Home / Army Launches Criminal Investigation Into Death of Pat Tillman

Army Launches Criminal Investigation Into Death of Pat Tillman

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Pat Tillman
Update 1 – 6 March
At the direction of the Inspector General, the Army is launching a criminal investigation into the death of Pat Tillman, the high-profile former NFL football player who was killed by “friendly fire” in Afghanistan on 22 April 2004. Tillman’s parents — and the media — were told he died heroically on the battlefield, even after the Army had launched an investigation based on probable negligence. Tillman’s parents went public with a call for a full investigation in mid-2005, noting that no one had ever been held accountable for Tillman’s death.

Although this is the fifth official investigation, it is the first first criminal investigation, a “rare rebuke” of military investigators. However, Patrick Tillman Sr., said,
“[I]f you send investigators to reinvestigate an investigation that was falsified in the first place, what do you think you’re going to get?”

On NBC’s Meet the Press Sunday, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff said, “Although there’s no evidence that there was criminal activity, the investigators did not specifically look at whether or not there was criminal activity, criminal activity being when Cpl. Tillman was killed by friendly fire.”

Clear as mud.

We know from prior investigations that officers destroyed critical evidence. We know that the Army deliberately concealed the truth from Tillman’s family, including his brother, also an Army Ranger. We know that the Army deliberately concealed the truth from the American people: the nationally televised memorial ceremony in the US continued to tout a fictional account of his death, much like long-lived fictions surrounding the Jessica Lynch rescue.

How do we know this? Because of tenacious reporters and an anguished family who finally went public.

Why would the Administration not acknowledge the truth as soon as its investigators made the determination of “friendly fire”? Setting aside the fact that Tillman was the highest profile volunteer in US forces, events of that spring provide a rationale for a deliberate attempt to squash the story.

  • 18 April 2004: The Seattle Times (my home town paper) releases images of flag-draped coffins on its front page. The Defense Contractor subsequently fires the employee.
  • 22 April 2004: The same day that Tillman dies, The Memory Hole publishes coffin images obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • 23 April 2004: “All top Ranger commanders were told of the suspected fratricide.”
  • 28 April 2004: CBS broadcasts images of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
  • 30 April 2004: The New Yorker publishes its first analysis of Abu Ghraib, written by Seymour Hersh.
  • 30 April 2004:
    April was the bloodiest month for US troops in the year-old invasion. The 127 Americans killed in “hostile” events more than doubled the prior “record.” Until this milestone, the bloodiest month had been November 2003, with 73 killed in hostile actions.
  • 1 May 2004: The one-year anniversary of Bush’s speech that hostilities had ended in Iraq.
  • 3 May 2004: Tillman’s nationally televised memorial. Army sticks by the official story of heroic death at the hands of the enemy, even though, as Forbes notes, “top Army officials were aware that the investigation showed the death had been caused by an act of ‘gross negligence.'”
  • 29 May 2004: For the first time, more than a month after his death, the Army acknowledges publicly that Tillman is killed by friendly fire.

Tillman’s mother said earlier: “The Army used him. They knew right away he was killed by fratricide and used him for their own purposes to promote the war, to get sympathy for the war.” Given the above timeline, her sentiment seems sound.

I hope that this investigation helps Tillman’s family find peace. But I believe the odds of finding anyone culpable are slim, especially given the low-rank of individuals found “guilty” at Abu Ghraib.

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  • Clear as mud? You give them too much credit. There is nothing but toxic sludge and more toxic sludge here. A true disgrace.

  • RedTard

    Friendly fire? I think we now know where Cheney’s ‘undisclosed location’ was.

    No doubt the death was a vast conspiracy that goes right to the top. Bush-satan probably planned the incident with help from Cheney, Rove, Bin Laden, the CIA, several top brass in the Army, and the swiftboat veterans for truth.

  • Something in this article just doesn’t make sense. I thought it had already been established that the death was from friendly fire. That does happen in a war zone from time to time. You don’t make at all clear what the basis of this new investigation is.

    Then you bring in all these irrelevant events at the end. How is any of that pertinent? What do coffin pictures have to do with how and why Tillman died? Or any of the other items in that list of irrelevancies?

    I understand that you have partisan axes to grind, but it would be nice if your arguments at least made sense.


  • Hello, Dave —

    The Army said “friendly fire” publicly long after it had already made that determination — hence the “irrelevant” but contextual notes at the end.

    I can’t explain why the Army’s own Inspector General feels that there should be a criminal investigation – but that, my friend, is news.


  • Dave Nalle

    I’m sure the army has its reasons, but what does that list at the end of the article have to do with them? Not much I reckon. But there IS something here, because there wouldn’t be a criminal investigation of a friendly fire incedent, if that’s what it actually was.


  • Dave, repeating myself : the list is provided for CONTEXT. I’ve modified it by adding the info about when the Army knew this was fraticide (the day after his death) and when it acknowledged it (five weeks later).

    I’ve also included a quote from Tillman’s mother, which the contextual information supports.

    The war effort was NOT going well in late April-early May. The Army used his death as a huge sympathy generating device. How many other soliders has the president commended, by name, on national TV? How many other soliders have had a nationally televised Army memorial?

    As someone who once worked in PR — I assert that memorial was a staged PR effort for the war. Just like “Mission Accomplished.”

    Both have now bitten the Adminstration in its nether regions.

  • Ah, you must have a different definition of ‘context’ then. For context I would have expected references to other friendly fire incidents, or perhaps army policy on such occurances, or to the events in the conflict immediately surrounding his death – those all might be relevant. What you do present certainly is not. Also, by presenting the information in the form of a timeline you suggest a causal relationship between your ‘contextual’ items and Tillman’s death, a relationship I doubt you meant to suggest.

    Then there’s the repetition of the term ‘fratricide’. I realize you have that from an army quote, but is that really the term you and they want to use in this situation? His brother WAS in the area. Are you trying to say that his brother killed him? If so, why not come out and say it in so many words. Is his brother the target of this criminal investigation? That’s important news if that’s what you’re getting at. If not, you’d better explain why that term is being used. Is it normal for the military to refer to friendly fire indcidents as fratricides? I’ve never seen it done before, but they do sometimes refer to each other as ‘brother rangers’, etc.


  • Fratricide is not my word. Take issue with this author (naval officer), not me:

    Fratricide: Can it Be Stopped?
    LCDR William Ayers, III, United States Navy

    [A] “military” definition developed by the 1991 General Officer Steering Committee, defines fratricide as “… the employment of friendly weapons and munitions with the intent to kill the enemy or destroy his equipment that results in unforeseen and unintentional death or injury to friendly personnel.”

    His blood brother was not present when he was killed. Your question suggests either a troll or an amazing lack of knowledge about the story.


  • lumpy

    wow. the military has been put in charge if the english language and no one told the MLA. scandalous!