[It is as we unravel the lies of the Pat Tillman case that we begin to grasp both the depravity and the venality of those who command the US military. – MCR]
The Tillman Files - Part 5
FTW Military/Veterans Affairs Editor
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General Myers Visits Afghanistan
April 16, 2004
KABUL, Afghanistan - Gen. Richard B. Myers, the chairman of the U.S. joint chiefs of staff, headed to Afghanistan on Friday amid a stepped up campaign to kill or capture Osama bin Laden and a growing urgency to stabilize the country for historic elections.
His visit comes one day after an audiotape purportedly recorded in the past few weeks by bin Laden offered European nations a truce if they pull troops out of Muslim countries and vowed violence against the United States and Israel.
The al-Qaida chief and his right-hand man, Egyptian surgeon Ayman al-Zawahri, are believed hiding in the craggy mountains between Pakistan and Afghanistan, but a 2 1/2 year dragnet has failed to catch them. The military recently pulled back from predictions that bin Laden would be caught sometime this year.
In the past month, Washington has sent 2,000 Marines to Afghanistan to beef up a U.S.-led force that had already numbered 13,000 soldiers. The military has vowed a sweeping spring offensive to crush Taliban and al-Qaida holdouts ahead of presidential and parliamentary elections scheduled for September.
The United Nations and others have warned that the elections will fail if security cannot be improved.
Taliban insurgents attacked Afghan soldiers in eastern Khost province, along the border with Pakistan, killing two soldiers and injuring two others, Gen. Khial Bas, the local Afghan military commander, told The Associated Press on Friday. He said nine militants were killed in the exchange of rocket and machine-gun fire on Wednesday…
Ex-NFL star Tillman makes ‘ultimate sacrifice’
Safety, who gave up big salary to join Army, killed in Afghanistan
NBC, MSNBC and news services
Updated: 3:39 a.m. ET April 26, 2004
WASHINGTON - Pat Tillman, who gave up the glamorous life of a professional football star to join the Army Rangers, was remembered as a role model of courage and patriotism Friday after military officials said he had been killed in action in Afghanistan.
“Pat Tillman was an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who have made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror. His family is in the thoughts and prayers of President and Mrs. Bush,” Taylor Gross, a spokesman for the White House, said in a statement.
Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., the author of a recent book about courage, said he was “heartbroken” and raised the prospect that “the tragic loss of this extraordinary young man” could be a “heavy blow to our nation’s morale, as it is surely a grievous injury to his loved ones.”
Tillman, 27, was a member of the 2nd Battalion, 75th Ranger Regiment, based at Fort Lewis, Wash. The battalion was involved in Operation Mountain Storm in southeastern Afghanistan, part of the U.S. campaign against fighters of the al-Qaida terror network and the former Taliban government along the Afghanistan-Pakistan border, military officials told NBC News.
U.S. military spokesman Lt. Col. Matthew Beevers said Saturday that Tillman was killed Thursday night in a firefight at about 7 p.m. on a road near Sperah, about 25 miles southwest of a U.S. base at Khost.
After coming under fire, Tillman’s patrol got out of their vehicles and gave chase, moving toward the spot of the ambush. Beevers said the fighting was “sustained” and lasted 15-20 minutes.
Beevers said Tillman was killed by enemy fire, but he had no information about what type of weapons were involved in the assault, or whether he died instantly.
An Afghan militiaman fighting alongside Tillman also was killed, and two other U.S. soldiers were wounded.
A local Afghan commander, Gen. Khial Bas, told The Associated Press that nine enemy fighters were killed in the confrontation.
Bas said six other enemy fighters were believed to have escaped. Beevers said he had no information about any enemy fighters killed.… …
July 10th 2006 11:34 [PST] -- Wait a minute. Let’s look at that again.
April 16, 2004, six days before Pat Tillman was killed, Afghan militia General Khial Bas is in contact, when two “allies” are killed along with two wounded, and nine “insurgents” are killed in the confrontation.
April 22, 2004, Afghan militia General Khial Bas was not only with Pat Tillman and the Black Sheep Platoon, but the two wounded are 1LT Uthlaut and RTO Jade Lane, the two killed are Pat Tillman and an Afghan militiaman – who even the Department of Defense hasn’t seen fit to identify with his actual name, and the intrepid militia of said General Bas prove again that they have the remarkable ability to kill exactly nine enemy in each confrontation.
