August 10, 2007
is the second in a three-part series on the death of Pat Tillman.
Click here to read the first installment: Pat
Tillman Everyone's Political Football.
is where there are conflicting stories, partly because of the "fog
of war," but more importantly to evade possible prosecutions...
and the Pandora's box of counter-accusation a recrimination that
might be opened by prosecutions.
won't belabor the minutiae.
vehicle under the control of Sergeant Greg Baker, with a driver,
an M240B machinegun, an M2 50-caliber machinegun, an M249 Squad
Automatic Weapon (SAW), and two M4s (the standard assault rifle
now used by the infantry) came out of the canyon and fired on both
the village and Pat's position. Pat and Thani were killed; and Uthlaut,
along with his radio operator, Jade Lane, were wounded.
is established is that Baker directed the fires, and that after
firing at Pat's position once, the vehicle advanced and fired on
the same position again, probably to regain visibility after Pat
threw a smoke grenade in an attempt to alert them that they were
firing at "friendlies."
distance was between 35-85 meters. My own examination of the photo
imagery suggests to me that the distance is much closer to the low
number. The length of the longest building in the hamlet was 29
feet (iirc), and an extrapolation from the seen-from-above images
shows the distance between the shooters' position and Pat's to be
around four times that (116 feet, or 35 meters). SSG Weeks (now
SFC Weeks) supported this estimation when I called him on the phone
later accounts, Army investigators would attempt to pump up the
number of enemy combatants, upgrade an RPG into a mortar, suggest
a far more efficacious ambush, equivocate about light conditions,
and extend the distance between the shooters and Pat to as much
as 200 meters.
there is nothing in the actual statements or physical evidence to
support these claims, I am assuming there was a motive to mislead.
My assumption is that these distortions were designed to introduce
"mitigating" circumstances in a homicide.
contention from having seen the Rules of Engagement (ROE) and from
familiarity with the Law of Warfare is that this warrants a re-investigation
into the question of whether there was a criminal homicide.
reason the killings were both intentional and illegal has to do
with the rules for firing. It is a violation of the Law of Warfare
to fire into a village if one is not receiving fire from that village.
Baker's team did fire into a village from which there was no fire
received, and they had not been under enemy fire for several minutes.
The Rules of Engagement (ROE), which are theater-specific, and which
supercede both doctrine and SOP for firing, required "positive
identification" of the target.
investigators and the Army have consistently thrown sand in the
eyes of the public on this account. This is an arcane but crucial
point. Doctrine says an infantryman fires at "known, suspected,
and likely enemy targets." Doctrine is highly decontextualized
and general. The Standard Operating Procedure (SOP) in the Ranger
Regiment is to orient one's fires on the fires of the leader (Baker,
in this case). SOPs are specific to the unit, but not the theater.
Rules of Engagement (ROE) are specific to the theater, contextualized,
and in every case become the highest of these three guidelines ...
superceding all others. ROE has the force of a General Order in
the theater of operations.
questioned about why they fired, various Rangers and leaders repeated
that they fired at "known, suspected, and likely enemy positions."
This is a legalistic mantra. Unfortunately, this doctrinal criterion
was circumscribed by the ROE, which required "positive identification"
distance between the shooting vehicle and Pat's position was easily
near enough to make an identification of a standing Pat Tillman
and Bryan O'Neal... two American soldiers, wearing distinctive uniforms
and battle-gear, including Kevlar helmets, and waving their arms.
(In the lull in fire when Baker's vehicle moved forward to see past
the smoke, Pat and Bryan apparently thought they had been identified
as "friendly," so they stood up... only to be cut down
by another volley of machinegun fire.)
Why would investigators and the chain of command conceal this loss
of fire discipline and fire control -- which led to the death of
two men -- inside the manufactured premise of "an intense firefight"?
