Sunday, September 25, 2005

Anatomy Of A Disgrace

Some readers may recall that I've written about Pat Tillman before. The San Francisco Chronicle is out with this must-read article that updates the story with new details. Some excerpts:
A Chronicle review of more than 2,000 pages of testimony, as well as interviews with Pat Tillman’s family members and soldiers who served with him, found contradictions, inaccuracies and what appears to be the military’s attempt at self-protection.

For example, the documents contain testimony of the first investigating officer alleging that Army officials allowed witnesses to change key details in their sworn statements so his finding that certain soldiers committed “gross negligence” could be softened.

Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.
The horrific description of his death at the hands of his fellow soldiers:
The soldier next to him testified: “I could hear the pain in his voice as he called out, ‘Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat f—ing Tillman, dammit.” He said this over and over until he stopped,” having been hit by three bullets in the forehead, killing him.

The soldier continued, “I then looked over at my side to see a river of blood coming down from where he was...I saw his head was gone.”
The political context of a deception:
Tillman’s death came at a sensitive time for the Bush administration — just a week before the Army’s abuse of prisoners at Abu Ghraib in Iraq became public and sparked a huge scandal. The Pentagon immediately announced that Tillman had died heroically in combat with the enemy, and President Bush hailed him as “an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”

His killing was widely reported by the media, including conservative commentators such as Ann Coulter, who called him “an American original — virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.” His May 3, 2004, memorial in San Jose drew 3,500 people and was nationally televised.

Not until five weeks later, as Tillman’s battalion was returning home, did officials inform the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by his fellow soldiers.
The fate of his superiors on the ground that day:
According to the documents and interviews, Capt. William Saunders, to whom platoon leader Uthlaut had protested splitting his troops, was allowed to change his testimony over a crucial detail — whether he had reported Uthlaut’s dissent to a higher ranking commander. In initial questioning, Saunders said he had done so, but when that apparently was contradicted by that commander’s testimony, Saunders was threatened with perjury charges. He was given immunity and allowed to change his prior testimony.

The regiment’s commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bailey, was promoted to colonel two months after the incident, and Saunders, who a source said received a reprimand, later was given authority to determine the punishment of those below him.
The handling of the physical evidence:
A soldier who on April 23 burned Tillman’s bullet riddled body armor — which would have been evidence in a friendly-fire investigation — testified that he did so because there was no doubt it was friendly fire that killed Tillman. Two days later, Tillman’s uniform and vest also were burned because they were soaked in blood and considered a biohazard. Tillman’s uniform also was burned.
And some interesting new background:
Yet other Tillman family members are less reluctant to show Tillman’s unique character, which was more complex than the public image of a gung-ho patriotic warrior. He started keeping a journal at 16 and continued the practice on the battlefield, writing in it regularly. (His journal was lost immediately after his death.) Mary Tillman said a friend of Pat’s even arranged a private meeting with Chomsky, the antiwar author, to take place after his return from Afghanistan — a meeting prevented by his death. She said that although he supported the Afghan war, believing it justified by the Sept. 11 attacks, “Pat was very critical of the whole Iraq war.”

Baer, who served with Tillman for more than a year in Iraq and Afghanistan, told one anecdote that took place during the March 2003 invasion as the Rangers moved up through southern Iraq.

“I can see it like a movie screen,” Baer said. “We were outside of (a city in southern Iraq) watching as bombs were dropping on the town. We were at an old air base, me, Kevin and Pat, we weren’t in the fight right then. We were talking. And Pat said, ‘You know, this war is so f— illegal.’ And we all said, ‘Yeah.’ That’s who he was. He totally was against Bush.”

Another soldier in the platoon, who asked not to be identified, said Pat urged him to vote for Bush’s Democratic opponent in the 2004 election, Sen. John Kerry.
The extent of the disgrace defies belief: the initial coverup of the way Tillman died, the harvesting of that death for political expedience as the Abu Ghraib story broke, the predictable promotions of those arguably responsible for what happened on the ground that day, the changing of crucial testimony, the destruction of physical evidence, and the willful, flat-out lies our political and military leadership told to Tillman's family and the American public.

