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April 26, 2007--
Further Analysis into Inspector-General Report and Congressional Hearings Show Pat Tillman DID Die a
Hero After All.
undisputed that Pat Tillman was killed during a mission on which he and all members of his
platoon and the battalion of which it was a part expected a high risk of ambush. It's a risk
that troops heroically accept so routinely that virtually none of them would characterize such
action as "heroic." Back to this in a moment.
unrelated event also sheds light on this issue. Almost immediately after the fall of Baghdad,
a field officer sent a company of troops on foot-patrol through Baghdad to perform combat
reconnaissance. Most civilians probably know (or at least could correctly guess) that the goal
of "combat reconnaissance" is to discover whether enemy forces are in the vicinity and, if
so, where, in what numbers, and with what weapons.
listening to a live audio account of that patrol by Rick Leventhal, a Fox News reporter embedded
with that unit. During such live account Leventhal explained what those of us who've had
military training already knew but few, if any, civilians without such training would have known
absent such live-account explanation by Leventhal: that each person performing such mission
knew one of its intended functions to be to "draw fire" from any enemy in the vicinity-- i.e.,
for each participant to risk being the first casualty of such encounter. To not recognize that
their willingness to perform this mission (including, by the way, Leventhal's willingness to
accompany them) requires heroism is to lack an understanding of what "heroism" is.
That military personnel routinely undertake such risks without deeming or claiming themselves to be
"heroes" proves their professionalism and modesty but doesn't negate the intrinsically
heroic nature of the undertaking.
particular patrol, no one was killed or wounded. Suppose, however, that one of our troops were
to have been killed by a member of another American patrol mistakenly believing he was firing upon
enemy personnel. Would such mistake by the member of the other patrol in any way negate the
heroism of the one killed? Of course not. Suppose the person killed were to have been
Leventhal. Would there have been be anyone who would have disputed a characterization of such
event as the death of a journalist while heroically performing his job? Of course not.
different context recently, one SWAT team member mistakenly killed a fellow SWAT team member in the
course of attempting to capture armed robbers. Would anyone seriously claim that the killed
member didn't die while heroically performing his duty? Just as the "felony-murder"
rule imputes criminal liability to the criminals (the armed robbers) for such death as
"murder," there's a tacit understanding by all sensible people that there's a morally
equivalent "mission-heroism" equation between the death of the SWAT team member and
his heroic undertaking of the intrinsic risks of such duties. Ceremonies at funerals of
law-enforcement officers mistakenly slain by fellow officers in similar circumstances virtually
always (and correctly) characterize the deceased as officers who died while heroically performing
their duties-- regardless of whether ultimate investigation might be found to justify
treating actions by fellow officers firing the fatal shots as "criminal negligence" or as
is that the mistaken killing of a person performing a duty intrinsically requiring heroism for its
performance does not negate the heroism. It's irrelevant to the issue of such heroism.
It's relevant only to a determination of whether such mistaken killing manifested un-blameworthy
conduct, negligent conduct or criminal conduct.
mistakenly killed by "friendly" fire while storming the beaches at Normandy were no less
heroic that those killed by enemy fire. No one would seriously dispute this.
Back to Pat
Tillman's death. He died while heroically serving his country on what he, and all his fellow
troops, knew to be a very dangerous mission. That the person whose weapon-fire caused his
death was a fellow soldier is irrelevant to that issue. Whether such person's conduct was
un-blameworthy, negligent or criminal is likewise irrelevant to that issue. It demeans
Tillman's death and courage to even imply that it's somehow wrong for anyone (including the Army) to
state the obvious: that he died heroically serving his country.
For sake of
accuracy, this is the point that Lt. Col., Bailey ought to have understood as a reason for
telling the truth to Pat Tillman's brother, Kevin, who was serving in a platoon further behind on
the same mission, rather than misguidedly thinking that "shielding" Kevin Tillman (and his
family) from such information would prevent needless exacerbation of his (and their) grief.
Regarding Bailey's likely motivations on this issue, see "Respectful
Questions for Kevin Tillman and Pat Tillman's Parents Regarding 'Cover-up' Allegations"
Did Col. Bailey's action in attempting to shield Tillman's family in such manner violate military
law? Almost certainly. Was it the kind of violation that may be excusable as a
manifestation of a misguided sense of compassion? Probably, in my opinion, but perhaps
not. But even if military law were to deem it inexcusable, a sense of fairness would not,
in my opinion, warrant heaping calumny on Bailey for such grievous error in judgment. Nor
is it justified to heap calumny (rather than mere blame) on others who took too long to correct the
record-- especially since virtually no one would want to do so without first having determined such
correction to be both accurate and complete.
ultimate point is that Pat
Tillman died while heroically serving his country (here)
after having turned-down a multi-million-dollar professional-football contract to do so. The
current obsession with the motives of those whose initial actions created an inertia that became
partially responsible for inexcusable delays in furnishing the facts to Tillman's family serves to
obscure Pat Tillman's heroism, which his surviving brother, Kevin, had likewise exhibited in having
foregone a professional career to heroically serve his country as did Pat.
Jim Wrenn, Editor at
WrennCom.Com; Editor at PoliSat.Com.
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