Copyright John T. Reed

The Army got caught covering up the Pat Tillman friendly-fire death. As a result of persistent pursuit of the whole truth by the Tillman family and some friends like the media and various Congressmen, the Army was forced to do numerous additional investigations in the three years since the incident.

On August 1st, 2007, the media carried the results of the latest, “final” investigation of the matter.

The Secretary of the Army—Peter Geren:

• put the main blame on retired Lieutenant General Philip Kensinger, Jr.the former Chief of Army Special Operations Command and the guy who spoke at Tillman’s funeral (See my article on the Tillman death for more details on Kensinger’s role)
• accuse Kensinger only of “mistakes, misjudgments, and failure of leadership” and “deception” but not of any criminal offenses
absolve the Pentagon of any wrongdoing
• give lesser reprimands to six other officers who were not named in the Associated Press story
reduce Kensinger’s retirement rank from three stars to two thereby reducing annual pension from $112,800 to $102,000
• claim Tillman was entitled to keep his posthumous Silver Star (He’s not. It requires enemy action as may the Purple Heart they gave him. There was no enemy involvement that would support either medal. See my Tillman article for details on his medal awards.)
• a “memoranda [sic] of concern” was placed in the file of Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the officer who explicitly threatened the local Rangers who knew what happened in the incident if they told anyone, specifically including Kevin Tillman, Pat’s brother who was in the same unit

On August 10, 2007, Army four-star General William Wallace, West Point Class of 1969, reviewed the Army’s latest “final” investigation with the following:

‘Not an adverse action’
He wrote three letters to three generals. The letters praise and mildly criticize the generals in question for their actions in the Tillman case. The letters say,

You should not consider this an adverse action.

How about putting three SAW bullets in Pat Tillman’s temple. Should Pat and or his family consider that an “adverse action? Should the Tillman family consider the Army’s lying about how Tillman got those bullets in his temple an “adverse action?”

The letters will NOT be put into the military records of the three officers in question. So where do they put the letters? In the shredder?

They will receive no other punishment for their roles in the Tillman cover-up. In other words, the U.S. Army has replaced the slap on the wrist with the feather on the wrist.

House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Report
On 7/14/08, the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform Report said it could not get to the bottom of the Tillman incident and cover-up because everyone involved was stonewalling the Committee. Actually, the way the Committee phrased it was that the persons with pertinent knowledge showed “a striking lack of recollection.”

As described elsewhere in this article, a large number of the people who “can’t recall” are West Point graduate generals who all wearing a ring with the word “honor” on it. What does that word “honor” means to those West Point graduates? Not one goddamned thing as far as I can tell.

The Committee was trying to find out whether the Tillman cover-up was because of “incompetence, miscommunication or a deliberate strategy.”

About the only thing the Committee was able to find was that the White House violated Defense Department policy by releasing information about Tillman’s death before 24 hours had elapsed after the family was notified of his death. The White House also failed to make sure that the information they were releasing had not been classified as a military secret before they released it.

Colossal joke
No wonder these clowns can’t win an asymmetrical war. This is a colossal joke on the Tillman family, our men and women in uniform, and the American people. Basically, the Army brass is first and foremost about defending the Army brass, not the country or the troops.World War I fighter pilot Fiorella LaGuardia, later mayor of New York, made an almost identical comment (search for the name La Guardia at my web page during the court martial of General Billy Mitchell. Winning wars, holding generals accountable for their actions, and such are way down their list of priorities—way below taking responsibility for failures, mistakes, or deliberate misbehavior. And they are shameless about it.

Apparently, they are convinced that the American people either cannot or will not do anything about the Army’s handling of the Tillman incident and their handling of their handling of the Tillman incident. If I were Commander in Chief I would fire all of them immediately and want to know why they were not being court martialed. Furthermore, I believe the list of those needing to be fired and/or court martialed should be expanded to include those who failed to enforce the Uniform Code of Military Justice in the various investigations to end all investigations—those who have characterized lying as an “unintentional mistake” or “screw-up.”

‘Memorandums [sic] of concern’
As reported above, the Army initially put a “memoranda [sic] of concern” into the file of Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey. In my report of that, I put [sic] after the word memoranda.” Sic is Latin it means that the word was misspelled in the original document being quoted. I wonder if the Army is reading this Web page. Why? Because the new stuff issued on August 10 said that three “memorandums [also sic] of concern” were generated.

