Reidblog [The Reid Report blog]

Think at your own risk.
Thursday, July 26, 2007
New questions in Pat Tillman's death
Pat Tillman (left) pictured with his brother Kevin


A three star Army general is facing a demotion in the cover-up of the Pat Tillman friendly fire death in Afghanistan, putting the coda to a shameful incident in which even the uniformed military was drawn into the political hackery of the Bush administration (U.S. attorneys, the Justice Department, the military ... what hasn't this crowd politicized?)

Back to the story... the AP is reporting that the U.S. Army actually blocked doctors from investigating whether Tillman might have been deliberately "fragged" -- read murdered by his fellow troops. And there's more. From the AP:

Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described," a doctor who examined Tillman's body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

The doctors - whose names were blacked out - said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

Ultimately, the Pentagon did conduct a criminal investigation, and asked Tillman's comrades whether he was disliked by his men and whether they had any reason to believe he was deliberately killed. The Pentagon eventually ruled that Tillman's death at the hands of his comrades was a friendly-fire accident.

The medical examiners' suspicions were outlined in 2,300 pages of testimony released to the AP this week by the Defense Department in response to a Freedom of Information Act request.

Among other information contained in the documents:

_ In his last words moments before he was killed, Tillman snapped at a panicky comrade under fire to shut up and stop "sniveling."

_ Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.

_ The three-star general who kept the truth about Tillman's death from his family and the public told investigators some 70 times that he had a bad memory and couldn't recall details of his actions.

_ No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene - no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.

The Pentagon and the Bush administration have been criticized in recent months for lying about the circumstances of Tillman's death. The military initially told the public and the Tillman family that he had been killed by enemy fire. Only weeks later did the Pentagon acknowledge he was gunned down by fellow Rangers.

The gent facing demotion, Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., reportedly used the phrase "I don't recall" some 70 times during some four hours of questioning by the Pentagon's inspector general last December, and he contradicted not only other officers' testimony, but his own as well. A bit more from the Forbes/AP article:

The documents show that a doctor who autopsied Tillman's body was suspicious of the three gunshot wounds to the forehead. The doctor said he took the unusual step of calling the Army's Human Resources Command and was rebuffed. He then asked an official at the Army's Criminal Investigation Division if the CID would consider opening a criminal case.

"He said he talked to his higher headquarters and they had said no," the doctor testified. ...

... The documents also shed new light on Tillman's last moments.

It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who was at Tillman's side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman, damn it!" again and again.

But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.

The chaplain said that O'Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman's side, "crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your (expletive) mouth? God's not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling ..."
So could Tillman's fellow soldiers have gotten angry at what they saw as his arrogance, and deliberatly shot him to death on the battlefield? No enemy around? Gunshots to the forehead?

You've got to wonder...

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posted by JReid @ 8:36 PM  
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