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"But if the cause be not good, the king himself hath a heavy reckoning to make, when all those legs and arms and heads, chopped off in battle, shall join together at the latter day and cry all 'We died at such a place;' some swearing, some crying for a surgeon, some upon their wives left poor behind them, some upon the debts they owe, some upon their children rawly left. I am afeard there are few die well that die in a battle; for how can they charitably dispose of any thing, when blood is their argument? Now, if these men do not die well, it will be a black matter for the king that led them to it; whom to disobey were against all proportion of subjection." (Henry V, Act V, Scene 4)

Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Tillman's brother says administration twisted facts

Tillman's brother says administration twisted facts
By Johanna Neuman
Times Staff Writer

11:26 AM PDT, April 24, 2007

WASHINGTON — In explosive testimony before a congressional committee, Kevin Tillman, brother of Cpl. Pat Tillman, the former NFL player who was killed in action in Afghanistan, accused the Bush administration of twisting the facts of his brother's death to distract public attention from the prisoner abuses at Abu Ghraib.

The U.S. Army fabricated a story of his brother's heroism in action, knowing he was killed by friendly fire, Tillman said. Authorities constructed not only a story of combat action -- accompanied by a silver medal – but lied about his medical care, saying he was transferred to a field hospital for continued medical care for 90 minutes after the incident, when the back of his head was blown off.

"These are deliberate and calculated lies" and "a deliberate act of deceit," Tillman said.

And Spc. Bryan O'Neal, who served under Tillman, testified that he knew immediately that Tillman was killed with friendly fire but was told by his squad leader not to tell the medic who came on the scene.

"I was ordered not to tell," said O'Neal, who said Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey cautioned him not to inform Tillman's brother Kevin, also in the military, serving in a nearby convoy.

"He basically just said, 'Do not let Kevin know, he's probably in a bad place knowing that his brother's dead,' " O'Neal said. "He made it known I would get in trouble" if he told.

Kevin Tillman, his voice shaking, said the official account of his brother's death in 2004 was "utter fiction … intended to deceive the family and more importantly the American people."

He said the incident that led to his brother's death was "clearly fratricide" and described the account of a soldier standing next to his brother who reported the slain soldier's last words, "I am friendly, I am Pat (expletive) Tillman."

Tillman charged that other U.S. combat deaths had also been twisted to fit Pentagon public relations needs. In his brother's case, he said, "crucial evidence was destroyed," the autopsy was "not done according to regulation" and eyewitness testimony "disappeared into thin air."

The reason for the manipulation, he said, is that "they shifted the focus from the grotesque abuse of Abu Ghraib to a great American who died a hero's death."

Tillman's death commanded worldwide headlines because the former Arizona Cardinal safety volunteered for service after the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

"Pat wanted to leave a positive legacy," his brother said. Calling the death a tragedy, Kevin Tillman said that "the attempt to hijack his virtue is simply horrific" and he asked the committee to find how his brother died and who lied to cover it up. "Anything less than the truth is a betrayal of those values," he said.

Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, also testified, saying she was "appalled" by comments from Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, an officer in Tillman's unit, suggesting that the family was not at peace with the death because they are atheists who believe their son is now "worm dirt."

Noting that the family has been asked repeatedly "how can we be appeased," Mary Tillman said the question "makes me sick." Her son died, she said, for his country. Saying that war is "ugly, bloody," she urged Congress to "find out what happened to Pat and these other soldiers," and urged the military to stop "diminishing their true heroism" with cover stories.

Rep. Henry Waxman (D-Los Angeles), chairman of the Oversight and Government Reform Committee, said he called the hearing into Tillman's death -- as well as the exaggerated reports of Pvt. Jessica Lynch's heroism -- because "our government has failed them" and hoped "in some small way … this hearing can begin to right those wrongs."

Pledging to pursue the investigation, Waxman said the administration's five investigations to date are "apparently not enough." Referring to the military's efforts to portray Tillman as a combat hero, he added, "I come from Hollywood. I expect showbiz in Hollywood, not from the military."

Republican Tom Davis (R-Va.) agreed, asking, "If the first casualty of war is the truth, what happens when the wound is self-inflicted?"

Lynch, who was taken prisoner while in Iraq and rescued by U.S. troops, also testified to how her own story became a touchstone for heroism. Saying there were real heroes during the fighting -- including her friend, a Hopi soldier named Lori Piestewa who was killed in action, Lynch wondered why U.S. officials hyped her story, "why they lied and tried to make me a hero."

Lynch said the public is capable of discerning the truth. "The truth of war is not always easy," she said. "The truth is always more heroic than the hype."

johanna.neuman@latimes.com

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-ex-tillman24apr25,1,5350250,print.story?coll=la-headlines-nation&ctrack=2&cset=true

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