December 6th, 2004

The Death Of Pat Tillman, Part II

The second part of the Washington Post’s two-part series on the death of Pat Tillman was just posted — and the piece comes off as more of a coda than a full-fledged second act of a story.

Instead of an organized cover-up, which seemed to be what reporter Steve Coll promised at the end of Part I, we get a close look at the sort of beauracratic bungling you get the impression goes on all the time. After every paragraph, you expect to get hit with a sledgehammer — but it never comes.

If anything, I can’t understand why this couldn’t have been handled all in one day. Still, the piece is worth your time, if only to learn of the fate of some of the other Rangers in Tillman’s unit who were responsible for his death.

POSTSCRIPT: One other minor quibble: In the paper’s print edition in Part I, the piece was accompanied by a four color map and a detailed timeline of the operation. It’s a shame the Post couldn’t find a way to include it online in some format or another, as it made the sequence of events far easier to understand.

UPDATE: For those inclined, you can follow a discussion thread on this over at The paper has also posted a post-incident graphic that lays out the delays in informing Tillman’s family of the details of his death, but as I said before, there are few details to suggest the delay was caused by anything other than the normal beauracratic process.

And again, instead of just posting excerpts from after-action reports, the paper really should have taken the time to post the graphic of the actual battle that appeared in Sunday’s print edition — a far more compelling use of Web graphics than they’ve demonstrated so far.

UPDATE: Click here for a video report from the Post’s Steve Coll. And once again, I’d urge you to take a look at the discussion string at Lots of stuff there I hadn’t considered, and well worth your time.

HOLD ON A SECOND UPDATE: I just did a Google search on Tillman’s death, and pulled the original Washington Post report that first confirmed that the Army Ranger died as the result of friendly fire. Reading it over again, it’s easy to see that while Coll’s piece added many important details, we’ve known the basic outline of what happened to Tillman that day for something on the order of six months.

Now, does this mitigate the actions of those who made mistakes in the field (including command personnel who may have blundered with some of the orders they gave)? Absolutley not. But when I hear the words “conspiracy” and “coverup” used, I expect a higher threshold of evidence.

9 Responses to “The Death Of Pat Tillman, Part II”

  1. I don’t see the map graphic, but I’m assuming this is the timeline you were talking about:

  2. Eh. It helps if I read to the end of your updates. Nevermind!

  3. Ninja says:

    intentional half-truths were told, and when told within the context of a soldiers death it is entirely unacceptable.

  4. PJ says:

    I am going to remember talking with him a few times about volunteer work with youth athletics, and his dads speech when his hometown football field was named is his honor, not the explicit details of how he died.

  5. Nicanor says:

    Part of Easterbrook’s TMQ column for Thought you might be interested. This is just a part of the three paragraphs, but I thought it was worth a look.

    The Death of Pat Tillman
    Gregg Easterbrook

    But his family deserved to know what happened in the moments when he died, just as the families of all who fall deserve to know what their beloveds saw and heard in their final moments. Equally, the American public deserves to know the true cost of wars — in civilian deaths on the other side, in accidental deaths of our own. The Pentagon insults the American people when it assumes we must be fed sanitized PR make-believe about the fates of soldiers. To learn that Tillman died because of an awful mistake does not subtract from his memory or the honor that he earned in life; his heroism remains exactly the same, and his memory will live forever. To learn that the Army lied about Tillman’s last moments certainly detracts from the honor of the Army, though.

  6. PJ says:

    That is simply bull****. Look at the two major newspaper features that published a detailed investigation about what happened this week. Both were contradictory. Were they lying, were they spoonfeeding us opposing PR?

    Stop playing politics with this. During his military service he went out of his way to due his duty, and to stay out of the limelight. He turned down numerous awards, interview requests, and actively worked to stay off the publicity radar.

    It seems to me that others want to use his death to prove a political point, not the military. That seems to me to be the exact opposite of the kind of values he stood for in life and in death. And to accuse an organization of lying before all the facts are known is beyond irresponsible, it is disgusting.

  7. Nicanor says:

    Easterbrook’s e-mail address is I am sure he would be happy to debate it with you. I was just passing along the information.


  8. PJ says:

    Why? His goal is to stir up emotions in order to sell column space not to come up with any accurate account of what happened.

    I only met Tillman 5 or 6 times. One of my friends knew him a lot better because they were both from San Jose, and my little brother knew him from the sports biz.

    He was a pretty intimidating guy until he started talking about volunteering with youth athletics. It was something he cared about. I imagine he felt much the same way, if not stronger, about serving in the military.

    Mistakes were made in his death, but making absurd claims without all the facts is disgusting. So who was lying this week, the Chronicle or the Post? Who was spoonfeeding us PR? Because both of their detailed investigations came out differently.

    Maybe it is just me, but when my country is at war, when 2 people I have met have died in Iraq and Afghanistan, then I am going to have the facts before I make such serious accusations. And if I dont have them, then I try to get them without acting like an ahole.

    But that is just me, I know I am not a good Democrat these days.

  9. Nicanor says:


    I believe I must have offended you by posting a paragraph of Easterbrook’s Tuesday Morning QB article concerning his thoughts on the matter, and I am sorry about that. I thought you fellows might be interested in what was written. Plenty of columnists write plenty of accusations before the facts are known, hell, Easterbrook could probably be fired from as he was from But I just want to be clear that I did not post the Easterbrook paragraph to get to you, or to anyone else. I simply posted it because I thought you fellows would be interested in what was written about Pat Tillman.


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