If so, let me explain it in baby talk for these guys. “Memorandum” is a Latin word. It is singular. “Memoranda” is also Latin and is the plural of memorandum. The official statement about Bailey should have said a “memorandum of concern” was put in his file, not “a memoranda.” The official statements about the other three should have used the word “memoranda.” There is no such word as “memorandums.”

I noted elsewhere in this Web site that I suspect the Army sends its officers to Ivy League graduate schools mainly so they can avoid making such faux pas at Washington cocktail parties. I guess it doesn’t always work.

Why does the memorandum NOT go in their file?
The “memoranda [sic] of concern” about Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey was put in his file. But the memoranda “of concern” about the generals explicitly will NOT go into their files. How come?

I don’t know, but based on the way the Army thinks and has acted in the past, my guess is that it‘s because he is a mere lieutenant colonel. His protection against being held responsible for his actions would not vest until he became a general. Decisions on who gets sacrificed when a scandal breaks out in the Army are made by generals, not lieutenant colonels. There is a saying, “The Army takes care of its own,” which is discomfiting to those of us not in the Army. Perhaps a more accurate statement could be made that, “The generals take care of their own.” Jeff Bailey ain’t a general. And my guess is that he ain’t likely to ever be one now that he has gotten his same in the paper negatively in the Tillman incident.

I stand corrected about my handicapping Bailey’s career. I since learned that he was promoted to full colonel. But that teaches me nothing to change my above comment that the Army is “shameless.”

Jones, Farisee, and Nixon
The other generals who were criticized with complimentary letters that will not go in their files were

• Brigadier General Gary Jones (retired)
• Brigadier General Gina Farrisee
Brigadier General James Nixon, III (promoted to that rank after he presided over the Tillman killing as regimental commander)

Accepting a general ‘at his word’
Jones was the head of one of the early “investigations.” The not-in-his-file letter criticized Jones for accepting General William Kensinger “at his word.”

Now there’s an interesting phrase

at his word

In other words Jones’ crime was to assume that he could trust a three-star U.S. Army general who was testifying in an official capacity in a serious Army matter involving the death of a soldier. The man whose word he accepted was Kensinger, a West Point graduate who spent his four years at West Point living under the Cadet Honor Code which says, “A cadet will not lie, cheat, or steal;” A man who no doubt was wearing a West Point ring with the word “honor” engraved in it at the time he testified to General Jones. (Kensinger and I were West Point cadets at the same time. He was two years behind me.)

Three-star ‘integrity’
It is my understanding that the Army will not promote a man to any rank, let alone three-star general, if there is the slightest question about his integrity. So Kensinger’s integrity was certified by both the United States Military Academy and the United States Army and the Congress who has to approve promotions to such high ranks as honest. And yet it is misbehavior now for one general to trust the word of another who outranks him by two stars. Interesting. Is the underlying idea here that the stuff about Army officers being men of enormous integrity is just for public consumption? That internally, the policy is trust but verify when a general makes a solemn, sworn statement to you in a formal investigation?

The memorandum to Jones that the Army will not put in his file also criticized him for “incorrectly” characterizing Tillman’s actions in describing why he should receive the Silver Star.


Only a ‘mistake’
Doesn’t he mean “falsely?” The Silver Star citation says he was gallant in the face of devastating enemy fire. That is false. He was not. There was no enemy fire at Tillman’s location. He was merely trying to get his fellow rangers to cease firing at him and his two colleagues. Furthermore, the Army knew within hours of the death and long before they wrote that citation that Tillman was not involved in any action against the enemy.

Wallace’s letter also said that “misleading Army leaders, Congress, and the Tillman family was a “fundamental mistake,” but he understands it was “unintentional.” He’s another liar. He was one year behind me at West Point.

Plainly, from just reading the news accounts, it was neither a mistake nor unintentional. Misleading is deceit. Deceit is

The act of representing as true what is known to be false; lying; the misleading of a person.

Lying is unintentional. Up is down. I have often commented that Army officers, especially generals, regard themselves as a sort of royalty. In this case, General Wallace apparently feels his powers equal those of the White Queen in Alice In Wonderland who famously said,

It means whatever I say it means!

Wallace also complimented Jones for approaching his investigation with “due vigor, diligence, and professionalism,” each of which contradicts the notion that he accepted the word of a man whose word he should not have accepted and misled the Tillman’s, Congress, and the Army. The wanted more “vigor” and “diligence” with regard to checking the veracity of their three-star general Kensinger. And they hardly can claim that misleading the family of a dead soldier, Congress, and the Army is “professional.” Yet Wallace does just that.

