Former defense secretary Donald H. Rumsfeld, making his first appearance on Capitol Hill since President Bush relieved him last year, denied yesterday that he or top generals tried to cover up the “friendly fire” death of former football star and Army Ranger Pat Tillman in Afghanistan three years ago.
Rumsfeld, at times combative with lawmakers, acknowledged that he urged Pentagon colleagues to “keep an eye on” Tillman when the former Arizona Cardinals safety gave up a lucrative football contract to enlist in the Army. But he said that he had no memory of when he first learned that Tillman’s death on April 22, 2004, might have resulted from fratricide, instead citing the recollection of an aide who attended a meeting with Rumsfeld shortly before the real circumstances of Tillman’s death were made public.
“It was badly handled, and errors were made, but . . . I know that I would not engage in a coverup,” Rumsfeld told the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform.
Earlier this week, Army Secretary Pete Geren announced that he had censured a retired three-star general for misconduct and had recommended that he be evaluated for a possible demotion.
The officer, Lt. Gen. Philip R. Kensinger Jr., refused to appear before the committee, but Rumsfeld, retired Air Force Gen. Richard B. Myers, former chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff; retired Army Gen. John P. Abizaid, former commander of the U.S. Central Command; and Army Gen. Bryan D. Brown, former commander of the U.S. Special Operations Command, all testified under oath.
“I don’t think there was a coverup,” Abizaid said. “I think people tried to do the right thing, and the right thing didn’t happen.”
Myers said that he was not required to do anything once he learned of the investigation, because it was an Army matter.
“None of you feel that you’re personally responsible, but the system itself didn’t work,” Rep. Henry A. Waxman (D-Calif.), the [House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform] committee chairman, said at the end of the hearing. ” ‘The system didn’t work,’ ‘errors were made’ — that’s too passive. Somebody should be responsible, and we’re trying to figure that out.”
Bet the Rethuglicans–you know, the party of personal responsibility–are quite proud of these guys!!