Cpl. Tillman, a National Football League star who turned down a $3.6 million contract offer from the Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the U.S. Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks, was mistakenly killed, along with an Afghan soldier, by fellow Rangers after their platoon was ambushed.
Officials initially announced that he had died at the hands of the enemy, and it was more than a month before the Army finally told his family the truth, though senior officers - including Gen. McChrystal - knew within three days that there was at the least a suspicion of fratricide.
Although Gen. McChrystal wrote in his memo that he did not believe Cpl. Tillman’s death by friendly fire detracted from his valor, or invalidated his Silver Star, the inspector general’s 2007 report criticized him for signing off on a “misleading citation that implied Cpl. Tillman died by enemy fire.”
The investigative report added that the episode had “caused the [Tillman] family to question … the Army’s true motives” in making the award.
Cpl. Tillman’s brother, Kevin, told a hearing of the House Oversight and Government Reform Committee in 2007 that the evidence “revealed a series of contradictions [in the medal citation and other records] that strongly suggest deliberate and careful misrepresentations … intended to deceive the family, but more importantly to deceive the American public.”
The inspector general’s report recommended “appropriate corrective action” against Gen. McChrystal, but in the end he was the only general officer criticized by the report to be spared disciplinary action by the Army, partly because he had raised the alarm about the fratricide up his chain of command.
Gen. McChrystal’s role in the Tillman affair, and questions about detainee abuse by special forces teams he later oversaw in Iraq as commander of Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC), were all investigated thoroughly by the Senate Armed Services Committee last year when he was confirmed as director of the Joint Staffs, according to a congressional staffer, who spoke only on the condition of anonymity because he is not authorized to speak to the media.
The detainee-abuse questions surrounded a secret interrogation center called Camp Nama at the Baghdad International Airport run by a JSOC task force hunting “high-value targets” in Iraq. Five Army Rangers pleaded guilty in December 2005 to kicking and punching prisoners there, and an investigation by Human Rights Watch revealed that Gen. McChrystal was a regular visitor at Camp Nama.
“There was a thorough and rigorous review of these issues. … [Gen. McChrystal] answered all the questions, and the committee voted for his confirmation,” the congressional aide said.
Partly because he was so recently subjected to such a thorough review, other congressional officials said, Gen. McChrystal is expected to be easily confirmed for the new Afghan job.
The approval of the NATO foreign ministers council - required because Gen. McChrystal will also command the NATO International Security Assistance Force in Afghanistan - is also a “done deal,” according to Daniel Korski of the European Council on Foreign Relations in Brussels.
“U.S. allies will accept him as the man trusted by Washington to carry out the military parts of Obama’s strategy,” Mr. Korski told The Times.
“But,” he added, “McChrystal would do well to build on [his predecessor’s] work with the United Nations and other allies even while - or especially because - the United States is taking over the Afghan mission, if he hopes to maintain what little NATO cohesion there is.”
Paul Hughes, a retired army colonel and executive director of the Congressional Commission on the Strategic Posture of the United States, said Gen. McChrystal is “the right guy for the job because he understands the nuances of counterinsurgency. He is the best available officer to put in that position.”
John Nagl, president of the Center for a New American Security, praised Gen. McChrystal as a man of “extraordinary energy and drive and a real dedication to the cause of making the military more effective in Afghanistan.”