The Pentagon’s Public Relations Disaster

Every war has it’s heroes, and in the case of the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq, the two heroes that received the most accolades from the Pentagon were Pat Tillman and Jessica Lynch. Tillman, you will recall was the NFL star who left his football career behind to join the NBA where he died a hero under fire from the Taliban. Lynch, of course, was a supply clerk with a Maintenance Company who was captured in an ambush after her convoy made a wrong turn. Lynch was held prisoner for a week before being released in a raid by American forces.

In the official stories released by the Pentagon, they were lauded as heroes. Now, it turns out the Pentagon was lying through its teeth:

Military and other administration officials created a heroic story about the death of Cpl. Pat Tillman to distract attention from setbacks in Iraq and the mistreatment of prisoners at Abu Ghraib, the slain man’s younger brother, Kevin Tillman, said today.

Testifying before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, Mr. Tillman said the military knew almost immediately that Corporal Tillman, an Army Ranger who left a career as a pro football player to enlist, had been killed accidentally in Afghanistan in April 2004 by fire from his own unit. But officials chose to put a “patriotic glow” on his death, he said.

Mr. Tillman said the decision to award his brother a Silver Star and to say that he died heroically fighting the enemy was “utter fiction” that was intended to “exploit Pat’s death.”

In addition to exploiting Tillman’s death, it’s pretty clear that Pentagon officials were lying about it as well. For more than a year after the incident, they stuck to the story that Tillman was killed by the Taliban when it was known fairly quickly that it was in fact friendly fire that resulted in his death. The fact that they withheld the truth from the American public and, more importantly, Tillman’s family in order to preserve the elaborate tale of heroism woven by some PR Officer somewhere is, quite frankly both cynical and deceitful.

And Lynch’s story similarly turned out to be much less than initially thought:

Former Pvt. Jessica Lynch leveled similar criticism today at the hearing about the initial accounts given by the Army of her capture in Iraq. Ms. Lynch was rescued from an Iraqi hospital in dramatic fashion by American troops after she suffered serious injuries and was captured in an ambush of her truck convoy in March 2003.

In her testimony this morning, she said she did not understand why the Army put out a story that she went down firing at the enemy.

“I’m confused why they lied,” she said.


Ms. Lynch said she could not know why she was depicted as a “Rambo from West Virginia,” when in fact she was riding in a truck, not fighting, when she was injured.


For her part, Ms. Lynch said in her testimony that other members of her unit had acted with genuine heroism that deserved the attention she received. “The bottom line is the American people are capable of determining their own ideas of heroes, and they don’t need to be told elaborate tales,” she said.

Yes, but when you are fighting a war that seems to depend more on public relations than on strategy, creating a fake hero every now and then makes perfect sense.

  • allan tibbitts


  • Newman

    Has anyone seen the movie: Wag the Dog?

  • Brian

    Sure, why doesn’t little Jessica give back all the money she made on the backs of her dead comrades. She was more concerned with showing her little tail, than learning how to fire her rifle.

  • Ben

    “fake hero” – are you kidding. Friendly Fire or not, Pat is a hero. He fought for his country. Same goes for Jesica.

  • E. S. Hudler

    Doug says:
    “Yes, but when you are fighting a war that seems to depend more on public relations than on strategy, creating a fake hero every now and then makes perfect sense.”
    Lying makes perfect sense? A cover-up makes sense to this poster too then! One wonders if there is any line to be drawn where nefarious behavior does not make perfect sense. Crime makes perfect sense to criminals.

  • Shelah

    Why, Brian, look at what you wrote. Admit it, you’re actually Ann Coulter, aren’t you?

  • Doug Mataconis

    Obviously that last sentence wasn’t snarky enough.

    I don’t mean to endorse what the Pentagon did here. If nothing else, though, it really isn’t all that surprising given how these wars have been fought from the beginning.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Then why did the Pentagon feel compelled to lie about both of their stories ?

  • ivy

    The Iraqi doctors had already questioned Pentagon’s version of the story when it came out after the rescue but the media was too willing to go along w/ the Pentagon’s version. They are now claiming they’re shocked, shocked……

    Only if they are honest w/ themselves, it will be much harder for the Pentgon/Adminstration cons to get away w/ this time and again

  • Charles Bowen


    “Fake hero” is a good start, if more precision, “fake war hero” does the man more justice as there is more to the story, something far more sinister. Tillman was known to have turned against the war, particularly the Iraq adventure, and let his mates know it. He was reading Chomsky and had told his parents he had hoped to meet the leftist upon his return. He was an anti-war titan in the making, but like Odysseus, the Gods weren’t going to let him come home.

  • Doug Mataconis


    Oh I agree with you, the media was clearly complicit in the Jessica Lynch lie. After all, it made for great TV didn’t it ?

  • toby delacorte

    I remember reading that not only was it not the heroic action depicted but Iraqi ambulance drivers tried to bring Lynch to the U.S. Forces and the refused to take her so the Iraquis took her to a hospital. It was then that she was rescued.

  • mike

    I’ve gotta call B.S. on that, toby. It just doesn’t make sense.

    In any case, if you want to find out what really happened to Pvt. Lynch in An Nasiriyah, check out this story.

    As for Cpl. Tillman, I wouldn’t say he’s a fake hero. Regardless of what some idiotic PR hack in the Pentagon may have done, the man turned his back on a multi-million dollar career in the NFL to enlist, and then volunteered for the Rangers, one of the toughest units you can get in in the Army, knowing full well in doing so he’d likely get sent to combat.

  • Charles Bowen

    You are linking to a Rich Lowry/Weakly Standard article for what really happend? LOL. Any magazine that publishes Stephen Hayes is Der Sturner level propaganda…didn’t they hang Streicher in the end?

  • mike

    If you read the article, you’d see that a) it’s a Richard S. Lowry article, someone totally different from the conservative pundit, and that b) he’s written an entire book about the battle for An Nasiriyah called Marines in the Garden of Eden. As it says in the article, he spent 2+ years researching and interviewing survivors of the battle in order to write the book.

    But I’m sure you know way more about the battle than he does…after all, he chose to write for the “Weakly Standard.”

  • Mullah Cimoc

    mullah cimoc say amerika right now this moment being destroy.

    No. 1, him barak obama him working for the hilary clinton woman. divert the money from the real competitor with fake campaign. him test water on issues for clinton woman, see what safe for her.

    No. 2, real mr. imus story of get the fired him. this been planning long time. imus him just convenient target, could have been anyone, if white and the male. this real purpose to terrorize media persons for lose job if tangle with this woman hilary clinton and the most important for signal true end of white male controlling usa. now this white man him target of new devil/satanic coalition made of lesbian, africa man, mexico man, and the white woman hate the man. This call the impose discipline.

    this all part god plan yes. thising for purify white society to cleanse of the bad. so bad time for tattoo having people when cleansing time come. them get it very very first. like big neon sign on head say: i scum, please cleanse me.

  • Nick M.

    Does anyone else read the “Pearls Before Swine” comic? Mullah Cimoc really reminds me of the crocodile.


  • tarran

    I think the poster is actually parodying the real Mullah Cimoc. It can’t be the real thing because its missing a rant against lesbians.

  • Nick M.

    Yeah, but he’s got the end of white males down pat.

  • Brad Warbiany

    Oh crap… Nobody tell Mullah Cimoc that I’ve got a couple tattoos!

  • Nick M.

    Yeah, I’m screwed.