Thursday, February 24, 2005

The Saga of Lt. Ilario Pantano

I'm not certain what to make of this. I even hesitated for a full day before attempting to post this story here. But here goes. A little more than two weeks ago, on February 1, 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano was charged with premeditated murder in the shooting death of two Iraqis. The strange thing, to me, is that these charges are coming almost a year after the incident in question. An incident in which, from all the accounts I have read -- and the radio interview with Pantano's mother (who admittedly was not there) -- he was defending himself in an unknown and dangerous situation. In a nutshell .... In April 2004, Lt. Pantano was commanding a platoon in one of the most dangerous regions of the "Sunni triangle." Pantano and his men had been dispatched to a house believed to hold insurgents and weapons. Upon searching the property, according to Lt. Pantano's account, the Marines did indeed find bomb-making equipment and were in the process of removing it when they saw two Iraqis attempting to speed away in a sport utility vehicle. It doesn't take a great leap of logic to figure that the fleeing Iraqis have something to do with the hidden weapons. So, the Marines shot out the vehicle's tires and apprehended the two men. After securing the perimeter, the Marines had the two suspects search their own vehicle (standard procedure so that the soldiers would not be hit by any booby-traps). At some point, the two Iraqis stop searching and begin speaking to each other in Arabic, and then turned to advance upon Pantano. So the two Iraqis are coming at the Marine, talking in arabic. According to Pantano's account, he told them, in arabic (a point that some news sources neglected to mention), to stop but they kept coming. Depending on the news source, he may have told them more than once. Whether he told them one or more times, the Iraqi men did not stop. Pantano then shot and killed them because "he didn't know what they were doing but they weren't listening to him. He was in fear of his life" (according to Charles Gittins, a military defense attorney). It later turned out that the men were unarmed and there were no weapons in the SUV. Due to the nature of the situation, and Pantano's exemplary background, Pantano was cleared by his commanders in a battlefield investigation of the incident. So why is it that, nearly a year later, Pantano is being charged with two counts of premeditated murder, charges for which -- if convicted at a court-martial -- he would face the death penalty? This isn't like that idiotic General who said, more or less, "shooting insurgents is fun" [paraphrased]. For all intents and purposes, this Marine seems to have been doing his job and just trying to preserve his own life and the lives of his men. Sure, you can argue all you want that our soldiers should not be in Iraq in the first place. If that is your opinion, you are welcome to it, but that is not the topic at hand. I am not a warhawk, or chickenhawk, or whatever. This post is about an inept bureaucracy screwing someone who seems to be a good man. Oh, as if things weren't bad enough, threats have been made on his life. OK, that was a rather large nutshell. Even so, I've probably left tons of details out. You can get more info in the following links: News: Background on Lt. Pantano: The view from the left: The Islamic view: The Hindu view: From Down Under: What the conservatives say: All sorts of conservative blogs and forums have been writing on this topic, but I don't feel like citing too many of them. It's probably bad enough that I've posted a link to Ms. Malkin's essay. - - - - - - - - - - - UPDATE: - - - - - - - - - - - I'm not certain if the visitors who are still viewing this entry know, but Ilario Pantano was exhonorated of all charges. He wrote a book about his experiences in Iraq -- Warlord: No Better Friend, No Worse Enemy. The book covers not only the hearings, but also provides a biography of Pantano, chronicling his training and service in both the first Gulf War and the current conflict. In September, 2006, Philly talk radio host Michael Smerconish hosted a book club event with Mr. Pantano. I was fortunate enough to attend. I was able to meet Mr. Pantano as well as one of his service buddies. He captivated the audience with his committment and love for the U.S., and he holds no illusions about how the war in Iraq is being fought. What encouraged me most about Pantano's presentation was his insistence on using "soft power" (which helped tremendously in bringing an end to the Cold War) to help win conflicts with radical Islam in the Middle East.


Anonymous said...

I've been concerned about this, too, but I think that in the end this is why we have a justice system... Someone in a position to know and do something abou it believes that there is evidence of wrong-doing. I agree that it appears, from the news reports, that whoever believes that is wrong,... but on the other hand, he may be right and we may not have all of the facts. Enter the justice system. If he was engaged in some form of wrong-doing, then there is a chance for justice to be served. If he is innocent, then he should be exonerated by the trial.

Of course, the justice system is imperfect, and it gets some things wrong. But, we cannot survive as a society without some mechanism of this type, and the only answer is to keep vigilance to make sure that the system is as fair as possible and gives a defendant every opportunity to avoid conviction by way of reasonable doubt.

I hope that the news reports are accurate, that the soldier was innocent, and that he will be acquitted and reimbursed for any pay or benefits he lost while undergoing trial. If he is guilty, I hope he will be dealt with justly under the law.

Brainwise said...

Agreed. That is the frustrating aspect of this case. Thoughts and opinions can fly amock, and emotions can run very hot, on the basis of a few very brief blurbs of the whole story. From all accounts thus far, the "premeditated" thing doesn't seem to wash. BUT, that is the problem when one does not have the whole story.

For me, the issue is in the timing. Why did it take so long to charge him? And why did it only occur after his tour of duty ended? Maybe the bureaucratic follow-up to field investigations typically take more time. And maybe they are trying to be very, very careful in the wake of the prison scandals. But the timing seems questionable to me.

Anonymous said...

Someone once said, " war is hell ", and so it is. We are in a war, and in war, one kills the enemy. If they weren't the enemy, what were they doing in that house, with weapons and bomb making material? Never the less, when the enemy charges you, there is only one thing to do... defend yourself. Keep in mind that Lt. Pantano took a raggedy, poorly trained platoon, and retrained then, and made them one of the finest platoons in the regiment. A " quick response team ". He is the only platoon commander who fought in the "triangle", that did not lose a man, and only one slightly wounded man. He fought as an enlisted man in the first Gulf War, and came home when his time was up, and finished his college. He was making a ton of money, as a civillian. But here is a man , that had such deep feelings for his country, that he begged for a full year, to become active, as an officer. He was told, at 30, he was to old. Now, I don't know how the rest of you feel, but this Marine should have medals and parades in his honor. I am a former Navy Corpsman ( combat trained medic), who spent time with the Marines. Not taking anything away from the other services, but it seems that the Marines always get the most deadly jobs. I have a son that is a Lt. Col. in the corps. I would have expected him to act in the same way that Lt. Pantano did.
If you would like to personally answer me, I am
Semper Fi !!!

Anonymous said...

Is it that simple to shoot men? in Iraq it is, with this trial men will think twice before shooting unarmed HUMANS.two men speaking Arabic...."thats because they are Iraqis-->Arabs-->language=Arabic".
now..don't even think "why do those Arabs hate us?" this is why.

Anonymous said...