In the context of Tillman's strong and openly-stated opinions about Bush and the war in Iraq, it's all more than a bit interesting.

106 Comments:

Anonymous scott_api said...

Interesting? Yes. Believable? Yes. Suprising? No. If the SF Chronicle verified their facts, then the question becomes is this the only conclusion those facts point to? Could the blood-soaked items be burned because they were a bio-hazard? It's possible. Is it Army policy? That is a very good question. Anyone know the answer to that one? I'd love to believe the Administration will sink this low, but I also firmly believe the adage -"never attribute to malice that which can be explained by incompetence".

9/25/2005 4:28 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

In the Army that we have today, I am not surprised.
An Army that encourages torture and lying in order to save the bud of general officers, is rotten to the core.
We have General Saunders lying with impunaty to Congress.
Every illegal decision is naturally the fault of sargents never the higher ups in the chain of command.

We are supposed to be proud of such an organization? Never mind the use of Iraqi civilians for target practice when they need to relief stress and the killing of journalists as an unstated policy.
What for a record for "an army with integrity".

The worst of it is that no one in Congress and MSM, sees it. The Administration would not see a manure pile even when they are sitting in it in 100 degree weather.

9/25/2005 4:31 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

and this is why i have said before, i am now ashamed to have ever served this country.

and i will never forgive it for this.

look in the mirror again folks, cause some of you voted this administration in for its second term.

stick a fork in us, we're done!

feral

9/25/2005 5:30 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

TCR, there is something I urge you to look at, though I myself won't go there:

"Visitors to the amateur porn website nowthatsfuckedup.com were given a much closer view of the action . . . Originally created as a site for men to share images of their sexual partners, this site has taken the concept of user-created content to a grim new low: US troops stationed in Iraq and Afghanistan are invited to display graphic battlefield photos apparently taken with their personal digital cameras. And thousands of people are logging on to take a look."

From http://billmon.org/archives/002187.html

also

http://billmon.org/archives/002188.html

This really is the end.. whether the end of the war or the end of America, depends on what people do with this information.

9/25/2005 5:33 PM  
Anonymous TuiMel said...

Oh, feral, I hope we indeed are NOT done. If this story is accurate, then the Army did exploit important elements of the American Mythology for political ends. But, it also seems possible that Pat Tillman did embody some of the elements of that Mythology and is worthy of some respect for that. Therefore, although the times are indeed dark and the incompetance of our present administration staggering, I refuse to accept that we are done.

9/25/2005 5:39 PM  
Anonymous JWC said...

I read the Billmon post referenced above and felt sick.... again. I come over hear and read about Tillman, and felt sick, again.

Yesterday I got ugly in a conversation with my younger brother who I love because he was/is a Bush supporter.

Heaven help our country. In the meantime I will do the best I can to take care of me and mine.

9/25/2005 6:19 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sad story. Sad that Jessica Lynch's story was exploited too. But look how the admin created fake news, sold it as real, regarding the Medicare Drug Plan. Follow the PR firms and the radical Republican trails and you should expect no less. I can't believe the Abu Ghraib torture is still going on. We have "Mission Accomplished", "Shock and Awe"; this administration is about the PR. Give Bush something to sell and he's great; but that's where it stops. But why should we be surprised, he did the same at Harken (Harken purchaed Spectrum 7 which was in financial distress; Harken put Bush on the board & gave him a chuck of stock because they wanted his family's connections) and with the group of investors that purchased the Texas Rangers. Bush is a salesman; he's the guy that goes to conventions with a drink in one hand and his arm around the guy he is trying to sell something to. He's a fun guy, but...

