By RICHARD LARDNER and ERICA WERNER
The Army on Tuesday censured a retired three-star general for a “perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership” after the 2004 friendly-fire death in Afghanistan of Army Ranger Pat Tillman.
Army Secretary Pete Geren asked an Army review panel to decide whether Lt. Gen. Philip Kensinger should also have his rank reduced.
Geren told a Pentagon news conference that, while Kensinger was “guilty of deception” in misleading investigators, there was no intentional Pentagon cover-up of circumstances surrounding the former pro football player’s death — at first categorized by the military as being from enemy fire.
“He failed to provide proper leadership to the soldiers under his administrative control. … He let his soldiers down,” Geren said. “General Kensinger was the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground.”
At least six other officers received lesser reprimands.
Geren said he considered recommending a court-martial for Kensinger but ruled it out.
“You are hereby censured for your conduct and failure of leadership in matters relating to the investigation and reporting of the death of Corporal Pat Tillman,” said a memo reprimanding the retired general. “Your failings compounded the grief suffered by the Tillman family, resulted in the dissemination of erroneous information and caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army.”
The Army panel will decide whether Kensinger should be stripped of his third star, a move that would cut his retirement benefits. Kensinger, who headed Army special operations, retired in 2006.
Geren said that investigations have shown that accidental fire from U.S. troops was responsible for the death of Tillman, who had walked away from a $3.6 million pro football contract to become an Army Ranger.
The Army initially suggested that Tillman, who was 27, had been killed in a firefight with enemy militia forces. The Army then arranged a ceremony to award Tillman a Silver Star for bravery.
Five weeks after his death in April 2004, the Army notified the Tillman family that Tillman died from rounds fired in error by U.S. troops.
Geren cited “multiple actions on the part of multiple soldiers” in compounding the confusion that surrounded the death.
“It’s a perfect storm of mistakes, misjudgments and a failure of leadership,” he said. “There was never any effort to mislead or hide” or keep embarrassing information from the public, he added.
He said Tillman deserved the Silver Star, the military’s third-highest award for valor in combat, despite the circumstances surrounding his death.
He could understand how the Tillman family and other Americans might reach the conclusion that there was a cover-up, Geren said. “The facts just don’t support this conclusion,” he said. “There was no cover-up.”
Still, he said, “We have made mistakes over and over and over, an incredible number of mistakes in handling this. We have destroyed our credibility in their eyes as well as in the eyes of others.”
Tillman’s family has insisted there was a cover-up that went as high as former Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld. Geren was asked whether there was any indication Rumsfeld was aware that Tillman’s death was by friendly fire before that information was made public.
“I have no knowledge of any evidence to that end,” Geren replied.
Aside from his decision to censure Kensinger, Geren said that he was accepting recommendations by Gen. William Wallace, who conducted the investigation, for the other officers.
These other officers included Brig. Gen. Gina Farrisee, director of military personnel management at the Pentagon, and Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon and played a role in the recommendation for his Silver Star. Both will receive memoranda of concern, Geren said.
Escaping any blame was Lt. Gen. Stanley McChrystal, head of the military’s Joint Special Operations Command. He oversees the military’s most sensitive counterterrorism operations.
Ahead of the announcement, Geren briefed Rep. Mike Honda, D-Calif., Tuesday morning and told the congressman that Kensinger lied to military investigators on multiple occasions to protect himself, according to Daniel Kohns, Honda’s spokesman.
Honda, a Democrat who represents the area where Tillman grew up, believes “there are lingering questions hanging over this that point to the possibility of it going broader and higher,” Kohns said.
But Geren “stated that to the best of his knowledge it does not go higher than this, that he exhausted every line of investigation,” said Kohns, who sat in on the briefing.
A review of the aftermath of Tillman’s death by the Pentagon inspector general — one of more than half a dozen investigations so far — found “compelling evidence that Kensinger learned of suspected fratricide well before the memorial service and provided misleading testimony” on that issue. That misrepresentation, the report said, could constitute a “false official statement,” a violation of the Military Code of Justice.
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee issued a subpoena Monday night for testimony from Kensinger, said committee spokeswoman Karen Lightfoot. The subpoena is currently in the hands of U.S. marshals who are trying to deliver it in advance of Wednesday’s committee hearing on the Tillman affair, Lightfoot said.
Army medical examiners concluded Tillman was shot three times in the head from just 10 yards away, no evidence of “friendly fire” damage at scene, Army attorneys congratulated each other on cover-up, Wesley Clark concludes “orders came from the very top” to murder pro-football star because he was about to become an anti-war political icon
July 27, 2007
By Paul Joseph Watson
These same criminals then engaged in a sophisticated conspiracy to create a phony “friendly fire” cover story.
Shocking new facts emerged about the case last night but were bizarrely underplayed by the Associated Press under nondescript headlines like ‘New Details on Tillman’s Death’ – a complete disservice to the horrific implications that the new evidence carries. Army 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, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.
“The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,” a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.
The doctors – whose names were blacked out – said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.
The report also states that “No evidence at all of enemy fire was found at the scene – no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any government equipment struck.”
The article also reveals that “Army attorneys sent each other congratulatory e-mails for keeping criminal investigators at bay as the Army conducted an internal friendly-fire investigation that resulted in administrative, or non-criminal, punishments.”
So there was no evidence whatsoever of friendly fire, but the ballistics data clearly indicated that the three head shots had been fired from just 10 yards away and then the Army tried to concoct a hoax friendly fire story and sent gloating back-slapping e mails congratulating each other on their success while preventing the doctors from exploring the possibility of murder. How can any sane and rational individual weigh this evidence and not come to the conclusion that Tillman was deliberately gunned down in cold blood?
The evidence points directly to it and the motivation is clear – Tillman abandoned a lucrative career in pro-football immediately after 9/11 because he felt a rampaging patriotic urge to defend his country, and became a poster child for the war on terror as a result. But when he discovered that the invasion of Iraq was based on a mountain of lies and deceit and had nothing to do with defending America, he became infuriated and was ready to return home to become an anti-war hero.
As far back as March 2003, immediately after the invasion, Tillman famously told his comrade Spc. Russell Baer, “You know, this war is so fucking illegal,” and urged his entire platoon to vote against Bush in the 2004 election. Far from the gung-ho gruff stereotype attributed to him, Tillman was actually a fiercely intellectual man with the courage of his convictions firmly in place.
Tillman had even begun to arrange meetings with anti-war icons like Noam Chomsky upon his return to America before his death cut short any aspirations of becoming a focal point for anti-war sentiment.
According to Daily Kos, Wesley Clark appeared on Keith Olbermann’s Countdown last night and stated that “the orders came from the very top” to murder Tillman as he was a political symbol and his opposition to the war in Iraq would have rallied the population around supporting immediate withdrawal.
The notion that the U.S. government gave orders for Army top brass to execute Pat Tillman in cold blood is the most damaging indictment of the Iraq war since it began, trumping the lies about weapons of mass destruction tenfold, but if the establishment media continue to soft-peddle and steam-valve one of the biggest stories of the century its impact will be completely diluted.
It is up to us to make this story go viral because the implications are so dire that they could act as the final death knell for the blood-soaked and illegal occupation of Iraq and become the clarion call to bring our troops home.