Originally Published: May 30, 2005 5 a.m.
Everyone must have heard the Pat Tillman story by now some of it anyhow.
He's the guy who gave up a lucrative professional football career with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army and go fight in Iraq and Afghanistan. Then he died in Afghanistan in April 2004, supposedly while charging the enemy.
That much received a lot of publicity, but only recently did the public learn that his fellow Army Rangers accidentally shot him. The Army brass concealed that part for a long time so that Pat could remain a national hero and serve as a poster boy for recruiting.
His fellow soldiers knew almost immediately that Tillman died from "friendly fire," and they said so, but the Army kept this from the public. The facts required "investigation" several times over several months. The Army also burned Tillman's uniform and body armor.
Within 10 days, all the top-ranking Army officials including the theater commander, Gen. Abizaid learned that Tillman died at the hands of his own men. Because this was such a high-profile story, I cannot believe that no one told Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and President Bush as well, but they don't admit anything.
A nationally televised memorial service honored Tillman in May 2004, at which time he received the Silver Star posthumously. Several weeks later, the Army told the truth to Tillman's parents (who are now divorced), but not to the public.
Patrick Tillman Sr., a San Jose lawyer, said he is furious about what he found in the witness statements and investigative documents which the Army gave to the family. He called it a "botched homicide investigation" and blamed high-ranking Army officers for presenting "outright lies" to the family and to the public.
"The people in authority went out of their way to script this," Mr. Tillman said. "They purposely interfered with the investigation; they covered it up. They realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about Pat's death got out. They blew up their poster boy.
"Maybe lying is not a big deal anymore," he added. "Pat is now dead, and this isn't going to bring him back. But these guys should be held up to scrutiny, right up the chain of command, and no one has."
Mary Tillman says the government misused her son's death for weeks afterward, glorifying an untrue story to try to offset the Abu Ghraib prison scandal, which was erupting at the same time.
She said she was particularly offended this past fall when a taped message of condolence from President Bush was played at a Cardinals football game, shortly before the presidential election. She felt as though the administration was still trying to use her son's death for political advantage something Pat never would have tolerated.
The Tillman episode is but one example of this administration's deliberate attempts to deceive the American public. There isn't enough space to enumerate others today, but perhaps another time.
The Gallup Poll organization says that 50 percent of all Americans now believe the Bush administration deliberately misled us about Iraq having weapons of mass destruction, and the percentage grows steadily. Without the WMD excuse, we would not be in that huge mess in Iraq today. After 28 months, 1,644 American deaths, several times that many lives ruined by terrible injuries, more than $200 billion already spent and another $82 billion appropriated, we still have no end in sight.
Since George Bush became president, the U.S. has become the most hated country in the world for the first time ever. What a great way to suppress terrorism!