Obviously I had no way to know this when I drew That Cartoon, but major press outlets are reporting that former NFL player Pat Tillman was killed by "friendly fire." The following comes from USA Today:
FRIENDLY FIRE PROBABLY KILLED PAT TILLMAN
FORT BRAGG, N.C. (AP) — Former pro football player Pat Tillman was probably killed by friendly fire as he led his team of Army Rangers up a hill during a firefight in Afghanistan last month, the U.S. Army said Saturday. Pat Tillman, a member of the elite Ranger unit since 2002, was awarded a Purple Heart and Silver Star. Tillman walked away from a $3.6 million NFL contract to join the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks. Previous military statements suggested he was killed April 22 under enemy fire.
"While there was no one specific finding of fault, the investigation results indicate that Cpl. Tillman probably died as a result of friendly fire while his unit was engaged in combat with enemy forces," Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensington Jr. said in a brief statement to reporters at the Army Special Operations Command. Kensington said the firefight took place in "very severe and constricted terrain in impaired light" with 10 to 12 enemy combatants firing on U.S. forces.
An Afghan military official told The Associated Press on Saturday that Tillman died because of a "misunderstanding" when two mixed groups of American and Afghan soldiers began firing wildly in the confusion following an explosion. The Afghan official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, also contradicted U.S. reports that the American soldiers had come under enemy fire.
Kensington, who heads Army Special Forces, took no questions Saturday morning after reading the statement.
When Tillman was awarded the Silver Star, the Army said he was killed after his platoon was split into two sections for what officials called a ground assault convoy. Tillman was in charge of the lead group. His group was safely out of the area when the trailing group came under mortar and small arms fire, according to the Army, and he ordered them to return.
"Through the firing, Tillman's voice was heard issuing fire commands to take the fight to the enemy on the dominating high ground," the award announcement said. "Only after his team engaged the well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished. "As a result of his leadership and his team's efforts, the platoon trail section was able to maneuver through the ambush to positions of safety without a single casualty," the announcement said.
Tillman, a member of the elite Ranger unit since 2002, was posthumously promoted from specialist to corporal and also awarded a Purple Heart.
"The result of this investigation in no way diminished the bravery and sacrifice displayed by Cpl. Tillman," said Kensington, who heads Army Special Forces. He took no questions Saturday morning after reading the statement.
A woman who answered the phone late Friday at the home of Tillman's uncle said the family would have no immediate comment.
At a memorial service in his hometown of San Jose earlier this month Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., called him "a most honorable man." "While many of us will be blessed to live a longer life, few of us will ever live a better one," McCain, who spent 5 1/2 years as a prisoner of war in Vietnam, said at Tillman's memorial service.
The friendly fire account was first reported by the Arizona Republic and The Argus of Fremont (Calif.) on Saturday. "It does seem pretty clear that he was killed by friendly fire," Rep. Trent Franks, R-Ariz., a member of the House Armed Services Committee, told the Republic. Franks said his panel was alerted to the information by the Army's Legislative Liaison Office.
The Afghan official told the AP that two groups of soldiers had drifted some distance apart during the operation in the remote Spera district of Khost province, close to the Pakistani border. "Suddenly the sound of a mine explosion was heard somewhere between the two groups and the Americans in one group started firing," the official said, citing an account given to him by an Afghan fighter who was part of that group, not Tillman's. "Nobody knew what it was — a mine, a remote-controlled bomb — or what was going on, or if enemy forces were firing. The situation was very confusing," the official said. "As the result of this firing, that American was killed and three Afghan soldiers were injured. It was a misunderstanding and afterwards they realized that it was a mine that had exploded and there were no enemy forces."
U.S. military officials in Kabul had no immediate comment.
So much for the argument that Tillman died fighting for his country. Or for the bullshit cover story concocted by the military to justify awarding him a posthumous Silver Star. I wonder if the Pentagon will have the integrity to revoke it?
So, to recap: Tillman gave up $3.6 million to get killed by his fellow soldiers. I guess I do owe an apology after all, but not for calling him a sap: In my cartoon, I said Tillman got offed by the Afghan resistance. That part, as it turns out, wasn't true.
Bushie war apologists may email their apologies to MSNBC, which canceled my cartoons as the result of my cartoon. And prospective soldiers may want to take this opportunity to reconsider the wisdom of enlisting. It's bad enough to get killed by friendly fire; it's still worse to get killed by friendly fire while fighting an unjust, illegal and unjustifiable war.