Two years after National Guardsmen Spc. Patrick McCaffrey and 1st Lt. Andre Tyson were killed in Iraq, the truth about their deaths has been exposed. Military officials initially told the families that the two men had been killed in an ambush by insurgents but an Army investigation concluded that they were in fact murdered by members of the allied Iraqi Civil Defense Corps. The military only told the families the truth this week. We speak with Nadia McCaffrey–the mother of Spc. Patrick McCaffrey–who is accusing the Pentagon of a deliberate cover-up. [includes rush transcript]
The U.S. military is being accused of another deliberate cover-up involving killings in Iraq. But this time, the victims are not Iraqis...they’re American soldiers.
Specialist Patrick McCaffrey and First Lieutenant Andre Tyson–both members of the California National Guard–were killed in June 2004 while on patrol near the town of Balad, fifty miles north of Baghdad.
Military officials initially told the families that the two soldiers had been attacked and killed in an ambush by insurgents. But that story turned out to be a lie.
An Army investigation concluded in September 2005 that the two were in fact killed by members of the Iraqi Civil Defense Corps–supposed allies that the Guardsmen had been training and patrolling with. McCaffrey and Tyson’s fellow soldiers had suspected this was the case all along. Instead of sharing these findings with the families, the military sat on the story–for nine months.
It was only after Nadia McCaffrey–the mother of Specialist Patrick McCaffrey–asked California Senator Barbara Boxer in May to pressure the Pentagon to release information about her son’s death that the truth came out.
The military revealed what it knew only this week–nearly two years to the day of the killings of McCaffrey and Tyson. An Army general briefed the families at their homes on Wednesday. The Pentagon is now being accused of a deliberate cover-up.
Senator Boxer said the case raises troubling questions and plans to raise the issue on the floor of the Senate.
She told reporters, "I think it" s pretty obvious that if the American people knew that the Iraqis we train would turn on our soldiers, support for the war would erode."
This is not the first case of its kind. Also in 2004, NFL star Pat Tillman was killed while serving in Afghanistan. The Army initially said Tillman was killed by enemy fire while leading troops into battle. The high-profile story was widely reported in the media. But the Army was later forced to acknowledge that Tillman had in fact been killed by gunfire from his fellow soldiers.
- Nadia McCaffrey, the mother of Specialist Patrick McCaffrey. She joins us on the line from Tracy, CA.
AMY GOODMAN: We go now to Tracy, California, to speak with Nadia McCaffrey, the mother of Specialist Patrick McCaffrey, welcome to Democracy Now!, Nadia.
NADIA McCAFFREY: Good morning, Amy.
AMY GOODMAN: It’s good to have you with us. And again our condolences on the loss of your son, Patrick.
NADIA McCAFFREY: Thank you.
AMY GOODMAN: Can you tell us what you learned this week?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Well, it was a bumpy week. This week I learned — and I had a visit from a general and three high-ranking officers at my house. And this was to let me know that the report that I had received originally in 2004, after my son’s death, was not true, was not exactly a report. Nobody bothered to give me a report. But what we know was exactly that Patrick and Andre were attacked in an ambush, and they were both killed.
We since then asked many, many times, a report on Patrick’s autopsy and a report on the result of the ambush or the investigation from the ambush. And then we were answered absolutely nothing. Letters, email, you name it. Phone calls. I don’t know how many times I’ve personally called the Pentagon. Nothing. We would be given another phone number to call to or another direction within the country. The call to Iraq military here, some other person in Washington, D.C. It didn’t make sense.
So I was just fed up with it, and I just walked up to Senator Boxer, and I just asked her, "Please, can you help me with this?" And then, boy, two or three days later, I started to get a phone call from the Pentagon, telling me that somebody would — a doctor would call me in the next few days to give me a report on Patrick’s death from the autopsy. It happened just like that. So the doctor that called actually worked on Patrick and remembered Patrick very well, when he came in from Dover. And he also sent me the next day by FedEx a CD with pictures of the arrival first of Patrick out of the body bag and all the procedure of the autopsy.
