October 9, 2015
Dishonoring Pat Tillman
Posted on Nov 11, 2010
By Narda Zacchino
While the public has been led to believe that every angle was exhaustively covered in the myriad investigations, it is obvious that is not the case. Questions still abound.
Rep. Henry Waxman held two congressional hearings in 2007 that led to more disappointment and frustration for the Tillman family. The hearings were held to determine whether the Bush administration and Defense Department deliberately deceived the American people and the Tillman family to exploit Pat’s death to stoke patriotic sentiment about the country and the military’s operations. Indeed, Tillman’s death did elicit that public response.
Dan Bartlett, assistant to the president for communications, noted in an e-mail the day after Tillman’s death that the former professional football star had “made the American people feel good about our country ... and our military.” Two days later, an e-mail memo from an Army public affairs officer noted that the story resulted in the greatest amount of media interest in the Army “since the end of active combat last year,” and that the coverage had been “extremely positive.”
This was important to offset the extremely negative media coverage in the spring of 2004. The day Tillman died, The Associated Press reported that April had become the deadliest month for U.S. casualties since the war in Iraq began—and the month wasn’t over. The first bloody battle for Fallujah raged that April, and the Abu Ghraib prison scandal was about to break.
Square, Site wide
Waxman’s committee also tried to determine when and how top officials in the administration and Defense Department first learned of the Tillman fratricide. In a tremendous insult to the Tillman family and the American people, the committee was stonewalled; it noted in its executive summary that “on the key issue of what senior officials knew, the investigation was frustrated by near universal lack of recall.” Bartlett, presidential press secretary Scott McClellan and chief speechwriter Michael Gerson could not recall when they learned about the fratricide or did in response.
While virtually every member of the military knew when he or she first heard that Pat Tillman was killed by fratricide, their leader, former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, testified under oath, “I don’t recall when I was told and I don’t recall who told me.” (His testimony, and that of Mary and Kevin Tillman, Pat’s mother and brother, can be seen in the acclaimed documentary “The Pat Tillman Story,” released nationwide recently.)
Another witness, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Gen. Richard Myers, who communicated many times a day with Rumsfeld and met with White House officials frequently—testified he learned of the fratricide by the end of April 2004 but could not recall whether he told President George W. Bush or Rumsfeld about it, although he did tell his public affairs adviser they needed to “calibrate ourselves” and “be careful how we portray the situation.” Myers, who thought to call the National Football League commissioner to personally inform him of Tillman’s death, could not recall whether he shared the news of the fratricide with the two men to whom he was the principal military adviser.
A third committee witness, Gen. John Abizaid, who had been sent a high priority e-mail April 29 from Gen. Stanley McChrystal noting the fratricide, testified he did not get it until a week later and did not talk to Rumsfeld about the fratricide until about two weeks after that.
The testimony of these three witnesses is simply not credible. As in the investigations that preceded this one, the family, the American people and most of all the soldier—Pat Tillman—were disrespected.
The government and military apparently have no further interest in Pat Tillman. Fortunately, he remains alive in the public’s imagination and consciousness. I have received thousands of Google alerts about Pat Tillman since 2006, when I collaborated with Mary Tillman on her book, recently released in paperback, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk: Searching for Answers in the Death of Pat Tillman,” to coincide with the acclaimed film documentary “The Pat Tillman Story.” I read each alert, awaiting even a sliver of truth to emerge, possibly from a long-buried document, or lifted from the heavy conscience of one of those with firsthand knowledge of facts not yet revealed. The truth is worth waiting for. Pat Tillman deserves that.
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