Capitol Hill Blue carries a story that “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 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.” But the Pentagon concluded this was “friendly fire” when there was no enemy action in that place at that time to be confused about. It seems his mother finds this suspicious.
I’m not wild about attention to celebrity soldiers. For every story like this, I wonder how many other stories go unreported and uninvestigated. I sense an injustice. But we can also look to this story as evidence that those other stories might even exist, a possibility unexamined in the media.
An earlier story describes Tillman this way: “Interviews also show a side of Pat Tillman not widely known — a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books on World War II and Winston Churchill to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.” This raised the specter that Tillman might have been shot by fellow soldiers for disloyalty.
Today, however, Tillman’s final moments are described this way:
It has been widely reported by the AP and others that Spc. Bryan O’Neal, who was at Tillman’s side as he was killed, told investigators that Tillman was waving his arms shouting “Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat fucking Tillman, damn it!” again and again.
But the latest documents give a different account from a chaplain who debriefed the entire unit days after Tillman was killed.
The chaplain said that O’Neal told him he was hugging the ground at Tillman’s side, “crying out to God, help us. And Tillman says to him, `Would you shut your fucking mouth? God’s not going to help you; you need to do something for yourself, you sniveling …”
This casts Tillman in a rather different light, more like General George Patton berating a “shell-shocked” (that is, suffering from post-traumatic stress disorder) soldier. It is hard to imagine someone who views Chomsky as a “favorite author” even enlisting, let alone berating a fellow soldier for cowardice.
There are serious inconsistencies in this story, and I have a hunch that if the truth ever emerges, it won’t be entirely flattering to Corporal Tillman.