After observing the general tenor of the media coverage of the Tillman case and the irrational insistence of many that Tillman was murdered I have reached the conclusion that there should be an outside investigation of the circumstances of his death and the idea that the White House played a directing or other significant role in what is being called a "cover up."
Both the Bush Administration and the leadership of the Army should blame themselves for the failure of public trust which has caused people to believe that the largely manufactured story now growing in the media is plausible. pl
I think the overall opaque nature of the government under this administration has caused such theories to thrive. It’s the same reason why the 9/11 conspiracy movement seems to be growing.
It’s a pity, though, that disillusionment is wasted on such flights of fancy when it could be applied to actual problems. But I suppose conspiracy theories excite the mind more than outrages that are out in the open.
The prevalence of conspiracy theory in this country is a direct result of the public having been lied to, routinely, by the authorities and by the press, for generations.
My speculation is that the White House/Pentagon correspondence over which executive privilege is being asserted probably contains political calculations about whether the truth about Tillman’s death (enemy fire vs friendly fire accident) would play in the President’s reelection campaign.
Dear Col. Lang,
I can not fathom how anyone would think that Pat Tillman was deliberately killed. Yet there are those that seem to think so. I have followed this from the beginning. The right initially politicized Tillman’s volunteering as an indictment against the left. Ann Coulter made a mini career of how Tillman epitomized a real man, unlike someone who may be a liberal. I now see something similar from the left – painting Cpl. Tillman as a Chomskyite. (OK, he was acquainted with Chomsky, and made it clear that was opposed to Iraq. Yet, he did his duty.) He also touted the Economist magazine to his fellow soldiers. Which I would not categorize as far left. I agree with your assessment that this must be settled once and for all. The headlines that now imply a conspiracy remind me of What Really Happened to Vince Foster ???
This admin. has greatly assisted the fact that things that were considered tinfoil hat territory are now in the realm of legitimate possibility and discourse.
And I also believe that Kevin, Pat’s brother would be much more vocal if he believed that his brother was deliberately killed.
if america would get up off its big collective butt and turn off the television, it might realize that this mis-administration, with its war and other criminal activities, is a real problem requiring attention and action. til then, it’s just another episode in the escape from reality, and conspiracy theory and other fantasy will continue to rule.
as for my fantasy, how’s the “lang in ’08” campaign coming along?
You are absolutely correct that the administration’s overall dodginess and deceitfulness that’s creating all the paranoia: there is a saying in Korean that you can’t believe so-and-so even if he says one makes bean paste with benas (not the most ideal translation, but the gist is that even the most obvious truisms are untrustworthy coming from untrustworthy sources, and most people don’t really know what takes place on battlefield to see whether a story is reasonable or not anyways.
Best account I read on Tillman’s death came from WAPO in May 2005.
The Post compiled this report one year after the event.
At some point I just get angry. Tillman died three years ago. To date the Army has made no effort to get the story out, presuming the story is favorable to the Army. With respect to Col. Lang, the time to call for an investigation was three years ago, when it was already clear that something was amiss. That we should have one now is not to satisfy the public, but to regain military integrity. The military is our servant. It has no inherent right to privacy in the conduct of its affairs.
Four years ago I sat in front of my computer, alone, in the basement, and was sickened & horrified in the final days before the start of war, of the slaughter yet to come. Where was the military? Their oath was to the Constitution. Not to the illegal orders of the President. Some British Lord was brave enough to state flatly, before the war started, that it was illegal. Before the Chinese put down Tiananmen Square they had to search for troops that would actually fire on their own citizens. It seems that at least some elements of the Chinese Army refused to obey orders they found illegal.
But the American military? Daily we hear of troops smashing into houses, shooting up cars that look funny, bombing civilians (see Juan Cole & others), raping, shooting, torturing. Forgive me, Col. Lang, but no more special pleading. We need a special prosecutor. Not for Tillman. For the whole damn war. Preferably an international tribunal. Let’s have the unbiased, objective truth.
“Both the Bush Administration and the leadership of the Army should blame themselves for the failure of public trust which has caused people to believe that the largely manufactured story now growing in the media is plausible. pl”
Once again you hit the nail was hit straight and true, Col.
The thought of what this must be doing to his family and it moistened my eye. In looking for a way to help, I was directed to a foundation formed by his family that they would like all contributions to go to.