Brigadier General Farrissee was in charge of the Army’s medical examiners who said that they doubted that Tillman’s wounds came from enemy fire. Wallace criticized her for failing to respond correctly to the “red flags” raised by those who examined Tillman’s body. He then lets her off the hook for the most part by saying she did not have the benefit of hindsight.

Say what!? Hindsight is not what was lacking. For one thing, there appears to be a clear statement by the medical examiners AT THE TIME that the cover story that accompanied the body did not jibe with the wounds to the body. Also, what was lacking was a truthful account from the Army personnel on the scene. But Farrisee did not need the account from those on the scene. What her examiners told her should have been sufficient for her to tell her superiors that further investigation was needed to check the enemy-fire story.

Cover-up by the regimental commander
Wallace criticized Tillman’s regimental commander, Brigadier General James Nixon for his “well-intentioned but fundamentally wrong” decision to keep information about Tillman’s death limited to his staff. What, pray tell, were the good intentions? Why is it not obvious that Nixon was selfishly trying to protect himself and his superiors from embarrassment?

Exactly what good did he expect would come from not being truthful and forthcoming about the circumstances of Tillman’s death. Whose interests would have been served by that? Does the Army regulation that he violated have an exception for good intentions? Not that I know of.

Wallace said Nixon was only delaying the “notification until you had the facts.” Oh, really? What’s wrong with that? If that’s all he did, why did he get a letter criticizing him?

In fact, the same AP story says,

Tillman’s direct superiors knew within hours of his April 2004 death in Afghanistan that the former football star had been killed by fellow Army Rangers, but kept the truth from the public and Tillman’s family for five weeks—in direct violation of Army regulations.

That statement contradicts Wallace’s depiction of Nixon as just waiting until he had the facts. It also says he directly violated Army regulations. The punishment for violating regulations is supposed to be greater than a feather on the wrist. Indeed, the AP story says the officers who misbehaved in this case could have gotten demotion, dishonorable discharge, prison, court martial, or letters of reprimand.

‘Captain of the ship’
Geren characterized Kensinger’s “error” by saying that he was, “the captain of that ship, and his ship ran aground.” That’s total bull!

This is the Army, not the Navy. In the Navy, a captain can unwittingly run his ship aground from incompetence or negligence. No one would ever deliberately run a ship aground other than to prevent inevitable sinking in deeper water. The analogy of Kensinger’s conduct to a navy ship grounding is invalid and is an intellectually dishonest attempt to minimize what Kensinger and the rest of the Army chain of command did.

What happened in the cover-up of Tillman’s cause of death was neither incompetence nor negligence. It was deliberate lying to avoid embarrassment and revelation of the incompetence of those who killed Tillman and the chain of command above them.

Just a censure
Geren said he considered court martialing Kensinger but decided against it. Instead, he “censured” him. Geren is a pussy-footing, public relations flack wimp political hack. Somebody needs to censure him for being too weak and too political to perform the job of Secretary of the Army.

‘Damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army’
Among other things, the censure said that Kensinger’s conduct, “caused lasting damage to the reputation and credibility of the U.S. Army.”

Not as much damage as Geren’s did by trying to pull off yet another whitewash after all the cover-ups, half truths, and half-measures that the Army has tried to use to sweep this under the rug or to wear out the Tillman family and their supporters.

They have no reputation or credibility to damage
Then there’s the issue of what the U.S. Army’s reputation and credibility were before they killed Tillman then tried to cover it up. It would be fairly easy to argue that the U.S. Army leadership is now, and long has been, “libel proof.” That is, their reputation has long been so lousy because of past lies, cover-ups, and whitewashes that their reputation and credibility could not possibly be further damaged by Kensinger or anyone else. What prior cover-ups, etc.?

The My Lai massacre, inflated body counts in Vietnam, the ever-receding light at the end of the tunnel in “Five O’Clock Follies” military briefings to the press in Saigon, the court martial of Billy Mitchell, Abu Ghraib, and so on. A Google search for the phrase “U.S. Army scandal” gets “about 2,300,000 hits.” In contrast, a Google Search for the phrase “USPS scandal” gets “about 431,000” hits. The United States Postal Service has 700,000 employees; the U.S. Army, 506,556 soldiers.