AMY GOODMAN: The San Francisco Chronicle piece on your learning this week, on the second anniversary of Patrick’s death, what actually happened to him, begins, "Fellow soldiers knew within minutes on June 22, 2004, that California National Guard Specialist Patrick McCaffrey and First Lieutenant Andre D. Tyson had been killed by supposedly allied Iraqi soldiers who were patrolling alongside them. Army investigators reached the same conclusion in 2005." So, his fellow soldiers knew immediately. Have you talked to any of his buddies who survived and came home?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Oh, yes, I did. And I actually had my own investigation, and I have accumulated a box — actually I’ve got two or three boxes — of papers. People sent me emails from across the country, people who were in Iraq, people who just were home, but also check from one soldier to the other, to the other. I accumulated that. And somebody in Los Angeles, a professor, Professor Wolf, he made a lot of time for this investigation. He followed it from the beginning. And he really helped me, you know. And obviously, something was wrong from the start. We needed to pinpoint what it was, and how it was presented to us was totally wrong. You know, it was just false. It didn’t work. I mean, it didn’t make sense. Many things did not make sense at all.
AMY GOODMAN: But no member of his unit came to you and said, "It’s not as the Army has told you. I was there."
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes. Yes, two or three people did.
AMY GOODMAN: And did they tell you this?
NADIA McCAFFREY: They told me, yes, what they saw and what they have heard. As a matter of fact, just after Patrick and Andre were killed, one of the soldiers made his own report. And very complete, I may say. And this report was actually sent to the Sacramento Bee in Sacramento, newspaper. And this article was actually published by the Sacramento Bee. Immediately after that, this article was all over the world, because when Patrick’s body returned to the airport in San Francisco, I called the media, and that made a huge fire within the news and so on, since the Pentagon had a ban on that.
AMY GOODMAN: Let’s explain the idea that you called the national press to be at Sacramento airport, international airport, when Patrick’s body came home, because President Bush had issued this executive order, saying that you shouldn’t videotape, photograph, film the flag-draped coffins of the soldiers coming home. But you defied that?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes, yes. I didn’t want to. That was my son. Frankly, I didn’t really care, you know. I needed to do it this way for us, and I wanted to honor my son. I was not going to pass him in the dark, returning home, no. He didn’t leave in the dark; why should I do that when he comes back? No. But because of that, immediately after this, this article took off and was everywhere. What happened was, the soldier who wrote this article was threatened to be court-martialed immediately. And the only reason that the court-martial didn’t happen is because it became too public too fast. But he nonetheless was in serious trouble. I know that through his mother, and she was extremely worried about it. So I talked to other soldiers in his unit, and I called, you know, [inaudible] in San Francisco that I know. I needed advice from just in case something would turn ugly. He’s okay. But it was not easy for him for quite a long time.
AMY GOODMAN: What was his name?
NADIA McCAFFREY: He’s still in, so I’m not sure if I should say. His first name is Chris.
AMY GOODMAN: And his report was published, and he was named in the papers.
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes. Well, yeah. His name was Chris Murphy. He’s a very nice young man. He didn’t think — he was 19 or 20 years old, you know — if he acted. He lost Patrick. Patrick was his friend, like a dad figure, you know, and he protected him. When he got in trouble, Patrick would defend him, which he did with all the young soldiers, you know.
AMY GOODMAN: Wasn’t that why Patrick decided to go to Iraq? I mean, why did he join the military? And then, why did he decide to go to Iraq? They were two different decisions.
NADIA McCAFFREY: Well, he did not want to go to Iraq at all. He enlisted after 9/11 to become a National Guard, and he wanted to do this because he reacted from, of course, the catastrophe of the Towers in the 9/11. And he didn’t [inaudible] he thought about it and he wanted to do something for his country. He wanted to help.
