Is the Tillman Case Still a Coverup?

The U.S. Army has demoted a retired three-star general and issued other reprimands over the original cover-up surrounding the death of Pat Tillman in Afghanistan, hoping to put the issue to rest. (He was fraudulently awarded the Silver Star for combat heroism when in fact he was killed by “friendly fire”.) Career-ending reprimands in his chain-of-command would never have occurred had his family not raised hell, of course. Yet some of the circumstances surrounding the case still raise disturbing questions, which should at least be considered seriously without being considered a lunatic paranoid.

Here’s some technical stuff.

Tillman was killed by three, closely-grouped 5.56mmrounds (the ammunition used exclusively by the U.S. M-16; a “round” is one cartridge) the middle of his forehead. The official Army story (after all the “enemy fire” b.s. was exposed as a lie) was that he was killed by friendly fire by his own unit from 90 yards away.

A bit of weapon forensics is appropriate at this point. The M-16 is an automatic weapon, which can be fired “semi”-automatically, where each trigger-pull fires one round, or on full automatic, where the weapon fires continuously, and very rapidly, as long as the trigger stays pulled. The choice between semi and full is made by a switch on the weapon.

Anyone who has fired any type of weapon knows that the violent release of expanding gases accelerating the bullet down the barrel causes the weapon to jump, or recoil. It’s pure physics. The accelerating bullet causes an equal and opposite reaction. The recoiling weapon will not, and cannot, place a second bullet on the same aiming point as the first if it is fired rapidly. Similarly for the third bullet, and so forth. This is especially true for automatic fire mode, but also for semi-automatic mode, if the rate of fire, or pulling of the trigger is rapid. Automatic weapons are said to “walk”, and it is impossible to avoid this, even by the most skilled marksman.

Add to this another factor. Automatic weapons discharge multiple bullets in rapid succession. Where these bullets land is called the “beaten zone”, in Army training parlance.

The further away you are from the beaten zone, the larger it will be. That is, the weapon’s recoil, already discussed, causes a “spray”effect, whose profile is larger the further away the target is–like a garden hose.

Army doctors examining Tillman noted the very close grouping of the entry wounds in his forehead, and concluded they could not have come from a weapon fired 90 yards away(more like 10 yards, max), and tried to report this, but their reports were squelched. Ten yards raises vexing questions, not the least of which is that the Army’s current story, after the first Silver Star heroism version was exposed as b.s., may itself be another cover-up. The obvious question is this: if the bullets came from 10 yards away, who fired them, and why?

This is complicated by the knowledge that PatTillman, a member of the elite U.S. Army Rangers, its shock infantry, was openly opposed to the occupation of Iraq, in which he had participated, and was a well-read political dissident who intended to meet with Noam Chomsky, an internationally-renowned political writer who is deeply opposed to U.S. imperialism. Pat Tillman, the poster boy for Bush/Cheney’s “Global War on Terrorism”, never had that meeting and never returned to the U.S.

WINSTON WARFIELD is a Vietnam Veteran, (Infantry) and a member of Veterans for Peace.