‘Memoranda [sic] of concern’
Lt. Col Jeff Bailey was the local battalion commander or some such at the scene of the Tillman killing, told his men to keep secret the real facts of Tillman’s death, even from Tillman’s own brother who was in the same unit. The Secretary of the Army put a “memoranda[sic] of concern” in his personnel file as a result.

I will bet that when his immediate superiors heard from Bailey how had handled the situation right after it happened, they patted him on the back, literally if they were standing next to him at the time, and said, “Good job.”

Some JAG officers did congratulate each other in emails for keeping the Army’s Criminal Investigation Division from investigating the incident early on.

I suspect that most of the officers who are now being officially feather slapped on the wrist were initially commended by their military superiors for their cover-up efforts. Civilians like Rumsfeld and Bush would have been too smart to leave any such trail if they had known of the cover-up. They also would have been too experienced and knowledgeable about such things to think the truth about the death of a star like Tillman could ever be covered up permanently.

House Committee investigation continues
The House Oversight and Government Reform Committee interviewed Former Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld and several generals who were involved in the Tillman incident on 8/1/07.

Generally, they claimed the Tillman cover-up was a “screw-up.” That’s a lie. It was a deliberate cover-up from day one, which is probably a court-marital offense. The phrase “screw-up” is fairly used to describe honest mistakes. It is possible that the killing of Tillman was an honest mistake. It is likely that poor training, supervision, negligence, and incompetence were also factors. But there was no honest mistake in the cover-up. That was just a bunch of officers, from the platoon level to the top, lying to protect themselves and their superiors from embarrassment. They should all be court martialed.

Rumsfeld said he could not recall exactly when he heard that the Tillman death was from friendly fire. That seems unlikely. When Tillman first enlisted, Rumsfeld sent an email in which he said that Tillman was, “world class—we might want to keep our eye on him.” He sent Tillman a congratulatorywelcome letter—something he never did with any other soldier.

Rumsfeld denied that there was a cover-up and that the White House ordered him to cover up the facts about Tillman’s death. I cannot say whether that’s true or not. As I said, I do not know how the Pentagon or White House work.

Rumsfeld also said, “the gentlemen sitting next to me [retired Centcom Commander John Abizaid, retired Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Richard Meyers, and General Bryan Brown] are men of enormous integrity and would not participate in something like that.” He could have added and now they will say the same about we—we have an unspoken deal.

Don’t believe it
I do not believe that and I do not believe Rumsfeld believed that statement. Rumsfeld was an officer and pilot in the Navy from 1954 to 1957. He is the only person in U.S. history to have been Secretary of Defense twice—once under President Ford 1975 through 1977 and under president George W. Bush from 2000 to 2006. His Princeton college roommate, Frank Carlucci, was also Secretary of Defense (1987-1989).

Rumsfeld also was a four-term Congressman, Counselor to the President (Nixon), Ambassador to NATO, White House Chief of Staff, President Reagan’s Special Envoy to the Middle East, and Presidential candidate. He knows far better than I what the level of integrity is in the military. For a Secretary of Defense to say that military generals have enormous integrity is pro forma. Government big shots say that about each other instinctively as a sort of ritual, like a Senator referring to his arch enemy across the aisle as my “esteemed and honorable friend.”

Biggest celebrity soldier since Elvis
Tillman was the biggest celebrity enlisted man since Elvis was drafted in peacetime in the 1950s. The big shots were proud of him and well aware of him and eager to brag about him. They repeatedly tried to push him into media interviews. He always refused. I expect that they generally know when they learned that he died as a result of friendly fire because it was such a bombshell.

Retired CentCom commander John Abizaid said the failure to tell the truth in a timely manner was a “screw-up.” As I said above, that’s obviously a lie, an attempt to spin the crime down of false official statements to a much lesser charge. It was a deliberate lie to the Tillman family and the world.

Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal
McChrystal was the signer ofthe Silver Star citation and the author of the infamous “P-4” cable warning big brass not to let President Bush quote McChrystal’s own Silver Star medal citation about Tillman for fear it would later embarrass the President “if” the truth came out. See my main article on Tillman for more details on that. The Associated Press obtained his testimony to Army investigators.

They recommended that he be held accountable for his “misleading” actions. Secretary of the Army Geren rejected that recommendation.

McChrystal told investigators that he suspected around April 25, 2004 that Tillman died as a result of friendly fire. Nevertheless, on April 28, 2004, he signed the Silver Star citation that falsely said Tillman was killed by “devastating enemy fire.”

