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Congress’s Hearing on Pat Tillman’s Death















Pat, a Ranger, on left with brother Kevin Tillman, in Afghanistan


This soldier died of two close-together bullet wounds in the forehead that were fired at him at close range in Afghanistan by – wait for it – Americans, in 2004.  A book by Pat’s mother, Mary Tillman, “Boots on the Ground by Dusk,” provides what we need to know.

A Humvee (a tank-like truck) had broken down. The US Army leader decided to split his men into two groups (known as ‘serials’). One serial was sent into a town to get the Humvee repaired, the other, Pat’s serial, went on ahead, with a plan that they would meet up “by dusk.”


Pat’s group saw fire, and he realized it was Americans who were firing on him, so he threw a smoke grenade to indicate he was a “friendly.” Yet they continued to shoot. The back of his skull was blown off. One other man died, an Afghan soldier who was working with the US. Few people still know what his mother Mary spent years uncovering, that the killing of Pat was planned and carried out from on high. Stunning, eh?


Specialist Bryan O’Neal, US Army, Testifies to the Committee on Oversight, House of Representatives, 4/24/07:

“We had started to receive fire from a GMV [ground mobility vehicle]. At first, it was short, sporadic…. I looked and saw that it was friendly fire coming toward us. Pat asked me, basically, what was going on....


And it didn’t take long before those in the GMV who were stopped at the time, to dismount and open up on us with the 50-caliber machine gun and a 240-Bravo machine gun – and basically shot at us in waves, or bursts of rounds. At that time, I felt myself become limp. And I got down. I had no cover, and there was nothing blocking my sight watching the people at the Humvee [a tank-like truck] shooting at us. I know Pat … was able to get himself behind some cover. But it was not much. [We were]…yelling, screaming. [Pat popped a smoke grenade] to signal the troops down in the GMV that we were friendlies. And after he had done that, the firing ceased in the truck.


So we had both believed at that time that the shooting was over. …[Soon] they moved into a better position…in the GMV and started shooting at us again…. I could hear Pat calling, ‘Stop shooting. I’m Pat f-ing Tillman. Stop shooting.’ …And it abruptly stopped, with him calling for help. And it wasn’t too long after that before the truck had moved out.”


Chairman REPRESENTATIVE HENRY WAXMAN: “Did you have any doubt at that time that it was friendly fire that killed Pat Tillman?”

O’NEAL: “No, sir, I am 100 percent positive that was friendly fire. … When our medic came up to come assist us, he asked what happened, and I tried to let him know.”

WAXMAN: “Who is he? Could you identify the name?”

O’NEAL: “That would be Sergeant Anderson. [He] asked me what happened. I tried to let him know, but our squad leader told me basically just don’t say anything at that time.”


Gossip among the Troops and Brother Kevin

Brother Kevin was in Serial Two on the same mission as Pat. After Pat’s burial in California, Kevin returned to Fort Lewis. There, Sergeant Baker told Kevin that it was he, Baker, who had shot, in the chest, an AMF soldier who was standing near Pat and Bryan O’Neal. (AMF’s are Afghans working with the US military.) Later, Colonel Bailey went to the family home and explained that the decision to split the two serials had been made by Lieutenant David Uthlaut. When they said “boots on the ground by dawn” Uthlaut misheard and thought they said “by dusk.”


The Autopsy Report

Pat’s young widow, Marie, and mother Mary received the autopsy report. The gist of it was this: Pat’s clothing had been thrown away, but that is against the rules when a solder dies in situ.   This caused Mary to know that there was foul play. After much quizzing, she learned that the clothes can be thrown away if the man is wounded, but does not die in battle.


She noticed that the autopsy report mentioned a mark on his body from where they defibrillated Pat. Thus Mary Tillman cleverly deduced that her son, even though very dead, was defibrillated in order that there would be justification for dumping the clothing! She figured that the clothing would reveal – and later the doctors confirmed this – that his uniform was studded with green marks, indicative of American bullets. So someone needed to get rid of that incrimination evidence.


Note: in a court, this would be called ‘guilty knowledge,’ as why defibrillate a man whose head had been blown off? (On the same theme, companion Bryan O’Neal was whisked off to Ranger School so no one could talk to him. Why do that?) We can ask who made those particular decisions!


