[After more than three days of sitting and reviewing over 2,000 pages of records made available to the Tillman family after Pat Tillman’s negligent homicide by friendly fire, both Stan Goff and I were pretty disgusted and, in some cases, shocked. Stan is a retired veteran of US Army Special Forces and I am a former LAPD officer and narcotics investigator who was loaned to divisional homicide for two months. We have seen death, shootings and bloody “clusterf--ks” up close and personal. Pat Tillman’s death – symbolic of the death of what little good faith remains between the American military and its leadership – is the cynical, short-sighted, callous and venal death of every American who trusts a system where truth telling has become a crime and “perception management” has emerged as the highest virtue of cultic priests.
- We were all surprised last weekend when CNN ran a “new” investigative series on Pat’s death using the same documents I had just retrieved from Pat’s mother, Mary. She had given them to CNN a long time ago but nothing had transpired – that is, until FTW started writing about it. We’re not surprised. Stan Goff and FTW scare Donald Rumsfeld and the Bush administration. We scare CNN. For about a month prior to FTW launching this series there had been no mainstream stories about the Tillman case. Since we published Part One I have seen eight new stories about him, including CNN’s.
One thing is for certain. What Stan Goff and I publish and write on the tragic death of Pat Tillman will be nothing like what you’ll see in the mainstream. I’m not sure that even William Shakespeare could have come with a tragedy like this one. There were crimes committed here and we will show them to you in all their bloody detail.
Pat Tillman’s story makes me sick at heart as much as it makes me sick to my stomach. – MCR]
The Tillman Files – Part 3
The Game Plan
Military/ Veterans Affairs Editor
© Copyright 2006, From The Wilderness Publications, www.fromthewilderness.com. All Rights Reserved. This story may NOT be posted on any Internet web site without express written permission. Contact email@example.com. May be circulated, distributed or transmitted for non-profit purposes only.
Let me say that again, because that – and not the question of Pat’s actions – is what this is about: The Silver Star award was being drafted by people who had not been there, BEFORE THE PLATOON HAD EVEN RETURNED TO BASE. This has no precedent in any experience I had over a period of more than a quarter of a century in the Army. – Stan Goff
“Information is an instrument of national power, just as military, economic and political. Like any weapon or tool, the United States Government needs to use it or cede the ‘battlefield’ to someone else.”
–John Rendon, Rendon Group
EMAIL [Top line redacted]
Sent: Friday, April 30, 2004, 3:03 PM
SUBJECT: Corporal Tillman SS Game Plan
Importance – High
[Next line redacted]
As we just discussed, it was a misstep by [redacted] on the premature release of draft [redacted] release announcing the approval of the Silver Star Award to Corporal Tillman. As is the standard practice for [redacted] among [redacted] sent the draft announcement to his [redacted] counterparts with a header of DRAFT only – NOT for release. [Redacted] will make the release later today. [Redacted] provided the info to several members of the Pentagon Press Corps on the mistaken belief the info was releasable. [Redacted] has expressed his displeasure to [redacted]. No immediate queries yet based on [redacted] action, and if asked, will forward to [redacted].
June,2 2006 12:30pm PST -- Pat Tillman was a serious young man, hard-working, highly inquisitive, studious, and critical; but that did not translate into humorlessness. Friends and family describe him as funny and playful, even about very serious matters.
A member of his platoon in 2nd Ranger Battalion recalls that Pat had become quite unabashed in his belief that the war in Iraq was “so fucking illegal,” and that – while riffing on that theme one day – Pat started making fun of the Bush administration. They needed some Ranger leadership up there, he quipped, because they didn’t show any effort. They wouldn’t even make the effort to construct a good lie. They were lazy.
When Pat was killed, however, on April 22, 2004, someone made the effort. Part of that effort was the award of a posthumous Silver Star to Pat Tillman. The above email, originating from the Special Operations Command (SOCOM), was a response to the premature announcement on April 30, 2004, by the United States Army Special Operation Command (USASOC) Public Affairs Office of the award of the Silver Star to Pat Tillman. The fact that the subject of the email is called an SS (Silver Star) Game Plan suggests that this particular fabric of lies was torn, and a “game plan” was required to prepare for… what?