The latter story was given out by the Public Affairs Officer in Kabul, Matthew Beevers. Some overworked, under-slept E-5 writing that day’s scripted message slipped up and mixed the boilerplates. The point is, there was no attention being paid to real events except to re-script them. The “official” statement is always, first and last, designed to prop up a public perception, not inform or educate the public… far from it.
This kind of thing happens when too many cooks are in the kitchen and supper is late. There were already a lot of cooks in the kitchen in April 2004, and Pat’s death by fratricide constituted a major emergency for them all.
This was triage by committee.
With the reader’s forbearance, I need to reiterate and fold in some of the main premises from earlier editions of The Tillman Files.
In our last installment of The Tillman Files, we attempted to generally reconstruct what had happened in the firefight that led to Pat Tillman’s death. We cannot claim perfect accuracy for this account any more than any other journalistic organ can, because the witnesses themselves were making eyewitness accounts, the original statements by the participants were not made for days after the incident, and the original investigation was torn up when it proved too politically sensitive to ever see the light of day. The statements taken during the second investigation, where the investigating officer had a tremendous conflict of interest, had been altered.
The case that we are making here is – in legal jargon – circumstantial. The case for which the Department of Defense has settled so far is based on eyewitness statements, some of which have changed and many of which were obviously being coached and led when one reads the transcripts of the interviews – and we have all of them from the second and third iteration of investigation. It needs to be pointed out, since the military is hiding behind legal customs and cultural biases about evidence, that the record of accuracy for circumstantial evidence is acutely stronger than that for eyewitness testimony.
The association of physical evidence with time-space correlations is what circumstantial evidence is. If I have purchased a gun at store X at 3:15 PM on a given day, twenty miles from my home, and an ATM machine records a withdrawal by me one block from the store at 3 PM, that does not “prove” that I bought the gun… but it sure as hell places me within range of the gun store at the right time. If the gun store owner is asked who was at the store at 3:15 on that day, and can he identify me, when even a few days have passed, what exactly will he remember… really? How many readers can remember exactly what happened yesterday at 3:15 PM?
In fact, studies suggest that as many as 5,000 wrongful convictions happen in the US each year based on eyewitness testimony.
That is why, in an earlier edition, I made the provocative claim that law – and the legalism that is used as a cover by public officials – is not science-based. It is the manifestation of custom, precedent, and has a deeply religious character – complete with church-like courtrooms designed to inspire awe and obedience, oye-oye incantations to ritualize its activity, and even priestly robes for the presiding judges.
A trial, for example, is one exercise of the law. The so-called objectivity of the law, which pretends it has no point of view, renders the law a mirror of the status-quo. Every assumption that holds sway, with or without the formal recognition of the law, enters the courtroom, then, as a fact of nature – a universality, something above and immune from the actual living bodies and all their turbulent histories in the courtroom. This is why every trial that purports to be objective is a lie. This reflection of the status quo that calls itself objectivity, and pretends it has no point of view, reflects power and surrounds that power in a force field of invisibility.
This series wants to look behind that legalism, to establish, as far as possible, what the circumstances were before, during, and after the actual firefight, and give the public a peek at the muttering functionaries behind the legal curtain of the Great Oz.
There is no way to understand what happened once Pat Tillman fell on April 22 without tearing down that curtain, without rejecting the myth of legal “objectivity.”
We will begin, instead, with the denied reality that Pat Tillman’s death was an “emergency” on multiple scales. We will not begin with the disingenuousness of the boss.
What were these emergencies, and for whom?
On April 22nd, the day Pat was killed, Rumsfeld was chastising the press for not telling the public the “good news” about what was happening in Iraq and Afghanistan. He said that because there was no good news, unless you were a partisan of the Iraqi resistance or an opium farmer in Afghanistan.
Lawrence Di Rita will be remembered, if at all, by history as the guy who was elected to deny that there was any evidence available to the Pentagon that desecration of the Koran, including putting them in the toilet, was a regular part of detainee abuse in the Guantanamo Bay concentration camp.
Di Rita is the Principle Deputy Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs; but he is also one of Rumsfeld’s closest advisors, a veteran of the Heritage Foundation, one of the premier neo-con think-tanks leading the charge to invade Iraq. Di Rita is a very influential character. There is little doubt that he was intimately involved in the damage control over Pat Tillman being killed by fellow Rangers. Rumsfeld runs the entire Department of Defense; and Lawrence Di Rita is specifically assigned to the chief coordinator of Pentagon perception management.
