I hate this. I really, really HATE this for the Tillman family, for the U.S. Army, and for our nation. Tillman’s selflessness exemplified the resolve Americans needed in the wake of 9/11. His decision to walk away from a lucrative game to serve our country shouldn’t be tarnished by the tragic way he died.
As I read the Time magazine piece about Rumsfeld’s testimony today, I realized everyone involved in the alleged cover-up is now gone. No longer in charge. Retired, fired, tired — whatever. They’re gone. See?
Rumsfeld almost didn’t testify. As recently as the day before, Rumsfeld had declined the invitation to appear, citing “logistical difficulties.” But his decision to come before the House Oversight and Government Reform committee proved to be a shrewd move. Had he stayed away, Rumsfeld’s absence would have left many questions about his role unanswered and open to speculation. By doing so, he was able to form a united front with former Chairman of Joint Chiefs Richard Meyers, and former U.S. Central Command chief General John Abizaid a trio of the highest-ranking Pentagon leaders at the time of the incident against accusations that a cover up was orchestrated from the highest levels. Rumsfeld and the generals gave vague but plausible explanations for when they heard the truth about Tillman’s death and how they were powerless to make sure the family knew. Instead, blame was heaped on the guy who wasn’t there, Philip Kensinger, the retired three-star general who was head of the Special Forces command at the time. A review panel will soon consider an Army recommendation that Kensinger lose a star for lying under oath to investigators about when he knew that Tillman’s death may have been military fratricide. According to an official reprimand of Kensinger released by the Army, subordinates recall the general seeing a report that Tillman may have been killed by friendly fire and responding, “Damn, I wish they had not told me.” Yet, according to the same document, Kensinger said nothing to Tillman’s relatives during the memorial service that occurred soon after.
If Kensinger loses a star, his retirement pay will also be reduced. If he’s merely a scapegoat for his former superiors, that stinks. If he took a bullet for his superiors, he’s an honorable man, but he knew the wound would hurt.
Congress is “after” the Pentagon for the Tillman transgressions. I see some potential benefit in the quest for truth — peace and vindication for the Tillman family, a warning to military leaders to quickly own up to bad news, and perhaps reminding all of us — including Tillman’s former superiors — that our men and women in uniform are honorable and their leaders should be just as honorable in word and deed.
However, with limited resources, what’s the best way of honoring our service men and women? Is it to “force” Rumsfeld in front of the cameras again so he can, well, be Rummy and lay the blame at the feet of a man who led our Special Forces into battle?
Or would our veterans be better served by focusing on medical care and implementing the Dole-Shalala recommendations from last week?
Let’s do the right thing by Pat Tillman. He did the right thing for his country. Something tells me he’d be begging his superiors to make sure the buddies he fought with receive the very best medical care when they return home with physical or emotional injuries.
Let’s let the “former” military leaders stay in their dark holes, and let’s hold our current military leaders responsible for fixing what’s broke.