To answer that, we have to first establish what the role is in today’s politico-military milieu for “public affairs.” Certainly the Bush administration has been characterized by a high level of arrogance and impunity during its tenure; but the fact they haven’t put forth much effort – and Pat was joking about that – has more to do with American cultural credulity than laziness. Most people didn’t make the effort that Pat Tillman did to understand what was really going on, and the Bush administration has consistently counted on that.
In fact, the Bush administration had spent millions upon millions of dollars, like administrations before them, in the construction of elaborate lies to sell military actions to the American public. Selling war with lies has become one of the most lucrative parasitic industries in Washington DC.
Anyone who has not seen the film, Wag the Dog, is herein encouraged to do so. The plot revolves around a manufactured crisis by a fictional administration to create a pretext for invading Albania. It is a dark comedy, but watching it now doesn’t elicit belly laughs so much as nervous chuckling because of its alarming verisimilitude.
On February 19, 2002, more than a year before the American ground offensive launched out of Kuwait and into its greatest military mire since Vietnam, the New York Times ran a story about a Pentagon outfit called the Office of Strategic Influence (OSI). The purpose of said office was “developing plans to provide news items, possibly even false ones, to foreign media organizations… to influence public sentiment and policy makers in both friendly and unfriendly countries.”
Rumsfeld, in a fit of arrogant pique at reporters in November of the same year, railed at them:
“There was the Office of Strategic Influence. You may recall that. And ‘Oh, my goodness gracious, isn’t that terrible; Henny Penny, the sky is going to fall.’ I went down that next day and said, ‘Fine, if you want to savage this thing, fine, I’ll give you the corpse. There’s the name. You can have the name, but I’m gonna keep doing every single thing that needs to be done’ and I have…”
…fuck you very much.
Close my offices, but I’ll do any damn thing I want.
By 2003, the Pentagon propaganda program had been re-packaged, and a secret 74-page directive emanated from Rumsfeld’s office, now struggling with the catastrophic cascade developing in Iraq, where key advisors had assured the administration a year earlier of a “cake walk.” That directive was the “Information Operations Roadmap” (IOR). Using the almost painfully dissociative wordsmithing of good military bureaucrats, IOR was described thus:
“The integrated employment of the core capabilities of electronic warfare [EW], computer network operations [CNO], psychological operations [PSYOP], military deception, and operations security [OPSEC], with specified supporting and related capabilities to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decisionmaking while protecting our own.”
IOR was neither new nor innovative. Rumsfeld and one of his sycophants merely re-named what had been going on for some time, even before Rumsfeld. Rumsfeld’s new “doctrine,” which he has haughtily christened the “Revolution in Military Affairs” (RMA), is generally described in three components: high technology weapons and equipment, high technology air power, and lean, fast-moving ground forces.
In Southwest Asia, this doctrine – while it sounds great when one pitches it in a Washington drawing room – has been an unmitigated disaster. High tech systems are vulnerable to dangerously uncontrollable forces, like sandstorms and tough, angry people. High-tech air power was quickly replaced by the low-tech, but deadly and accurate A-10 Warthog (that has seeded thousands of years’ worth of toxic and radioactive contamination throughout the CENTCOM Theater in the form of depleted uranium). And the lean, fast-moving forces have found themselves armoring up like Panzers in the face of low-tech combat solutions like improvised explosive devices (IEDs).
Rumsfeld’s nemesis on doctrine was then-Secretary of State Colin Powell – for all his moral failures, at least someone who had a smattering of combat experience – whose own “Powell Doctrine” said much that neither Rumsfeld nor his injudicious boss wanted to hear:
Powell, schooled under the parsimonious Caspar Weinberger, outlined his namesake doctrine as a set of questions that read almost like the interrogative for a business plan (people like Rumsfeld don’t bother themselves with questions, since they already know the answers):
* Is a vital US interest at stake?
* Will we commit sufficient resources to win?
* Are the objectives clearly defined?
* Will we sustain the commitment?
* Is there reasonable expectation that the public and Congress will support the operation?
* Have we exhausted our other options?
* Do we have a clear exit strategy?