I feel it is a worthy cause. It’s about education.
With your permission:
I agree accidents happen in war. I still remember clearly in Viet Nam when a soldier in my company was truly accidentally killed by another. Hell, I was almost accidentally killed when, in a two man hutch, a drunk sergeant pulled the pin on a hand grenade just for fun and then got the shakes and could not reinsert the pin. But, back to the accidental death – the grief in my company was worse than that of a combat death. I do not believe that Tillman was murdered since a combat unit cannot, even emotionally, turn its fight against the external enemy internal. An intentional homicide of a fellow soldier would be totally corrosive. However, since the paperwork and consequences of an accidental shooting are worse than from enemy fire, particularly with Tillman’s fame, I can see how his manner of death was covered up.
All that said, the Administration’s claim of executive privelege and suppression of access to facts I find totally unconscionable, though in keeping. The Administration, per the Constitution, works for us. If we the people want the facts, if we want out of Iraq, if we want a nuclear waste dump in Crawford, the Decider should become the Listener. I do not believe it was murder, but I support the statement that the Administration now has to fully prove that it was not a murder. Its actions justify the murder conjecture. Bush Administration credibility is now the type-species oxymoron.
In advice to Blair on the legality of the Iraq war, UK Attorney General Lord Goldsmith designates invasion of Iraq as a disproportionate response to Saddam Hussein’s alleged failure to disarm and therefore illegal in international law.
Goldsmith stresses that in terms of legality, “regime change cannot be the objective of military action”.
Quite a few other “reputable” constitutional lawyers agree with him and regret that the AG’s views were kept secret for so long.
Goldmith’s criteria for legal war are very clear; none of these were met.
“Possible legal bases for the use of force:
“2. As I have previously advised, there are generally three possible bases for the use of force: (a) self-defence (which may include collective self-defence);
“(b) exceptionally, to avert overwhelming humanitarian catastrophe; and
“(c) authorisation by the Security Council acting under Chapter VII of the UN Charter.”
It would seem that an invasion of Sudan or Zimbabwe would arguably be more “legal” in international law than that of Iraq.
Apologies — I should have added that the validity of the self-defense argument in regard to the invasion of Afghanistan (which seems beyond dispute to our chums in the mainstream media and elsewhere) is also something about which reasonable people might disagree:
“Although international law, especially since the Nuremberg trials of 1945, fixes certain responsibilities on individuals… it has never been challenged that an ‘armed attack’ under article 51 requires that it be mounted by a state.
“In the light of the authoritative World Court definition it should be fairly clear, especially to the US as a litigant, that the actions of some 18 terrorists of disparate Arab national origins carrying sets of box cutters who commit kamikaze attacks against a state and its population cannot be said to have committed an ‘armed attack’ and nor attributed to a particular state (like Afghanistan) as required by Article 51 of the UN Charter.
“Although the Security Council unanimously passed the Resolution No. 1373 on September 28 condemning the terrorists attacks of September 11 and ‘reaffirmed the inherent right of individual or collective self-defense as recognized by the UN Charter’, it did not categorize the terrorist action of September 11 as an ‘armed attack’, nor did it in any way authorize military action against Afghanistan. In fact, there is no reference at all in that resolution to Afghanistan or the Taliban or to Osama bin Laden. No wonder, no proof or evidence of any sort was produced in the Security Council against Afghanistan.
“Even if there was a legitimate exercise of self-defense there would still be the important legal requirement to take ‘proportionate’ rather than excessive action and to protect the civilian population because acts of revenge against a state for its unproven crime are utterly illegal.”
It is not inconceivable that these ludicrous adventures are very widely seen as grossly illegal from Rabat to Jakarta.
You know how much I hate disagreeing with you Col. but I think you are wrong about Tillman’s death, as well as about the legality of the “war.” On the former, you are gracious enough to call for an investigation to get down to the facts. Fair enough.
As for the war, even the AG won’t call it a “war.” He said so before Congress. But then he’s said a lot of things people don’t believe so why believe him about this, huh? That is, it ain’t a war until Congress declares war, something any constitutional scholar worth his/her weight in salt will tell you.
“I am really getting tired of a lot of you.”
I visit your blog, less and less.
Quit spinning words
Sir, you are really getting the tinfoilhats stoked up by talking to them. Do not feed the trolls.
