"Libby native Lt. Col. Ralph Kauzlarich, the deputy chief of staff-effects coordinator for the 1st Infantry Division, was promoted to colonel during a recent ceremony in Basra, Iraq."
Col. Kauzlarich came under fire when he suggested that the family's relentless pursuit of the truth of their son's death, by "friendly fire," was due to the fact that they were not Christians. In a famous 2006 interview with ESPN, the openly Evangelical Kauzlarich told the interviewer:
"these people have a hard time letting it go. It may be because of their religious beliefs...When you die, I mean, there is supposedly a better life, right? Well, if you are an atheist and you don't believe in anything, if you die, what is there to go to? Nothing. You are worm dirt.
Upon hearing of the remarks, Tillman's mother, Mary "Dannie" Tillman, said:
"Oh, it has nothing to do with the fact that this whole thing is shady, but it is because we are not Christians."
A major public relations fiasco resulted for the Pentagon when the Tillmans learned that Pat's death had been used to promote wars he had turned against, in Iraq and Afghanistan. A three-star general was demoted, and the scandal became the subject of the movie "The Tillman Story."
Kauzlarich is also in the news as the commander who now three soldiers say gave the order to kill civilians on the street in
Iraq in the event a patrol was hit by an IED, as an "SOP," a standard
operating procedure. After his deployment to Afghanistan Kauzlarich
became the commander of the "2-16," 2nd Battalion, 16th Infantry
Regiment, the "Rangers." Kauzlarich is the focus of a recent book by
Pulitzer winner David Finkel, "The Good Soldiers" which follows the
2-16 at the height of the 2007 "surge" in New Baghdad. The soldiers
say the order was to open fire in a "360 rotational" pattern, and to
"kill every motherf*cker on the street." It was Kauzlarich who invited Finkel to Iraq to write his story, according t soldiers in the unit.
The soldiers, who have been speaking out publicly,
tension within the unit over the order, and the agreement among some to
fire into the rooftops of buildings instead. One soldier, Ray
Corcales, said: "You don't even know if somebody's shooting at you.
It's just insanity to just start shooting people." Another, Ethan
McCord, tells audiences "a lot of soldiers wouldn't do it." The third
soldier is Josh Stieber.
Orders to kill civilians in retaliation for attacks on occupying forces have been successfully prosecuted as a war crime. After WW II German SS Obersturmbannfuhrer Herbert Kappler was sentenced to life in prison for ordering the execution of civilians, after a bomb hidden in a trash container by Italian partisans killed 28 German soldiers. The soldiers who carried out the order and testified against Kappler were granted immunity, and the doctrine of command responsibility, or the Yamashita Standard , was invoked, which holds high-level officers responsible for war crimes committed by their men.
The cover-up of Tillman's death by friendly fire and its conversion into propaganda came just as the Bush administration knew the Abu Ghraib scandal was about to break. The combination of the NFL football star's death by "friendly fire" and the prisoner abuse scandal would have been a double blow to the administration, at a time when much of the public was still nervous about the new involvement in Iraq. Tillman's brother Kevin, upon breaking his silence on his brother's death, said:
"There was one problem with the narrative. It was utter fiction. The narrative was meant to deceive the family and more importantly, to deceive the American public."
Regarding Kauzlarich's religious remarks, Tillman's mother said to ESPN that the family was spiritual, but did not subscribe to many aspects of organized religion. In an emotional moment she told ESPN:
"Pat may not have been what you call a Christian. He was about the best person I ever knew. I mean, he was just a good guy. He didn't lie. He was very honest. He was very generous. He was very humble. I mean, he had an ego, but it was a healthy ego. It is like, everything those [people] are, he wasn't."
The truth of Tillman's death by friendly fire was withheld from the family long enough to conduct a nationally televised memorial service in which he was cast as a hero in the "war on terror." What was not revealed, but well-known among Tillman's comrades, was that he had soured on the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (he served in both) and called the Iraq War "fucking illegal." It has been confirmed Tillman had an appointment with Noam Chomsky upon his return to the states, possibly as a prelude to taking a public position against the wars.
The Tillman episode draws frequent comparisons to the Bush administration's glamorization of the rescue of Private Jessica Lynch in Iraq in 2004, which was portrayed as a daring operation, but later revealed to be staged, down to blanks being fired and a film crew inexplicably present. Lynch, who spoke out later about the "lies" put forth by the government, said: