- The Washington Times - Tuesday, April 24, 2007


An Army Ranger who was with Pat Tillman when the former football star was killed by friendly fire in Afghanistan said yesterday he was told by a higher-up to conceal that information from Cpl. Tillman’s brother.

“I was ordered not to tell him,” Spc. Bryan O’Neal told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.

He said he was given the order by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, commander of the battalion that included Cpl. Tillman’s platoon.

Cpl. Tillman’s brother Kevin was in a convoy behind his brother when the incident happened, but didn’t see it. Spc. O’Neal said Col. Bailey told him specifically not to tell Kevin Tillman that the death was friendly fire rather than heroic engagement with the enemy.

“He basically just said, sir, that uh, ‘Do not let Kevin know; he’s probably in a bad place knowing that his brother’s dead,”’ Spc. O’Neal said. He added that Col. Bailey made it clear he would “get in trouble” if he told.

Kevin Tillman was not in the hearing room when Spc. O’Neal spoke.

In earlier testimony, Kevin Tillman accused the military of “intentional falsehoods” and “deliberate and careful misrepresentations” in portraying Cpl. Tillman’s death in Afghanistan as the result of heroic engagement with the enemy instead of friendly fire.

“We believe this narrative was intended to deceive the family, but more importantly the American public,” Kevin Tillman told the committee.

“Revealing that Pat’s death was a fratricide would have been yet another political disaster in a month of political disasters … so the truth needed to be suppressed,” Mr. Tillman said.

The committee’s chairman, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, California Democrat, accused the government of inventing “sensational details and stories” about Cpl. Tillman’s death and the 2003 rescue of Jessica Lynch, perhaps the most famous casualties of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars.

“The government violated its most basic responsibility,” Mr. Waxman said.

Miss Lynch, then an Army private, was badly injured when her convoy was ambushed in Iraq. She was subsequently rescued by American troops from an Iraqi hospital, but the tale of her ambush was changed into a story of heroism on her part.

Still hampered by her injuries, Miss Lynch walked slowly to the witness table and took a seat alongside Tillman family members.

“The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideals of heroes and they don’t need to be told elaborate lies,” Miss Lynch said.

Cpl. Tillman was killed on April 22, 2004, after his Army Ranger unit was ambushed in eastern Afghanistan. Rangers in another convoy had just emerged from a canyon where they had been fired upon. They saw Cpl. Tillman’s group and mistakenly fired on him.

Last month, the military concluded in a pair of reports that nine high-ranking Army officers, including four generals, made critical errors in reporting Cpl. Tillman’s death but that there was no criminal wrongdoing in his shooting.

Cpl. Tillman’s death received worldwide attention because he had walked away from a huge contract with the NFL’s Arizona Cardinals to enlist in the Army after the September 11 terrorist attacks.

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