Having said that, I agree with you that a full hearing is in order, mostly in order to get the full story straight about the propagandamachinery and who knew what when. I do believe Jessica Lynch and Tilmans brother demanded the same at the congressional hearings, tho I have lost the sourcelink. This is the beginning of an urban legend, in two years time he will have been secretly member of the illuminatus elitecrew who were going to invade Agartha. The only criminal act I can see is using the death of a honest soldier as a basis for a lie.
I’m not a believer that Pat Tillman was deliberately murdered.
I do, however, believe that for any number of potential reasons the Bush Administration and the DOD higher ups may have lied about the circumstances of his death.
There’s a big difference between the original action and the subsequent actions of the death of what was the best-known soldier on active duty in the country.
The war was not “unconstitutional” as Congress granted the President the authority that he used. It may well have been illegal from an international law prospective as an aggressive war for which we have hanged similarly situated leaders.
More to the point, Congress essentially abdicated its responsibility by granting the executive a blank check in the form of the AUMF. There is more than enough blame to go around here and apparently not even enough courage to expressly limit the AUMF by forbidding action against Iran without further approval.
You’ll be pleased to know that the trigger-happiness of U.S. forces has become part of the institutional memory of the British Army. Due to their experiences in the First Gulf War, British soldiers preparing for deployment in 2003 bought every Union Jack they could lay their hands on, in an attempt to ward off U.S. bullets. I imagine that we’ve rather blotted our copy book with the British Army–rather like they blotted theirs with “Tarleton’s Quarter.”
I have no combat experience or knowledge, so I can only try my civilian best to understand what I read about friendly fire, what can lead up to it, what
can cause it. If it didn’t happen often enough down through time to require analyzing in its own terms as a real event, there wouldn’t even be a word for it. But friendly fire does happen, often enough that the word “friendly fire” was
invented to name exactly that. It can happen to the obscure and famous alike, as
when General Stonewall Jackson was shot by one of his own men in what no one believes to be an unsolved conspiracy.
That said, the behavior of recent governments and especially this Administration makes suspicious thoughts and conspiracy theories seem so plausible as to seem almost matter-of-fact. The little I have read about Corporal Tillman’s service and death,and the subsequent handling of everything surrounding all this by military and political figures, makes me reach for my tinfoil hat almost by instinct.
The one possibly-tinfoil theory I read about 6 or 8 months ago was not trying to
sow hostility against the Army, so far as I could tell. It was trying to share it’s own honestly-felt
hostility towards the Bush Administration, its political commissars in the Civilian side of Department of Defense, and some theorized-to-exist political
loyalists hidden here and there within the Army.
The theory is that the Buscist Commissars, fearing how wide a mainstream audience Pat Tillman could command if he were to take public views contrary to Buscist goals for Iraq, wanted to arrange his removal from the scene. So they worked on ways to overtire, overstress, overtax Tillman and his men;
did things such as ordering that his command be divided in order to foster maximum battlefield confusion in order to raise chances of friendly fire occuring, etc.
As a mere civilian, I don’t know how orders and information are passed up, down, and around. This theory could be paranoid tinfoil of the most fantasy-based sort. Still, if there
is to be an Independent Investigation, I hope this side of things would also be
looked at, and if there is nothing there; it could be convincingly enough demonstrated that normal non-paranoid people would be
(The only article I could
find which touches on this theory I read 6-8 months ago
is this one:
Tillman’s battalion XO (a) lied about the death, (b) made derogatory remarks about the religious beliefs or lack thereof of Tillman’s family.
The reaction of the M-F generals running the Army these days was to put that guy in command of a battalion.
Yes, an investigation is called for – conducted by people who are *not* in the Army, and not under the thumb of the administration.
Tillman may have been an atheist but, in my imagination, when Cheney “passes on”, he’ll wake up and see Tillman coming at him in a safety blitz. Helmet to rib cage. That ain’t purgatory, that’s hell…for Cheney anyway.
It’s entirely possible that Pat Tillman will join the list of misbegotten military myths that litter history. The hordes of Russian soldiers who “drowned in bogs” at the Battle of Tannenburg in 1914–despite the complete absense of bogs on a map. The “shark attacks” on the sailors who survived the sinking of the Indianapolis in 1945. The “mysterious disappearance” of torpedo bomber Flt 19 off the coast of Florida on Dec. 5, 1945. The Battle of New Orleans in 1815 was fought “after the war had ended.” And of course the patented “stab in the back” myth that is so useful that it has been used by Nationalists throughout history.