This was an unwelcome doctrine in the Bush administration, so even after Powell went before the United Nations and told whopper lies for his boss, he was repaid by being sent away.
But there was one thing that Powell had become a kind of expert on, and Rumsfeld took this to heart, and even brought it to a higher art: the necessity of perception management as an essential component of modern imperial warfare. The difference was, Powell wanted to be sure the war was thought through with an eye to consequences. He remembered Vietnam. Rumsfeld, who flew Navy planes for four years during peacetime, didn’t.
Rumsfeld was tasked as soon as he was appointed to begin drawing up “solutions” for Afghanistan and Iraq. After September 11, Rumsfeld’s notes for communication with his boss included the very direct recommendation: “Go massive. Sweep it all up. Things related and not.”
The attacks of that day provided the perfect pretext to militarize American policy, foreign and domestic, and to massively accelerate plans to “sweep it all up” – “it” being Afghanistan – which was already targeted for October – but also Iraq…. then Iran… then Syria – driving a physical wedge between China and the region, setting up for a contest with Russia over the Caspian region, and perched on multiple doorsteps of the irreplaceable, but ever more politically volatile OPEC colossus, Saudi Arabia.
The Bush-Cheney-Rumsfeld troika immediately launched a propaganda campaign unmatched in history, the target audience of which was the population of the United States. We have all become familiar by now with the degree of perfidy employed during the perception management campaign leading to the March 2003 ground offensive into Iraq. The October 2001 invasion of Afghanistan – once the word was out that Osama bin Laden was there, and with the already powerful but inaccurate identification of bin Laden with the Taliban government there – made this invasion an absolute certainty, even though it was planned before September 11th.
What few realize, however, is that these perception management programs are extremely well-planned, employ an army of public relations experts and professional spin-masters, and are hugely expensive. Just as Rumsfeld has hired more than 20,000 private mercenaries to fill in the gaps in Iraq and to conduct activities that escape Congressional oversight, the Bush administration (like the Clinton administration before it) has hired private contractors whose sole purpose in life is to re-construct the war in Southwest Asia as a story – using story conventions with which the American public is familiar and comfortable – that resonates emotionally and mythically with our media-conformed “social imaginary.”
Before we begin weaving-in the next panel on our case, I want to make something abundantly clear, and I will reiterate it more than once. There was a phony story of heroism constructed about Pat Tillman in combat with “enemies.” The real story – which we will reconstruct in the next edition to the very best of our ability – is also a story of the courage and selflessness of Pat Tillman, in which he actually did save the life of a comrade and lose his own life in the process. That he did so in the face of withering “friendly” fire not only does not minimize his actions; it is the real story of a man who found himself in a situation that was as complex as it was dangerous, and whose courage purchased one human life at the terrible cost of his own.
In the previous installment for this series, we wrote about the connection between military careerism and the “disingenuous boss.” Now we need to take that thread and weave it into the issue of perception management, because this is what will ultimately explain an aspect of the circumstances leading to the death by “friendly fire” of Pat Tillman, and many aspects of the actions taken through the chain of command afterward in the retrenchment cover-ups of cover-ups.
We’ll begin by going back to October 2003, in Northern Iraq, also known as Iraqi Kurdistan. Our story is that of the then-Commander of 2nd Battalion, 503rd Infantry, 173rd Airborne Brigade – Lieutenant Colonel Dominic Caraccilo.
The re-activated 173rd Airborne Brigade is the same unit with which I did my hitch in Vietnam, one that had been deactivated in August 1971. Caraccilo and his battalion were stationed in Iraqi Kurdistan’s Kirkuk, near some of the richest oil fields in the world. While they are certainly living in comparatively austere circumstances, separated from loved ones, with many beginning to question the justifications for this war, they had not undergone the same kind of combat stress as soldiers around Fallujah and Tikrit.
In the first week of that month, 500 identical letters-to-the-editor were received by hometown newspapers across the United States, all from LTC Caraccilo's unit, signed by dozens of his troops, some with apparently forged signatures from troops who were unaware of the letter at all.