A "hang-together or hang separately" strategy evolved,
in which each member of the chain -- from SPC Alders, who admits
firing his Squad automatic weapon (SAW) at two men whose hands were
raised, to SSG Baker, to MAJ Hodne, who ordered the platoon split
for a daylight movement, in violation of both common sense and a
Regimental directive concerning daylight movement (including CPT
Saunders, who had to "go on record" with these orders
to split and move during daylight), to [fill in the blanks] everyone
who was responding to a "show progress" directive from
Public Affairs, that resulted in "bureaucratic over-interpretation"
by Hodne, i.e., the false sense of urgency to get "boots on
the ground before nightfall."
Baker is prosecuted for ROE violations (firing into a village and
failing to make positive identification of Pat and the AMF soldier
who were killed), he will then be forced to testify in detail about
the split-order, which leads directly to questions about the "sense
of urgency" to have "boots on the ground before nightfall."
If Hodne or Company Commander Captain William Saunders (who passed
Hodne's order to Uthlaut by radio, and later received immunity in
advance of changing a statement that Hodne gave the order) is relieved,
then they are potential disaffected officers who can point out that
command emphasis on "showing progress" was the basis of
the false sense of urgency that led to this contravention of a Regimental
Directive against daylight overland movement and the tactically
unsound order to split the unit in order to check the box on a time
and only now, can we get to the sequence of events in the subsequent
cover-up. First, however, we have to deal with the recent AP story
and the flurry of conspiracy theories to which it has given rise.
Martha Mendoza's article that is cited and excerpted here is --
according to reliable sources -- not what the author originally
wrote. It was given its spin by editors at AP.)
Jul 27, 2007 01:49 EDT
SAN FRANCISCO (AP)
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.
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
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.
there are doctors and there are doctors.
The proximity of bullet wounds is not sufficient to determine the
distance from which a round is fired. Two of the best gunshot wound
pathologists in the country, at Dannie Tillman's request, accompanied
me to the Armed Forces Institute of Pathology in Rockville, Maryland
earlier this year to examine the autopsy findings and autopsy photographs
for Pat Tillman. Both agreed that the trajectories, exit wounds,
and proximity of rounds are most consistent with a burst fired from
the M-249 Squad Automatic Weapon, like the one fired from around
40 meters away by Specialist Trevor Alders outside Manah on April
AP story set the conspiracy theorists alight, and when I dismissed
the "assassination theory," a correspondent told me I
was "naive" (this person having never read the documents
in the case and never having spent a day in the military).
wonder if all the soldiers in that platoon were actually soldiers,"
asked the correspondent ominously.
I replied with a bit of pique. "The Black Ops folks always
hire 20-year-olds (one member of the shooter vehicle was 19!), and
put them in deep cover — which they study between playing
video games and sharing high school lies.
a slab of conspiracy-mongering with my comments:
task organization of the platoon that placed that particular vehicle,
with those particular troops, in this situation… with Pat
exactly where he was… was decided on an ad hoc basis, less
than an hour before it happened, after an all day delay, caused
by a busted vehicle. The decision was made by a 1st Lieutenant
[SG: was he in on it?], and forced on him after an argument by
members of the TOC in Khowst [SG: were they all in on it?], and
altered at the last minute by an Afghan jinga truck driver [SG:
was he in on it?] who’d been randomly hired in Magarah to
tow the broken vehicle on that very day, after consultation between
the platoon chain of command [SG: were they all in on it?] Pat’s
position was decided by Pat, after being released from an earlier
position by an acting squad leader [SG: was he in on it, and did
he control Pat’s mind in Pat’s selection of exactly
that place in the boonies of Paktia Province?], who was himself
sent forward in response to gunfire in a canyon. [SG:Did the Black
Ops people put the ruts in the road that trashed the hummer that
caused the delay that stalled the Blacksheep Platooon in Magarah
for more than six hours, where they were sussed out by three part-time
guerrillas -- were they in on it too? -- who played their role
by staging an ineffectual ambush along a last-minute route determined
by the inability of the jinga truck that was towing the busted
vehicle to climb through the originally planned (less than one
hour before) wadi?]
love how conspiracists refer to others as "naive,"
when they themselves cannot describe the difference between correlation
and causation, and attach themselves to stories that are only
possible in the minds of scriptwriters.
