Heros death turns into a murder investigation (Pat Tilman)

The saga continues. This was a really sad case, and has been discussed at length before on ARRSE, but this most recent development deserves discussion. I think this should have been the first course of action, rather than to use it as a promotional tool for the war on terror.

WHEN Pat Tillman was shot dead in Afghanistan two years ago, the US military lauded him as an inspiring patriotic icon — an all-American hero who had laid down his life for his country rather than pursue a lucrative football career.

By yesterday, his death had been transformed into a serious embarrassment for the US Army and a symbol of America’s flickering fortunes in the War on Terror.

The Pentagon has ordered an investigation into whether Corporal Tillman’s death was “homicide”, the result of criminal negligence by the American soldiers who killed him.

Corporal Tillman had turned down a $3.6 million (£2 million) American football contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the US Army after the September 11 terrorist attacks. He died on April 22, 2004, and received a posthumous Silver Star for combat bravery.

Initially, the military said that he died while charging uphill towards the enemy in Afghanistan. Five weeks later, after his memorial service, an internal report was released, disclosing that he had been shot in error by members of his own platoon in fighting about 100 miles (160km) south of Kabul.

Generals said that Corporal Tillman remained a hero, despite the amended account of his death. Successive reviews said the shooting was a genuine accident. But after pressure from his parents, the Pentagon has finally conceded a criminal investigation is necessary.

Paul Boyce, a Pentagon spokesman, said: “The US Army remains committed to thoroughly investigating the circumstances surrounding the death of Patrick Tillman, and we extend our heartfelt condolences again to his family.”

The Tillmans asked why officers in his unit ordered physical evidence, including his uniform and body armour, to be burnt the day after the shooting.

They also have alleged that the findings of earlier investigations into their son’s death were changed, despite protests from the officer leading the inquiry.

The Army has insisted that no cover-up was intended but concedes that the errors contributed to “an air of suspicion”.

Patrick Tillman, the soldier’s father, said the Army conducted two “sham” investigations. Superior officers even “deliberately falsified baseline facts”, including distances and light conditions in the rocky area where his son was killed, he said.

A report in May 2004 by Brigadier General Gary Jones concluded that the Army had known within days of Corporal Tillman’s death that it was the result of friendly fire.

The 1,600-page report also contains statements from soldiers involved in the incident who said that they burned his blood-covered uniform and armour because they knew how he had been killed. Other testimony said that the platoon had been split after a Humvee became disabled, a decision that one platoon leader protested was dangerous, and they then lost contact in a canyon.

The second group is said to have seen Corporal Tillman’s group and opened fire wildly, despite the efforts of their lead vehicle driver, who recognised the group as friendly, and Corporal Tillman’s efforts to identify himself by shouting and setting off a smoke grenade. Corporal Tillman’s mother, Mary, said: “The Army used him. They knew right away he was killed by fratricide and used him for their own purposes to promote the war, to get sympathy for the war.”

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