The letter said, among sundry descriptions of New Eden, “After nearly five months here, the people still come running from their homes, into the 110 degree heat, waving to us as our troops drive by on daily patrols of the city... There is very little trash in the streets, many more people in the markets and shops and children have returned to school... This is all evidence, that the work we are doing is bettering the lives of Kirkuk's citizens.”
This letter stunt was pulled, “coincidentally,” at the same time the Bush administration launched its counteroffensive against critics of the war – which was going very badly.
To kick off this publicity counter-offensive, George W. Bush – who still hadn’t recovered from the gaffe of saying “Bring ‘em on” at a press conference in June – was at it again, telling National Guard troops in Portsmouth, NH, that “Americans are not the running kind.” The interesting thing was that Paul Wolfowitz said exactly the same thing, in a different venue, on the same day. This was a scripted, well-coordinated Psychological Operations (PSYOPS) campaign, directed again at the American public.
Scripting is both a term and a practice that we need to keep foremost in our minds as we follow the story of Pat Tillman.
When the letters-to-the-editors scam was exposed, LTC Caraccilo – relying on the media protocol of granting authority its “presumption of good will and good faith” – publicly said he only wanted to “share the pride with people back home.”
As part of his confession, he preempted a felony by saying no one was forced to sign the letter (before the question was even asked!), and consistent with the PSYOPS playbook, the administration exercised “plausible denial” (We didn’t know about this – and you can’t construct a prima facie case that we did) and hoped that this, too, would blow over. Which it did.
Presumption of good will and good faith, you see.
The administration counted on the US press not to ask how curious it was that the Caraccilo “letter campaign” coincided with the PR counteroffensive of their very own National Command Authority – the same one that has openly declared its intention to manage public perception, even attempting to develop its own perception management agency, the Office of Strategic Influence; and after that was exposed and dropped, Rumsfeld declared in his moment of paternal rage that he would – by God – do exactly what the fuck he wanted, and you can all go to hell if you don’t like it.
Soldiers from 2/503 Airborne Infantry confirmed, when asked, that this letter campaign was coercive and dishonest – both crimes under the Uniform Code of Military Justice – and the Pollyanna form letters were seen by all whose names were forwarded to the press, but the media story was the Office of the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs line:
“The intention was good, but the delivery system was probably not a good way to do it.”
Caraccilo accepted this criticism – as would the junior officers in the chain of command over Pat Tillman – and preserved his career (he will likely advance, since he now has something on his own chain of command), and the king is safe. The Stepford press was not asking just what in the hell the intent was, even though a child could figure it out.
The factors in confluence here – just as in Pat Tillman’s case – were: (1) perception management when the war is going badly, (2) a lie-and-leak crisis, (3) the mainstream press protocol of presumption of good will and good faith, (4) bureaucratic careerism in the military, and (5) disingenuous boss syndrome (DBS) as an escape from accountability.
This story is just one of numerous examples to make this point.
I should explain something about the military for readers unfamiliar. No Lieutenant Colonel (like Caraccilo) – a person with around 15 years in the Officer Personnel Management System (OPMS), one of the most ruthlessly unforgiving bureaucratic ladders in existence, where someone is always waiting for you to misstep – is unilaterally going to cook up and carry out something as harebrained as that letter campaign. He doesn't have the time under normal circumstances, because running an infantry battalion that is deployed into a hostile fire zone is very time-consuming, and he doesn't want to commit career suicide five years from his eligibility to draw a pension. If he had inaugurated this on his own, he’d have been flushed like a snotty Kleenex.
The directive to write those letters came from higher, and at every step up the ladder, where the career competition becomes tighter and more pitiless, the likelihood of this particular brand of stupidity diminishes by orders of magnitude. That strongly suggests that the buck stopped past the uniforms, at the suits, that is, worn by the National Command Authority itself. It is a stupidity that is too massive – like a great stone – to ascend. It can only descend.
In other words, this kind of stupidity could only have come from the very top, probably with the able assistance of the Pentagon’s hired PR guns.
One key example: The Rendon Group.
