Who Killed Pat Tillman?

Pat Tillman was slated to become an iconic figure, the purest representation of the New Bushian Man: a football hero who had refused a lucrative contract in order to enlist in the military, who could have had a life of riches and ease but chose, instead, to go to Afghanistan to take up arms against our enemies. Most important of all, for propaganda purposes, he looked the part, almost as if he’d been crafted to embody the virtues of a life in service to the Empire. His enlistment provoked a personal letter from then-Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld, and his death provided the War Party with the opportunity to canonize him as a martyr to The Cause. An elaborate narrative was conjured by administration spinmeisters in the wake of his death, valorizing him as an example to be followed.

There was just one problem: Tillman wasn’t a gung-ho warmonger. The San Francisco Chronicle reports:

"A side of Pat Tillman not widely known – a fiercely independent thinker who enlisted, fought, and died in service to his country yet was critical of President Bush and opposed the war in Iraq, where he served a tour of duty. He was an avid reader whose interests ranged from history books … to works of leftist Noam Chomsky, a favorite author.”

Apparently a meeting between Tillman and Chomsky was planned for after Pat’s return to the U.S., but he never returned. Instead, he was killed – under circumstances that Pat’s mother, Mary, has always characterized as "murky," at best, and that seem, to my eye, at least, suspicious at worst. And it isn’t just me. Now the release of thousands of pages of documents by the Pentagon, as the result of a Freedom of Information Act request, raise even more questions about the circumstances surrounding Pat Tillman’s death:

"Army medical examiners were suspicious about the close proximity of the three bullet holes in Pat Tillman’s forehead and tried without success to get authorities to investigate whether the former NFL player’s death amounted to a crime, according to documents obtained by The Associated Press.

"’The medical evidence did not match up with the, with the scenario as described,’ a doctor who examined Tillman’s body after he was killed on the battlefield in Afghanistan in 2004 told investigators.

"The doctors – whose names were blacked out – said that the bullet holes were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away."

This occurs after at least three investigations have supposedly been conducted, in which Tillman’s death was attributed to "friendly fire," adding to the strong suspicion that there’s something they’re not telling us – something they have been trying desperately to cover up. "The Army used him," says his mother. "They knew right away he was killed by fratricide and [they] used him for their own purposes to promote the war, to get sympathy for the war, for five weeks."

Mary Tillman has long suggested that her son was deliberately murdered by his fellow soldiers. After initially dismissing her allegations as a case of grief-gone-over-the-edge, I’ve come to believe that there is something awfully fishy about this whole incident.

After all, why were Army attorneys sending "congratulatory e-mails" to each other for fending off criminal investigators on the case? The general who kept the details of Tillman’s death from the Tillman family and the public claimed that he was having a problem with his memory, and that’s why he just couldn’t recall any important details of how Tillman’s death was handled. Doctors who tried to reconcile the forensic evidence with the official account urged that a criminal investigation be pursued, but they were rebuffed. What’s really suspicious, however, is that evidence of enemy fire at the scene was singularly lacking: no one was hit by enemy fire, nor was any equipment damaged. According to numerous reports, there were no Taliban in the area.

Now, I’m not willing to go as far as this guy, but I have to wonder: what if that meeting with Chomsky had come off, as scheduled, and Tillman had arisen to become a vocal critic of the Iraq war – which he bitterly opposed – and had even become involved in politics? The War Party’s own propagandistic creation would have turned against them – a form of "blowback" that would have had a devastating effect on the effort to shore up support for our crazed foreign policy. Especially if Tillman teamed up with Democratic Party operatives, either to run for office himself or to endorse candidates opposed to the war.

The backtracking, the misinformation, the deliberate withholding of documents that required a FOIA request in the first place, and now the demotion of a general involved in the "investigation" – all point to a cover-up of massive proportions. Tillman had been keeping a journal since the age of 16, and he took it with him to Afghanistan. Two days after his demise, the journal, along with most of his personal property, mysteriously vanished. Adding another layer of murk, the White House is claiming "executive privilege" in refusing to release documents dealing with Tillman’s death. But who is being protected?

First they told us Tillman was killed by hostile fire fighting for Bush’s crusade to export "democracy" to Afghanistan. Then they said he was felled by "friendly fire," i.e., by his own troops. These new revelations suggest – although they don’t conclusively prove – that this fire may not have been all that friendly.

What I want to know is this: how could someone who was apparently killed from 10 yards away – and was hit by three bullets in very close proximity
on the forehead – be a victim of "friendly fire" from 90 yards away, as claimed?

All of which raises another, increasingly troubling question: Who killed Pat Tillman – and why?


Go here for my take on the Ron Paul phenomenon for the British Guardian (and get a load of the comment thread it generated!) Here’s a recent radio show I did on WGNU 920 AM, St. Louis, Mo. And go here for the latest blog items posted on Taki’s Top Drawer.

Author: Justin Raimondo

Justin Raimondo passed away on June 27, 2019. He was the co-founder and editorial director of Antiwar.com, and was a senior fellow at the Randolph Bourne Institute. He was a contributing editor at The American Conservative, and wrote a monthly column for Chronicles. He was the author of Reclaiming the American Right: The Lost Legacy of the Conservative Movement [Center for Libertarian Studies, 1993; Intercollegiate Studies Institute, 2000], and An Enemy of the State: The Life of Murray N. Rothbard [Prometheus Books, 2000].