I'm working my way through the book, Squandered Victory and the author (snippet) "shows how the American effort to establish democracy in Iraq was hampered not only by insurgents and terrorists but also by a long chain of miscalculations, missed opportunities, and acts of ideological blindness that helped assure that the transition to independence would be neither peaceful nor entirely democratic. He brings us inside the Green Zone, into a world where ideals were often trumped by power politics and where U.S. officials routinely issued edicts that later had to be squared (at great cost) with Iraqi realities. His provocative and vivid account makes clear that Iraq -- and by extension, the United States -- will spend many years climbing its way out of the hole that was dug during the fourteen months of the American occupation."

Clearly this admin is all sales/propaganda, along with incompetency, extreme cronyism, they fail at execution. I fear there isn't a job that they wouldn't screwup.

9/25/2005 6:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

another great post...the biggest disgrace is the administration itself.
It seems like the disguise masking their ghoulish reality is finally coming
off. Just in time for halloween.

9/25/2005 10:33 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

anonymous said, re war photos at NTFU: This really is the end.. whether the end of the war or the end of America, depends on what people do with this information.

you got that right. it's good that you realize, however, that the information itself is not to blame for anything. i'm against the iraq war, but i've viewed those photos on NTFU - because i gotta know what i'm against. and there are photos there of random killings of, say, truck drivers. it makes you wonder how we're supposed to 'win' this when we can't even figure out who is killing who and why most of the time. there are photos of suicide bomber blood stretching up 3 stories of the building next to the Boom. it makes me wonder why, when Al Qaeda thrives on stateless chaos, we closed down one training camp (Afghanistan) only to start a much, much bigger one (Iraq). At this point, terrorists are getting the best training in urban warfare and terror that they could possibly get. I'm for finding these savage goatfuckers and killing them - as long as we know who "they" are, and as long as we're killing them in a way that guarantees we aren't swelling their ranks.

And this ain't it. The innocents caught in the crossfire won't forgive the US for 100 years.

9/25/2005 11:05 PM  
Anonymous King Bastard said...

It's sad that Pat Tillman died, but when you enlist in the Armed Forces, there is always the chance that you are going to die. That's why they give you guns. You also may not agree with the war, but you have pledged to serve in the war. That's part of the deal.

The Army probably did a poor job of spinning his death, but for centuries armies have always said their soldiers died in the line of duty when they sometimes met their untimely demise in other difficult or embarrassing ways, some of them not as galliant as they had hoped. Shit happens. Somehow calling it a bad war because Pat Tillman died because of friendly fire is missing the point -- his death isn't wrong, it's the reasons why we went into Iraq are wrong.

9/25/2005 11:28 PM  
Anonymous Joe Chip said...

Coulter was more on than she could ever have suspected. I almost cried reading this article. What a mensch!

9/25/2005 11:30 PM  
Anonymous Blake said...

So, a new portrait of Tillman, one has a critical-thinking and intelligent patriot, emerges. This story deserves real media attention after Tillman's loyalties and trust were so abused by the military as a recruiting tool.

The blogs need to stay on this story to ensure that its message reaches further.

9/26/2005 12:50 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

"His journal was lost immediately after his death."

9/26/2005 1:37 AM  
Blogger 277fia said...

Do you ever wonder what's going to happen when all the information is on the internet and newspapers have disappeard?

Google hired Don Senor to be its vice president of communications. Mr. Senor was the spokesperson for Centcom and the CPA.

9/26/2005 1:45 AM  
Blogger catastrophile said...

Thanks for finding this. I wanted to share the next article I read, specifically the last few lines which go very well with the grim implications of Tillman's story:

. . . the state fears the advocates of peace. It fears the truth, and those who tell the truth. It fears those who dare to judge the state by normal standards of morality.

The state fears you. Why? Because you hold the opinions that you do, and refuse to surrender your mind, your talents, your soul. By joining the resistance, you help thwart their plans. You help establish the basis for peace in the future. You help preserve and develop civilization, for the human family can only thrive in a setting of peace.