These all make for entertaining stories, but they are at serious variance with the actual facts. As Winston Churchill put it, “The legend of King Arthur is true, absolutely. . .or anyway it ought to be.”
It would seem to me that there are only two possibilities re: Tillman’s death.
1) He walked in front of a soldier firing a three-round burst.
2) A soldier of lower rank thought him a dangerous jerk.
The mere fact of the circumstances surrounding his death deserve a finding of facts. The politicization of his death demands an investigation.
2 interesting explanations.
On a different subject, people keep referring to “Tillman”s men.” I am at a loss to know what that means.
If memory serves, he was an E-3 private first class (PFC) or E-4 (Spec4) when killed and was made a corporal (E-4) after his death to make him an NCO. Why you would do that also escapes me. Part of the BS?
I seem to recall that he was an acting fire team leader in that platoon. That would make him the leader of four men. “Tillman’s men?”
You (?) referred to an enlisted man of lower rank? He was about as low in rank as you could get. Before someone gets excited, I have been a junior enlisted man. pl
Colonel, I agree the Tillman case could not have been handled more poorly. It’s clear several Army officers just flat lied about it; for that, they should take the long walk. And, sure the Bush Administration lied, but that’s pretty much par for the course. We shouldn’t be surprised at that, but Army officers….hang ’em, is what I say.
One thing that’s kind of curious to me. I just recently learned through third parties (another blog) that the pathologist who conducted the autopsy called for a criminal investigation. Reason? Apparently, there was a three-shot dime group in the forehead (tap-tap-tap) with the weapon having been an M16. This pathologist opined that the range had been 10 meters.
This was new to me. You know anything about this?
Come, come Colonel, certainly one can lead men without having rank. My experience in the Marine Corps in Vietnam taught me that rank often has no bearing on leadership qualities. One of those truely valuable things I learned as a Marine. Pat Tillman was a leader of men, ask his ASU Sun Devil and Ariz Cardinal team members and coaches. The man led by example.
So, he was the real leader in that platoon? The platoon commander, platoon sergeant and the squad leaders were ineffective figureheads sheltering behind his “leadership by example?”
I didn’t know you did it that way in the marine corps.
Well, he certainly had his “follow me” moment.
What did you do in VN and in what unit? pl
The whole weapons thing puzzles me. Did the unit have the M-4 or the M-4A1 carbine? One fires three round bursts and the other does not. Rangers are supposed to have the M-4A1 which does not fire three round bursts, but, they could have had the other weapon. The rest of the weapons in the platoon were 9mm pistols, 7.62 machine guns and a couple of .50 cal M2s on the trucks. It seems likely that the fatal rounds were from a carbine. I don’t think that a pathologist could tell you the circumstances (range, etc.) of the man’s death, but his suspicion should have been enough to trigger a homicide investigation after the friendly fire investigators were finished.
I think he just walked into some bullets. It is likely that either someone just fired at a dimly seen figure in the dusk or that the rounds were part of a larger burst. That is my opinion, but it should be cleared up. pl
Is the Tillman Case Still a Coverup?
(by a Vietnam vet)
The article contains a small but perhaps significant error. The M-4 carbine variant of the M-16 has a “three round” burst setting on the selector switch. This would make the tightness of the group easier to achieve because the shooter would not be so affected by recoil. pl
Do you read “Blackfive” the militry blog? I read it although I really disagree with the far right/Islamophobic commentary that is often given there.
They have a good discussion on the issue by some who would know. Seems accidental discharge by someone within a few feet of Tillman is the most popular idea.
That is irrelevant and wrong. Three rounds fired from 3RB will be no more or less accurate than three rounds fired from FA. The point is that how can three rounds be so close and so well placed that he was not recognized at 90 meters, while standing up screaming, flailing his arms, and tossing a red smoke grenade? His ranger buddy is now claiming it was more like “50 or so meters”. As much as I would love to believe what is officially told, my finely tuned, army issued, bullshit meter is pegged.
