the wound entrances appeared as though he had been shot with an M16 rifle from fewer than 10 yards (9 m) away.
In addition, Defense Department documents indicate:
Doctors who tried to reconcile the forensic evidence with the official account urged that a criminal investigation be pursued, but they were rebuffed. What’s really suspicious, however, is that evidence of enemy fire at the scene was singularly lacking: no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any equipment damaged. According to numerous reports, there were no Taliban in the area.
In the light of all this, many have wondered aloud: what if that meeting with Chomsky had come off, as scheduled, and Tillman had arisen to become a vocal critic of the Iraq war – which he bitterly opposed – and had even become involved in politics? The War Party’s own propagandistic creation would have turned against them – a form of "blowback" that would have had a devastating effect on the effort to shore up support for our crazed foreign policy. Especially if Tillman teamed up with Democratic Party operatives, either to run for office himself or to endorse candidates opposed to the war.
Adding another layer of murk, the White House is claiming "executive privilege" in refusing to release documents dealing with Tillman’s death. But who is being protected?
How could someone who was apparently killed from 10 yards away, shot in the forehead by three bullets in very close proximity, be claimed first as killed by the enemy and then as a victim of "friendly fire" from 90 yards away?
Worse, it was later admitted there was no enemy attack, and no other wounds or injuries. How would it happen that "friendly fire" put three closely-packed bullets into the forehead of Pat Tillman but caused no other injuries or evidence of gunfire?
The doctor who autopsied Tillman’s body tried to pursue an investigation into the question of whether Tillman was murdered but was prevented from doing so by higher-ups at the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division. The motive for the murder would undoubtedly have been Tillman’s plans to return to the U.S. and become a vocal critic of the Afghanistan and Iraq invasions.
The evidence points directly to it and the motivation is clear – Tillman abandoned a lucrative career in pro-football immediately after 9/11 because he felt a rampaging patriotic urge to defend his country, and became a poster child for the war on terror as a result. But when he discovered that the invasion of Iraq was based on a mountain of lies and deceit and had nothing to do with defending America, he became infuriated and was ready to return home to become an anti-war hero.
During a July 2007 appearance on Keith Olbermann’s MSNBC show, four star General Wesley Clark stated that “the orders came from the very top” to cover-up the nature of Tillman’s death as he was a political symbol and his opposition to the war in Iraq would have rallied the population around supporting immediate withdrawal.
To almost all of us, of whatever political stripe, it would appear incredible, too impossible to believe, that a soldier would be killed by his own military because of a political threat that he posed. But another author writing in the context of the US propensity for torture, wrote, "These men of war are so morally deformed that anything is possible."
Still, the inventors pressed on. Aryanism’s spokeswoman, Ann Coulter, called Tillman "an American original: virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be," and claimed that Tillman "died bringing freedom and democracy to 28 million Afghans." His funeral was on national television, his death still being sold as a hero’s death from enemy fire. And Bush was on the Arizona Cardinals’ stadium Jumbotron telling a congregation all about Tillman’s "inspiration on and off the field."
That was before the San Francisco Chronicle’s investigation brought to light the military’s lies about Tillman’s killing, its shoddy investigations, and Tillman’s own feelings about the war in Iraq, where he served in 2003: "You know," he told a close army buddy, "this war is so f--- illegal." He was against Bush. He was a fan of Noam Chomsky, the nation’s leading anti-war crusader.
A new documentary set to hit the big screen this summer lifts the lid on the cover-up behind the death of Pat Tillman, the pro-football star who gave up a lucrative career to fight in Afghanistan and Iraq before preparing to return to the U.S. as an anti-war icon, at which point he was killed in a so-called friendly fire incident that more closely resembled a deliberate assassination.
Whether or not the documentary delves into the question of whether Tillman’s death was a targeted act of murder remains to be seen, but the evidence strongly indicates that Tillman was deliberately assassinated in order to prevent him from becoming an anti-war icon and derailing public support in the United States for the ongoing occupations of Iraq and Afghanistan.
Tillman sacrificed the good life and a multi-million dollar football career in the belief that he was defending his country from outside enemies, and soon after 9/11 turned down a contract offer of $3.6 million over three years from the Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army.