Was Pat Tillman Murdered?

Tillmanmarkwilsongetty

I don't know, but it seems increasingly conceivable. Just absorb these facts:

O'Neal said Tillman, a corporal, threw a smoke grenade to identify themselves to fellow soldiers who were firing at them. Tillman was waving his arms shouting "Cease fire, friendlies, I am Pat [expletive] Tillman, damn it!" again and again when he was killed, O'Neal said...

In the same testimony, medical examiners said the bullet holes in Tillman's head were so close together that it appeared the Army Ranger was cut down by an M-16 fired from a mere 10 yards or so away.

The motive? I don't know. It's still likeliest it was an accident. But there's some mysterious testimony in the SI report about nameless snipers. A reader suggests the following interpretation:

News this weekend said that there were "snipers" present and the witnesses didn't remember their names. I believe that's code in the Army--these guys were Delta. In the Tillman incident, these snipers weren't part of the unit and they were never mentioned publicly before. That's a key indicator that they weren't supposed to be acknowledged.

If you've ever read Blackhawk Down, Mark Bowden explains how he grew frustrated because interviewed Rangers kept referring to "soldiers from another unit" while claiming they didn't know the unit ID or the soldiers' names. It took him months to crack the unit ID and find people from Delta who were present at the fight.

Randy Shugart and Gary Gordon, the Delta operators who earned Medals of Honor in Mogadishu, have always been identified as snipers, too.

If my theory is correct, the Delta guys could have fired the shots - a three-round burst to the forehead from 50 yards is impossible for normal soldiers and Rangers, but is probably an easy shot for those guys. But because Delta doesn't officially exist and Tillman was a hero, nobody in the Army would want to have to explain exactly how the event went down. Easier just to claim hostile fire until the family forced them to do otherwise.

This makes some sense to me, although we shouldn't dismiss the chance he was murdered. Tillman was a star and might have aroused jealousy or resentment. He also opposed the Iraq war and was a proud atheist. In Bush's increasingly sectarian military, that might have stirred hostility. I don't know. But I know enough to want a deeper investigation. My atheist readers will no doubt admire the way Tillman left this world, according to the man who was with him:

As bullets flew above their heads, the young soldier at Pat Tillman's side started praying. "I thought I was praying to myself, but I guess he heard me," Sgt. Bryan O'Neal recalled in an interview Saturday with The Associated Press. "He said something like, 'Hey, O'Neal, why are you praying? God can't help us now."'

Maybe the Congress can.

(Photo: Pat Tillman's brother, Kevin, testifying before Congress, by Mark Wilson/Getty.)

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