Black Ops are straightforward affairs, with planning designed
to minimize complexity and reduce the number of independent actors
and "moving parts"… but that makes a lousy script.
But if this is what you want to believe, then we’ll leave
you to the Illuminati. In the real world, power has to mobilize
such awesome resources on its own behalf precisely because it
cannot exercise the kind of control you suggest. No one can.
response, I received this from another correspondent: "I’m
not at all interested in promoting any 'conspiracy theories,' I’m
just wondering if this new information moves Tillman’s cause
of death due to 'friendly fire' closer to a possibility of a deliberate
Not unless it occurred in front of at least eight people, all
of whom had great respect for him, and who conspired to cover
this fragging up together.
of the top gunshot specialists in forensic pathology in the nation
examined Pat's autopsy reports and photos and agree with me that
this was likely a squad automatic weapon (same caliber as an M-4).
The army dummied up the distances, then drew them down to 85 meters
to support a "fog of war" thesis (as opposed to the
actual serial violations of the ROE that did occur… more
likely at around 40 meters. The three shots that killed Pat were
actually two tight, and one flyer, all head shots and each instantly
fatal on its own account.
think in slow motion. Let me begin with the terminal ballistics
one never sees in films and on tv.
of the connection between the brain stem and the rest of the body
causes a body to fall… straight down. No, people do not
fly through the air like the stunt-people in Hollywood (unless
shot from an extremely close distance). Straight down. This happens
instantly. The new theory proposed by some so-called expert, says
that this tight shot-group (less than 4 inches) could only have
been fired by someone shooting on semi-automatic (one shot at
a time, in rapid succession). A fully-automatic weapon, like the
Squad Automatic Weapon (SAW) that is presumed (by two of the top
forensics experts in the country) to be the lethal weapon, according
to this theory, cannot fire this shot group because automatic
weapons can not be controlled for this tight a shot-group.
premise is the basis of the presumed distance (10 meters) and
mode of fire (semi-auto)/weapon (M-4) in the new AP-inspired theory.
Two problems: (1) the theory about auto fire is wrong, and (2)
Pat was shot in the face three times, while facing downhill, and
standing on a steep incline dropping to his front.
this to have been an M-4 fiing on semi, the shooter would have
had to fire, re-acquire [aim], fire, re-acquire, and fire again,
before Pat fell to the ground (straight down, on a steep forward-inclining
piece of terrain, with a large stone in front of him to prevent
him tumbling down the hill). Even a very good rapid-fire shooter
could not have placed all three shots together (from a standing
or other non-prone-supported position at 35-40 meters) quickly
enough to fire the second and third shots before Pat fell away
from the sight alignment.
only 5.56 mm weapon on the scene that could have placed those
shots that quickly in the same place was the SAW… cyclic
rate of auto-fire: 850 rounds per minute (14 rounds per second,
ergo, three rounds in 2/10 of a second).
the constraints of physics and physiology now add on the statistical
improbability that a bunch of enlisted people would willingly
participate as accessories after the fact in a cold-blooded murder
(that just happened to coincide with an unplanned --[but ineffectual
-- ambush)… and we begin to appreciate how unlikely this
for number (1). I’ll happily go to the range with anyone
who cares to set it up today (or chose anyone who has been trained
to fire the SAW), and demonstrate that these tight groups very
well can be fired from a SAW, when they are part of a continuous
firing cycle that allows the gunner to first walk the fire onto
a target, then tighten down on the weapon as he orients on the
impact signature (The rock in front of Pat was covered with bullet
are family members who will not easily dismiss this, and who can
blame them after the government has lied and covered up again
and again and again on this case. I don’t fault them; and
in fact I have great affection for them. The depth of their sense
of betrayal would make anyone think the worst, and want someone
to prove otherwise. More than this... if this case becomes one
about a conspiracy to murder, the focus is taken off the likely
suspects for the real cover-up and crime, and the ones who all
these sacrifices of Generals have been designed to protect…
Donald Rumsfeld, Lawrence DeRita, and probably George W. Bush.
