A few weeks ago I wrote about Pat Tillman, the professional football player who gave up a multi-million dollar contract to fight the war on terrorism in Afghanistan. He was killed in Afghanistan, and the Bush Administration milked his death for all it was worth to build patriotism in America. This was all happening, by the way, while the Abu Ghraib torture scandal was unfolding. It was also happening while all along the Pentagon and White House knew that Tillman had died by friendly fire, but that was news the government didn’t want to get out because it would ruin the PR plan, including a nationally televised burial and other actions, such as Bush giving a special tribute via tape to Arizona Cardinal football fans prior to the presidential election.
I wrote about how the government knew he had died by friendly fire weeks in advance of telling his family and the public, and when this information was finally released it was buried deep in newspapers, if reported at all.
Fortunately, Tillman’s parents have spoken out. And it isn’t pretty. Here are some excerpts about this disgusting news (as reported by Josh White of the Washington Post):
Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan last year were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.
More than a year after their son was shot several times by his fellow Army Rangers on a craggy hillside near the Pakistani border, Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country. They say the Army's "lies" about what happened have made them suspicious, and that they are certain they will never get the full story.
"Pat had high ideals about the country; that's why he did what he did," Mary Tillman said in her first lengthy interview since her son's death. "The military let him down. The administration let him down. It was a sign of disrespect. The fact that he was the ultimate team player and he watched his own men kill him is absolutely heartbreaking and tragic. The fact that they lied about it afterward is disgusting."
Immediately, the Army kept the soldiers on the ground quiet and told Tillman's family and the public that he was killed by enemy fire while storming a hill, barking orders to his fellow Rangers. After a public memorial service, at which Tillman received the Silver Star, the Army told Tillman's family what had really happened, that he had been killed by his own men.
Patrick Tillman Sr., a San Jose lawyer, said he is furious about what he found in the volumes of witness statements and investigative documents the Army has given to the family. He decried what he calls a "botched homicide investigation" and blames high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.
"After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this," Patrick Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think 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 his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
That their son was famous opened up the situation to problems, the Tillmans say, in part because of the devastating public relations loss his death represented for the military. Mary Tillman says the government used her son for weeks after his death, perpetuating an untrue story to capitalize on his altruism -- just as the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was erupting publicly.
She said she was particularly offended when President Bush offered a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election last fall. She again felt as though her son was being used, something he never would have wanted.