Soldiers' Mothers Demand the Truth
Sadly, I'm not sure the word 'truth' is in the Bush administration's vocabulary:
Three Northern California mothers are bonded together by death and deceit. Each was told by the military that her son died gloriously in battle — charging up a hill to confront the enemy, fighting off an ambush or saving 60 fellow soldiers.
And each found out later — five weeks for one, 15 months for another, and two years for another — that the stories were false.
One of them — Mary Tillman of San Jose, whose son, Patrick, gave up an NFL contract to join the Army Rangers — will address a congressional panel Tuesday to demand the dignity of the truth and an explanation for the lies.
The sons of the two other mothers, Karen Meredith of Mountain View and Nadia McCaffrey of Tracy, were less well known but they feel equally betrayed. They talk almost daily and are counting on Mary Tillman to carry their message to Congress: This does not happen only to high-profile families.
"I wish I could be in Washington. I wish it could be Nadia, Mary and me. Those generals would probably run from the room," Meredith said. "I pity Congress if the three of us get in front of them. I say that with much amusement. They deserve everything they would get from us."
The congressional hearings, requested by the Tillman family and Rep. Mike Honda of Campbell, will investigate "misleading information from the battlefield" in the Tillman case as well as another high-profile soldier — Jessica Lynch. The Army supply clerk's "fighting-to-the-end" heroism story during a 2003 ambush and kidnapping was also untrue. Lynch, who later explained she never fired a shot, is expected to testify about how she felt wronged, how — as she told ABC's Diane Sawyer — "they used me to symbolize all this stuff."
In both the Tillman and Lynch cases, military spokesmen have explained that the "fog of war" or a "comedy of errors" gave rise to the stories based on faulty battlefield intelligence. In the Tillman case in particular, an investigation concluded there was no orchestrated coverup.
But to Mary Tillman, the story about her son's death was invented not only to cover up an embarrassing friendly fire tragedy, but as propaganda to exploit his image for a "recruitment poster."