President and Congress Ignored My Family's Warnings About McChrystal

Immediately following the Oversight Committee hearing in 2007, film director Amir Bar-Lev approached my family and me about making a film on my son Pat and the circumstances surrounding his death. At the time, we were not interested, and we declined. However, as the months passed my daughter-in-law, Marie, decided that a documentary might be the only medium that could really convey to the public the extent of the deception surrounding Pat's death.

This week, Mr. Bar-Lev's film, The Tillman Story, debuts in theaters, and a paperback edition of my book, Boots On The Ground By Dusk, is being reissued by Blurb.

People have asked: "Why is Pat so special that so much attention is given to his death?" I understand that question. Thousands of soldiers and Marines have died in Iraq and Afghanistan. Many of their families have also been given stories cloaked in lies, yet those deaths have not received the attention Pat's has. Pat is not more important or more special than any of the others who have fought in these wars, but the truth of what happened to Pat is important. The truth shines a light on corruption and incompetence, and lack of accountability in the military and government that is systemic, and affects us all.

Major General Stanley McChrystal had been in charge of Joint Special Operations Command in 2004 when Pat was killed, but I had never heard of him until March 2007, when someone anonymously sent an AP reporter a copy of a high priority correspondence, a P-4 memo, written on April 29, 2004 and sent to McChrystal and to Generals Abizaid, Brown, and Kensinger. The purpose of the memo was to warn President George W. Bush and the Secretary of the Army not to make any comments about Pat's heroic death at the hands of the enemy since there was "potential" that Pat was killed by friendly fire. The memo was sent in an effort to spare the White House embarrassment, "if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public." It provides irrefutable evidence that not only did McChrystal lie about the circumstances surrounding Pat's death, but in it he even proposes false language for the Silver Star award citation. It also makes clear there was never any intention of telling the truth about Pat's death unless circumstances made it absolutely necessary.

There is a curious witness statement by General McChrystal in the third investigation into Pat's death, conducted by General Gary Jones. McChrystal says, "I believe we did not tell the family of the possibility {that the cause of Pat's death was fratricide} because we didn't want to give them a half-baked finding." Yet that is exactly what they did. We were presented with a contrived story--an absolute lie.

McChrystal's actions should have been grounds for firing, which is why it was so disturbing to us when President Obama instead promoted McChrystal to the position of top commander in Afghanistan. I had sent the President an email and a letter reminding him of McChrystal's involvement in the cover-up of Pat's death. In the letter, I suggested McChrystal should be "scrutinized very carefully" by the Senate Armed Services Committee. Pat's father and I both gave statements to the press reiterating this, as we had real knowledge of McChrystal's questionable behavior, of actions we felt should have disqualified him from the position. We felt it would have been negligent not to do something.

On May 13, 2009 Senator John McCain called me. McCain had given a eulogy at Pat's memorial service and was instrumental in pushing for the third investigation of Pat's death, but I hadn't heard from him in several years. I have always believed Pat's case was politically awkward for him, and so he'd chosen to distance himself from the entire affair. I was surprised to hear from him. He said he was contacting me to see if I wanted to give him questions that he could pose to McChrystal at the hearing, which I was willing to do until I learned that McCain was already publicly endorsing the McChrystal appointment before the hearing even began. I let the senator know I wouldn't be sending him any questions, as I feared they would be used to prep McChrystal, rather than to put him on the spot. McChrystal's appointment was approved.

On June 22, 2010, General Stanley McChrystal was forced to retire after remarks he and his staff made to Rolling Stone reporter Michael Hastings. I was contacted by several reporters and asked to give my thoughts on the subject but I declined to comment. I hadn't read the piece in its entirety at that point, so it seemed inappropriate to say anything. I got the sense a few of the reporter wanted me to say, 'I told you so,' but I was uncomfortable with that.

A day after the story broke I read the full Hastings article. I found myself feeling strangely validated. The "Runaway General" is exactly the arrogant individual I thought him to be. President Obama had no choice but to relieve McChrystal of his command. How sad that the President and Congress didn't properly scrutinize him a year ago.

Over the last five years the Pentagon and Congress have had numerous opportunities to hold accountable those responsible for the cover-up of Pat's death. Each time they've failed.

The government didn't just lie to us; it lied to a nation.