The Assassination of Cpl. Pat Tillman
(Jim Fetzer) According to Lt. Col. Bailey, Lt. Uthlaut, Cpl. Tillman’s platoon commander, had misunderstood his order to have boots on the ground “by dusk”, which Lt. Uthlaut had misheard as boots on the ground “by dawn”—Boots on the Ground by Dusk (2008). The stunning revelation from our nation’s premiere investigative reporter, Seymour Hersh, that Vice President Dick Cheney was running an “executive assassination ring” directly under his control and outside of the normal chain of command has raised the specter that the Vice President of the United States may have been murdering Americans.
As a scholar who has invested a considerable effort in the investigation of the death of US Senator Paul Wellstone, this comes as no surprise. I and other experts with whom I have collaborated long since concluded that the crash that took his life and those of his wife, daughter, three aides and two pilots was brought about deliberately, where Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove are the principal suspects. Another case in which assassination appears probable include the death of NFL star player, Cpl. Pat Tillman, which I shall review here.
According to Paul Joseph Watson, the Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) did not originate with Cheney but was founded in 1980, which suggests that it may have been initiated by our then-Vice President George H. W. Bush, a former Director of the CIA. It consists primarily of Delta Force soldiers and SEALs, who are stationed at Pope Air Force Base and at Fort Bragg, NC. According to Watson, this assassination unit is still active under President Obama. The very existence of an operation of this kind raises questions of the utmost seriousness about democracy in America. What has become of this country when the expression of your political convictions and the pursuit of what you think best for this nation runs the risk of bringing about your termination? When our elected officials, like Hitler and Stalin, have the power to decide whether we live or die depending on their whims, this country has ceased to be the home of the brave or the land of the free.
Signs Something is Wrong
There are typical signs that something is wrong in the case of deaths that have political ramifications. These include obfuscation about the cause of the event, especially by creating a false “first impression”, which tends to stick in the minds of most Americans. In the Wellstone case, it was that the cause had been the weather. In the case of Pat Tillman, it was that he had been killed in a fire-fight in Afghanistan. Although I shall not discuss it with the same degree of detail, the Tillman death appears to bear the signs that this, too, was an assassination. An article on Tillman in Wikipedia, exclusively based upon public sources, provides ample indications of the blatancy with which political killings can take place and then be covered up, especially by assassins who were themselves members of the military. (To insure its availability, I have archived it here under “Assassination”.)
An NFL football star who enlisted in the Army in May 2002, he apparently became disenchanted with the conduct of the war. He not only did not support President Bush for reelection, but encouraged others to vote for John Kerry. According to his mother, a friend of his had arranged for him to meet with Noam Chomsky, professor emeritus from MIT and one of our nation’s most respected public intellectuals, who, no doubt, could have launched him into prominent orbit as an outspoken opponent of the war, had he been so inclined. Although Chomsky is revered as though he were a god by many liberals and progressives, I have serious reservations about his role relative to our nation’s most controversial political events, such as the assassination of JFK and the events of 9/11, where he has dismissed the idea of conspiracy to take out JFK because, in his view, it involved no significant policy issues, which is frankly absurd. He wanted to cut the oil depletion allowance, shatter the CIA into a thousand pieces, pull our advisers out of Vietnam, and reestablish normal relations with Cuba.
And based upon my collaborative research as the founder of Scholars for 9/11 Truth on both the science of 9/11 and its politics, anyone who continues to endorse the “official account” of 9/11 has to be either unfamiliar with the evidence or cognitively impaired—assuming, of course, that they are not deliberately perpetrating the cover-up, which is my take on Noam Chomsky. I have spoken out about Noam Chomsky on YouTube, where you can find two interviews, “Fetzer on Chomsky: Linguistics and 9/11”, and “Noam Chomsky’s faulty linguistics philosophy”, where the indefensible aspects of his views about language and mentality, which I have examined in detail elsewhere, are not what matters here, but his role in leading the opposition:
As Lenin observed, “The best way to control the opposition is to lead it”, where, in my opinion, the evidence in these cases is so strong that it is difficult to see how it can lend its weight to any alternative inference. The man is obviously not cognitively impaired and has to be familiar with the evidence relating to JFK and 9/11 on pain of disqualifying himself as the leader of the left. The prospect of having a macho, NFL-complement to Cindy Sheehan—a widely admired figure who might have inspired the nation to reconsider our involvement in Iraq and Afghanistan—would have been a powerful incentive for removing him from the public arena in the demented minds of Dick Cheney, Donald Rumsfeld, and Karl Rove. The use of these special operations military serving as an ‘assassination ring’ in this situation may very well have been irresistible, once they realized they had a problem. So who could have tipped them off?