When they demanded an explanation of how he could believe that on the 25th and write the opposite on the 28th, McChrystal gave them this non-explanation.

Question: Why did you recommend the Silver Star one day and then the next day send a secret back-channel message warning the country’s leaders about using information from the Silver Star in public speeches because they might be embarrassed if they do?

Answer: That question seems to imply the fact that we were giving the award with one hand and then with the other hand saying it was something different. But that’s exactly the opposite of the way I felt and feel now.

First, let me translate McChrystal’s garbled, inarticulate mishmash into plain English, then I’ll respond to it. What three-star general McChrystal meant to say was,

That question seems to imply that we were talking out of one side of our mouths in the Silver Star citation and out the other in the cable to General Abizaid. But that’s exactly the opposite of the way I felt and feel now.

Analysis of McChrsystal’s ‘explanation’
1. The question was perfectly legitimate, clear, and needed to be asked given the facts of the dates the two documents were created and what they contained.
2. McChrystal’s saying “That question seems to imply…” is weasely. The question does not seem to imply anything. It squarely demands an explanation of the profound contradiction between the two actions taken on successive days. McChrystal implies that the questioner was dishonestly beating around the bush, not saying what they really meant. In fact, the opposite was true. McChrystal is the one beating around the bush trying to duck the issue. The investigator’s question was as straightforward and stand-up as it could be.
3. McChrystal uses the first party plural pronoun “we.” Whatdya mean “we” Kemo Sabe? There is no “we.” The questioner said “you.” And the reason he said “you” is because you and you alone signed the Silver Star citation and you and you alone wrote the contradictory cable the next day to General Abizaid. Take responsibility for your actions. Don’t dishonestly imply some committee did these things and insult the intelligence of everyone hearing or reading your “answer” in the process.
4. Talking out of both sides of your mouth, that is, lying, is exactly what you were doing.
5. I would have responded thus to McChrystal’s second sentence had I been the investigator.

How you felt? I did not ask how you “felt.” I don’t give a rat’s rump about how you “felt.” Neither does anyone else. The question is why did you say one thing on one day and the opposite the next when you were talking to a different audience. Your non-denial denial that you lied in the Silver Star citation is the equivalent of your admitting that you lied. Do you want to change your answer or are you going to stick with this negative pregnant in which you deny something I did not ask in order to seem to be denying what I did ask?

Trying to intimidate the investigators
Associated Press described the interview the Army investigators had with McChrystal as “sometimes contentious.” Yes. He was trying to intimidate the investigators out of asking questions he could not answer, because of his guilt, by blustering at them.

McChrystal was the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command—all the military’s John Rambo types in all services. He was later promoted to head of Afghanistan before being fired. Was he finally fired for lying? No. Obama fired him for being candid—for a fucking change—when he described Vice President Biden as “Bite me.” Lying about Tillman over a period oy years got him promoted from two stars to four and to the most-sought-after job in the U.S. military: head man in Afghanistan. Being candid for one moment about Biden got him fired almost overnight. See the pattern? Lie and you get more stars. Let a tiny bit of truth slip out and you’re fired.

McChrystal lied on Tillman’s Silver Star citation and now he is lying or ducking the question about whether he lied. He also acknowledged the cover-up in his cable as I explained in my other Tillman article and he’s trying to duck responsibility for that, too.

‘No excuse’
When I entered West Point on July 1, 1964, the first thing an upperclassman said to me was,

Mister, from now on you have three answers: Yes, sir; No, sir; and No excuse, sir.

On July 1, 1967, I was one of the upperclassmen who spoke those same words to the incoming members of the Class of 1971.

When he entered West Point around July 1st of 1972, McChrystal heard those same words. He also had to memorize the Cadet Honor Code and Cadet Prayer then. Apparently, he forgot both the “No excuse” and the honor training since July 1972. Here is what he needs to say if he ever recovers the memory of his West Point education and recovers his conscience (assuming he ever had one).

I lied in Tillman’s Silver Star citation for public-relations purposes. The purpose of my cable was to warn the president that our cover-up might not succeed so he ought not say anything that will embarrass him if it fails. I was wrong for lying in the citation and wrong for participating in the cover-up. I have no excuse for my actions.

That is what a West Point cadet would do. Then he would promptly resign.

Sadly for the nation, teenage cadets at West Point have far more character than the fifty-something West Point graduate generals in the Army. Even more sadly, that’s not saying much. If cadets are the same as when I was there, they are one of the most honest groups of people in the country.

