Today we learned during testimony before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, we learned just how far some in the Pentagon and the administration were willing to go in order to perpetuate a good image, and prevent Americans from learning the truth about two events that made headlines during the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan.
In perhaps the most damning evidence of a cover up to date, Army Spc. Brian O'Neal, a member of the Army Ranger team that also included Pat Tillman, testified that he was ordered to lie about the circumstances surrounding Tillman's death.
WASHINGTON - An Army Ranger who was with former NFL star Pat Tillman when he died by friendly fire in Afghanistan testified Tuesday that he was told by a higher-up to conceal that information from Tillman’s family.
"I was ordered not to tell them," Army Spc. Bryan O’Neal told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, which was also looking at how the military portrayed the rescue of Army Pfc. Jessica Lynch.
He said he was given the order by then-Lt. Col. Jeff Bailey, the battalion commander who oversaw Tillman’s platoon....
"He basically just said, 'Do not let Kevin [Tillman, Pat's brother and also a Ranger] know, he’s probably in a bad place knowing that his brother’s dead,'" O’Neal said. He added that Bailey made clear he would "get in trouble" if he told....
Mary Tillman said family members were "absolutely appalled" upon realizing the extent to which they were misled. "We’ve all been betrayed. ... We never thought they would use him the way they did."
We also learned from Lynch that the army made her out to be something she was not. She said that the official story that they put out, claiming that she had been involved in the firefight during which she suffered extensive injuries, was not true. In fact her rifle jammed because it was full of sand and was never fired during the battle, and most of her injuries were suffered when the vehicle she was riding in crashed.
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 tales,” Lynch told the committee in prepared testimony.
And she is right about that. To be honest, both Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch do qualify as heroes-- they went, after all. Since I have not gone, I certainly can't condemn those who have, and who continue to do their best job on behalf of America (though I certainly do condemn those who have sent them there, especially Iraq, because of an agenda backed by lies.)
It is an old saying that truth is the first casualty of war. Perhaps, but that doesn't mean that we should just accept that and not ask for the facts. The Tillman family could have been satisfied (as much as the word could apply) with the official story of his bravery, wrapped up nicely and sealed with the posthumous Silver Star that went along with it. But they weren't willing to accept a lie, no matter how brightly it glittered, and neither should we.