Monday, September 13, 2010

In war, truth is the first casualty

Pat Tillman (left) and his brother, Kevin, in front of a Chinook helicopter in Saudi Arabia before their tour of duty as Army Rangers in Iraq in 2003.


HEARING

before the

COMMITTEE ON OVERSIGHT
AND GOVERNMENT REFORM

HOUSE OF REPRESENTATIVES

ONE HUNDRED TENTH CONGRESS

FIRST SESSION


APRIL 24, 2007

__________

Serial No. 110-54

__________

Printed for the use of the Committee on Oversight and Government Reform


STATEMENT OF KEVIN TILLMAN

    My name is Kevin Tillman.
    Two days ago marked the third anniversary of the death of
my older brother, Pat Tillman, in Sperah, Afghanistan. To our
family and friends, it was a devastating loss. To the Nation,
it was a moment of disorientation. To the military, it was a
nightmare. But to others within the government, it appears to
have been an opportunity.
    April 2004 was turning into the deadliest month to date in
the war in Iraq. The dual rebellions in Najaf and Fallujah
handed the U.S. forces their first tactical defeat as American
commanders essentially surrendered Fallujah to members of Iraq
resistance, and the administration was forced to accede to
Ayatollah Sistani's demand for January elections in exchange
for assistance in extricating U.S. forces from its battle with
the Mahdi Militia.
    A call-up of 20,000 additional troops was ordered, and
another 20,000 troops had their tours of duty extended.
    In the midst of this, the White House learned that
Christian Parenti, Seymour Hersh and other journalists were
about to reveal a shocking scandal involving mass and systemic
detainee abuse at the facility known as Abu Ghraib.
    Then on April 22, 2004, my brother, Pat, was killed in a
firefight in eastern Afghanistan. Immediately after Pat's
death, our family was told that he was shot in the head by the
enemy in a fierce firefight outside a narrow canyon.
    In the days leading up to Pat's memorial service, media
accounts based on information provided by the Army and the
White House were wreathed in a patriotic glow and became more
dramatic in tone. A terrible tragedy that might have further
undermined support for the war in Iraq was transformed into an
inspirational message that served instead to support the
Nation's foreign policy wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
    To further exploit Pat's death, he was awarded the Silver
Star for Valor. The abridged version went like this:

          Only after his team engaged this well armed enemy did it
        appear that the enemy's volume of fire into Corporal, into the
        kill zone diminished. Above the din of battle, Corporal Tillman
        was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to an enemy
        on the dominating high ground.

          Always leading from the front, Corporal Tillman aggressively
        maneuvered his team against the enemy position on the steep
        slope. As a result of Corporal Tillman's effort and heroic
        action, the trail element of the platoon was able to maneuver
        through the ambush position of relative safety without
        suffering a single casualty.

          The fight that ensued at Corporal Tillman's position
        increased in intensity. Corporal Tillman focused all his
        efforts on keeping the men of his team safe while continuing to
        press the attack himself without regard for his own personal
        safety. In the face of mortal danger, Corporal Tillman
        illustrated that he would not fail his comrades. His actions
        are in keeping with the highest standards of the U.S. Army.

    This was a narrative that inspired countless Americans as
intended.
    There was one small problem with the narrative, however. It
was utter fiction. The content of the multiple investigations
revealed a series of contradictions that strongly suggest
deliberate and careful misrepresentations.
    We appeal to this committee because we believe this
narrative was intended to deceive the family but more
importantly to deceive the American public.
    Pat's death was clearly the result of fratricide. It was
due to a series of careless actions by several individuals in
our platoon after a small harassing ambush.
    During this uncontrolled shooting, the driver of the
vehicle himself recognized friendlies immediately but kept
driving for approximately 400 meters while the soldiers in the
back of his truck continued to shoot at the hillside where the
U.S. soldiers were and civilians.
    The vehicle saw arms and hands waving. Smoke was flying.
Pin gun flares. An Afghan soldier was immediately recognized.
They never felt threatened, and they still shot up the village
unprovoked. The vehicle behind them clearly saw the U.S.
soldiers on the hillside and were calling cease-fire.
    The end result were the death of Pat and the Afghan soldier
as well as two more soldiers wounded in the village.
    The signs were available, but the decision to shoot was
made. This was not some fog of war. They simply lost control.
    According to the sworn statements, statement on April 26th
by the fellow soldier who was right next to Pat, literally
right next to Pat:

