Orwell. In explaining why the Army was finally launching a criminal
investigation of the April 2004 friendly fire death of NFL star-turned-Army-Ranger
Pat Tillman, the Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Peter Pace
sighed, "Although there is no evidence there was criminal
activity the investigators did not specifically look at whether
there was criminal activity." In other words, the previous
four investigations were flawless except for the fact that they
didn't investigate anything. Now the Army has committed publicly
to reexamining the circumstances around Pat Tillman's death as
a formal criminal probe.
of the case represents a triumph for the Tillman family, particularly
Pat's parents Patrick Sr. and Mary, who have been pushing for
a criminal probe for almost two years. Mary
Tillman told the Washington Post Saturday, "The military has had
every opportunity to do the right thing and they haven't. They
knew all along that something was seriously wrong and they just
wanted to cover it up."
Sr. has also said, in the past, "They purposely interfered with
the investigation, they covered it up. [T]hey realized that their
recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if
the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."
want to know why it took
five weeks for the military to tell them
the truth after Pat died. They want to
know why Pat's journal, which he had
kept assiduously for years,
was destroyed in the aftermath
of his death. They want to know why
his clothes and other surrounding
evidence were burned.
have remained convinced that there was an extensive and significant
cover up around Pat's death and they don't need an investigation
to tell them so. What they want to know is why. They want to know
why it took five weeks for the military to tell them the truth
after Pat died. They want to know why Pat's journal, which he
had kept assiduously for years, was destroyed in the aftermath
of his death.
They want to know why his clothes and other surrounding evidence
were burned. They want to know why Pat's brother, an Army Ranger
in close proximity to the incident, was lied to immediately about
how Pat fell. They want to know why Pat was given the Silver Star
posthumously, which is supposed to be a medal earned for active
combat. They want to know why someone concocted the story repeated
by endless eulogizers at Pat's nationally televised funeral about
Pat charging up a hill, and falling in a brutal firefight vs.
They want to know why the truth was withheld from them at their
son's burial even though the completed preliminary investigation
had already found that his death had been caused by "an act
of gross negligence." The Tillmans want to know why they
weren't told of an early investigator's report that stated the
actions of Tillman's unit were "characterized by secrecy,
mishandling of evidence, and delays in reporting crucial facts
about what had happened."
Pat Tillman his parents
unveiled felt the war in Iraq
was "f***ing illegal" and counted
among his favorite authors
anti-imperialist critic Noam Chomsky.
General's review was launched because the Tillmans, by all accounts
a private family, chose to reveal an image of their son very at
odds with the GI Joe image concocted inside the Pentagon. The
Pat Tillman his parents unveiled felt the war in Iraq was "f***ing
illegal" and counted among his favorite authors anti-imperialist
critic Noam Chomsky. He even had a meeting set up with Mr. Chomsky
that he was never able to make. This is the same Pat Tillman who
turned down the NFL's millions to join the Army Rangers and "kick
ass" in Afghanistan. Clearly he was in the process of questioning
this. Clearly he was coming to the conclusions that most of the
United States - along with the majority of soldiers, not to mention
the majority of Iraqis - that in the Middle East, the US is not
on a project of liberation but occupation.
are justifiably skeptical that the probe will reveal anything
new. As Patrick Sr. said, "I think it's another step. But if you
send investigators to reinvestigate an investigation that was
falsified in the first place, what do you think you're going to
He's right, of course, but the fact that the US Army is launching
this criminal probe only demonstrates how effective the Tillmans
have been in challenging the Pentagon, while being armed with
nothing but their outrage. As Col. Joseph Curtin, an Army spokesman
at the Pentagon said, "We want to do the right thing for the family.
We owe it to the family. We owe them the truth." It's an amazing
admission. With over 2,300 US troops and tens of thousands of
Iraqis killed for a Presidential administration's ambitions and
lies, now one family is at last owed "the truth." It's
a start, I suppose.
Dave Zirin's new book, "What's My Name Fool? Sports and Resistance
in the United States," is now in stores. You can receive his column,
Edge of Sports, every week by emailing edgeofsports-
firstname.lastname@example.org. Contact him at email@example.com
Why Pat Tillman's Parents Are No Longer Silent