See my article on military officer integrity for more.

The AP story says,

Among those who work with him, McChrystal is respected and admired for his leadership and integrity.

They’re another pack of liars. How about naming those who say McChrystal has integrity so their names, too, will come up in all future media research about McChrystal’s actions in the Tillman case. The way that works is whenever one of those who vouched for McChrystal’s integrity is mentioned in the media—because of a pending promotion for example—the story will note that the officer in question publicly vouched for the honesty of Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, the special ops general who was accused of deceit by official Army investigation reports in the Pat Tillman case. That, in turn, will embarrass the officers or politicians proposing to promote the officer in question and they will thereafter not make that mistake again. In other words, if you have an albatross like McChrystal around your neck, your career is over as far as promotions and plum assignments are concerned.

[I stand corrected. On 5/11/09, McChrystal was promoted to four-star general and head of Afghanistan. Not only is the Army officer corps a pack of liars, they have no shame about it and dare the politicians or American people to do anything about it.]

The translation of these into ideas a civilian would better understand is that officers lie and their buddies swear by it. It is part of the Olive Drab code of silence or solidarity in the “us (military) against them (everyone else)” career military mind set. The fact that McChrystal has colleagues willing to go out on this limb for him, albeit only anonymously so far, just means they are his friends and like him personally.

Did McChrystal and Kensinger try to co-opt the Tillman family?
I wonder if McChrystal et al did not think maybe they could get the Tillman family to participate in the cover-up by falsely glorifying his death as heroism—the Silver Star and Purple Heart and funeral eulogy and all that. Maybe the Army thought the Tillman family would want to keep secret the fact that it was friendly fire and there was no heroism so the public would falsely remember Tillman as a hero? That theory would be consistent with McChrystal, Kensinger, and so forth lauding Tillman as a hero for five weeks when they knew he never got a chance to be one, then belatedly revealing the truth to the family.

If so, McChrstyal and Kensinger and the rest were assuming the Tillmans had the same lack of character as Army officers. It’s not so surprising that they might think like that when you consider that they have spent their entire lives since age 17 or 18 in the belly of a corrupt beast. If there was a “screw-up,” as the Army is now trying to plea bargain, it is the one noted in the popular Army saying that “Assumption is the mother of all screw-ups.” The Army may have assumed that if they gave them enough medals, the Tillmans family would go away quietly.

As a game show host might comment, “Oh! I’m sorry, Army, thaut’s not the correct answer. But thank you for playing.”

McChrystal’s ‘punishment?’—Promotion to four-star general and head of Afghanistan

On 5/11/09, McChrystal was promoted to four-star general and made head of all allied troops in Afghanistan. This gives new meaning to the old saying, “The Army takes care of its own.”

First, Pat Tillman apparently was not one of the Army’s own because the Army did not take care of him. How could he not be one of the Army’s own? He was an enlisted man. They’re a dime a dozen. Just passing through—sort of like tourists among the native careerists.

McChrystal, on the other hand, was an officer and not just any officer—one who was having a great career. The Army’s not going to let a great officer career be spoiled by one cover-up getting discovered.

Seems to me that McChyrstal ought to have been fired years ago. Instead, they fired the former head of Afghanistan, General McKiernan, to make room for McChrystal’s promotion. What role did McKiernan have in the Tillman whitewash? None.

Thus do we learn what the Army, Defense Department are really all about. Not to mention Obama’s “change we can believe in.”

What commander in chief promoted McChrystal to four stars and head of Afghanistan? Obama. Did he know about McChrystal’s lying in teh Tillman case? How could he not. It was in all the papers.

Probably not a Bush Administration cover-up
The Tillman family and Democrats have accused the Administration of covering up the real cause of death including giving Tillman a Silver Star and Purple Heart to distract the public from the lack of success in the war. I doubt that. They are not that smart. What motivated them was just the embarrassment over the grotesque and monumental stupidity of killing their own superstar soldier through incompetence. They would have done the exact same cover-up if the war had been going swimmingly and Bush had a 90% approval rating.

The main proof that it was not an Administration cover-up is that such a cover-up would not be possible. If this was to be covered up, the cover-up had to be initiated immediately by the officers on the scene. They probably figured that Tillman dying as a result of friendly fire was a public relations hot potato that their superiors—military superiors, not the Administration—would want to handle themselves so they instantly ordered all who were in the know not to say anything so the big brass could figure out how they wanted to handle it. If there had been no immediate cover-up by the local commanders, and they had been open and truthful about what happened to anyone who asked, it would have been too late for the Administration to order a cover-up by the time word reached the White House. The cat would have been out of the bag.

