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April 25, 2007--

Respectful Questions for Kevin Tillman and Pat Tillman's Parents Regarding "Cover-up" Allegations.  

Here's the gist of what the Associated Press reported yesterday about what appears to have been the seminal event in a sequence of events which Kevin Tillman and Pat Tillman's parents apparently sincerely believe to have been an attempted "cover-up" of the fact that fire from fellow troops, rather than enemy troops, killed Pat Tillman:

An Army Ranger who was with Pat Tillman when he died by friendly fire said Tuesday he was told by a higher-up to conceal that information from Tillman's family. 

"I was ordered not to tell them," U.S. Army Specialist Bryan O'Neal told the House Committe on Oversight and Government Reform.
He said he was given the order by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman's platoon.

Pat Tillman's brother Kevin was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but didn't see it. O'Neal said Baily told him specifically not to tell Kevin Tillman that the death was friendly fire rather than heroic engagement with the enemy.

"He basically said, 'Do not let Kevin know, he's probably in a bad place knowing that his brother's dead...."

Source:; Headline: "Ranger Alleges Cover-Up in Tillman Case."  Dateline: April 24, 2007, 2:52 pm ET  by "Scott Lindlaw and Erica Werner" (AP)

The quoted text does not explicitly identify the precise time at which O'Neial says Baily "ordered" him "not to tell [Kevin Tillman]" that "friendly fire" rather than "enemy" fire killed Pat Tillman.  However, it seems self-evident that it must have been very soon after the incident; otherwise such "order" would have only served to "close the barn door after the horse would have been out."  

Assuming such to have been the case, a fair, question arises in response to the accusations made yesterday in the same hearing by Kevin Tillman and Pat Tillman's parents.  The gist of the accusations were that either:  (a) the field-officer (Bailey) who issued the order at such time had first made himself conversant with all unfavorable "political" developments that had recently transpired and thereupon took it upon himself to suppress the truth not only to minimize further political damage but also to create false propaganda or (b) "higher ups" ordered the field-officer to so so.  A question apparently not accorded legitimacy by the Tillmans focuses upon a third possibility:  (c)  that  Bailey's order manifested a seriously misguided but humane error in judgment by a field officer motivated by a desire to minimize the pain, anguish and suffering of Tillman's family as well to minimize the chances of calumny being heaped upon the troops who by then would have deduced that they, rather than the enemy, had killed their fellow soldier, and that this seminal error in judgment created an almost inexorable inertia against correction of the record as the initial news reports flowing from this error in judgment began to magnify the consequences of such correction to such a degree that any sensible person without first-hand knowledge of the facts would be reluctant to describe the initial report as incorrect without first being absolutely certain such was the case.

Occam's* razor teaches those who favor reason and logic that in evaluating a highly complex, convoluted explanation for an event in comparison to a relatively simple, rational explanation, the simpler, rational, explanation is most likely correct.

Are there legitimate reasons for Tillman's entire family to be quite upset at the delay in receiving the truth as well as the apparent reluctance of some to rectify the initial action?  Of course.  Are there legitimate reasons for them to attribute those grievous errors in judgment to maliciousness or criminality?  I think that to fair-minded people, the answer is "No."  Are there legitimate grounds for them to allege things such as Donald Rumsfeld "must have" ordered such "cover-up"?  No.  I think such accusations are irresponsible.

Perhaps if I were blinded by grief I would make irresponsible allegations.  All I can say is that I certainly hope not.  I can't help thinking that Pat Tillman would be saddened at the prospect of his tragic death being used as political fodder for political opponents (i.e., Henry Waxman, et al) of the noble duties he embraced in rejecting a multi-million-dollar professional-football contract.

The Tillmans' certainly deserve our sympathy, gratitude and respect.  Their accusations do not.  I hope they will overcome the extent to which their understandable grief has impaired their ability to judge others' mistakes in this matter with the same degree of fairness by which they would have wanted any mistake by Pat Tillman to have been judged if he, as a fallible human being, were to have made one.  Of course I'm not even remotely suggesting that he made any such mistake.  But if he were to have made a grievous judgmental error motivated by misguided humane considerations, they wouldn't want that factor to be ignored and for his error to be characterized as malicious or criminal.

Finally, regarding the aspect of the hearing yesterday focusing on Jessica Lynch, as is typically the case with politically-motivated hearings, the focus was on criteria that are more apparent than real to anyone who closely followed the sequence of events by which initial reports of heroism on her part were subsequently corrected.  More on that later.

Jim Wrenn is Editor at WrennCom.Com and Editor at PoliSat.Com.  

*Also spelled "Ockham."

Permanent Link to this Commentary:  http://WrennCom.Com/CommentaryArchives/2007/20y07m04d25-01.asp.