          I remember watching the friendlies just shooting at us. A 50-
        cal rolled up into our sights and starting to unload on top of
        us. It would work in boosts. Fifty cal for 10 to 15 seconds,
        240 Bravo, 10 to 15 seconds, back and forth. Specialist Tillman
        and I were yelling: Cease. Stop. Stop. Friendlies. Friendlies.
        Cease fire.

          But they could not hear us.

          Tillman came up with the idea to let a smoke grenade go. They
        stopped. This stopped the friendly contact for a few moments,
        and that is when I realized the AMF soldier was dead.

          At this time, the GMV rolled into a better position to fire
        on us. We thought the battle was over, though, so we were
        relieved, getting up, stretching out and talking with one
        another when I heard some 5.56 rounds coming from the GMV.

          They started firing again. That is when I hit the deck.

          Specialist Tillman at this time was hit by small arms fire. I
        know this because I could hear the pain in his voice as he
        called out: Cease fire. Friendlies. I am Pat, F'ing, Tillman,
        damn it.

          He said this over and over again until he stopped.

    The facts of this case clearly show Pat and the Afghan
soldier were killed by fellow members of his platoon as well as
the wounded soldiers on the hillside, and they knew this
immediately.
    Revealing that Pat's death was a fratricide would have been
yet another political disaster during a month already swollen
with political disasters and a brutal truth that the American
public would undoubtedly find unacceptable. So the facts needed
to be suppressed.
    An alternative narrative had to be constructed. Crucial
evidence was destroyed including Pat's uniform, equipment and
notebook. The autopsy was not done according to regulation, and
a field hospital report was falsified.
    An initial investigation completed in 8 to 10 days before
testimony could be changed or manipulated and which hit
disturbingly close to the mark disappeared into thin air and
was conveniently replaced by another investigation with more
palatable findings.
    This freshly manufactured narrative was then distributed to
the American public, and we believe the strategy had the
intended effect. It shifted the focus from the grotesque
torture at Abu Ghraib and a downward spiral of an illegal act
of aggression to a great American who died a hero's death.
    Over a month after Pat's death when it became clear that it
would no longer be possible to pull off this deception, a few
of the facts were parceled out to the public and to our family.
    General Kensinger was ordered to tell the American public,
May 29th, 5 weeks later, that Pat died of fratricide but with a
calculated and nefarious twist. He stated: ``There was no one
specific finding of fault'' and that he ``probably died of
fratricide.''
    But there was specific fault, and there was nothing
probable about the facts that led to Pat's death. The most
despicable part of what General Kensinger told the American
public was when he said, ``The results of this investigation in
no way diminish the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Corporal
Tillman.''
    This is an egregious attempt to manipulate the public into
thinking anyone who would question this 180-degree flip in the
narrative would be casting doubt on Pat's bravery and
sacrifice. Such questioning says nothing about Pat's bravery
and sacrifice anymore than the narrative for Jessica diminishes
her bravery and sacrifice. It does, however, say a lot about
the powers who perpetrated this.
    After the truth of Pat's death was partially revealed, Pat
was no longer of use as a sales asset and became strictly the
Army's problem. They were now left with the task of briefing
our family and answering our questions. With any luck, our
family would sink quietly into our grief, and the whole
unsavory episode would be swept under the rug. However, they
miscalculated our family's reaction.
    Through the amazing strength and perseverence of my mother,
the most amazing woman on Earth, our family has managed to have
multiple investigations conducted. However, while each
investigation gathered more information, the mountain of
evidence was never used to arrive at an honest or even sensible
conclusion.
    The most recent investigation by the Department of Defense
Inspector General and the Criminal Investigative Division of
the Army concluded that the killing of Pat was ``an accident.''
    The handling of the situation after the firefight was