This thought process—assuming correctly that the brass would want a cover-up—is dishonest. It assumes there is more than one way to handle the facts of a given incident. The facts are the facts. The only choice was to tell the truth or to lie and, good little career officers that they are, they assumed the Army brass wanted them to lie.

The Organization Code
Here is a pertinent section about cover-ups from my book Succeeding in the chapter titled “ Working for other people.”

In 1988, Robert Jackall wrote a book called Moral Mazes published by
Oxford University Press. He said organizations today follow this code:

1. You never go around your boss.
2. You tell the boss what he wants to hear, even though your boss claims
that he wants dissenting views.
3. If your boss wants something dropped, you drop it.
4. You are sensitive to your boss’s wishes so that you anticipate what
he wants
; you don’t force him, in other words, to act as boss.
5. Your job is not to report something that your boss does not want
reported, but rather to cover it up. You do what your job requires. You
keep your mouth shut.
[Emphasis added]

Waxman correct
I am no fan of the chairman of the Committee, Congressman Waxman. But his response to Rumsfeld and the generals was correct—even understating the malevolence involved. He said,

We hear, “the system didn’t work, errors were made.” That’s too passive. Somebody should be responsible, and we’re trying to figure that out.

Amnesia capital of the world
In addition to “it was just a screw-up,” the other big theme of the testimony of the generals was amnesia. During Watergate, it was said that Washington, DC became the amnesia capital of the world based on all the Nixon officials claiming they “could not recall.” It has again become the amnesia capital of the world during the Tillman investigations.

When he was questioned, Lieutenant General Kensinger all but diagnosed himself with Alzheimers as he claimed inability to recall one fact after another about his most famous subordinate. The House wanted Kensinger to testify at the 8/1/07 hearing, but Federal Marshals could not find him to serve him with a subpoena. Why would a patriot who gave 35 years of “selfless service,” a member of the Long Gray Line, a man of “enormous integrity,” a man who was so recently trusted with command of the most highly-trained men in the Army, need a subpoena? The fact that the Committee wanted to question him was in all the papers. Pathetic—and telling.

The real John Rambo
Let me remind you who this lost or hiding-under-his-bed, feeble-minded guy is. At the time of the Tillman killing and cover-up, Lieutenant General Philip Kensinger was the Chief of Army Special Operations Command. That means he was the commander of all of the Army Rangers, Paratroopers, the Green Berets, the Night Stalkers (helicopters for special operations), as well as special operations support, civil affairs (work with civilians in war zones), and psychological warfare. By virtue of his training and being the Army’s top special ops guy according to his last job title, Kensinger was the closest thing the Army has to James Bond or John Rambo. Here’s an article from Special Operations Technology magazine about what a super soldier he is: He is West Point class of 1970—two years behind me. He is probably 59 years old—unusually young for Alzheimers—no?

Convenient retirements
It should be noted that all or almost all of them retired since the incident. I cannot say that there is a connection between the retirements and the Tillman incident, but I suspect there is. Were the generals in question still on active duty, there would be greater pressure on the Army to take drastic action that would be embarrassing to the Army, Pentagon, and Administration. They may have had more exposure to prosecution if they remained on active duty once they became suspects.

Forcing or intimidating them into retiring before they intended to may have been the punishment that hurt the generals the most from their perspectives. I doubt they have been wading through Army chicken manure for 35 years just so they could retire when they were at the peak of their power.

‘No cover-up’
Army Secretary Geren said, “There was never any effort to mislead or hide” or keep embarrassing information from the public. “There was no cover-up.”

That is almost certainly a barefaced lie. On the contrary, it would appear that every effort was made to mislead the public and to hide the facts of the Tillman killing. Then, when those facts came out anyway, every effort was made to minimize, downplay, and conceal the culpability of the killer and his chain of command as well as to minimize, downplay, and conceal the culpability of those involved in the cover-up.

I would be surprised if the Uniform Code of Military Justice (UCMJ) does not provide that the various cover-up actions in this case were the military equivalent of felonies, that is, crimes punishable by prison sentences, demotion to private, and dishonorable discharge. Geren says Kensinger was “guilty of deception” but by not court martialing him seems to be saying that “deception” of the public by a three-star general is not a court marital offense in spite of explicit prohibition of it and specific greater-than-censure punishment for it in the UCMJ.

