The Tillman Files - Part 6
FTW Military/Veterans Affairs Editor
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July 18th 2006, 1:36 [PST] - The so-called autopsy was a disgrace. The key evidence -- his clothes, MOLLE vest, body armor plate -- were destroyed or shipped elsewhere with no chain of custody. The first public account -- the one generated before the first investigation was finished -- was a carefully crafted deception that included a fraudulent write-up for a Silver Star. The original investigation -- showing a criminal disregard for the rules of engagement (ROE), an abandonment of any attempt to discriminate between targets, and a lethal failure of leadership -- was erased, and the investigation re-done by a commander whose own competence was called into question by the first investigation; wherein statements were altered, and recommendations for punishment disappeared.
SSG Baker got off the hook. LTC Kazlaurich got off the hook. Lawrence Di Rita and Donald Rumsfeld got off the hook. CPT Saunders was granted immunity. (Might we ask the embarrassing question, “Why does a member of the chain of command need immunity?”)
The Rangers who were there have all been ordered not to speak of this episode, and not because it would constitute a violation of Operational Security. There have been six investigations: (1) CPT Scott’s original investigation, (2) LTC Kazlaurich’s re-worked investigation, (3) the Army Safety Board’s investigation, (4) General Jones’ investigation of the prior investigations, (5) the ongoing Criminal Investigation Division (CID) investigation, and (6) the ongoing Inspector General’s (IG) investigation.
The latter two investigations of Pat Tillman’s death by what can only be reasonably described as criminal negligence and violation of the ROE are still open, and it is a good bet they will remain open until at least after November 8, 2006. Place your bets.
The CID investigation is ostensibly looking into the question of criminal behavior by the shooters and the chain of command. The IG is looking into the question of the cover-up. Both work for the same boss: Donald Rumsfeld.
Maintaining two active investigations inside the military accomplished two things, aside from their supposed mission of gathering the facts: (1) It allows the military to respond to inquires from outside the institution with the disclaimer, “We cannot discuss that now, because it is still actively under investigation.” (2) It allows the military to tell its members, “You are prohibited from talking with anyone about this incident, under threat of prison, because it is actively under investigation.”
It would be very helpful if someone from the United States Congress -- given that we still teach West Point cadets about the American system as one where the civilian authorities still maintain control over the military -- would initiate a General Accounting Office (GAO) investigation, where we might at least be assured that there are no conflicts of interest.
Here are the questions we would like to see a GAO investigation pursue?
When did Deputy Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, Lawrence Di Rita, first learn of the death of Pat Tillman? When was he informed that the death was a fratricide?
When did CENTCOM Commander General John Abazaid first learn that Pat Tillman had been killed? When was he informed that it was a fratricide?
When did Lieutenant General Philip R. Kinsigner Jr., then Commander of US Army Special Operations Command (SOCOM), first learn that Pat Tillman’s death was a fratricide? When did he submit the recommendation for the award of a posthumous Silver Star to Pat? Why did he display extreme reluctance to read the press release on May 29?
RELEASE NUMBER: 040528-01
DATE POSTED: MAY 28, 2004
MEDIA ADVISORY: USASOC to release Tillman investigation results during May 29 press statement,
U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 28, 2004) — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command will announce information about the death of Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman during a press statement here May 29.
Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger, USASOC’s commanding general, will address the media at Stryker Golf Course at 9 A.M. The statement will concern a completed military investigation into the circumstances of Tillman’s April 22 death in Afghanistan.
Kensinger will depart after concluding his statement and will not be available to take questions.
FOR THE MEDIA: Members of the media who wish to attend the ceremony should arrive at Fort Bragg’s Stryker Golf Course no earlier than 8 a.m. Parking for media personnel will be reserved on the left side of Stryker’s parking lot, with the row closest to the clubhouse set aside for live trucks.
Live feeds will be permitted during the press statement. However, organizations wishing to conduct a live stand-up must depart Stryker prior to doing so.
Live stand-up locations are located at either end of Bragg Boulevard, in front of the “Welcome to Fort Bragg” signs. Media will not be allowed to remain at Stryker Golf Course, as this will disrupt golf course operations.
RELEASE NUMBER: 040529-01
DATE POSTED: MAY 29, 2004
PRESS STATEMENT: USASOC announces Tillman investigation results
U.S. Army Special Operations Command Public Affairs Office
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (USASOC News Service, May 29, 2004) — The U.S. Army Special Operations Command announced information about the death of Cpl. Patrick D. Tillman during a press statement here May 29.
Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., USASOC’s commanding general, addressed the media at Stryker Golf Course at 9 A.M. The statement concerned a completed military investigation into the circumstances of Tillman’s April 22 death in Afghanistan and is presented below in transcript format.
PRESS STATEMENT BY LT. GEN. PHILIP R. KENSINGER JR. DELIVERED AT 9:15 A.M., MAY 29 AT STRYKER GOLF COURSE, FORT BRAGG, N.C.
KENSINGER: Good morning. I would like to make a brief statement on the events surrounding the death of Corporal Pat Tillman April 22 in Afghanistan. I will not be taking questions.
A military investigation by U.S. Central Command into the circumstances of the 22 April death of Corporal Patrick Tillman is complete.
While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Corporal Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces.
The results of this investigation in no way diminish the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Corporal Tillman. Corporal Tillman was shot and killed while responding to enemy fire without regard for his own safety. He focused his efforts on the elimination of enemy forces and the protection of his team members. There is an inherent degree of confusion in any firefight, particularly when a unit is ambushed, and especially under difficult light and terrain conditions which produce an environment that increases the likelihood of fratricide.
Corporal Tillman's platoon was ambushed with small arms and mortar fire at about 7:30 p.m. local time while conducting combat operations in the vicinity of Khowst, Afghanistan. The enemy ambush was immediately responded to by a coalition patrol including Corporal Tillman with direct fire, and an intense firefight lasting approximately 20 minutes ensued.
The ambush was conducted by 10 to 12 enemy personnel from multiple locations over approximately one kilometer in very severe and constricted terrain with impaired light conditions. Following initial contact, Corporal Tillman disembarked from his vehicle and, in support of his unit, moved into position to suppress enemy fire.
We regret the loss of life resulting from this tragic incident. Our thoughts and prayers remain with the Tillman family.
Thank you all for being here this morning.
Why did General Bryan “Doug” Brown, then Commander of SOCOM, when confronted by the media about the fratricide, offer the unsolicited and immediate response that fratricide “in no way can be construed to detract from Corporal Tillman’s heroism in the face of the enemy.”?
Why was Pat’s Silver Star carefully worded to appear to the public as an enemy fire situation, while just as carefully adjusting the language to leave wiggle room for the later revelation of fratricide? How could the drafting of a Silver Star award be begun before the unit had even returned from the field for an After-Action Review (AAR)?
Where is the original Article 15-6 investigation conducted by Captain Richard Scott? Is it permissible under the Uniform Code of Military Justice to replace an Article 15-6 investigation with a new one, and to pretend the first one never existed?
Why were at least three other known fratricides reported falsely, and the families deceived, within a two month period of Pat’s death? Kenneth Ballard? Patrick McCaffrey? Jesse Buryj? There was a pattern of deception that corresponded to the toxic combination of April’s tactical debacle in Iraq, the release of the first Abu Ghraib photographs, and Seymour Hersh’s exposé of Donald Rumsfeld and Stephen Cambone’s “Grab whom you must. Do what you want” program.
Kenneth Ballard was killed in Najaf by friendly fire from his own vehicle in May 2004, and the military told his family that he’d been killed by a sniper on a rooftop. Jesse Buryj, killed in May, had his family told that he died defending a checkpoint from an oncoming truck that crashed into him. When they questioned the story months later, they were told that he had in fact been accidentally killed by a Polish soldier. A former member of his unit (66th Military Police Company, the same unit that “command rape” victim Suzanne Swift was assigned to at the time) visited the family and told them that Jesse was, in fact, shot by his own platoon leader, Lieutenant Hogan (who may be implicated for negligence in the Swift case). Patrick McCaffrey was killed exactly two months after Pat Tillman, and his mother was told he died in an ambush. They neglected to say that the “ambush by insurgents” was in fact conducted against him and his fellow team members by the very Iraqi forces they were training, after having reported more than once to the chain of command that the “allies” had shot at them.
When Karen Meredith, Kenneth Ballard’s mother, asked the Army why it was deceiving people about these fratricidal incidents, she was told that there had only been six cases of this happening. She asked, how was it that she knew four of them?
Nadia McCaffrey and Mary Tillman have been told by military representatives that the concealment of fratricide is an act of compassion… that these reports, given too much publicity, might lower the morale of the troops.
React with your own expletives. I have mine.
Next installment: Crime Scene Investigation… NOT!