Interestingly also, mother Mary noted that the signature of the autopsy was dated July 22nd – very odd since Pat died on April 22nd. When she inquired, she was told that the first doctor had been unwilling to sign! Hooray for him!

Summary. Pat Tillman was murdered. Amazingly, Congress massaged the issue in such a way that the hearings only spoke of the lying about heroism that needed to be addressed, rather than the murder. Even when O’Neal testified (you can see this on Youtube, he’s in uniform and speaking clearly to the Congressmen) that Pat was shot by men who stepped out of a GMV tank, no Congressmen showed any response! They played dumb! Isn’t that unbelievable.

As a result of sleuthing for four years, Pat’s mother figured out that the damaged Humvee was part of the set-up. She also realized that the order should never have been given to have boots on the ground by dusk. Rather, the military should follow its normal procedure of quoting the time, e.g., “1800 hours” for 6PM. The word dusk was used deliberately to mess up the traveling arrangement by which the two serials would coordinate. The clincher is a Pentagon document that reveals a conspiracy. On page 213 of her book, Mrs Tillman says this:


He then told Jones about what happened as it was described to him, but he made one unusual statement in talking about the AMF soldier who accompanied Pat. Here is what he said. I’ll underline the statement:


“When they [the AMF soldiers] heard the trail serial make contact, my understanding was that all the AMF soldiers stayed with the vehicles minus one guy. That one guy dismounted and moved with Corporal Tillman. When he positioned himself on the ridgeline, he was to be south of Corporal Tillman.”


What did he mean “was to be” south of…?”


The family demanded a hearing. It took place in 2007 and began with O’Neal’s testimony. I will now present unaltered (but abridged) transcript of the hearing. Let me add in an imaginary interaction by me, Mary Maxwell as “MM.”


IN CONGRESS April 24, 2005

Chairman Waxman: … We are focused on Corporal Tillman’s case because the misinformation was so profound and persisted so long. In seven investigations into this tragedy, not one has found evidence of  a conspiracy by the Army to fabricate a hero, to deceive the public or mislead the Tillman family …


[MM] Who needs evidence of a “conspiracy”? It’s plain fact.


Waxman: At our last hearing, Specialist Bryan O’Neal testified. O’Neal was standing next to Corporal Tillman during the fire-fight. He knew immediately that this was a case of friendly fire.


[MM] This is horrendous, Chairman Waxman. O’Neal said that men got out of a US Army tank and shot Pat dead. The autopsy showed two bullet holes in the center of Pat’s forehead. It was a murder that must have been ordered by the brass. What’s with you?  Why aren’t you investigating it?


Waxman: But Specialist O’Neal told us something else: [that] after he submitted his [first] statement, someone else rewrote it. This unnamed person made significant changes that transformed O’Neal’s account into an enemy attack. We still don’t know who did that and why he did it. Our focus has been to look up the chain of command, but that has proved to be as confounding as figuring out what happened to Specialist O’Neal’s witness statement.


[MM] Balderdash! All Congress has to do is subpoena the staff members who saw O’Neal’s first report. They need only be told that perjury is a jailable offense. Now watch Rumsfeld and others claim they don’t remember.


Waxman: …What doesn’t make sense is that weeks later, in the days before and after the Defense Department announced that Corporal Tillman was actually killed by our own forces, there are no e-mails from any of the 97 White House officials about how he really died. The concealment of Corporal Tillman’s fratricide caused millions of Americans to question the integrity of our government, yet no one will tell us where and when the White House learned the truth.


[MM] That’s your job, Waxman!!! You get paid for ‘oversight.’


Waxman. General Kensinger refused to appear today. His attorney informed the committee that General Kensinger would not testify voluntarily, and, if issued a subpoena, would seek to evade service


[MM] It will take you less than a day to impeach him. Also, as you know, it is a crime to ‘default’ when asked to testify at a Congressional investigation. You do know that, right? A crime.


Chairman Waxman: The committee did issue a subpoena to General Kensinger earlier this week, but U.S. Marshals have been unable to locate or serve him.


[MM] Has anyone tried looking in Tora Bora?


Chairman Waxman: Fortunately, we do have the other two recipients of the P-4, General Abizaid and General Brown, here this morning.

[MM] Tell police to detain them for questioning now.


General Myers: … When I learned that General McChrystal had initiated an investigation, that was – that was good for me. I know he had worked for me before. I knew his integrity. I said, this is good. We will learn the truth.