They are all loving this right now.
me say for the record, again, that I do not believe that Pat Tillman
was targeted for assassination.
second lieutenant and an infantry sergeant are not tasked with anything
as politically sensitive as assassination. I am speaking as an alumnus
of Delta Force, one of the few organizations that actually might
be entrusted with this kind of operation (and then only very rarely).
It doesn’t matter what you see in the movies.
decisions that placed Pat Tillman at exactly the place and exactly
the time of his death were made ad hoc, on the spot, at a series
of junctures that could not have been controlled, including a vehicle
that unexpectedly broke down, one key decision made by an Afghan
jinga truck driver and Pat’s own decision (following two on-the-spot
decisions by members of his platoon in direct response to a completely
unexpected situation) to move forward into the position where he
mystique of Special Operations (including the Rangers, who are the
Special Operations’ shock infantry component) is useful as
a deterrent, but it is not reflective of a reality. The Pentagon
and others want you and the rest of the world to believe this mystique,
because your fear and the fear of the rest of the world is what
maintains the efficacy of a huge bluff. This government wants us
to spin out as many scary fantasies as possible, because it serves
the dual purpose of either portraying opponents of the military
as "conspiracy nuts" or promoting precisely the myth
of spooky invincibility that keeps us in line.
came straight from the bowels of this system, and I have written
three books exposing the worst aspects of the military. If they
haven’t yet cut my brake lines or shot me when I’m out
fishing, then they didn’t kill Pat Tillman because he criticized
the war in Iraq and read a book by Noam Chomsky...
facts, as presented in this series ... have already "escaped,"
e.g., the Scott investigation and the fraudulence of awarding a
Silver Star as part of a cover story. These facts are now, for the
Administration and the Pentagon, inescapable.
that is missing right now is someone with a little integrity and
courage, and subpoena authority, to use these facts to tear the
rest of the mask away.
that is required, however, to discredit those asking the questions
is our own insistence on the least plausible scenario, no doubt
inspired by a righteous mistrust and loathing of people like Donald
Rumsfeld and Lawrence Di Rita, when the existing facts do not support
is nothing the Pentagon would rather do with this case, aside from
making it evaporate, than turn it into a debate about whether Pat
was assassinated or not. He wasn’t, and so they can not only
poke fun at any of us who propose that hypothesis, they can relax
as we all bark up the wrong tree.
they do not want is a rigorous examination of the motives, decisions,
and events that might lead a larger public to see how they have
been spinning prevarications to call an imperial Oil War democracy-building.
Tillman, and many who knew and cared for him, at some point believed,
based on the evidence before them, that he was bound for a place
in history of some kind… in football. What neither he nor
they could know was that football fame would emerge as just a stepping
stone to a far more significant role in history: contributing to
the end of an illegal war, and bringing down (hopefully) a dangerous
clique of international scofflaws.
crimes of this Administration are more serious and vile by orders
of magnitude than the mere imagined assassination of one young man.
now, at last, I will briefly describe the cover-up.
Tillman was the most well-known enlisted man in the entire military.
When he enlisted, Pat received a personal letter from Secretary
of Defense Donald Rumsfeld thanking Pat for his enlistment. So Pat
was on Rumsfeld's radar immediately. The fog of fame began then
as the spin on Pat's enlistment was that he took a break from a
lucrative football career because of 9-11. That's not how it was.
Pat saw young men being marched off to war; and he didn't want to
use his talent as an exemption. It's different.
day Pat was killed outside Manah, officialdom developed a multiple
personality disorder. On the one hand, there was bureaucrat's panic,
because it was known almost at once that this was a case of "fratricide."