How career Army officers think
I know nothing about the case except what I read in the papers. I never had any involvement with the Pentagon when I was in the military or since so I cannot comment on the behavior of Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld and other civilians there or in the Administration. However, I was in the Army for eight years so I think I know how they think and act.

Based on media accounts and my knowledge of the Army career officer mentality, I think they knew immediately after the killing that it was friendly fire. Every career Army officer who knew the facts immediately realized this would make the Army and the chain of command from Tillman’s killer up to Commander in Chief George W. Bush look extremely bad, what the nutty Colonel Cathcart in the novel Catch 22 called a “black eye.” Although Catch 22 was purportedly fiction about bomber crews flying out of North Afrcia to Romania and such during World War II, it was written by a guy who was a crewman on a World War II bomber flying out of North Africa to Romania and such. He called it fiction just to change the names. In Catch 22, as in the Tillman incident, they used medals to cover up screw-ups. If you think that part of Catch 22 is a gross exaggeration that would never occur in reality, you must never have been in the military.

Killing Pat Tillman by friendly fire was a worst case scenario that exploded in the midst of a bunch of career officers who instinctively and routinely go to the greatest lengths to avoid far lesser embarrassments to themselves and their superiors.

They do cover-ups every day in the military
Army officers cover up embarrassing facts on a daily basis. For example, virtually every motor-vehicle maintenance report in the Army, a daily report that goes from every vehicle-owning unit worldwide to the Pentagon, is grossly false, and signed by an Army officer. Training schedules that are signed by the company commander submitted by every line unit worldwide are also typically false.

They have this really neat way to cover things up that is not available to most civilians. They can stamp it “Secret” or “Top secret.” Indeed, one of the lies told by the Army in the Tillman incident was that Tillman’sfatal operation was secret because all ranger operations are secret. Total bullshit!

Cover-ups R Us could be the military’s alternate name. See my article on military integrity. Career Army officers figure if they can cover up their lousy maintenance day in and day out for decades, lie about what their units do in Germany, Korea, and stateside every day, they can probably get away with covering up the facts about Tillman’s death.

They also believe they are experienced and adept at maintaining “plausible deniability,” a phrase most notoriously used by U.S. Naval Academy graduate Oliver North in conjunction with the Iran-Contra Affair. (How telling that this is the third time in this article that I had had to use Watergate phraseology to analyze it: plausible deniability, amnesia capital of the world, non-denial denial.)

One also hears the phrase, “I’ll deny that I said this,” frequently in the Army and government. The old Mission Impossible TV series always started with the playing of a tape which had phrases like, “As always, the Secretary will deny all knowledge of your mission if you are discovered...this message will self-destruct in five seconds.” This is roughly the real government way of doing embarrassing things. That’s why no one ever questioned the validity of that Mission Impossible opening sequence.

With nods and winks, military officers can get low-level enlisted men and low-ranking officers to break laws about truthful reports. Then, if and when the truth comes out, they claim they are “shocked, shocked” that their subordinates lied, “deny all knowledge of your mission,” and sacrifice a couple of privates, sergeants, and maybe a lieutenant in an effort to appease the public and the press. That, along with delaying tactics, usually works.

That is precisely what has happened in the Tillman incident. Tillman is dead—shot in the face by his own colleagues from 40 yards away in daylight in vegetationless terrain.

It stinks. But it is only the latest in a centuries-old pattern of similar behavior by the leaders of the military.

I conclude that the Army and the generals named above got away with the cover-up. They just stonewalled everyone until the heat died down, like they always do. And it worked. “I can’t comment because it’s under investigation” really means “I won’t comment until no one cares anymore.”

Civilians may wonder how such men got to be generals. By indicating back when they were lieutenants and captains and majors that they knew how to play the game and would play the game faithfully every single time. Protecting your bosses from embarrassment is one of the main aspects of playing the game to get promoted in the military officer corps. See my article “the U.S. military’s 30-year, marathon, single-elimination, suck-up tournament” or “How America selects its generals.”

Here are articles written by former ranger Stan Goff on the Tillman killing and cover-up.

I appreciate informed, well-thought-out constructive criticism and suggestions.

John T. Reed

Link to information about John T. Reed’s Succeeding book which, in part, relates lessons learned about succeeding in life from being in the military

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