The Rendon Group has been around through both the Clinton and Bush II administrations. It is not the only PR outfit feeding at the public trough for the purpose of shoveling bullshit at the very public who signs its checks, but Rendon is emblematic. Rendon stage managed much of the run-up to the current quagmire in Iraq, to include being largely responsible for the organization of the Iraqi quisling regime that was originally intended to take power – dubbed by The Rendon Group the “Iraqi National Congress,” complete with the changed regime head and convicted embezzler, Ahmed Chalabi.
Said one unnamed State Department official in a moment of anonymous candor, “Were it not for Rendon, the Chalabi group wouldn't even be on the map.”
Rendon had picked up where Hill and Knowlton, the Gulf War I perception managers, left off. You remember H and K. On contract with the US government, they hatched the Kuwaiti-babies-thrown-from-their-incubators-by-Iraqi-soldiers story that mobilized massive press and public support for the Bush I invasion. Of course, the story turned out to be a complete fabrication, but it proved so persistent that an HBO movie about Gulf War I in 2004 actually echoed it again as fact. It should not surprise anyone that Victoria (Torie) Clarke, Pentagon spokesperson during the stop-and-start blitz at the beginning of this invasion, is a former Hill and Knowlton staffer.
Incidentally, Clarke went on to become the Pentagon’s Assistant Secretary of Defense for Public Affairs, an office she resigned in 2003; and we shall look more closely at her successor, Lawrence Di Rita, in the next installment.
Rendon Group was founded by the former Democratic Party operator, John Rendon. Rendon Group worked alongside Hill and Knowlton during Gulf War I, inside Kuwait, where they learned quickly how to mine America's consumer witlessness. Rendon even boasted about it to the National Security Council, saying, “If any of you either participated in the liberation of Kuwait City ... or if you watched it on television, you would have seen hundreds of Kuwaitis waving small American flags. Did you ever stop to wonder how the people of Kuwait City, after being held hostage for seven long and painful months, were able to get hand-held American flags? And for that matter, the flags of other coalition countries? Well, you now know the answer. That was one of my jobs.”
Hill and Knowlton actually published a book with so many lies it was almost a new fiction genre, called The Rape of Kuwait. It was sent directly to troops prior to launching Desert Storm, presumably to remove their inhibitions and imbue them with the proper fighting spirit by dehumanizing their new enemy.
Retired Air Force Colonel Sam Gardiner in October 2003 published a remarkable document online, Truth from These Podia which I recommend. He found over 50 systematic and intentional lies that were generated for the express purpose of deceiving not some putative enemy, but the press and the people of the United States and Great Britain.
He describes the evolution and structure of the White House's Office of Global Communications – an office almost run by Rendon people – and how they generated news stories out of CENTCOM and elsewhere faster than the press could keep up in order to push deadlines and competition and thereby inhibit fact-checking.
As the stories come apart, sometimes in mere days or hours, the Rendon technique counsels that fabrications be allowed to “linger” without comment.
This tactic is combined with language control – explaining why “Americans are not the running kind” can show up in two separate speeches in the same day by different members of the administration. Redefining all opposition to US actions as “terrorists” is another example of building false associations through repetition – “echoing” as it is called in the perception management trade.
How many times did we hear “September 11,” “terrorists,” and “Saddam Hussein” in the same breath? Gardiner shows how this is a PSYOPS technique, a method to “construct memory.”
When they get caught, they reconfigure the story with elliptical language, then let it “linger” some more. Weapons of mass destruction become a “weapons program,” then a “seeking” of WMD. George Tenet's CIA “had questions” about the British forgery on Niger’s purported yellow-cake uranium. Caraccilo just “wanted to share the pride with the people back home.” And let the lingering constructed memory kick in as the next flurry of stories is released to bury the newly emergent lie.
Caraccilo, curiously enough, took the heat off of Wilson-Plame, and who could even remember the Jessica Lynch fable, the stage management of Basra, the yellow-cake uranium, the Iraqi anthrax, the bio-weapons trailer, the Iraqis using American uniforms, the Iraqis who used white flags to lure in their prey, the ten-year-old soldiers, the disappearing Scuds, the Iraqi killer drones, the Iraqi woman hanged by the Fedayeen for waving to an American, and the whole wretched list of fabrications that came and went -- what I referred to in my book, Full Spectrum Disorder, as the CENTCOM lie-of-the-day. All echoed by the press in the name of presumption of good will and good faith.
