WASHINGTON—Congressional Democrats later this month will revisit the combat death of pro football player Pat Tillman and the rescue of Jessica Lynch in a hearing intended to hold the Bush administration accountable for misinformation about military actions in Afghanistan and Iraq.
Both high-profile stories tapped Americans' sense of patriotism early in the war—Tillman's death as an Army Ranger in Afghanistan in 2004 and the rescue of Pfc. Lynch of West Virginia in Iraq in 2003—but the initial accounts from the Department of Defense differed substantially from what later facts proved to be the truth.
Tillman, who left the Arizona Cardinals to sign up for the Army after the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorism attacks, was killed by friendly fire, not enemy fire. And the circumstances of Lynch's capture and rescue were quite different from the heroic cast hyped for her by the military at the outset.
Lynch is expected to testify April 24 before the House Committee on Oversight and Government Reform, whose chairman is Rep. Henry Waxman, D-Calif. So are Tillman family members, who've criticized the administration's handling of information surrounding his death. Defense Department officials also will be asked to appear.
The committee said in a statement that the hearing will examine "the sources and motivations for the accounts and whether the appropriate administration officials have been held accountable."
Robert Duval, a political science professor at West Virginia University, said he considers the Tillman and Lynch debacles symptomatic of "the sort of public relations accidents that happen in the fog of war." At the same time, Duval said, "the administration has been guilty of trying to promote its case on the war through the media, and they have overstepped their bounds on numerous occasions."
"Part of me wants to describe it as a political fishing expedition," Duval said of Waxman's hearing. "But if there is prima facie evidence that the administration had used the Tillman and Jessica Lynch stories to manipulate opinion for the war, then he should pursue it."
The hearing is the latest in a series of war oversight efforts by Waxman and other Democrats as the party seeks to use its new majority in Congress to bring an end to U.S. involvement in Iraq.
Democrats also want to examine private contracts worth billions of dollars for rebuilding Iraq.
President Bush and Democrats continued to disagree Tuesday over a pending war-spending bill. The president says if Congress sends him a bill that imposes a timetable for withdrawal—as both houses have passed—he will veto it.
(c) 2007, McClatchy-Tribune Information Services.
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