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Truthdig Radio: Keep McChrystal Retired

Posted on Apr 13, 2011
Photo illustration from an image by Colin Grey

(Page 5)

Narda Zacchino: He was killed in Afghanistan on April 22nd, 2004, by his own troops. And his family was told initially, and had been told for five weeks—the military and the Bush administration held the truth hostage while they circulated this story and basically exploited Pat’s death to stoke patriotism, at a time when Abu Ghraib was about to break, a week later; Fallujah had been a disaster; April had been the worst month for soldiers killed in Iraq. And in fact, ironically, on April 22nd, the day he died, they had … it had become the worst month for soldiers being killed. And so … it was a terrible time in terms of PR for the administration. And when Pat was killed, can you imagine that being piled on top of everything else, if the truth had come out that it was, he was killed by his own troops?

Peter Scheer: And McChrystal is implicated in this cover-up.

Narda Zacchino: McChrystal had a big role in this. First of all, at the time of Pat’s death he was head of the Special Joint Operations Command, which is. …

Peter Scheer: Was a black ops, a black ops unit.


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Narda Zacchino: Exactly. Exactly, it’s been called the black ops unit of the military. And they do a lot of secret things, and we can only imagine what they’ve done. But in this case, McChrystal, immediately upon Pat’s death—and people knew it was friendly fire; McChrystal himself knew, within two days he knew. He probably knew even sooner. They immediately started—and he was in charge of this process, of giving Pat Tillman a Silver Star. Normally, soldiers don’t get a Silver Star if they’ve been killed in friendly fire. There has to be some valorous activity on their part, action on their part, to get a Silver Star. And people in the military take these medals very seriously, as you must know. So, in the case of Pat, McChrystal basically supervised this falsification and construction of Pat’s actions, and created this fantasy story; other officers created it and he kind of supervised it.

Peter Scheer: He also—he also sent a letter to President Bush warning him that if the—I’m quoting now from the “Runaway General” article, which quotes the letter: “If the circumstances of Corporal Tillman’s death become public,” he wrote, it could cause public embarrassment for the president.

Narda Zacchino: And the reason he wrote that memo—and I think we should stress the word if: he didn’t say when the true facts become known of Pat’s death; he said “if” they become known …

Peter Scheer: OK.

Narda Zacchino: … which really meant that they were going to try to milk this as long as they could. Unfortunately, five weeks after Pat died, the—his troops came back and they started talking about it, and they [officials] couldn’t keep a lid on it anymore. But in terms of the Silver Star, they wanted very much for Pat to, at his memorial service, to be memorialized as a big hero. And so they created this fabrication, and I’ll tell you—I’ll tell you how extensive it was. And this all came out, all the details came out in the inspector general’s report on this incident. And what happened was, there’s a policy in the Army that in order for someone to get a Silver Star, there have to be two witness statements, eyewitness statements, to the heroic action. In Pat’s case, they had come under an ambush; part of their unit had come under ambush, but it was nowhere near where Pat was. And he had gone up on the hill to—with some other troops to see if they could see where the firing was coming from. At the time that he was killed, there was absolutely no firing going on; the ambush had stopped. But according to the Silver Star commendation, it had statements from two of Pat’s fellow platoon members. One was a staff sergeant, and one was a private. These two people supposedly wrote these statements attesting to Pat’s heroism. One of them said that he sat down, they sat him down at a computer, and they had him write down what happened, and then they said to him all of a sudden, now you can leave the room. And he didn’t sign off; he didn’t get a copy of what he wrote; and he left the room. The other person doesn’t recall, the staff sergeant doesn’t recall, ever being asked for a statement. And so when they were shown these statements that they supposedly wrote, and they supposedly signed—when they were shown these statements by the inspector general—they said no, they didn’t do this, that they were falsified. So the inspector general concluded that these were falsified statements, they weren’t written or signed by the two people who supposedly did witness this, and so we can only—and that …

Peter Scheer: Well, what does this have to do with Stanley McChrystal?

Narda Zacchino: Because McChrystal was the one who oversaw the entire language, how it was written, and in fact the first version that he approved said that Pat was killed in hostile enemy fire, which he knew not to be true. And then when, as the internal investigation into Pat’s death went on, and it became clear that they couldn’t keep the lid on the friendly fire, they kind of massaged the language so it still left the impression that he was killed by the enemy, but it—but they took out that he was killed by the enemy.

Peter Scheer: So what—let’s just bring this around a little bit. What you’re objecting to is Stanley McChrystal being appointed to head a commission, the job of which is to provide comfort and aid to military families. And what you’re outlining is that he may have improperly helped Pat Tillman posthumously receive the Silver Star. Can you explain why a commendation like that brought discomfort to the Tillman family?