And who will remember that little bump in the road with the uncontainable story that Pat Tillman was killed by his own men? Or overcome the convention of presumption of good will?
In March of this year, Mark Mazzetti, writing for the Los Angeles Times, filed a story entitled “Gen. Casey says U.S. to keep up Iraq PR program.” It makes reference to another PR agency called The Lincoln Group, that last year was exposed as the source for hundreds of faked stories that were being planted in Iraqi newspapers as part of the Pentagon effort to reacquire some semblance of the initiative there.
The U.S. military plans to continue paying Iraqi newspapers to publish stories favorable to the United States after an inquiry found no fault with the controversial practice, the top U.S. general in Iraq said Friday.
Army Gen. George W. Casey said that the review has concluded that the U.S. military has not violated any American laws or Pentagon guidelines by running the information operations campaign in which U.S. troops and a private contractor called Lincoln Group write pro-American stories and pay to have them planted without attribution in the Iraqi media.
"By and large, it found that we were operating within our authorities and responsibilities," Casey said, adding that he has no intention of shutting the program down.
The information program has been heavily criticized both inside and outside of the military as detrimental to U.S. credibility and contrary to the principles of a free press in a nascent, embattled democracy…
…While the final report by Navy Adm. Scott Van Buskirk is not yet complete, Casey's comments are the clearest sign that the U.S. military sees the propaganda effort as a critical tool for winning hearts and minds in Iraq. Van Buskirk's report could pave the way for the Pentagon to duplicate the practice – which would be illegal for the military in the United States – in other parts of the world.
Casey's comments, made during a video teleconference with Pentagon reporters, also highlighted the split in attitude on the program between military commanders in Baghdad and some senior officials in Washington. After the existence of the Lincoln Group program was revealed in an article in the Los Angeles Times three months ago, White House officials said they were "very concerned" about the practice of paying Iraqi newspapers to publish unattributed stories written by American troops….
…American troops write articles, called storyboards, which are given to the Iraqi staff of Lincoln Group to translate into Arabic. The contractor's Iraqi staff pay newspaper editors in Baghdad to publish the articles without revealing their origin.
It would be credulous to the point of stupidity – absent the presumption of good will – for anyone to assume that this manipulative mindset did not also prevail in the public affairs handling of the death of Pat Tillman on April 22, 2004.
The “escape” of the email that led this installment was a tactical blunder by whomever. No matter how credulous the press might be, the title “Silver Star Game Plan” raises a very big question. Why does a Silver Star require a “game plan”?
Why did Cariccilo preemptively state that “no one was forced to sign the letter”?
According to the third investigation into the death of Pat Tillman, “official” notification of General Bryan “Doug” Brown, Commander of US Special Operations Command (SOCOM), of the conclusion by the initial investigator that Pat Tillman was killed by fratricide, Brown’s unsolicited and immediate response was that fratricide “in no way can be construed to detract from Corporal Tillman’s heroism in the face of the enemy.” I have said that Pat Tillman’s real behavior was exemplary; but that is not what Brown is reacting to in advance. His concern is the accusation that the Silver Star award was fraudulent… which it was, because they were trying to re-cast the events of April 22nd to cover up what happened, and why.
Why did General Brown preemptively state that Pat Tillman’s death by friendly fire “in no way can be construed to detract from Corporal Tillman’s heroism in the face of the enemy”?
This is a cookie jar defense.
Here is an informed conjecture from someone who spent a long time in the Army, including assignments with Ranger Battalions. I am not granting the presumption of good faith and good will. This whole thing stinks to high heaven, and someone has to say that without all the mealy-mouthed equivocation.
The commander in chief was in an election year. The war in Iraq was going about as badly as could be imagined with a two-front rebellion that resulted in the tactical defeat of US forces in Fallujah by Iraqi guerrillas. By April 22nd, it was already the deadliest month for the US during the Iraq war. There was a growing recruitment and retention crisis in the military, because young people were weighing their fantasies of glory and their need for college money against the unmistakable reality that one could get killed or very seriously maimed in Iraq or Afghanistan. Meanwhile, informed commentators on Afghanistan were ridiculing the occupation and its inflated claims of progress, noting that US puppet president and former Unocal exec, Hamid Karzai was “the mayor of Kabul.” The need for perception management (PM) had never been higher; and we have already established that intentional, deceptive PM was (and is) a doctrinal constant in Rumsfeld’s ministry.
