from raw story: In a major hearing of the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, the brother of deceased Army Specialist Pat Tillman, who appears to have been a victim of friendly fire, said that reports of his brother’s ‘heroic death’ were “deliberate and calculated lies.”
“These were intentional falsehoods that meet the legal definition for fraud,” said Kevin Tillman, who served alongside his brother in the Army Rangers in Afghanistan.
Tillman testified alongside his mother, Mary, at a hearing on “Misleading Information from the Battlefield.” Pat Tillman had been a safety for the Arizona Cardinals who turned down a contract extension in 2002 to enlist in the US Army Rangers.
Also at the hearing was Jessica Lynch, the Army Private whose tales of heroism were exaggerated in the aftermath of her capture and subsequent recuse from an Iraqi hospital in March and April 2003.
Lynch criticized the media for making too much of her heroism.
“My parent’s home in Wirt County [West Virginia] was under siege of the media all repeating the story of the little girl Rambo from the hills who went down fighting. It was not true,” she said. “The truth of war is not always easy to hear but it’s always more heroic than the hype.”
Lynch, who still suffers from many injuries inflicted during her ordeal in Iraq, showed a quiet and reserved manner distinct from the Tillmans, who made it clear that they were pursuing truth and justice.
Kevin Tillman set the scene, arguing that the image of America’s military campaign in Iraq was bruised after the US tactical defeat in Falluja, the Abu Ghraib scandal, and the call-up of 20,000 additional American troops to fight in Iraq.
“The media accounts, based on information provided by the Army and White House, were wreathed in a patriotic glow,” he said of reporting on the circumstances of his brother’s death.
“This was a terrible tragedy that might have further undermined support for the war in Iraq, and was instead transformed into a message,” to build support for the war he argued.
When quizzed by one Republican Congressman, Darrell Issa of California, if there was any evidence of a conspiracy to falsify details of the Army Specialist’s death, Tillman answered without any doubt.
“The evidence is leading to a point, which is why we came to your committee sir,” Kevin Tillman responded.
Referring to the ‘disconnect’ between the stories told of Tillman’s death and the truth about its circumstances, his brother said more investigation was needed.
“Based on how a lot of these wars are perception based, it’s imperative that the committee take a look,” Tillman argued. “[Politicians were] the ones who ultimately benefited from that story.”
When Specialist Tillman’s mother, Mary, was asked what gaps there were in the public record, she pointed to the large ring binder sitting on the table in front of her.
“See this binder?” she said to Rep. Tom Davis (R-VA).
For starters, she suggested that the Army’s awarding of a Silver Star to her son needed to be investigated, as it ‘created a paper trail.’
She also challenged the Army Inspector General’s report that a group of generals were the sole cause of the fabrications of the circumstances of Pat Tillman’s death.
“That’s a smokescreen, these officers are scapegoats,” Mary Tillman said angrily, while answering a question asked by Rep. Christopher Shays (R-CT).
But while the Tillman family saw a political decision being made to falsify accounts of the Army Specialist’s death, Lynch said to Issa that she didn’t see any larger conspiracy beyond the media.
She blamed the media, “for letting the story keep going, they should have found out the facts before they spread the word like wildfire.”
But in his opening statement, Rep. Henry Waxman (D-CA), the committee’s chairman, doubted that the media itself could be to blame for the story on Lynch’s capture and rescue.
“Jessica Lynch was captured on March 23. The Washington Post published a completely factual article on her rescue on April 2. But by April 3, ten days after her capture, U.S. officials had become the source for a story that riveted the nation, but twisted the truth beyond recognition,” Waxman argued. “It’s four years later and we still don’t know who’s responsible and why they did it. All we really know is that they did a great disservice to Jessica Lynch.” …