Today’s Washington Post reports the Army was perfectly aware that Pat Tillman was killed by friendly fire, but covered it up. According to Josh White’s story in the WaPo:
The documents also show that officers made erroneous initial reports that Tillman was killed by enemy fire, destroyed critical evidence and initially concealed the truth from Tillman’s brother, also an Army Ranger, who was near the attack on April 22, 2004, but did not witness it.
Just in case you’ve forgotten, here’s how the story was played out in April of 2004:
Tillman turned down a three-year, $3.6 million contract with the Arizona Cardinals of the National Football League to enlist in the Army in May 2002 in the wake of the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, which killed about 3,000 people in New York, Washington and Pennsylvania.
âMy great grandfather was at Pearl Harbor, and a lot of my family has … gone and fought in wars, and I really havenât done a damn thing as far as laying myself on the line like that,â? Tillman told NBC News in an interview the day after the attacks.
FOX News headlines in April and May 2004 included Death of a Hero, Pat Tillman’s Patriotic Sacrifice, and An American Hero Has Fallen.
The basic story was this: Tillman walked away from fame and riches in the NFL to fight for his country, and died valiantly while doing so.
I wasn’t blogging yet way back in 2004, but I was taking notes…
Here’s what I wrote about the media coverage of Tillman’s death:
Why, exactly, is his death a worthy one? Why is it that the attachment of some sort of local pseudo-celebrity to a death can make it worthy? What if his name was Washington and he was black. Would the media be quite so focused on an offensive tackle named Washington? What if he were no good at football and was getting paid the league minimum to sit on the bench. Then would his death still be worthy? It is a sickness, a product of the spectacle, this disease of celebrity, this malignant contagion of belief that the appearance of a human within the projected world makes them somehow more important, more real than one that has never been on television, has never given a post-game interview, has never been replayed instantly.
I think what the WaPo is reporting makes it clear that the story structure was more important to the military and to the press than the true story. Noble Millionaire Killed By His Coworkers Accidentally doesn’t quite have the same ring to it as An American Hero Has Fallen, eh?