This is a syllogism.
Here is my conjectural telephone voice-over:
Fratricide! No, by God, you are not going to tell anyone that. You can’t prove that. If anyone asks, you tell them they can’t prove it either. What you’re going to do is this. You’re going to tell the American public how he died as a hero, how he made the supreme sacrifice for God and country. Make sure he gets a medal, some kind of high medal. If you don’t turn this into a recruiting poster, I’ll have someone’s ass on a platter.
And so it would begin. Rolling down through the ranks. Reaction to the emergency. Damage control. Then… only later… the fuller implications begin to sink in.
The Silver Star is awarded in cases of very intense fighting, for valor “above and beyond the call of duty.” This was not intense combat. Moreover, this secret cannot be sustained. The whole platoon knows it… hell, the whole battalion knows it. Six hundred Rangers know that he was not killed in intense combat, but by a hummer full of other Rangers. And they are all going home in May.
(Reminding readers: this does not minimize the courage that the real Pat Tillman displayed in the real incident.)
Captain Bailey [from the third investigation]: There were eight people out there who think they saw Corporal Tillman get killed. It would be the most insane thing I could think of to try and hide something like that.
PRESS RELEASE (excerpt):
During a ground assault convoy in Afghanistan Tillman’s platoon was split into two sections. Tillman was the team leader of the lead section when the trail section began receiving suppressive mortar and small arms fire. The nature of the cavernous terrain made it extremely difficult to target enemy positions and there was no room for the trail element to maneuver out of the kill zone.
Although Tillman’s element was already safely out of the area under fire Tillman ordered his team to dismount and maneuver his team up a hill towards the enemy’s location. As Tillman crested the hill he maneuvered his team into positions and himself with the M249 Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) returned suppressive fire.
Through the firing Tillman’s voice was issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground.
Only after his team engaged a well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished.
While Tillman focused his efforts, and those of his team members without regard to his personal safety he was shot and killed.
This was a lie, and this series will demonstrate that beyond any doubt. The well-armed enemy that Pat Tillman faced were five members of his own platoon.
We will also show that the Silver Star Award was written with the express intent of concealing the facts of the friendly fire incident, while at the same time carefully constructing the language of the award to insulate its authors and authorizers from the specific charge of fraud. We already have in our possession sworn statements that demonstrate the award was being drafted before the authors themselves were clear about what had happened outside of Manah on April 22nd.
Let me say that again, because that – and not the question of Pat’s actions – is what this is about: The Silver Star award was being drafted by people who had not been there, BEFORE THE PLATOON HAD EVEN RETURNED TO BASE. This has no precedent in any experience I had over a period of more than a quarter of a century in the Army.
“We began preparing that award either the night of the incident in which he was killed, or the following day; in either event, we began preparing the award prior to the platoon returning to FOB [Forward Operating Base] Salerno and before we suspected that his death may have been the result of fratricide.”
An award – the third highest military award there is for valor – was being written before an after-action review had even been conducted, by people who were not on the scene, before those on the scene had returned to base. How can an award for a valorous action even be suggested and drafted before the facts of the action are even known? There is only one sensible answer to this.
Pat Tillman was no ordinary soldier. He was famous, and famous as a kind of American military-and-sports male icon – regardless of the real Pat Tillman in all his complexity… including his belief that the war in Iraq was “so fucking illegal.” The reality of Pat Tillman the person, including the reality of how his life ended, were being expunged to spin a story. His name and public reputation were being transformed into a bit of Rumsfeldian perception management.
The order to draft a Silver Star award came from above – where exactly, we don’t know. But come from above it certainly did. The emergency, which required the “game plan,” was that someone let the press release go before the provable lies were edited into plausible deniability. This is where we can demonstrate beyond any doubt that this case had such a high level of “political sensitivity” that a story was being substituted for the truth before Pat’s platoon had even driven back inside the wire at Khoust.
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