According to Wikipedia’s entry about him, Tillman was redeployed to Afghanistan and, on 22 April 2004, he was killed. The Army initially claimed that he and his unit were hit by an ambush on a road outside a village not far from the Pakistan border. The Army Special Operations Command initially claimed that there was an exchange with hostile forces, but an investigation conducted by the U.S. Department of Defense concluded that his death was due to friendly fire “aggravated by the intensity of the firefight”. Another, more thorough investigation, concluded that hostile forces had not been involved in the firefight and that two allied groups—the platoon of which he was a member had been divided in two—fired on each other in confusion after a nearby explosive device was detonated. But it also makes these significant points:
- No evidence of enemy fire at the scene has ever been produced;
- The lieutenant general who withheld details of Tillman’s death from his parents for months told investigators “he had a bad memory, and could not recall details of his actions” on more than 70 occasions;
- According to The Washington Post, on May 4, 2005, the Army’s own investigators were aware that Tillman had been killed by being shot three times in the head;
- Senior Army commanders, including Gen. John Abizaid, knew of this fact within days of the shooting, but nevertheless approved him for the Siver Star, the Purple Heart, and a posthumous promotion;
- Army doctors told the investigators that these tightly-grouped wounds suggested murder and urged them to launch a criminal investigation, which would not be pursued; and
- Army attorneys congratulated each other in emails for impeding any criminal investigation as they concluded that Tillman’s death was the result of friendly fire, and that only administrative, or non-criminal, punishment was indicated.
Evidence and Likelihoods
When we consider the alternatives of an accident or of an assassination in this case, we have to compare the likelihoods as measured of the strength of their evidential support in relation to the available evidence, where the likelihood of an hypothesis (hi) relative to the available evidence, e, is equal to the probability of e, if (hi) were true. When we compare hypotheses, therefore, the hypothesis with the higher likelihood, given the available evidence, is the better supported of the two, where, when the evidence has “settled down” and points in the same direction, the hypothesis with the higher likelihood is acceptable as true in the tentative and fallible fashion of science. Here we compare (h1), that it was an accident, with (h2), that it was not, as follows:
(h1) If Tillman had been killed accidentally, even by “friendly fire”, then what is the probability that no evidence of a bona fide fire-fight would be produced, that the Lt. General would suffer 70 “memory lapses”, that the corporal would have been shot three times in the head, that honors would be bestowed upon him, that the doctors would have suspected he was murdered, and that Army attorneys would impede criminal investigations? The likelihood of this evidence, given (h1), would have been very low.
(h2) If Tillman had been killed intentionally, using “friendly fire” as the cover story, then what is the probability that no evidence of a bona fide fire-fight would be produced, that the Lt. General would suffer 70 “memory lapses”, that the corporal would have been shot three times in the head, that honors would be bestowed upon him, that the doctors would have suspected he was murdered, and that Army attorneys would impede criminal investigations? The likelihood of this evidence, given (h2), would have been very high.
You don’t have to be a rocket scientist to conclude that something is very wrong here. The probability of these effects would have been very high if he had been deliberately taken out, as (h2) maintains, and very low if his death was accidental, as (h1) maintains. Since an hypothesis with high likelihood is preferable to one with low likelihood, hypothesis (h2) is clearly preferable to hypothesis (h1), which makes it the preferable hypothesis. But has the evidence “settled down” such that we are entitled to accept (h2) as true in the tentative and fallible fashion of science?
The Official Finding
On March 26, 2007, the Pentagon released their report on the events surrounding Tillman’s death and cover-up. The report reads in part:
. . . we emphasize that all investigators established the basic facts of CPL Tillman’s death — that it was caused by friendly fire, that the occupants of one vehicle in CPL Tillman’s platoon were responsible, and that circumstances on the ground caused those occupants to misidentify friendly forces as hostile. None of the investigations suggested that CPL Tillman’s death was anything other than accidental. Our review, as well as the investigation recently completed by Army CID, obtained no evidence contrary to those key findings.
The denial of contrary evidence appears to be contrived. If the Army doctors had suspected murder, if there were three shots to the head, and if they were tightly grouped and appeared to have been fired from close range by an M-16 from less than 10 yards away, the “friendly fire” scenario looks more and more like deliberate misinformation. Tillman is not the kind of man his fellow soldiers would frag. On the contrary, he is just the kind of guy—and football star, no less—his fellow soldiers would have respected and admired. He’s the kind of guy they would have written home about! Indeed, the article confirms that Tillman “was popular among his fellow soldiers and had no enemies”. They harbored no reason to murder him.
He may have been killed by a member of the armed forces, which could have been obscured by the use of the phrase, “friendly fire”, but it would not have been by his comrades in arms. Interestingly, there are reports of snipers in a second group of troops that encountered Pat’s squad shortly before an explosive device went off and the shooting started. This looks like an idea situation in which a designated assassin, who was a member of this second group, could have used the chaotic conditions created by the detonation of a distracting explosive device to take out a man who could have become an outspoken opponent of the war, especially if the members of this ring are military. In my opinion, his visit with Noam Chomsky may have sealed his fate. Cheney, Rumsfeld and Rove would not have wanted to allow his opposition to the war become public knowledge. His death appears to have been no more of an accident than the plane crash that took the life of Sen. Paul Wellstone.
