WASHINGTON (CN) – The nominee to be commander of NATO and American forces in Afghanistan, Lieutenant General Stanley McChrystal, apologized Tuesday in his first explanation on record of his role in the cover up of football star Patrick Tillman’s death by friendly fire in 2004. “I was a part of that and I apologize for it,” he said during his nomination hearing before the Senate Armed Services Committee. “I’ve learned from it.”
     Tillman left his lucrative football career to fight in Afghanistan, but was killed by friendly fire.
     After Tillman was killed in Afghanistan, McChrystal forwarded the recommendation that Tillman receive the Silver Star award, which the Pentagon says, “is cited for gallantry in action against an enemy of the United States.”
     In the Silver Star recommendation, McChrystal commended Tillman for placing himself “in the line of devastating enemy fire,” but sent a private message up the chain of command that claimed Tillman was likely killed by enemy fire.
     During questioning at the hearing, Virginia Democratic Sen. Jim Webb asked McChrystal to explain, telling him, “You have not to my knowledge been on record on how you feel about this.”
     McChrystal attributed much of the problem to ineptitude instead bad intentions. He admitted that he should have paid more attention to the Silver Star recommendation before signing it, and held that when the military issued the award, the cause of death had not been completely determined.
     “Our policy is to give the reward rapidly so it can be presented at the family during the memorial,” he explained.
     He also said that fighting in Afghanistan was still going on, which added to the confusion.
     Nonetheless, McChrystal said he still thinks Tillman earned the medal. “I don’t believe that the circumstance of death detract from his commitment,” he said, and an army review had cleared McChrystal of any blame.
     McChrystal has been the commander of the Joint Special Operations Command, which is credited with killing Abu Musab al-Zarqawi, the Al Qaeda leader in Iraq.
     McChrystal is known as the anti-armchair warrior, often going on raids with his troops. When Zarqawi was killed, McChrystal went to the bombed hut to make sure the troops got their man.
     Members from both parties praised McChrystal and many indicated they would support his nomination as Commander of the NATO International Security Assistance Force and of the U.S. Forces Afghanistan.

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