He would have been here for Katrina. He would have — you know, there was a fire between Shasta and Redding that burned for ten days [inaudible] last year. Nobody was there to stop the fire. It burned over 15,000 acres of woods and land, houses, you name it. People just left their home and let it burn. Now, Patrick would have been part of the National Guard to be there to stop the fire.
And once he was in Iraq, well, he was deployed, anyway, of course. So once he was in Iraq, it took him a very short time to realize that, you know, that this was not at all what we said we were doing. And he said to me many times, not just one, but it didn’t take long for him to admit and to say, "Mom, we shouldn’t be here. We have nothing to do here. We are not fulfilling any of our promises to the people." And he — he lost his illusion. And because of that, after that, he turned to the children, the Iraqi children, and the soldiers.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, the Army is saying that it was the Iraqi troops he was training that turned their guns on him and Andre. You got a video of the troops he was training?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes.
AMY GOODMAN: How did you get this?
NADIA McCAFFREY: This, I didn’t know I had it. And — because we got Patrick’s laptop just a little time after he was killed and returned home. I left that laptop the way it was for a long time, just looking at the pictures that came up. And then, this year, from his birthday actually, on May 26, I decided to maybe to burn some DVDs, because there was so much material on the laptop, and I was thinking, you know, if something happened to it, we’re going to lose it. So I decided to burn some DVDs. And somehow the whole process got stopped, so I tried to play with it a little bit and it started to work, and it did download into a DVD.
And there was something I had never seen before. There was pre-training, pre-video training of Patrick training the Iraqis, shooting and doing some exercise. We see Patrick very clearly on the street. And I remember afterward that he told us, his wife and I, that he was going to send some DVDs home. We never got the DVDs. Well, I think this is the answer. They were — didn’t have time to do it.
AMY GOODMAN: Now, do you know who of these men killed your son, Patrick?
NADIA McCAFFREY: No. I don’t know exactly which one precisely, but I have — I’m sure the men who killed him are in those three videos, yes.
AMY GOODMAN: And I want to tell our listeners that you can go to our website at democracynow.org; for our viewers, we have been running the videotape that you got off of Patrick’s computer. We’ve been running it through this broadcast. Again, our website is democracynow.org. Has anyone been taken into custody for the killing of Patrick and Andre?
NADIA McCAFFREY: I’m not too sure. I was told by the general and the officer yesterday that there was one person in custody. But there is no name on it. I don’t know yet. I really would like to know, because last year, I remember when the 579 came home, there was a gathering here at the house, and many of them were present. They say at the time that the sniper that shot at Patrick and came just at the last minutes of the shooting from behind the wall, well, you know, that sniper has disappeared from the military investigation. And this man was supposed to be arrested last year.
Now, they also said that the man that they arrested was part of the shooting, but they also said there was a second man. And they think that second man is dead. I’m not sure. It doesn’t make sense. Again, it doesn’t fit with what I have heard last year and with what I’m hearing from them now.
Also I confronted them with some details that really are not possible. The way the officer described the scene of the shooting is impossible. Why? Because the direction of Patrick’s bullet wound, it’s not right. It’s just —- something is very wrong. So I’m not sure. I’m going to look into it. And I want to go do the second -—, because the first investigation that was started has been closed. And now, they are reopening a second investigation, which is a criminal investigation. And it’s not going to be the same people running it.
AMY GOODMAN: Is Senator Boxer going to be calling for a hearing in the Senate?
NADIA McCAFFREY: Yes. Oh, yes, she has been wonderful.
AMY GOODMAN: Well, Nadia McCaffrey, I want it thank you very much for being with us. Nadia McCaffrey’s son Patrick McCaffrey killed in Iraq, June 22, 2004. She learned on the second anniversary of his death that the Army had lied to her originally about how her son died. We will continue to follow this story.