So I say to you: Keep making the sacrifice. Believe in peace. Proclaim peace. Stand up to the state. Be a dissident. Tell what is true. And do not fear the emperor-pirates. They, after all, fear you. For you help tilt the balance of history against their barbarism, and in favor of peace and freedom.

9/26/2005 3:03 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worth asking again, please.

>Do you ever wonder what's going to happen when all the information is on the internet and newspapers have disappeard?

>Google hired Don Senor to be its vice president of communications. Mr. Senor was the spokesperson for Centcom and the CPA.

Yup, based on various non-denial denials, their hiring practices, and their generally extreme secrecy, it seems likely that google is more problem than solution.

9/26/2005 4:09 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't mean to be cruel, but Pat Tillman let himself be used as a poster boy for American Adventurismby the "Volunteer Military" and he chose to play to the image Ms Coulter paints. She is right about his public image. As usual she has her head up her anus about what that really implies.

From my viewpoint there is very little heroism shown by those men and women in going to Iraq or Afghanistan. It reminds me of a previous illegal war; Those guys who said hell no to a compulsary draft and went to Canada or anywhere else except go to Vietnam. They were the heros not the guys like me that were forced into or drafted into the service. We had a choice then and knew the scoop then as we do now, that the war was not just.

And in those days the Military was made up of "citizen soldiers" not "professional warriors" as it is presently.

So our country once again is in someone else's sovereign territory trying to force our will on "slopeheads" or "towelheads" that are just trying to expel us from their country. I suspect in their place we would do the same.

Pat Tillman was in a position to know better than many of us what was and is going on and he wasn't drafted, he volunteered.

Not only was the action in Iraq illegal and morally corrupt, but it was stupidly unwarranted. Saddam had a function as a buffer and he repressed the radical islamic elements within Iraq. He certainly would have never allowed the mess we see today. In this case the devil we knew, was certainly better than the devil we got.

9/26/2005 4:55 AM  
Anonymous semper fubar said...

The extent of the disgrace defies belief: the initial coverup ..., the harvesting of that death for political expedience..., the predictable promotions of those arguably responsible for what happened..., the changing of crucial testimony, the destruction of physical evidence, and the willful, flat-out lies our political and military leadership told to ... the American public.

Pretty much sums up the whole Bush Presidency, doesn't it?

9/26/2005 7:11 AM  
Blogger cavanaghjam said...

It makes one pause at the number of anonymous honorable men and women who also enlisted in the just cause of rooting out al Qaeda only to be used in the old bait & switch, summarily posted to Iraq - an unjust, immoral, and illegal endeavor. Tillman saw the difference. It's a pity so few of the millionaire pundits do.

9/26/2005 7:41 AM  
Blogger Michael said...

Great, great stuff.


Good job, everybody.

9/26/2005 9:38 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Sorry, I know I'll come across like a conspiracy theorist, but Tillman's troop is split up, he's sent up a hill with an Afghanie in the daylight, and he's shot THREE TIMES in the forehead? All a week before the prison torture scandal breaks? Add in an elaborate cover-up where all of his superiors were promoted after the fact and it seems like more than just a spin job of an "unfortunate accident."

9/26/2005 10:44 AM  
Blogger Rumpled Foreskin said...

Sad is too soft a word. Disgraceful. Disgusting. Sickening.

Jesus! Where and when is this Shit Train going to end?

9/26/2005 10:45 AM  
Anonymous Seamus Ruah said...

"Jesus! Where and when is this Shit Train going to end?"

When the human race has snuffed it...

9/26/2005 12:05 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

voting republican in the next election? not me.

9/26/2005 12:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Will the left PLEASE stop humping the corpses of our dead? First Sheehan now Tillman. Here's a hint follks....you don't get to be an Army Ranger by being a complete moron and walking around spouting leftist phrases like "illegal war". You'd have been more credible if you'd left out the moonbat talking points.

