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On October 15, 2006, ESPN broadcast additional information on Pat Tillman including unprecedented interviews that prompted a search of a previous article, published in late July. Although this particular quote was diaried here at the time, it got scant attention and did not generate any discussion of the greater implications of this particular officer's comments. Personally, I had not heard this quote, was stunned by its incredible stupidity, potentially willful intent and incredible callousness and believe that the DKos community should be made more fully aware of this ongoing situation.

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On October 15, ESPN ran a story on the death of Pat Tillman, the former Arizona Cardinal and Army Ranger who gave up a lucrative professional football career to join the US military and fight in Afghanistan and Iraq. This story included footage of interviews with some of the soldiers who were present when Tillman was killed in a friendly fire incident in Afghanistan on April 22, 2004. These interviews are somewhat groundbreaking in that they are the first revelations from service members who were actually at the scene of Tillman's death. Most members of the Rangers have refused to discuss any aspect of this incident, some indicating that they have been pressured to keep quiet.

In July, 2006, ESPN also ran an exhaustive analysis of Tillman's life and death, the conduct of the US military in concealing the truth about his killing and the exploitation of Tillman's legacy for propaganda purposes. While it was shocking enough to read that Tillman's unit was essentially bogged down over the fate of a Humvee that higher-ups did not want abandoned, that even at Tillman's memorial, military brass already knew most of the details of his death but did not inform his family and that his Silver Star commendation was willfully falsified, the words of a particular Army official involved are far worse in their callousness and implications.

Interviewed by ESPN in an article published online, the US Army official who served as the executive officer of the Ranger unit in Afghanistan had this to say about the specific details of Tillman's death:

"According to the Army officer who directed the first official inquiry, the Army might have more of a clue about the shooter's identity than it has let on. Asked whether ballistics work was done to identify who fired the fatal shots, Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich told, "I think, yeah, they did. And I think they know [who fired]. But I never found out."

"His parents continue to ask for it to be looked at," Kauzlarich said. "And that is really their prerogative. And if they have the right backing, the right powerful people in our government to continue to let it happen, then that is the case. But there [have] been numerous unfortunate cases of fratricide, and the parents have basically said, 'OK, it was an unfortunate accident.' And they let it go. So this is -- I don't know, these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs."

In a transcript of his interview with Brig. Gen. Gary Jones during a November 2004 investigation, Kauzlarich said he'd learned Kevin Tillman, Pat's brother and fellow Army Ranger who was a part of the battle the night Pat Tillman died, objected to the presence of a chaplain and the saying of prayers during a repatriation ceremony in Germany before his brother's body was returned to the United States.

Kauzlarich, now a battalion commanding officer at Fort Riley in Kansas, further suggested the Tillman family's unhappiness with the findings of past investigations might be because of the absence of a Christian faith in their lives.

In an interview with, Kauzlarich said: "When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are WORM DIRT (emphasis added). So for their son to die for nothing, and now he is no more -- that is pretty hard to get your head around that. So I don't know how an atheist thinks. I can only imagine that that would be pretty tough."

Kauzlarich, now 40, was the Ranger regiment executive officer in Afghanistan, who played a role in writing the recommendation for Tillman's posthumous Silver Star. And finally, with his fingerprints already all over many of the hot-button issues, including the question of who ordered the platoon to be split as it dragged a disabled Humvee through the mountains, Kauzlarich conducted the first official Army investigation into Tillman's death.

That investigation is among the inquiries that didn't satisfy the Tillman family.
"Well, this guy makes disparaging remarks about the fact that we're not Christians, and the reason that we can't put Pat to rest is because we're not Christians," Mary Tillman, Pat's mother, said in an interview with Mary Tillman casts the family as spiritual, though she said it does not believe in many of the fundamental aspects of organized religion. "Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady," she said sarcastically, "But it is because we are not Christians."

That a Lt. Col. in the Army would be so cavalier as to dismiss the concerns of the Tillman's in this shameful episode as their inability to grasp the concept that their son is enjoying a "better life" and the result of their "atheist" background speaks volumes not only about the mentality of a particular officer but also of the current atmosphere that pervades the US military as well. Would it be likely that Lt. Col. Kauzlarich would make these types of statements if he felt any of his military superiors would find them controversial? Isn't Kauzlarich attempting to minimize the military's remarkable dishonesty and incompetence in this incident by depicting the Tillman family's religious outlook as inappropriate and the reason for their refusal to accept the numerous bungled and disingenuous investigations of their son's death?      

Lt. Col. Kauzlarich is also quite emphatic in his assertion that the only reason that there still is any ongoing investigation of this incident is the celebrity of Pat Tillman and the political interest in pursuing such an investigation. The chilling ramifications of that statement are that normally, in a situation in which the Army willfully lies to cover up potentially criminally negligent conduct, fails to informed loved ones of the actual circumstances of a relative's death and fabricates decorations and information for propaganda purposes, a less prominent family calling for an honest investigation of such behavior would be ignored.

In reviewing the extensive ESPN article and the recently published Sept. 5, 2006 Sports Illustrated article, it should be clear to even the most skeptical, that Pat Tillman was a gifted and complicated individual whose death is both a terrible tragedy and symbolic of the incredible waste of talent and resources that currently engulfs our nation. That a senior military official would so denigrate both Tillman and his family, especially in light of the Army's conduct in this matter, is a national disgrace.

Originally posted to normcash on Thu Oct 19, 2006 at 09:52 AM PDT.

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