described as a compilation of ``missteps, inaccuracies and
errors in judgment which created the perception of
concealment.''
    The soldier that shot Pat admitted in his sworn statement
that just before he delivered the fatal burst from about 35
meters away, that he saw his target waving hands, but he
decided to pull the trigger anyway. Such an act is not an
accident. It is a clear violation of the rules of engagement.
    Writing up a field hospital report stating that Pat
``transferred to intensive care unit for continued CPR'' after
most of his head had been taken off by multiple 5.56 rounds is
not misleading.
    Stating that a giant rectangle bruise covering his chest
that sits exactly where the armor plate that protects you from
bullets as being ``consistent with paddle marks'' is not
misleading. These are deliberate and calculated lies.
    Writing a Silver Star award before a single eye witness
account is taken is not a misstep. Falsifying soldier witness
statements for a Silver Star is not a misstep. These are
intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for
fraud.
    Delivering false information at a nationally televised
memorial service is not an error in judgment. Discarding an
investigation that does not fit a preordained conclusion is not
an error in judgment. These are deliberate acts of deceit.
    This is not the perception of concealment. This is
concealment.
    Pat is, of course, not the only soldier where battlefield
reality has reached the family and the public in the form of a
false narrative.
    First Lieutenant Ken Ballard died in Najaf, Iraq, just 1
day after Pat's fratricide went public. His mom, Karen
Meredith, was told that Ken was killed by a sniper on a
rooftop. Fifteen months later, she found out that he was killed
by an unmanned gun from his own vehicle.
    Private Jesse Buryj was killed May 5, 2004, in Iraq. His
family was told he was killed in a vehicle accident. A year
later they received the autopsy report, and they found that he
was shot in the back. The Army was forced to concede that he
was accidentally shot by a Polish soldier. Just recently, out
of nowhere, a lieutenant showed up at their family's house and
told them that an officer in his own unit had shot him. They
are still looking for answers.
    Sergeant Patrick McCaffrey was killed June 22, 2004, from
what the family was told ``an ambush by insurgents.'' Two years
later, they found out that those insurgents happen to be the
same Iraqi troops that he was training. Before his death, he
told his chain of command that these same troops that he was
training were trying to kill him and his team. He was told to
keep his mouth shut.
    About a year ago, I received a phone call. I was at my
mom's house, and it was an emergency breakthrough from the
operator. It happened to be a woman named Dawn Hellermann from
North Carolina, so it was 2 a.m., her time.
    Her husband, Staff Sergeant Brian Hellermann was killed in
Iraq. She was tired of receiving new official reasons why her
husband had died. She was desperate for help, so she called us.
The system had failed her.
    Those soldiers deserve better, and their families deserve
better.
    Our family has relentlessly pursued the truth on this
matter for 3 years. We have now concluded that our efforts are
being actively thwarted by powers that are more important,
excuse me, that are more interested in protecting a narrative
than getting at the truth or seeing that justice is served.
    That is why we ask Congress, as a sovereign representative
of the whole people, to exercise its power to investigate the
inconsistencies in Pat's death and the aftermath and all the
other soldiers that were betrayed by this system.
    The one bit of truth that did survive these manipulations
is that Pat was and still is a great man. He is the most
wonderful older brother to ever exist. Pat wanted to leave a
positive legacy based on his actions, and he did that. But
Pat's death at the hands of his comrades is a terrible tragedy.
    But the fact that the Army and what appears to be others
attempted to hijack his virtue and his legacy is simply
horrific. The least this country can do for him in return is to
uncover who is responsible for his death, who lied and covered
it up, and who instigated those lies and benefited from them.
Then ensure that justice is meted out to the culpable.
    Pat and these other soldiers volunteered to put their lives
on the line for this country. Anything less than the truth is a
betrayal of those values that all soldiers who have fought for
this Nation have sought to uphold.

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