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Catherine A Lee

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American Taxpayers as Collateral Damage
by Catherine A Lee   
Rated "G" by the Author.
Last edited: Friday, January 07, 2011
Posted: Friday, January 07, 2011

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Explores how Pentagon spinmasters managed news about the "friendly fire" murder of Pat Tillman to defuse controversial revelations about torture at Abu Ghraib.

"Collateral damage" is a useful euphemism for civilians accidentally killed or maimed in a military attack. Beautifully nonspecific, it completely erases any hint of premeditation and minimizes the nature of the victims of violence as noncombatant civilians.
Are you, American taxpayer, collateral damage in our current state of war? Far-fetched as it may seem, your paycheck is a victim of "friendly fire" by the Department of Defense (DOD).
You may not realize that the DOD has an effective and highly-paid propaganda firm—The Rendon Group (TRG)—to coin euphemisms like this to shine the best possible light on all things military. "Psyops," psychological operations, is what such firms are paid to do—massage America's perceptions of its Pentagon's conduct of war. 
John Rendon, TRG's CEO, calls himself "an information warrior and a perception manager." Rendon's firm had an ongoing $100,000/month contract with the Pentagon's Office of Command, Control, Communications and Intelligence in April 2002, when Pat Tillman became the most famous victim of friendly fire during his combat tour in Afghanistan.
In 2002, at a time when Pentagon brass desperately needed a positive story of heroism to counteract escalating bad news that American troops were caught torturing prisoners in Abu Ghraib, Tillman was posthumously awarded a Silver Star medal.
Here's how DOD originally claimed this Army Ranger was killed, excerpted from the actual wording of the citation.
"During a ground assault convoy in Afghanistan Tillman's platoon was split into two sections. Tillman was the team leader of the lead section when the trail section began receiving suppressive mortar and small arms fire. The nature of the cavernous terrain made it extremely difficult to target enemy positions and there was no room for the trail element to maneuver out of the kill zone. . . .
"Only after his team engaged a well-armed enemy did it appear their fires diminished.
"While Tillman focused his efforts, and those of his team members without regard to his personal safety he was shot and killed." 
Later investigation and an autopsy revealed a contradictory truth—that Tillman was killed, not by well-armed enemy fighters, but by American bullets.
TRG needed to earn its retainer. The story was corrected to something you probably heard and still believe: half the platoon fired on the other half accidentally, during the frenzy of a furious battle with a large enemy force that used mortars against our side. Ambient light conditions, rough terrain, and distance prevented the soldiers from identifying who they were shooting. No one can be blamed, let alone held accountable, for this tragic accident.  
This explanation makes no mention of the fact that splitting a platoon in a kill zone is against the Army's own Rules of Engagement. Nor does it admit that a superior officer ordered the Platoon Commander in the field to do this, against the PC's protest.
What about the authorization to award a false Silver Star? During Congressional inquiries, Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld could not recall the exact moment he learned Tillman's death was not by enemy hands. Neither did Richard Meyers and John Abizaid, his top military advisers, remember exactly when they passed this crucial detail up the chain of command. Classified top secret are the documents that might refresh their memories; DOD personnel and contractors can see them, but Congress can't. 
Stan Goff is a retired Army Ranger, who served two decades earlier in the same outfit as Pat Tillman. Goff understands military procedures, the acronyms for armaments, and precisely how weapons kill. Goff befriended the Tillman family and helped them interpret the explanatory documents belatedly shared with them by DOD about Pat Tillman's fragging death.
Goff has also seen sworn eyewitness accounts of what actually happened in the kill zone. These original sources are the basis for his fascinating 3-part article, "The Fog of War, Pat Tillman as Everyone's Political Football." 
You can read Goff's detailed explanation, with all its damning names and numbers online at CounterPunch. < >, <>, <>.  
If you look beyond your usual media sources, and the good news fed to them by DOD-paid spinmasters like The Rendon Group, you will understand why you, as an American taxpayer, are indeed collateral damage in the Pentagon's war on the plain truth.

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