[MM] When I heard it was McChrystal I went Oh, no!


Mr. Davis Mr. Secretary, thank you for being with us today. How and when did you learn that Corporal Tillman had been killed?


Mr. Rumsfeld: I don’t recall precisely how I learned that he was killed. It could have been internally, or ... through the press.


[MM] Lying to Congress is a crime, Rummy. See 18 USC 1001.


Mr. Davis of Virginia: Do you remember did you take any action at the time that you learned that he was killed? …This could be highly publicized and of concern to a lot of people.


Mr. Rumsfeld: The only action I can recall taking was to draft a letter to the family.


[MM] Liar! No person at Cabinet level would ever be the drafter of such a letter. There are thousands of bereaved families.


Mr.  Davis of Virginia: OK. Before he did so, were you aware  that President Bush was going to reference Corporal Tillman in a correspondents’ dinner speech on May 1st?


Mr. Rumsfeld: No.


Mr. Burton: I am sorry, Mr. Chairman, I am late. Mr. Secretary, it is nice seeing you again. When you said to Secretary White keep his eye on [Tillman], you meant that he has potential?


Mr. Rumsfeld: I wouldn’t know that. I just think here is man who is serving his country, and gave up a good deal to do that.


Mr. Burton: You didn’t single him out asking for progress reports or anything like that?


Mr. Rumsfeld: No. Of course not.


[MM] Pants on fire at this time.


Mr. Burton: OK. Thank you very much.


Chairman Waxman: Let’s see, the next one in line is Mr. Hodes.


[MM] Ahem. I ran against Hodes in New Hampshire in 2006.


Mr. Hodes: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. Gentlemen, as I understand it, there have been at least six different investigations into this matter. It appears that each of those investigations had serious flaws. First there was Captain Scott’s investigation, completed within 2 weeks of the incident. Second, Colonel Kauzlarich’s investigation -- I don’t know whether I have butchered his name -- which was finished on May 16, 2004. The DoD IG [Inspector General] concluded that these two investigations were, “tainted by the failure to preserve evidence, a lack of thoroughness, and the failure to pursue investigative leads.’’


[MM]  I see. Have they been dismissed from their positions then? Why do we have Inspectors General anyway?


Mr. Hodes: Third was an investigation by General Jones. But the IG was unable to determine who doctored key witness statements….


[MM] Why not call  Michael Chertoff? Call the KGB! Call  somebody!


Mr. Hodes: An Army Criminal Investigation Division… report inexplicably concluded there were no rules of engagement violations, even though there was a friendly fire fatality… Do you all, Gentlemen, agree that it should not take six different investigations, 3 years, congressional investigations, and millions of taxpayer dollars to address the significant failures that have occurred in this case?


[MM] Great! The man from New Hampshire is about to nail them for the murder. Hang on! Get ready for it!


Mr. Rumsfeld: Absolutely. 


General Myers: Agree.


General Brown: Yes, sir. 


General Abizaid: Agree.


Mr. Hodes: Secretary Rumsfeld, the approach of ordering a series of military investigations that are limited in scope and that do not address the question of what top officials knew appears to be the Department of Defense’s MO when it really doesn’t want accountability.


[MM] Excellent point! Now he’s going to get them for sure…


Mr.  Hodes: When the allegations of abuse at Abu Ghraib arose in 2004, the Pentagon took the same approach. First, there was the Taguba investigation, limited to the conduct of the military police at Abu Ghraib .... Third was the Army Inspector General’s investigation, which focused on interrogation practices without examining the role of top Pentagon leadership.

Mr. Secretary, do you see the parallels here? Do you see why some would think that in the case of both Abu Ghraib and in the Tillman investigation there were deliberate efforts to avoid accountability? And if you see that, the manner in which this serial kind of narrow investigating, never answering the questions about who at the top knew…


[MM] Perfect! This is the moment. This is historic! The tables are about to turn on the wicked imposters at the Pentagon. Go, Hodes!


Mr. Hodes: …what do you think ought to be done so that the American people can be assured that the top leadership in this country… is accountable?


[MM]  Mein Gott! He dropped the ball. It’s a Clay Shaw déjà vu.


Mr. Rumsfeld: Congressman, I don’t obviously agree with your characterization of the history of this. There was an independent panel that looked at Abu Ghraib….


Mr. Hodes: What should be done about it?


