Thursday, July 19, 2007

Tillman cover-up continuing

This one's a real desk-pounder as far as I'm concerned. The White House as the WP put it, "has refused to give Congress documents about the death of former NFL player Pat Tillman, with White House counsel Fred F. Fielding saying that certain papers relating to discussions of the friendly-fire shooting 'implicate Executive Branch confidentiality interests.'"


You probably remember the Pat Tillman story. He gave up a million-dollar-plus NFL contract to volunteer for the Army Rangers shortly after 9/11 and was deployed to Afghanistan. When he was killed in 2004 the Pentagon at first conjured up a story of heroism under withering enemy fire. It took weeks and months for the real story -- that he had been killed by U.S. forces in a tragic "fog of war" mix-up -- to emerge. (The term "friendly fire is another of those Orwellian terms the military seems to love that means almost the precise opposite of what it seems to say.)

The real story might never have come out if Tillman's family -- his father is an attorney -- hadn't been persistent and then increasingly angry. There was no real reason to concoct the hero story. Americans know mix-ups happen in war. Whether it was some PR genius's idea that Tillman's death deserved a legend worthy of his remarkable patriotism or an instinct for lying I just don't know. (There's a theory going around that Tillman was disillusioned and planned to express his gained-by-experience opposition to the way the War on Terror is being conducted when he returned home, but I don't have enough information to express an informed opinion. Some even think the military had an inkling of his plans and arranged to put him in a dangerous situation, but I'm skeptical.)

To be sure, Henry Waxman, chairman of the House Government Oversight committee, has been holding hearings calculated to embarrass the Bush administration, and no doubt hopes to find something embarrassing here. But that's no excuse for withholding information about how Tillman's death was handled. It only increases the suspicion that the White House has something to hide.

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