Narda Zacchino: The commendation itself did not bring discomfort, although they believe, and I’ve come to believe, that Pat would have been appalled to have been given the Silver Star when he didn’t essentially earn it. He did save the life of one of, of the young private next to him; he did save his life by making sure he was behind a boulder, that he didn’t put his head up, and Pat actually stood up at one point and he was shot. And … but the family was upset—and the reason I don’t think McChrystal deserves to be, you know, resurrected from the dustbin of military history is because he lied—he condoned falsification of a Silver Star commendation; he may have even had a hand in having somebody falsify it with these false statements. But he knew when he read it. He said the other day that if he had it to do all over again, he would do it differently, but he felt that his actions were acceptable. But he lied; he allowed the documents that were falsified to be submitted; he knew when Pat’s memorial service was being held that the Silver Star commendation was going to be read; in fact, they hurried it through to get it ready to read at his memorial. Pat’s memorial was broadcast on nationwide television. And they wanted that. And I just think he’s a man of disreputable character; you don’t want your top military leaders—especially people who’ve graduated from West Point, where honesty and integrity are supposed to be the hallmarks of military service—you don’t want somebody like that representing the military. And I don’t think that it was right—there are so many people who might have been a better candidate for this job. I think what I’m objecting to, and what the family objects to, is Obama’s judgment in—yeah, he [McChrystal] got fired from his job, for good reason, and he should’ve been left in retirement. And I think what we’re all questioning is Obama’s good judgment. …

Peter Scheer: Well, perhaps it’s a political calculation.

Narda Zacchino: Well, I think it is, because—I don’t know if you know, but the organization that is sponsoring this initiative is called the Center for a New American Security. And they get a tremendous amount of funding from the military-industrial complex—Lockheed Martin, General Dynamics, BAE, Boeing Co., those sorts of things. And I think that, you know—I can’t say for sure, but it’s possible that they, you know, helped pressure Obama to resurrect and to try to help …

Peter Scheer: Well, he loves to give an olive branch, Obama. He loves to compromise; he loves to reach across to old enemies—Hillary Clinton being an example, someone he had a bitter feud with. …

Narda Zacchino: Yes, but that was also politically wise on his part, to try to get the female vote, and that made sense. To me, the McChrystal thing doesn’t make sense. I think there are plenty of people in the military who were very ashamed of his actions, and especially—you know, this is the other thing, I think it’s worth mentioning, is Joe Biden’s wife is one of the—you know, she and Mrs. Obama are the two people who are chairs of this, who are—this is their initiative. And if you recall in that interview in Rolling Stone, what he said about Joe Biden, McChrystal? ...

Peter Scheer: Yes, very disparaging. Well, that’s all the time we have, but thank you so much for joining us, Narda Zacchino, who is a former associate [editor] and vice president of the Los Angeles Times and collaborator with Mary Tillman on “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” available at

Narda Zacchino: Thank you, Peter.

Peter Scheer: Thank you.

That’s it for this week. Check us out next Wednesday at 2, or anytime online at Thanks to all our guests, and thanks also to our board-op and engineer Stan Mizrahi. For Robert Scheer and the Truthdig team, thanks for listening.

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By Guy Montag, April 17, 2011 at 5:11 pm Link to this comment

In her paperback edition of “Boots on the Ground by Dusk” (at Mary Tillman wrote:

“McChrystal’s actions should have been grounds for firing.  That is why it was so disturbing to us when President Obama instead promoted McChrystal to the position of top commander in Afghanistan last year.  I had sent the President an email and a letter reminding him of McChrystal’s involvement in the cover-up of Pat’s death.”

“I also contacted the staffs of Senator Patrick Leahy and Senator James Webb and expressed my concerns.  I had several conversations with members of the staffs of both senators, but it was clear that neither senator wanted to get involved.” … [Senator]McCain was already publicly endorsing the McChrystal appointment before the hearing even began. … Sadly, McChrystal’s promotion had been sanctioned long before the hearing.  None of the congressmen pressed McChrysal about Pat’s case … or detainee abuse and torture at Camp Nama …”

“Over the last five years, the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the cover-up of Pat’s death.  Each time they’ve failed. … The Tillman Story illustrates the corruption, deception, and indifference that is systemic in our government. …

The cover-up of Pat’s death was orchestrated at the very highest levels of the Pentagon, and elsewhere in our government … the government didn’t just   lie to us; it lied to a nation.”
. . .

Mary Tillman was critical of President Obama’s 2009 nomination of Gen. McChrystal and the bipartisan Congressional failure to hold him accountable for his central role in the Army’s cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death.