On July 26, 2007, for example, the AP received official documents stating that the doctors who performed the autopsy suspected that Tillman was murdered. High ranking officers knew better at least four days before his nationally televised memorial service during which he “was lauded as a war hero for dying while engaging the enemy”. It turns out that members of Tillman’s unit burned his body armor and uniform. Tillman’s diary was never returned to his family, and its whereabouts are not publicly known. As a former Marine Corps commissioned officer, I affirm that this treatment of the personal property of a deceased is not proper procedure. The missing diary is especially striking, since diaries are legally admissible as evidence in courts of law and would have attested to his state of mind.
Some prominent news personalities have figured out that something seems to be wrong. Also on July 26, 2007, for example, Chris Matthews reported that Tillman’s death might have been a case of fragging (of the deliberate killing of a soldier by his comrades at arms) because the bullet holes were tight and neat, suggesting that he was shot at close range. Chris based his speculation on a report from the doctors who investigated Tillman’s body. The following day the AP reported that a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after his death wrote, “The medical evidence did not match up with the scenario as described,” also noting that the wound entrances appeared as though he had been shot with an M16 rifle from less than 10 yards (9 m) away.”
Boots on the Ground by Dusk
The cover-up can be revealing of the true dimensions of the crime. In this instance Mary Tillman, Pat’s mother, recounts the visit to their home by his former Battalion Commander, Lt. Col. Jeffrey Bailey, to explain that Lt. David Uthlaut, Cpl. Tillman’s platoon commander, had misunderstood his order to have boots on the ground “by dusk”, which Lt. Uthlaut had misheard as boots on the ground “by dawn”. As Mary reports, Kevin, Pat’s brother, was incredulous and asks how that would be possible, since they should have been operating on military time. 0700 hours is not going to be confounded with 1900 hours, which is an impeccable point. And this was far from the only indication that they were dealing with fantastic explanations for his death.
The first explanation they were given (by Lt. Col. Bailey) included that a truck had broken down, which they had been required to tow through a canyon, where enemy combatants were known to lurk. His CO (Lt. Uthlaut) had divided his platoon, which was a tactical error, where Bailey explains that he did not know everything that was going on between Uthlaut and CENTCOM. The family was incredulous that actions in Afghanistan were being directed from MacDill Air Force Base in Tampa, FL, while the local on-scene commanders were being overruled. But that would have made sense of there had been command interest in this specific operation. Bailey explained how explosions and gunfire were being heard up the canyon and how Pat ran up a nearby hill in the company of Private Bryan O’Neal and an Afghan Militia Force (ALF) soldier, how Pat had tried to drop his gear to improve his position while Sgt. Greg Baker had shot the Afghan in the chest, killing him.
When Bailey questioned Baker, he had told him, “He was just a haji”, a denigrating term for an Afghan. According to Baker, the ALF soldier might have appeared to be firing toward Baker’s truck, even though it was not under fire at the time. When Pat’s brother asked about the visibility, Bailey told him that he had walked the site just 24 hours later and that the lights conditions were the best of the day with no shadows. He was unable to explain why Pat was killed, after having identified himself and his fellow soldier as “friendlies”. He said that Pat had done everything he could have done, including tossing out a smoke grenade producing purple smoke. But he was shot in the leg and, after falling into a crouched position, there was another lull in the shooting and O’Neal could hear Pat trying to speak. Then the others opened up again. O’Neal heard was sounded like running water coming from the rock they were situated behind and realized he was covered with blood. Pat had been hit three times in the head.
Seventeen days later, family members would flown to Seattle for the official briefing by Lt. Col. Bailey in the presence of Col. James Nixon, who had been the regimental commander. They were dismayed that no formal report had yet been prepared and that they would be listening to a PowerPoint presentation. Bailey asseted he made some mistakes in his earlier briefing, where Sgt. Baker did not actually step out of his vehicle but, observing the ALF soldier in a prone position, shot him eight times in the chest. Other soldiers, following his lead, fired up the ridgeline, killing Pat as well as wounding Lt. Uthlaut and his radio operator. They wonder how it was possible to shoot a man who was lying prone eight time in the chest. Bailey went on, only now the visibility had been poor and there had been no lull in the shooting. The smoke was no longer purple but white and the troops thought it was dust blown up by their shooting. And now his reference to CENTCOM meant in Afghanistan, not in Florida. After the presentation, Col. Nixon told the family they could call him anytime.
There is more, but you get the idea. The inconsistencies between these accounts of the event means they cannot both be true, though they could both be false. The accidental death versus deliberate killing hypotheses, when evaluated based upon the available evidence demonstrate that the deliberate killing hypothesis has a high likelihood, while the likelihood of the accidental killing hypothesis is low. Moreover, the evidence has “settled down”, which means that the corporal appears to have been targeted for assassination, where the motives appear to have been political. The Bush/Cheney administration would have been as opposed to having a macho, widely admired, anti-war advocate capture the public’s imagination as much as it wanted to rid itself of the charismatic, passionate and outspoken critic of its war agenda, Sen. Paul Wellstone. And, indeed, since the PowerPoint presentation, Cpl. Pat Tillman is still dead, no one has been court-marshaled and Lt. Col. Bailey has been promoted. The evidence all points in the same direction.
Jim Fetzer, a former Marine Corps officer, is McKnight Professor Emeritus at the University of Minnesota Duluth.