WASHINGTON — The Army said Saturday that it would launch a criminal probe into the death of Pat Tillman, the onetime National Football League star who was inadvertently killed by gunfire from fellow soldiers in the mountains of Afghanistan in April 2004.
The Army's decision came after the Pentagon's inspector general reviewed the case and recommended further investigation into whether soldiers in Tillman's unit should be charged with negligent homicide.
The Army completed an extensive review of the case last year. Gen. Gary M. Jones, who led the probe, found no reason to hold any soldier criminally responsible for Tillman's death.
Yet Tillman's family has been critical of Jones' review, alleging a high-level coverup, and Tillman's father successfully lobbied the Pentagon to renew its investigation of the case.
Don't get me wrong here. If there is evidence that something criminal has been done, then prosecute the people responsible, but only if the evidence is there. But if this is just an accident, then it has to be let go. Because you cannot expect these brave men and women that we have asked to perform this difficult and dangerous task, to put their lives on the line daily, with the threat of being accused of a crime when an accident occurs. They have enough pressure on them, as it is.
The same goes for when a soldier must make a split second decision, to shoot a potential enemy combatant, or not. If in the back of their minds there always looms a possibilty of an Article 32 or court-martial, they are not going to be able to protect themselves adequately. If at the moment of truth they hesitate one iota, it could become the difference between killing of being killed. There is a very fine line sometimes.
Personally, I think the biggest critics of this kind of thing, want to see this happening. They want hesitations, so there can be more deaths and they can use it as fodder for criticizing Bush. Those kinds of people are despicable.
Look, nothing in the world can bring this man back, or any of the others that have met this demise. By caving to pressure, because of the high profile nature of this victim, it can only put more seeds of doubt in the carrying out of duty, by brave men and women. People that are not of a high profile status, but average people that want to do their job and come home.