9/26/2005 1:07 PM  
Blogger Roy said...

Does this mean that all of the vicious attacks dogs on the left (Yes, both sides have them) will now begin to exploit Tillmans death as that of the liberal hero. I am afraid that neither side can claim the moral high ground in this deepening political split in this country. Both sides exploit people and issues that support their ideas while attacking anything that threatens those ideas.

9/26/2005 1:13 PM  
Anonymous KevinNYC said...

Man, Google hired Dan Senor? ugly.

He always struck me as crisp efficient and completely amoral. He speaks not in talking points but in talking paragraphs. Here is Senor in Oct 2003 from a White House chat

Iraq is now a central front in the war on terror. Saddam Hussein's government was a state sponsor of terrorism. His government used weapons of mass destruction on his own people. There are terrorists in Iraq today engaging US forces because they know that if we are successful in building a free government in Iraq at peace with its own citizens, with its neighbors and serves as a model for the region and is no longer a threat to the United States, then the terrorists’ days are numbered.

If we choose to ignore terrorists in Iraq we will wind up hearing from them on our own soil. That is why success in the reconstruction of Iraq is so critical
........
Hospitals are open. Schools are open. Children are back at school. Iraqis are taking more and more responsibility for their security. There is a flourishing free press with over 160 Iraqi newspapers that have started up since liberation. There is a thriving small business free market with satellite dish stores, white good sales (refrigerators and appliances) on every street corner in downtown Baghdad.

95 percent of the country is at peace and returning to normal daily life. There is a tiny area of the country where remnants of the former regime and foreign terrorists are organizing against us. That is because they do not have a stake in a new free Iraq.
.........
It is the only independent judiciary of its kind in the region and this is one of the key pillars of a free, democratic society in addition to pillars like freedom of speech and freedom of religion -- both of which are also protected in the new Iraq.


I think that last quote is the bitterest, freedom of religion if you are a Shiite hardliner

9/26/2005 1:36 PM  
Anonymous KevinNYC said...

The article states that the guy(s) who killed Tillman were broken up by it and liked Tillman were among his biggest fans.

But that still leaves a big question, can you see a target well enough to shoot "three bullets in the forehead" without identifying him as a US Ranger? Perhaps they were dressed in the local fashion.

That also seems to mean that three different men shot him at the same time. That seems to me to be a situation where they took aim and fired simultaneously at someone's command.

Actually, now that I checked it again the article makes it explicit that multiple men fired at Tillman

“The guys who killed Pat were his biggest fans,”

It could have been more than three with some of them missing.

9/26/2005 1:46 PM  
Blogger copy editor said...

Great post.

This is absolutely horrible.

9/26/2005 1:49 PM  
Blogger Nathan said...

Thank you very much for point this article out. I live here in the bay area and was only associated to Pat through a friend of a friend type relationship, but I am very proud of him and folks like him who show loyalty as he did in his civilian life and dignity and courage as he did in his uniform.

There is too little of all these traits today as this tragic story I think displays.

9/26/2005 2:02 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It is easy for me to believe he was killed deliberately to create "news" at a very key moment.

9/26/2005 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

The (CEO) commander in chief is not accountable. So, why should the generals.

9/26/2005 5:25 PM  
Anonymous Aaron said...

Will the left PLEASE stop humping the corpses of our dead?

Only in the mind in a wingnut could angry parents demanding to know why their sons were killed be considered "humping the corpses of the dead." Of course, those same wingnuts have no problem with a government that makes up bald-faced lies in order to use their deaths as a recruitment tool, to and cover the asses of the people whose fuckups caused the deaths.

How do you Bush supporters sleep at night?

9/26/2005 6:09 PM  
Blogger New American Patriot said...

>How do you Bush supporters sleep at night?

Easy; it's because they don't give a shit.

If the topic's not about how to make more money or claw your way to the top of the food chain, they really don't give a good goddamn.