On the other hand, the scriptwriters smelled a story with Pat's
corpse propped up like a Greek statue that would draw all eyes away
from the debacle of Fallujah-Najaf and the wanton racist cruelty
of Abu Ghraib. So there was the bureaucrat's instinct to hide the
facts in a period of waning legitimation; and there was the flack's
instinct to tell a lie. Hiding a thing and lying about it are two
different things, and they can be contradictory. That's how both
the hiding and the lying began to unravel.
the highest levels, there was a decision to be made about how far
one could get away with the lie in the short term, and hide their
own complicity in case the lie was exposed in the long term.
April 29, Major General Stanley McChrystal -- commander of the task
force that the Rangers served in Afghanistan, and head of the most
secretive joint-service force in the US military -- sent a memo
to John Abizaid, telling him to warn everyone all the way to Commander-in-Chief
George W. Bush, an investigation "will find that it is highly
possible Cpl. Tillman was killed by friendly fire... I felt that
it was essential that you received this information as soon as we
detected it in order to preclude any unknowing statements by our
country's leaders which might cause public embarrassment if the
circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become public."
reference to telling the truth... "which might cause public
embarrassment if the circumstances of Cpl. Tillman's death become
to an unnamed source, Abizaid misled Congress on August 1, 2007,
when he stated that this memo -- from the General in theater who
directed the most politically-sensitive and secret operations in
the military, which include units like Delta Force (now operating
under a new name) -- did not "reach him" for "10
to 20 days."
memo, it must be assumed, was a living organism that had to exercise
its own initiative to "reach" its intended recipient.
Tillman's death by friendly fire --instead of the enemy fire described
in a fraudulent Silver Star citation drafted by officers who knew
how Pat was killed -- was explosive news. Yet on August 1, 2007,
Rumsfeld, his former-Joint Chiefs Chair Meyers, and the ex-CENTCOM
Commander John Abizaid -- not one of them -- could remember when,
where, or how they learned of this explosive news.
We’re talking about a man at the top whose middle name was
Since the day he took command of the Pentagon, Rumsfeld has been
using his famous "8,000-mile screwdriver" to tilt the
civil-military balance his way. According to his critics, he is
Robert McNamara reborn—an arrogant micromanager, contemptuous
of soldierly expertise and certain of his own infallibility.
(Andrew Bacevich, Los Angeles Times)
It says Mr Rumsfeld has held 139 meetings with the Joint Chiefs
of Staff since the beginning of 2005, and 208 meetings with the
senior field commanders. The retired generals complained that Mr
Rumsfeld was a "micromanager" who often ignored the advice
of senior commanders. (Mark Mazzetti and Jim Rutenberg, Sydney Morning
Was Donald Rumsfeld a micromanager? Yes. Did he want to be involved
in all of the decisions? Yes. (Michael
DeLong, Retired Marine Lt. Gen, former deputy commander of the U.S.
Central Command during the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, New York Times)
Rumsfeld’s micromanagement of torture see Andrew
Cockburn’s series here.]
little Donnie Rumsfeld can't remember when, where, or how he learned
of Pat Tillman's death, and he doesn't interfere in the business
of his officers, and I am the rightful King of Connecticut.
I'm not bearing that ridiculous pretense of objectivity that "journalists"
so audaciously lay claim to, and since I am not a lawyer schooled
in absolute empiricism, I can only say what seems to be apparent
to me from this testimony... which Congress left unchallenged.
pissed on our legs and told us it was raining. Liars, every goddamn
one of them. Liars, con-men, and criminals. Based on the evidence,
this is what I believe. Someone has to say this out loud. Dannie
Tillman has been trying to tell us this for three years.
Inside the Labyrinth of Lies.
Goff is the author of "Hideous
Dream: A Soldier's Memoir of the US Invasion of Haiti"
(Soft Skull Press, 2000), "Full
Spectrum Disorder" (Soft Skull Press, 2003). He is retired
from the United States Army. His blog is at www.stangoff.com.
can be reached at: firstname.lastname@example.org