ABC News Exclusive: Pat Tillman’s Mom Wants General Stanley McChrystal Removed From Chairing White House Initiative*

Apr 14, 2011 7:00am

ABC News’ Jake Tapper reports:

President Obama named retired General Stanley McChrystal to co-chair a White House commission on military families this week, but according to perhaps the most prominent military family of the last decade, McChrystal is unfit for that duty. 

Mary Tillman, mother of Pat Tillman, the former professional football player turned Army Ranger who was tragically killed by friendly fire 7 years ago, is angered by McChrystal’s appointment, telling ABC News that he was part of the propaganda effort pushing the false tale that Tillman had been killed by the enemy, and keeping the truth from the world — and their family. 

“I was actually pretty shocked to hear it; I don't think it’s the appropriate choice,” Tillman told ABC News. “Considering that we have plenty of evidence indicating that McChrystal was involved in the cover-up of Pat’s death…he's not the right person for that kind of a job.”

Tillman says the president's appointment of McChrystal "makes him look foolish, frankly."

She tells ABC News that "someone who has a heartfelt desire to help families would not have been involved in the cover-up of a soldier’s death, especially one that they used to promote a war.”

See the interview and our full GMA report here and read more further below:

McChrystal — who declined comment to ABC News — was the commander of special operations in Afghanistan when Tillman was killed in April 2004. Soon after McChrystal wrote his commanders an urgent memo that, "It is highly possible that Corporal Tillman was killed by friendly fire.”

Having heard President George W. Bush might speak publicly about Tillman, McChrystal wrote to his higher ups to make sure they knew the truth so as to “preclude any…public embarrassment if the circumstances of Corporal Tillman's death become public."

Tillman notes that McChrystal wrote "if this becomes public this could be an embarrasment to the administration. He didnt say 'when' this becomes public, 'when' we tell the family. So there was going to be an effort to cover this up."

At the same time McChrystal was sending that confidential memo, he was part of the propaganda effort pushing a false narrative about Tillman's death, the family charges.

He signed off on a Silver Star citation that is worded quite misleadingly, noting how “Corporal Tillman put himself in the line of devastating enemy fire” and in the next sentence referencing how Tillman, “(w)hile mortally wounded”” demonstrated “audacious leadership and courageous example under fire…” 

At no point does the Silver Star citation that McChrystal signed even hint that the mortal wounds came from American guns.

“I would do this differently if I had the chance again–in retrospect they look contradictory, because we sent a silver star that was not well-written,” McChrystal testified before the Senate in 2009. “And although I went through the process, I will tell you now I didn't review the citation well enough to capture — or I didn't catch that if you read it you could imply that it was not friendly fire.”

The Pentagon Inspector General recommended disciplinary action against McChrystal, but the army ultimately cleared him of any wrongdoing in 2007. 

The White House formally announced its "Joining Forces" initiative on Tuesday. It be coordinated by the Center for New American Security in concert with the First Lady’s office. 

Mary Tillman says McChrystal let her family agonize on a national stage for years for never helping them find out the truth about their son's death.

"He deliberately helped cover up Pat's death and he has never adequately apologized to us for doing that," she says. "General McChrystal knew we were actively looking for answers.  No one contacted us to try to square with us what had happened."

“I’ve come to learn through this journey that there are many other families that have been lied to by the military about their sons and daughters,'" she says, "and so we feel that what happen to Pat is pertains to other people, not just us. I think it’s a slap in the face to all soldiers to appoint this man, to be on this committee.”

Others agree with the Tillmans, including Amir Bar-Lev, the director of the critically-acclaimed documentary "The Tillman Story."

“Putting Stanley McChrystal in charge of a commission on military families is a little like putting Bernie Madoff in charge of a commission on pensions,” said Bar-Lev.

Jon Krakauer, author of "Where Men Win Glory: The Odyssey of Pat Tillman," told ABC News, "I think this appointment is an outrage. McChrystal continues to dissemble about the leading role he played in the cover-up.  It's shameful."

President Obama relieved McChrystal of his command last Summer after publication of a Rolling Stone story that featured McChrystal and aides trash-talking members of the administration. But the White House now argues that "the president feels strongly that General McChrystal is the right person to help lead this advisory committee on this vital issue."

- Jake Tapper

UPDATE: White House press secretary Jay Carney issued this statement this evening:

"We have enormous respect for the service and sacrifice of Pat Tillman and his family. What they endured is a tragedy that should never be repeated. The circumstances surrounding Pat Tillman's death have been thoroughly investigated, and General McChrystal was found to have acted honorably despite the fact that this tragedy was mishandled. Still, General McChrystal has said that he deeply regrets the course of events that led to this incident and has apologized for his role, including during testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee. General McChrystal has rendered extraordinary service to this country during his decades in the military, and we honor not only that service but also his willingness to be part of an advisory board at the Center for a New American Security. He has a unique understanding of the challenges military families face every day, and is especially well positioned to help mobilize the private sector to help.”

Note how Carney refers to McChrystal's position — formally announced by Carney himself from the podium this week — as merely "part of an advisory board at the Center for a New American Security," as if the White House has little to do with it. 

It's true that CNAS, which has close ties to the Obama administration, is coordinating the "Joining Forces" initiative but CNAS is doing so in concert with the White House, which held the conference call about the Joining Forces initiative and has taken the lead in all matters pertaining to it.

Here's how Carney announced the news this week: "The First Lady, Michelle Obama, and Dr. Jill Biden are launching a national initiative to support and honor America’s service members and their families tomorrow, April 12th, at the White House.   The initiative aims to educate, challenge and spark action from all sectors of our society — citizens, communities, businesses, nonprofits, faith-based institutions, philanthropic organizations, and government — to ensure military families have the support they have earned. Many of you saw this press release.  I just wanted to remind you of it.  It’s an important event tomorrow that will begin several days of focus on this by the First Lady and Dr. Biden.  You also are aware, of course, that General McChrystal has been asked to — and accepted — the job of leading the advisory panel that will oversee this effort.”

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