Revolution #68, November 5, 2006


Kevin Tillman and the Killing Lies of the U.S. Army

On Oct. 19, Kevin Tillman posted a scathing critique of the war on Iraq and the Bush administration on the website Truthdig.

Kevin Tillman is the brother of Pat Tillman, a star football player who turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals to join the Army Rangers in May 2002. Pat Tillman was killed in combat in Afghanistan in April 2004. Kevin Tillman was also in the U.S. Army Rangers and the two brothers served in the same unit.

In his statement, Kevin Tillman says, in part:

“Somehow our elected leaders were subverting international law and humanity by setting up secret prisons around the world, secretly kidnapping people, secretly holding them indefinitely, secretly not charging them with anything, secretly torturing them. Somehow that overt policy of torture became the fault of a few ‘bad apples’ in the military…

“Somehow the more soldiers that die, the more legitimate the illegal invasion becomes. Somehow American leadership, whose only credit is lying to its people and illegally invading a nation, has been allowed to steal the courage, virtue and honor of its soldiers on the ground.

“Somehow those afraid to fight an illegal invasion decades ago are allowed to send soldiers to die for an illegal invasion they started. Somehow faking character, virtue and strength is tolerated. Somehow profiting from tragedy and horror is tolerated.

“Somehow the death of tens, if not hundreds, of thousands of people is tolerated. Somehow subversion of the Bill of Rights and The Constitution is tolerated. Somehow suspension of Habeas Corpus is supposed to keep this country safe. Somehow torture is tolerated. Somehow lying is tolerated. Somehow reason is being discarded for faith, dogma, and nonsense.”

Pat and Kevin Tillman joined the U.S. Army after 9/11 out of a sense of patriotic duty. When it was announced that Pat turned down a big offer to renew his NFL contract to join the military, it was made into a major media story and a vehicle to rally people behind the U.S. war on terror. Donald Rumsfeld sent Pat a personal letter thanking him for serving the country. The fascist mouthpiece Ann Coulter oozed that Tillman was “an American original—virtuous, pure and masculine like only an American male can be.”

But according to sports writer Dave Zirin, writing in The Nation, Tillman resisted numerous efforts by the Pentagon to be used more directly for recruitment purposes. Apparently Pat Tillman was a complicated and independent individual, according to his family, a deep thinking person whose views were always developing.

The Army Ranger unit the two Tillmans were in was sent to Iraq first. According to a fellow Ranger, Pat voiced opposition to the Iraq war and Bush while he was in Iraq, saying the war was “so fucking illegal.” Then the two brothers were sent to Afghanistan.

According to their mother, Mary Tillman, a friend of Pat had arranged for him to meet with one of his favorite authors, Noam Chomsky, upon his return from Afghanistan.

When Pat Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, the Pentagon and Bush regime seized on his death to build patriotic support for the war and to counter news of the Abu Ghraib scandal, which was poised to hit the press the same week. Tillman’s funeral was nationally televised. Bush declared that Pat Tillman was “an inspiration on and off the football field, as with all who made the ultimate sacrifice in the war on terror.”

The U.S. Army Special Operations Command awarded Pat Tillman the Silver Star posthumously, releasing a statement that lied—saying that Pat Tillman had been killed by “enemy fire” and described his last moments like something out of a John Wayne movie. During the 2004 presidential campaign, Bush addressed Arizona Cardinal fans on the stadium’s Jumbotron.

Military and political officials appeared with the Tillman family at the funeral. All the while, the Army knew the story they had released and told Tillman’s family was a fabrication and a lie.

In fact Pat Tillman had been killed by “friendly fire” from Rangers in his own unit. They had mistaken him and others for Taliban fighters who had ambushed them moments before. This was common knowledge by all those who participated in the firefight, acknowledged by top Ranger commanders the day after his death, and known to General John Abizaid, commander-in-chief of U.S. Central Command, for days before Tillman’s nationally broadcast funeral.

All this was kept from Tillman’s family until more than a month after he was killed. According to the Washington Post, the truth was even kept hidden from Tillman’s brother Kevin, who was in the same Ranger unit. Since then, the family has been pushing to find out what happened. And the Pentagon is in its fourth investigation of the incident.

In late 2004, by chance Kevin Tillman met the army officer who had conducted a first inquiry right after his brother’s death. This officer told him about the existence of a first Army inquiry, that suggested some of the Rangers who shot Tillman “could be charged for criminal intent” and had demonstrated “gross negligence.” This inquiry had been replaced by an “official” inquiry conducted by Ranger regiment executive officer Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich.

According to reports, in this inquiry higher-ranking officers allowed witnesses to change their stories to prevent anyone from being singled out for real punishment. One captain was given immunity from any perjury charges. All in an apparent attempt to whitewash criticism of the Army and the war.

Tillman’s body armor and uniform were burned, supposedly for “biohazard” reasons. His journal was “lost” right after his death. Rangers present have been warned by superiors not to talk about what happened.

Due to the family’s pressing for the truth, the army finally released thousands of pages of heavily censored documents on the investigations, which have allowed the family and reporters to piece together some of what occurred.

Mary Tillman told reporter Robert Scheer, “The administration used Pat, they tried to attach themselves to his virtue and then they wiped their feet with him.” The Washington Post reported that Pat’s father, Patrick, said he’s convinced “‘all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script’ the fake narrative (or as he puts it, ‘outright lies’) that followed.”

Kevin Tillman says in his statement that he and his brother spoke about how, when they signed up for the US Army, “once we committed, we were at the mercy of the American leadership and the American people. How we could be thrown in a direction not of our volition. How fighting as a soldier would leave us without a voice…until we got out.”

Kevin Tillman left the U.S. military last year and now, he’s courageously speaking out against the war crimes of the Bush Regime.

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