Yet more conflicting reports. From the ESPN article: http://sports.espn.go.com/espn/eticket/story?page=tillmanpart1#
“The official Army autopsy report obtained by ESPN.com shows that, besides the three bullets in his forehead, Tillman had shrapnel in his left forearm and wrist. Asked by ESPN.com to review the autopsy’s findings, renowned forensic pathologist Dr. Michael Baden suggests the three bullets that struck Tillman in the head came in rapid succession, and most likely were from the weapon of a single shooter. Documents from the Army’s investigations indicate the wounds likely came from American 5.56 mm or 7.62 mm rounds.
The first bullet that struck him in the head, he was dead,” Dr. Baden told ESPN.com. “Then he was struck by two additional bullets, because of the rapid fire of the weapon that was used. He also may have been shot by other weapons in the arm and vest. This would indicate that … more than one person was firing at him.”
I suspect the abiguity of the caliber was deliberate on the part of the Army, as
7.62 would put the blame on the M240, and they had no wish to put this on an individual.
An account from 2004 WaPo:
Well, if I weren’t disgusted enough at the pervasive trend within the military over the past few years, today pushed me over the edge. Rumsfeld protesting his lack of any knowledge about the Tillman death (as if there isn’t a disproportionately large staff within the OSD Public Affairs lash-up) and self-excusing himself from any responsibility. Then there’s the former CJCS, General Myers, who played ‘Poncho’ to Rumsfeld’s ‘Cisco’ blithely confessing he feels no guilt or sense of responsibility either. Myers was and remain the ultimate six-four hand puppet and a stooge of the first water. Yeah, so they hammer the three star Kensinger (who the media reports was no where to be found when Congress wanted have a little chat with him too). Abuziad alone said the right words, “we screwed up.” Little consolation but close. What a bunch of toads. I almost trashed my big screen. That hilltop in Montana with the one way up and down looks better every day.
“[They] pulled up, stopped, looked at our position directly, like — it wasn’t like, stop, instant fire. It was like, stop, acquire, ‘OK, there’s our targets, now we can start firing,'” reads O’Neal’s statement to Brig. Gen. Gary Jones, who now finds himself the subject of an inquiry for his handling of one of the Army’s investigations.
Perhaps it isn’t surprising, then, that O’Neal believes the Rangers, the men with whom he served and fought, stopped embracing him as one of their own shortly after the firefight. In O’Neal’s words, he’s been “treated like a stray dog.”
My bullshit meter has exploded!
I don’t know a lot about guns, in fact I know next to nothing. So please excuse my ignorance if my question is beyond your toleration for stupidity. But I don’t understand how such a pattern of shots would be possible. Even if a gun fire multiple bullets with a single pull of the trigger, in very rapid sequention (is that a word?)one of those bullets strikes first, doesn’t it? And wouldn’t that immediately cause the head of the person being shot to move? Either backward, if struck dead center, or in a spinning motion if struck off center? And if that assumption is true wouldn’t the next bullet have to strike the target further to the left, right, etc.? Wouldn’t two of the bullets, in order to achieve a “dime” pattern, have to have been fired after the target became stationary? Say, lying down with head against the ground? I guess three bullets arriving a the same destination simutainiously but how likely is that? And did they run ballistics on the bullets to determin if all three came from the same gun? Given the location and the high calibler of the arms, probaly not.
The website “Blackfive” mentioned by Abu Sinan offers a link to a recommended forensic overview of the Tillman tragedy. It’s the best analysis I have seen to date.
That is the point Burgette. The person who fired the three rounds, if they came from the same weapon, had to be very close.
The victim would move, the firing rifle would move from recoil and at a distance the effects of this would magnify, whereas close-up there would not be as much of a change.
For a 2 1/2″ pattern of three shots to be made by the same rifle, it would have either had to be someone at very close range, within feet, or someone from a distance shooting at an unmoving target, but using a three shot burst would make this unlikely as well due to recoil.
I go with the guys at Black Five who speculate an accidental three round burst by someone next to Tillman.
I remember a parade ground incident when changing the guard between an MP section and my section who were infantry, the OC of the day was checking the MP’s Gustaffs, we had 7.62 Nato FN issue for the detail, but, as he stupidly looked to see if the barrell of a loaded weapon was clean, a spurt of Gustaff rounds pulverised the OC’s head into many pieces, was this just an accident?
It was for me.
Blackfive is a mainstream sycophant phuckup.