Mr. Rumsfeld: I don’t know. I wish I had some brilliant answers.


Mr. Hodes: Thank you. I see my time is up.


[MM] Can’t the Granite State send somebody better than that?


Mr. Davis of Illinois: So you disagree with General Craddock. Thank you very much.


Mr. Rumsfeld: I can’t do that. General Craddock is a terrific officer. I don’t know what he said. I don’t know the context.


Mr. McHenry: Thank you, Mr. Chairman. I appreciate you all testifying today. …I think we all should highlight… that there was a man involved here. And I say this to my colleagues and I say to all, there was still heroism involved in this incident. …I think that is what this hearing should be about, that valor in the battlefield of putting himself in harm’s way, not about pointing fingers after the fact.


[MM] So far as I can discern, this hearing is not about valor. No. Nothing valorous is involved here.


Mr. McHenry: I think this has been much covered, that there were screw-ups in the bureaucracy. And I think everyone agrees. I don’t think there was a cover-up. I think there was a screw-up, and that has had a lot of coverage.

[MM] That’s  not true. Read Mary Tillman’s  Boots on the Ground  by Dusk. There was a massive, complicated cover-up. Who is Representative McHenry trying to absolve?

Mr. Lynch [presiding]: … And as you may remember, Specialist O’Neal was with Corporal Tillman on that canyon road near Manah. And Specialist O’Neal went back to Salerno, a couple of days after the firefight, and actually he wrote a witness statement. … But then something happened. Someone rewrote that statement and the revised version – we had Specialist O’Neal in, and we showed him the statement and we asked, Did you write this part? No, I didn’t. Did you write this part? No, I didn’t. So folks wanted to honor the memory of Corporal Tillman. And he was a hero; the minute he put on that uniform.

[MM] I don’t honestly think putting on a uniform can make a person a hero. What about General Myers, for example? He wears a uniform.

Mr. Lynch: [Pat] was an American hero, and nothing changes that. But we owe it to our servicemen to accurately account


[MM] After we murder them.


Mr. Lynch: So I ask you, can anybody here on this panel explain how that happened? Explain to the American people?

Mr. Rumsfeld: I – needless to say, it happened the way you’ve described it and the way the various investigations have reported it. It happened in the field that somebody took somebody else’s words and altered them. I have no idea who did it.


[MM] Bailiff, cuff him. Oh! wait, here is Professor Myers now.


General Myers: It would be extremely difficult to divine that. I haven’t seen how the words were altered, but it is inappropriate and inexcusable. But I don’t know why.

Mr. Lynch: General Abizaid, good to see you again, sir.


[MM] I can’t believe he just said that. And the Tillmans are sitting right there! Is Mr. Lynch is trying to rub it in to them?


General Abizaid: Sir, it is good to see you as well…. Again, no excuses can be offered, but I can tell you a couple of facts. General McChrystal reported the incident in a forthright and in a timely fashion.


[MM] His wife should restrict his privileges for saying that.

Mr. Murphy: ... Thank you very much for being here today. I [went] this year to Iraq and Afghanistan; and frankly, as someone who has never worn the uniform or fired a gun or been shot at, I left there with a deep ... unconditional sense of appreciation for what our men and women are doing there. And I thank you for your role in leading them.


[MM] Excuse me, did someone say someone was leading?


General Myers: …No, the matter should have been handled by the Army. And it would not – I mean, I don’t think it would have occurred to me to say, Gee – I mean, this was not – unfortunately, not the first fratricide, not the first death.


[MM] Now I see why Pat’s Dad wrote to the brass as he did.

Chairman Waxman: You have been here a long time. I appreciate your taking the time to be with us. We are obviously trying to find out what went on. That concludes our hearing today, and we stand adjourned.

[MM] Chairman, I’ll send you a copy of the parchment, OK?


Note to citizens: you can hold both Generals McChrystal and Myers to account for the murder of Pat Tillman, can you not? It is you who pay their salaries and retirement pensions. By the way, General Richard Myers is currently on the boards of United Technologies and Northrop and chairs Oneida Financial. He was in charge of America’s air defenses on September 11, 2001, and arranged the war in Iraq. He holds the Colin Powell Chair of Leadership, Character and Ethics (you can’t make this stuff up).


Oh, and let's not forget the great contributions of investigative journalism, such as CNN's interview with Mom and Dad Tilllman:

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