The Pat Tillman Story


Pat Tillman
Pat Tillman. US Military

Nothing describes the pain, anguish and heartache of the "war against terror" like the story of Pat Tillman. No other story so vividly illustrates military error, bumbling and cover-up.

Pat Tillman -- high profile volunteer, multi-million-dollar pro-football player -- was killed in Afghanistan in April 2004. He was killed by "friendly fire" after higher-ups split his unit (against military protocol).

His family -- and the public -- was not told the true events surrounding his death for five weeks. Instead, the military treated him like a hero, at a time when a "public relations" hero was desperately needed.

  • 18 April 2004: The Seattle Times releases images of flag-draped coffins on its front page. The Defense Contractor subsequently fires the employee.
  • 22 April 2004: The same day that Tillman dies, The Memory Hole publishes coffin images obtained under the Freedom of Information Act.
  • 22 April 2004 - Pat Tillman killed in "friendly fire" (aka "fratricide")
  • 23 April 2004 - All top Ranger commanders told of the suspected fratricide
  • 28 April 2004: CBS broadcasts images of the abuse at Abu Ghraib.
  • 29 April 2004 - Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal , the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan at the time and the current commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, sent a high-priority "Personal For" cable to four-star Gen. John Abizaid, head of Central Command, advising of probable fratricide. He "suggested that Abizaid contact 'POTUS' (the president of the United States) 'in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment.'" Abizaid told the Inspector General that he was in Iraq did not receive the cable for '10-20' days; this is what the IG's report concludes. However, according to the Army's website, Abizaid was at Central Command headquarters "engaged in a teleconference with reporters at the Pentagon."
  • 30 April 2004: U.S. Army Special Operations Command awards Tillman posthumous Silver Star for combat valor.
  • 30 April 2004: The New Yorker publishes its first analysis of Abu Ghraib, written by Seymour Hersh.
  • 30 April 2004: April was the bloodiest month for US troops in the year-old invasion. The 127 Americans killed in "hostile" events more than doubled the prior "record." Until this milestone, the bloodiest month had been November 2003, with 73 killed in hostile actions.
  • 1 May 2004: The one-year anniversary of Bush's speech that hostilities had ended in Iraq.
  • 1 May 2004: In a speech to the White House Correspondents Association annual dinner, Bush mentioned Tillman.
  • 3 May 2004 - Bush Administration orchestrates nationally-televised memorial, with the public story still being Tillman was killed by enemy fire; features Sen. John McCain (R-AZ), Denver Broncos quarterback Jake Plummer and Maria Shriver.
  • 8 May 2004 - Formal report of investigation -- verdict, fratricide -- by Capt. Richard Scott is delivered to Col. James Nixon, the 75th Ranger Regiment's commander. Nixon is officially appointed to run the case.
  • 28 May 2004 - Gen. John Abizaid, CENTCOM's commander in chief, approved the investigation's conclusions (under an aide's signature).
  • 29 May 2004 - Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr. made the first public announcement that Tillman had probably been killed by friendly fire; announcement made at at Fort Bragg, NC.
  • 19 September 2004 - Arizona Cardinals and New England Patriots football game in Arizona; halftime featured a video tribute to Tillman with comments from President Bush and McCain.
  • January 2005 - The Pentagon concluded that there was no "cover-up" despite the fact that Capt. William Saunders, the commander of Tillman's company, was able to skirt perjury charges by [strong]being allowed to change his testimony[/strong] and [em] he was granted immunity[/em].
  • July 2007: Retired Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., a senior officer in the chain of command for Tillman's unit, was censured "for knowingly trying to mislead investigators."
  • July 2007: AP reports that medical examiners were "suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman's forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player's death amounted to a crime."
  • 1 August 2007: Former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld testifies before the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee and declares that there was no cover-up.