Among the revealing testimony given today at the congressional hearing into the friendly fire death of Fort Lewis Ranger and onetime pro-footballer Pat Tillman was that of the last soldier to see him alive. At the moment Tillman fell mortally wounded by rounds to the head, says Spec. Bryan O'Neal, the coverup began. Reports the San Francisco Chronicle which is blogging the hearings live:
O'Neal, who was just a few yards from Tillman on the Afghan hillside where they were shot at by fellow Army Rangers, says that less than an hour afterward, "Our squad leader told me basically, don't tell anyone anything at that time."Later, O'Neal said, he was specifically ordered to not mention the friendly fire to Pat's brother, Kevin, who was in the same Ranger unit but had been several hundred yards away during the shooting. "I was ordered not to tell him by battallion commander Lt. Col. (Jeffrey) Bailey. He said, 'Do not let Kevin know, he's probably in a bad place. (Bailey) let it known that I would get in trouble if I told him."
Kevin Tillman testified today as well, saying:
Pat was and still is a great man. Pat wanted to leave a positive legacy and he did. For the government to hijack his virtue and legacy is horrific."
Also today, the Chron reports, Pentagon acting Inspector General, Thomas Gimble, admitted he hadn't bothered to verify the claims by Gen. John Abizaid and then-Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld "that they did not know about the urgent message sent April 29, 2004, by Gen. Stanley McChrystal, urging that the White House be informed of the friendly-fire evidence. Nor did Gimble attempt to independently probe whether the White House received that message, he acknowledged."