Tue 14 Oct, 2008 10:53 pm
Friendly fire in Iraq -- and a coverup
The Army says no, but a graphic video and eyewitness testimony indicate that a U.S. tank killed two American soldiers. The mother of one soldier demands answers.
Pat Tillman's Unfinished Legacy
When Pfc. Albert Nelson died in Iraq in 2006, the Army first told Feggins that he might have been killed by friendly fire, and then that it was enemy mortars. She says she never believed the Army's explanation. "I always felt like they were lying to me," she said. "I could never prove it."
She did not know that there was a video of his death until I contacted her recently. Salon has obtained evidence -- including a graphic, 52-and-a-half minute video -- suggesting that friendly fire from an American tank killed two U.S. soldiers in Ramadi, Iraq, in late 2006, and that the Army ignored the video and other persuasive data in order to rule that the deaths were due to enemy action. Feggins watched the video with me in her den.
Shot from the perspective of the soldiers taking fire from what they clearly believe is an American tank, the footage shows how Pfc. Albert Nelson and Pfc. Roger Suarez-Gonzalez died. It also records soldiers trying to save Nelson's life, and the sound of a platoon sergeant attempting to report over a radio that the casualties were due to friendly fire. He then seems to be overruled by a superior officer who insists it was an enemy mortar attack. Troops from Nelson's unit interviewed by Salon, including three soldiers there that day, blamed friendly fire from a U.S. tank for the deaths. "A tank shot us," said a soldier. "That is what happened."
If there is one lesson to be drawn from the Tillman scandal it is this: Commanders on the ground cannot always be trusted to investigate their own units. There were seven investigations of the Tillman case, and still we do not know all the answers, like for instance, who altered O'Neal's statement. Three high-ranking officials, including the three-star general who commanded Army Special Operations forces after 2001, were reprimanded for their treatment of the Tillman case.
At the very least, the Army and Congress should revisit the deaths of Nelson and Suarez-Gonzalez. Their families have a right to know the truth that the Tillman family was so long denied.