“In the battle of perception management,” said Di Rita said in December 2004, “where the enemy is clearly using the media to help manage perceptions of the general public, our job is not perception management but to counter the enemy's perception management.” This was Di Rita’s defense of the Information Operations Roadmap referenced in Part 3 of this series – the same program that replaced the Office of Strategic Influence, the first Pentagon program to plant false stories in the news as part of “operations.”
Our job is not to lie, but to tell counter-lies – the modern day equivalent of the Devil made me do it.
When Pat Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, the stories about detainee abuse at Guantanamo Bay were already boiling over, and Di Rita was putting in a lot of late nights on this story. The four “civilians” that were killed and burned in the ambush at Fallujah were not having the desired effect of mobilizing outrage so much as they were drawing attention to the extensive use of brutal mercenaries by the Department of Defense.
That incident then obliged the Rumsfeld Pentagon to demonstrate its collective masculinity by attempting the destruction of the entire city of Fallujah. The attack failed, and a second front opened up in Najaf after US troops killed Shia demonstrators protesting the Coalition Provisional Authority that had arbitrarily shut down one of their newspapers. The Abu Ghraib scandal was to be broken by 60 Minutes on April 28th, though the televised news magazine had informed the Pentagon of their intent to air two weeks prior… around April 15th.
By the time the news that Pat Tillman had been killed by friendly fire arrived at Di Rita’s and Rumsfeld’s offices, presumably around April 24th, the Public Affairs Office was overwhelmed, and the issue had to be triaged. In fact, two forms of triage were in demand: (1) they had to step on bad news – especially anything that ran counter to the tale of ubiquitous professionalism they needed to counter the recurring stories of US abuse, and (2) they needed, as Rumsfeld noted on the fateful day, “good news.”
John Abazaid, commander of Central Command, was embroiled in the breaking Abu Ghraib scandal even as he was losing a two-front campaign in Najaf and Fallujah. Someone who was not similarly tangled up would have to handle the Tillman episode for the moment, with only general guidance: no reports on fratricide, not right now, and turn this into something that re-kindles American patriotic feeling for the war.
General Kensinger, presumably, was given the guidance from Abazaid’s staff. Kensinger passed it along to the logical person – LTC Ralph Kauzlaurich. Before the after-action review was even conducted, Kauzlaurich’s staff and sub-unit commanders had worked out the outlines. A Silver Star and a tale of American heroism. It wouldn’t be until CPT Richard Scott, the HHC/A-75 Company Commander, filed his Article 15-6 investigation findings that Kauzlaurich would begin to appreciate how bad this was going to make him, and his chain of command look.
He had an emergency. And with that emergency, another troop had one, too. SSG Greg Baker, the NCO in charge of the killer vehicle outside of Manah on April 22nd. Kauzlaurich’s creation of a “false sense of urgency” amid the pressure from Rumsfeld’s Pentagon to “show success,” was now paired with Baker’s fate under the cloud of a criminal negligence charge that could spread to his whole crew that day, in one report – written by Captain Richard Scott. That report – which was the result of an Article 15-6 investigation that was completed – had to disappear. And disappear it did.
This story, with both its circumstantial evidence and its conjectures, would not be written today had it not been for Pat Tillman’s brother, Kevin.
The Rangers were compelled, according to one of the members of the Battalion, to sign secrecy statements about the whole incident that forbade them to discuss any details of the killing of Pat Tillman for 80 years – that is, after all of us are dead. Scott’s report was to disappear down that same memory hole.
Kevin Tillman, who was scooped up from Manah in a helicopter that fateful day and sent home, did not learn that his brother had been killed by members of his own platoon for five weeks. When he did learn, he informed his chain of command that he could no longer bear to work at A Company, and he was reassigned to Headquarter and Headquarters Company, with the Battalion sniper section… Richard Scott’s company.
It was here that Kevin started bothering people with questions, a lot of question, because the answers he was getting made no sense. It was during one of these casual interrogations that Scott let slip to Kevin that he had conducted a complete Article 15-6 investigation, prior to the one now on record, overseen by LTC Kauzlaurich. Had it not been for that one slip, General Gary Jones would have never been compelled, in the wake of the McCain Congressional inquiry, to interview Scott, where Scott went on the record that the original statements from the members of Baker’s vehicle had been altered for the second investigation, with regard to the distance, the light conditions, and the duration and spacing of the lethal fires.
With that revelation, all the emergencies that had been quelled were reborn.
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