Friday, February 11, 2005

Marine charged with murder

The Associated Press reports today that a Marine lieutenant has been charged with a military count of premeditated murder for shooting two Iraqis during a search for a terrorist hideout, and faces execution if he is found guilty, according to his lawyer.

Second Lt. Ilario G. Pantano, 33, is accused of ‘numerous violations’ of the Uniform Code of Military Justice in connection with the deaths, the Marine Corps said. An Article 32 hearing -- the military court equivalent of grand jury proceedings -- will be held; no date has been set.

His attorney, Charles Gittins, said Lt. Pantano, based at Camp Lejeune, may have made a mistake in combat -- but should not be charged with murder. "Even if he's wrong, accidents happen in combat," Mr. Gittins said. "This was a very stressful situation. These two guys were bad guys. ... He said 'stop' and they didn't and he said it in Arabic."

Lt. Pantano was a platoon commander whose unit was dispatched to search for a cache of weapons and the terrorist hideout, said his mother, Merry Pantano of New York City. She said her son acknowledges shooting two Iraqis as they fled the supposed hideout. "Isn't it amazing?" she said. "He can face the death penalty for doing his job on the battlefield, making split-second decisions. He said it was self-defense in the situation that he was in," she said.

The attorney also said the shootings on April 15, 2004, were investigated by battlefield commanders at the time -- and that Lt. Pantano was cleared. "The lieutenant reported it to his chain of command after it happened and they investigated and said good to go. Then three months later a disgruntled enlisted man makes a complaint," the lawyer said.

There can be no question that certain actions are wrong and deserve punishment. For example, if a soldier or marine willfully shoots unarmed civilians, or kills enemy fighters in cold blood, he or she should be punished. But when, in the heat of battle, a soldier kills an enemy who only seconds before was trying to kill him, the punishment ought to be meted out to the idiots who want to prosecute the soldier.

We may learn over the next few days of circumstances that indicate that Lt. Pantano did something wrong. But so far, it doesn't sound like it. Was the Lt. just supposed to allow the enemy fighters to run away?

Maintaining a sufficient volunteer fighting force in time of war is difficult enough without second-guessing why someone killed an enemy fighter during a hostile incident. No one wants the draft to be reinstated, but it won’t take many instances like this one, and the one in late 2004 to cause potential enlistees to reconsider.


Buffalo said...

This is so very wrong.

Huston said...

Innocent until proven guilty. If he did commit pre-meditated murder, then he will recieve a trial and the punishment he deserves. However, if the facts are as you list them even his arrest is a grave injustice. It would be interesting to find out the background of the disgruntled soldier who filed the complaint long after the incident happened.

James Shott said...

I only know what the news story provided.

Innocent until proven guilty: absolutely.

If guilty, punishment: absolutely.

Give our guys the benefit of the doubt in combat situations, when the "victim" is an enemy: every time.

I find it a little frightening how often our brave military personnel are second-guessed and presumed guilty by people who call themselves "Americans."

So often, it is the Left that jumps to the conclusion that our military has acted improperly. It's almost as if they enjoy it, or at the very least are armed and ready to pounce when the circumstances permit.

It's disgusting.

Sam said...

There is a new World Net Daily story out with new info.'s a mix of good and bad news for Pantano -- a Navy witness corroborates his claim that the Iraqis refused his order to stop, but claims that the Iraqis were moving away from him, not toward him.

The best part of the new info is that the accuser's claim of a cold-blooded execution seems to be contradicted by Pantano's and the Navy man's accounts.