Military and other administration officials created a heroic story about the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman to distract attention from setbacks in Iraq and the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the slain man's younger brother, Kevin Tillman, said today.
Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Tillman said the military knew almost immediately that Corporal Tillman, an Army Ranger who left a career as a pro football player to enlist, had been killed accidentally in Afghanistan in April 2004 by fire from his own unit. But officials chose to put a “patriotic glow” on his death, he said.
Mr. Tillman said the decision to award his brother a Silver Star and to say that he died heroically fighting the enemy was “utter fiction” that was intended to “exploit Pat's death.”
Former Pvt. Jessica Lynch leveled similar criticism today at the hearing about the initial accounts given by the Army of her capture in Iraq. Ms. Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in dramatic fashion by American troops after she suffered serious injuries and was captured in an ambush of her truck convoy in March 2003.
In her testimony this morning, she said she did not understand why the Army put out a story that she went down firing at the enemy.
“I'm confused why they lied,” she said.
Mr. Tillman and Ms. Lynch appeared at a hearing called to examine why “inaccurate accounts of these two incidents” were put out by the administration. Today's session was part of the Democratically-controlled Congress's effort to hold the Bush Administration accountable for its conduct of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan and other issues.
Ms. Lynch said she could not know why she was depicted as a “Rambo from West Virginia,” when in fact she was riding in a truck, not fighting, when she was injured.
Dr. Gene Bolles, a doctor who treated Ms. Lynch at a hospital in Germany after she was rescued, said that her injuries, while extensive, were not the result of bullet wounds, as first described.
Mr. Tillman's tone was more bitter than Ms. Lynch's. He described the early accounts of his brother's death as “deliberate and calculated lies” and “deliberate acts of deceit,” rather than the result of confusion or innocent error.
For her part, Ms. Lynch said in her testimony that other members of her unit had acted with genuine heroism that deserved the attention she received. “The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideas of heroes, and they don't need to be told elaborate tales,” she said.
Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat of California, the chairman of the committee, said the hearings were intended to determine the “sources and motivations” for the erroneous accounts and to see whether Administration officials had been held accountable for them.
END OF STORY
Street Comment: there's so much terribly sad about this story, including, sad to say, Jessica Lynch's comment that "I am confused why they lied."
For anyone who pays modestly informed attention to U.S. history and foreign policy and current events, there's just no mystery why they lied. None. Zero. The White House and Pentagon were trying to sell the criminal invasion of a weak, marginal, defenseless, and heavily impoverished yet (just coincidentally...right) oil rich nation as a noble and heroic campaign to save the American people and the world from a non-existent threat.
The invasion was based on massive, highly organized, and criminally fraudulent deception, broken down in impressive detail by former federal prosecutor Elizabeth de la Vega's excellent book United States V. George Bush (New York: Seven Stories, 2006). Ms. de la Vega's literal if technically fictional federal Indictment against Bush, Dick Cheney, Condaleeza Rice, Donald Rumsfeld and Colin Powell itemizes Bush et al.'s campaign to deceive the U.S. public and Congress into supporting the monumentally illegal and immoral invasion (whose terrible consequences were significantly foreseen by many Establishment commentators and experts) with a number of false justifications "including but not limited to:
* The alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and the attacks of September 121, 2001;
* The alleged connection between Iraq and al Qaeda;
* The alleged connection between Saddam Hussein and any terrorists wose primary animums was directed towards the United States;
*Saddam Hussein's alleged intent to attack the United States in any way;
*Saddam Hussein's possession of nuclear weapons and the status of any alleged ongoing nuclear weapons system;
*The lack of any reasonable basis for asserting with certainty that Saddam Hussein was actively manufacturing chemical and biological weapons; and
* the alleged urgency of any threat posed to the United states by Saddam Hussein" (de la Vega, p. 41).
As de la Vega shows in relentless yet highly readable detail, the U.S. war on Iraq (of which the Lynch and Tillman incidents are small episodes) was largely the result of a gigantic and technically (and highly) illegal (under 18 U.S.C. Section 371) campaign to trick the nation into war. The whole invasion was and is based on lies, half-truths, selective deletions and the like.
And in fact since 2005 the majority of Americans polled have said that Bush deliberately misrepresented prewar intelligence. It wasn't, most Americans know, about "bad intelligence;" it was about cooked intelligence.
More Americans are like Kevin Tillman (see above) than Ms. Lynch about what's been going down; they know the score.
So surely we must be on the brink of a major indictment and impeachment and removal proceedings, especially now that Democrats are in the majority in Congress, yes? No, most of us are being like "Kitty Genovese's neighbors...passive bystanders" (de la Vega, p. 18). We are convinced that our judgements and disgust are irrelevant and that nobody in a position of power will move forward to actually remove and punish the perpetrators.
Kitty Genovese was the woman killed in NYC in the (I think) early 1960s - the one whose screams were clearly audible to a large number of her neighborhood's residents. None of those residents intervened to stop the killing and few if any even bothered to call the police. They sat or stood and listened paralyzed to the murderous madness right outside their doors, thinking that someone else must be taking care of it or that that there was nothing they could do.
We are now supposed to "Move On" and invest our energies in the distant next quadrennial presidential election (the "realistic" political logic of which supposedly militates against serious Democratic efforts to take Bush down and out). Does anyone besides me wonder if looking the other way at the current president's monumental arch-criminality gives a green light for similar conduct on the part of the next White House?
According to de la Vega, "the proposition that it is not good political strategy to insist that government officials obey the law is highly debatable. More important, strategizing in the face of an ongoing crime is wrong. Ask any legislator whether he would strategize about possible political fallout before intervening to stop a crime that was occurring in front of his eyes and the response would be 'Of course not.' But that's exactly what's happening right now" (de la Vega, p. 19).
Ms. de la Vega wrote that in 2006, before the Democrats rode the waves of popular antiwar sentiment into a Congressional majority, and (sad to say) her comment is just as - no even more - relevant today, as a Democratic-run Congress prepare to send Bush an Iraq war funding bill that gives the White House more money ($124 billion) than it requested.
We the people need to discover some moral courage and not drop the impeachment issue (should we form a group called "Don'tMoveOn.org"?); we also need to revisit the primary and second school curriculums and the highly ideological media content that encourage so many Americans to be so tragically and unnecessarily confused about what the White House and the Pentagon are doing in the world.
And on that note, a comrade just sent me the following:
"Please read, post and spread widely--it is important!"
" 'Devastating' Moyers Probe of Press and Coming"
"By Greg Mitchell"
April 19, 2007 9:00 PM ET
"The most powerful indictment of the news media for falling down in its duties in the run-up to the war in Iraq will appear next Wednesday, a 90-minute PBS broadcast called 'Buying the War, which marks the return of 'Journal. E&P was sent a preview DVD and a draft transcript for the program this week. While much of the evidence of the media's role as cheerleaders for the war presented here is not new, it is skillfully assembled, with many fresh quotes from interviews..."
I can't paste the whole note in. I assume the Wednesday meant here is tomorrow. So look in your television listings under PBS and set the time aside the time to see "Buying the War."