Pat Tillman's parents: Army, Bush used our son

The family of the former NFL player who volunteered to hunt bin Ladin, says government purposefully lied about their son's death.

By Eric Boehlert
Published May 23, 2005 12:04PM (EDT)

The parents of Pat Tillman, the former NFL player for the Phoenix Cardinals who quit football after Sept. 11 to volunteer for the Army and hunt for Osama bin Laden, says the U.S. military, as well as President Bush, used their son's death for political purposes. A year after Tillman was killed in a friendly-fire incident in the hills of Afghanistan, his mother and father also blame the government for covering up the truth and building on a pack of public relations lies.

The Washington Post has the story:

"Former NFL player Pat Tillman's family is lashing out against the Army, saying that the military's investigations into Tillman's friendly-fire death in Afghanistan in the spring of 2004 were a sham and that Army efforts to cover up the truth have made it harder for them to deal with their loss.

"More than a year after their son was shot several times by his fellow Army Rangers on a craggy hillside near the Pakistani border, Tillman's mother and father said in interviews that they believe the military and the government created a heroic tale about how their son died to foster a patriotic response across the country. They say the Army's 'lies' about what happened have made them suspicious, and that they are certain they will never get the full story."

According to the parents, as well as Army records, soldiers knew almost instantly that Tillman had been killed by his own troops, but officials sat on the truth -- and in fact created their own mythical narrative about Tillman's heroic death -- until after a nationally televised memorial service last May. "

Said Tillman's father, Patrick, "After it happened, all the people in positions of authority went out of their way to script this. They purposely interfered with the investigation, they covered it up. I think they thought they could control it, and they realized that their recruiting efforts were going to go to hell in a handbasket if the truth about his death got out. They blew up their poster boy."

Incredibly, months later, after senior U.S. military officials clearly knew their cover story about Tillman was a fake, Bush continued to play up the myth, offering a taped memorial message to Tillman at a Phoenix Cardinals football game shortly before the presidential election.

Eric Boehlert

Eric Boehlert, a former senior writer for Salon, is the author of "Lapdogs: How the Press Rolled Over for Bush."

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