…nine U.S. Army officers, including as many as four generals, were aware that Special Operations soldier Pat Tillman was killed by friendly forces in Afghanistan, but did not inform Tillman's family in a timely manner.
How about them bad apples?
Associated Press says that the Department of Defense inspector general "will cite a range of errors and inappropriate conduct" however, "it appears the inspector general will not conclude there was an orchestrated cover-up in the investigation."
Nine officers, including four generals, knew the Tillman story was a lie and there was no orchestrating?
The Baby With the Bathwater
As I've said before, one of the largest casualties we've suffered at the hands of the Bush administration has been its near total pollution of the information environment. It pains me to say that I don't believe a single thing the administration or its supporters say, and that includes information from any official military source.
The Pat Tillman saga is just one small example of the kind of denial/misinformation/disinformation machine the military has become under the present political regime. But don't think this atmosphere of duplicity started when Donald Rumsfeld took over as George W. Bush's Secretary of Defense. The origins of this web of deceit go back a long way.
Up or Out
Most of you have seen the film Patton, and know about the kinds of competitive spirit that existed among the generals in Eisenhower's European Theater of Operations during World War II. That kind of ambition and jealousy among military personnel was hardly a twentieth century phenomenon, though. In Shakespeare's Othello, the antagonist Iago creates unholy mayhem against his general in retaliation for having been passed over for a key promotion, and Shakespeare was merely reflecting a phenomenon in military affairs chronicled by Homer.
Robert McNamara, Secretary of Defense under John F. Kennedy and Lyndon Johnson, introduced the "up or out" policy. Service members who failed to gain promotions by certain points in their careers were forced out of the military. This created an atmosphere in which every duty assignment became a competitive experience with one's peers. In theory, this had a certain Darwinian advantage: only the cream of the crop could survive and rise to positions of high rank and authority. Unfortunately, this policy created a "zero defect" atmosphere that encouraged caution, sycophancy, herd mentality, backstabbing, and the other earmarks of dysfunctional organizations. During my tenure in the military, "Go along to get along" was the careerist's motto, and the notion of a military leader like Bull Halsey or George Patton emerging in the contemporary age was considered, as Attorney General Alberto Gonzales would say, "quaint and obsolete."
I can tell a million of them. One of the most egregious sins committed by career officers is their willingness to lie about their commands' materiel readiness.
There was the two-star admiral whom I witnessed saying words to the effect of "Why should I take the hit for telling the truth about the readiness of my battle group when it's the fault of the supply system?"
There was the group commodore who told me on multiple occasions that my squadron deserved the Battle Efficiency award, but couldn't win it if I continued to tell the truth about the mission readiness status of my aircraft.
There was one of my first skippers who had to get up on a Sunday, put on dress whites, and go tell a three-star why he'd told the truth about his personnel shortage crises in an official (and required) report.
I could go on, but what's the point? No doubt, you get the idea. My experience was Navy-centric, but what I've related is the same kind of thing that put our ground troops into Iraq with insufficient body and vehicle armor, and lack of training to perform the kinds of missions they were expected to perform (think Abu Ghraib).
So that nine senior officers lied about the Tillman affair during Rumsfeld's tenure doesn't surprise me. In fact, it's the sort of thing I've come to expect. The military has been co-opted into the neoconservatives' Big Brother Broadcast.
And as to early reports from the likes of Bill Kristol that the "surge" strategy is working, well, pardon me if I'm skeptical.
At the end of the day, compared to all the other lies the Pentagon has told us, the Pat Tillman scandal is just a drop kick in the bucket.
Commander Jeff Huber, U.S. Navy (Retired) writes from Virginia Beach, Virginia. Read his commentaries at Pen and Sword.