Over the next five years, the ensuing Army & Congressional “investigations” were part of the bi-partisan whitewash which “exonerated” Gen. McChrystal and others involved of wrong-doing.

Besides the Bush Administration, some of the more prominent figures involved in the whitewash include:  Senator McCain, Senator Webb, Senator Levin, Congressman Waxman, President Obama, NYT reporter Thom Shanker, Washington Post’s Bob Woodward, and CNAS’s Andrew Exum.

For details, see “The [Untold] Tillman Story” at

And, Jon Krakauer whitewashed Obama’s and the Democratic Congress’s role in his book, but I’m not finished writing up that story yet.

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By Guy Montag, April 17, 2011 at 5:07 pm Link to this comment

Here are some excerpts from interviews with Amir Bar-Lev, the director of the documentary “The Tillman Story”:

“General McChrystal is just one of several high-ranking figures who’s never been called to account for his role, and the story continues to this very moment. He gets up there at his swearing-in [Senate confirmation hearing June 2, 2009] and basically says what has been said all along, which is, “I know what it looks like. I know that it looks like we deliberately covered it up, but believe us that it was this Rube Goldberg-esque chain of mistakes, blunders, and errors that look like a cover-up.” 

“The only f—-ing idiots who buy that, the only fools who believe that, are the mainstream press. It’s just so clear to everyone else, and it’s the equivalent of saying, “Honey, I know that it looks like I’m f—-ing your sister, but actually I dropped my wallet, and then my belt fell down, and she happened to be there.” That’s what the military has done in the Pat Tillman case.”

“The public perception is that (the Tillmans) have been apologized to over and over again ... it’s ludicrous,” Bar-Lev said. “The idea there was a mistake is itself a lie. It’s a Rube Goldberg explanation. They (the military officials) say there was never any deliberate attempt to deceive anybody.” … “How somebody can get away with a lie that’s worse than ‘the dog ate my homework’ and that he would be put in charge of the war effort is ridiculous.”

” Listen, it’s not a complicated answer. No one in the government has ever admitted that there was a cover-up, and to watch the contortions that these public figures go to in order to publicly flagellate themselves without admitting what’s pretty obvious to everybody — that they tried to cover up Pat Tillman’s death — is absurd.” 

For links to interviews and more extensive excerpts, see

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By MarthaA, April 16, 2011 at 11:35 pm Link to this comment

Obama has proven to be just another puppet of the Right.

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By Guy Montag, April 14, 2011 at 3:09 am Link to this comment

Just a couple weeks before the 7th anniversary of Pat Tillman’s friendly-fire death on April 22, 2004, I’d guess the Tillman family isn’t happy with yet another slap in their face by President Obama’s appointment of Gen. Stanley McChrystal as advisor of the new program “Joining Forces.”

Mary Tillman was critical of President Obama’s 2009 nomination of Gen. McChrystal and the bipartisan Congressional failure to hold him accountable for his central role in the Army’s cover-up of Pat Tillman’s friendly fire death.

In May 2004, Gen. McChrystal supervised the writing of Pat Tillman’s fraudulent Silver Star and the cover-up of his friendly-fire death by the Ranger RGT officers. 

Over the next five years, the ensuing Army & Congressional “investigations” were part of the bi-partisan whitewash which “exonerated” Gen. McChrystal and others involved of wrong-doing.
For more details, I’d suggest Mary Tillman’s book “Boots on the Ground by Dusk” (revised paperback edition with a new forward at, Jon Krakauer’s paperback edition “Where Men Win Glory” (although a flawed bio, it has details on McChrystal’s role in the Army’s cover-up), the fine documentary “The Tillman Story,” and my Feral Firefighter blog at

Last June, I posted “The Emperor’s General” which discussed President Obama’s role in the whitewash of Gen. McChrystal.  Last August, I posted “The [Untold] Tillman Story” which discussed how a bi-partisan Congressional effort shielded McChrystal from accountability (and also the role of NYT reporter Thom Shanker and CNAS’s Andrew Exum).  Another post described Senator James Webb’s role in the Senate’s whitewash of McChrystal.  These posts present much of the source material and/or provide links if you want to “truth dig” a bit deeper.

Ironically, although Center for a New American Security (CNAS) will run the “Joining Forces” program, their Fellow Andrew Exum contributed to McChrystal’s whitewash with his biased book review of Jon Krakauer’s book for the Washington Post (he failed to fully disclose his professional and personal conflicts of interests with McChrystal).

Considering their past betrayal of the Tillman family, it appears that Gen. McChrystal and CNAS are a poor choice to run the “Joining Forces” program to take care of our military veterans and their families.

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