And THAT's why mere protesting is pointless. They're much more RUTHLESS than the average leftie, and proud of it.

Time to start fighting back. For example, if, at a Republican convention, a bouncer lays a hand on you, it's assault and you have the right to defend yourself -- if you don't know how to break an opponent's arm, mace works wonders.

Time we turn things up a notch, otherwise we're letting the nazi wing assure our extinction.

http://www.aliberaldose.blogspot.com

9/26/2005 11:57 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

kevinnyc made comments about 3 shots to the forehead. well, here is my point...

first, they said that Pat had been strafed by an M2 .50 machine gun, and area effect weapon.

now it is said that Pat took 3 to the forehead. An M2 would not do that, as I understand the functionality of the M2.

The M16A2 is designed to fire a 3 round burst. http://www.fas.org/man/dod-101/sys/land/m16.htm

So, then if it is true that the 3 shots were from a single burst of an M16A2, then no doubt the rifleman had a scope centered on Pats forehead.

9/27/2005 4:26 PM  
Anonymous Jim T. said...

GuntlessYellowElephant said:

"Will the left PLEASE stop humping the corpses of our dead?"

Sure, if you'll stop as well...

9/27/2005 4:56 PM  
Anonymous KevinNYC said...

The M16A2 is designed to fire a 3 round burst.

This is probably likelier three bullets from the same trigger pull. The article definitely quotes the soldier as talking in plural regarding the "guys" shooting at Tillman. So it could have multiple people firing at him and one scoring a direct hit.

9/27/2005 6:13 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

here's my take: his "greatest fans" were only pretending to be his pal at the behest of higher ups. He admired Chomsky? That's a red flag for sure.

9/27/2005 6:35 PM  
Blogger Kathy said...

I found you via Ragged Thots ... if you aren't aware, the Post did a three-part series last fall that has more details of what actually happened. (Warning, very graphic.) I've integrated the two reports, since their timelines differ slightly and they provide different details.

I just don't "get" being allowed to change your testimony to avoid a perjury charge. Only in the military, I supposse, can one revise a story -- either for one's personal benefit or to fit some higher-up goal.

9/28/2005 2:45 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"You'd have been more credible if you'd left out the moonbat talking points."

You'd have been more credible if you were the least bit familiar with military methods and legal implications of the Tillman case.

9/28/2005 11:55 PM  
Blogger SB Gypsy said...


New American Patriot said...

Time to start fighting back. For example, if, at a Republican convention, a bouncer lays a hand on you, it's assault and you have the right to defend yourself -- if you don't know how to break an opponent's arm, mace works wonders.

Oh, great, become them! This is not how to win this one. The use of violence on them will only justify their escalation of violence on us. Then civil disobedience becomes civil war, and we live in Baghdad.

I personally do not want to do that to America unless there's no other alternative. Bushco sucks, sucks the life out of our country, but I'd rather not distroy it in order to save it - like they're doing over there....

9/29/2005 6:24 AM  
Anonymous Beth D said...

Umm "Saddam had a function as a buffer and he repressed the radical islamic elements within Iraq. He certainly would have never allowed the mess we see today. In this case the devil we knew, was certainly better than the devil we got." That's because he was the radical islamic and killed thousands of his own people that didn't agree with him. Is that the government you are looking for?

9/29/2005 4:59 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Re: Pat Tillman

Sounds like the way Adolf and the Nazis handled the first of the great aces, Werner Molders. He was the man who helped devise modern fighter tactics and maneuvers that todays top guns still use and rose to command Germany's fighter arm. But he was a devout Christian and he openly condemned the Nazi regime. In 1941 another disillusioned legend Ernst Udet committed suicide and the Nazi's gave him a state funeral w/c Molders was supposed to be at. On the way home his plane crashed into the ground - it was supposedly an accident (pilot error) but who knows. Molders got a state funeral too.

So did Pat Tillman.

11/08/2005 8:41 PM  
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