Monday, February 14, 2005

Marine Charged With Murder For Defending Himself 

Rosemary at My Newz ‘n Ideas has brought to my attention the story of Marine 2ndLt Ilario Pantano. It seems that Lt. Pantano shot and killed two Iraqis last April and now last week he was charged with murder.

Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times has an article today that outlines the story. In part it reads:

To Lt. Pantano, the two Iraqis who came toward him despite his order in Arabic to stop were mortal enemies. Booby-trapped suicide bombers are killing Iraqis by the score and some have even feigned surrender in order to get close to U.S. soldiers. But the Corps views it as murder and filed charges against him Feb. 1.

On April 15, commanders dispatched Lt. Pantano's men to a house believed to hold insurgents and weapons. The Marines found bomb-making equipment and were removing it when two Iraqis tried to speed away in a sport utility vehicle, according to Lt. Pantano's account.

The Marines stopped the SUV by shooting out the tires, apprehended the two and placed them in flexible handcuffs. After setting up a security perimeter, Lt. Pantano took off the cuffs and had the two search the vehicle as he supervised. If it was booby-trapped, the Iraqis, not Marines, would pay the price.

It was at this point that the Iraqis stopped searching and moved quickly toward Lt. Pantano.

"They start talking in Arabic and turn toward him as if they are going to rush him," Mr. Gittins (his attorney) said. "He says, 'stop.' They don't stop and he kills them. He didn't know what they were doing but they weren't listening to him. He was in fear of his life and he killed them."

Of course it turns out that they were unarmed and there were no weapons in the car, however, Lt. Pantano did not know that at the time. Pantano reported this event to his superiors and continued to serve in combat in the area for an additional 3 months.

His fitness report for that time period shows that no one thought twice about the incident:

His Company Commander states:

“Lieutenant’s Pantano progression as a young platoon commander and leader has been impressive.… he has dedicated himself to subordinate development resulting in the weakest platoon becoming one that is often the Company’s main effort. With a calm demeanor that speaks of confidence, Lieutenant Pantano has led his platoon into urban combat in Latafiyah, and he has also conducted convention operations in Falluja and Zaidon Province, Iraq. He is a proficient communicator, who should be promoted with peers. A proven warrior, Lieutenant Pantano is a Marine that I would proudly serve in combat with at any time.

His Battalion Commander, the reviewing Officer then noted:

“Concur with RS (Reporting Senior). Lt Pantano’s performance during the reporting period has been noteworthy and established his reputation as an accomplished infantry leader. His actions during the fighting in Falluja and Al Zaidon highlighted a solid understanding of tactics and an ability to anticipate the enemy. Leads form the front always and balances his aggressive style with true concern for the welfare of his Marines. Exceptional communication skills for a 2ndLt. Organized, aggressive, focused and driven. Ready for increased responsibility. Retain, promote and assign to challenging assignments.” (Emphasis added.)

So what happened? It was not until a "disgruntled” enlisted man, after being relieved from two jobs, complained to commanders that an investigation began. Today a Marine officer is being second guessed for a split second decision that he made to protect his life and the lives of this men.

Pantano’s mother has established a web site Defend the Defenders.org with all the details. There is a great deal of information posted as well as supporting comments from fellow Marines and their families.

Rosemary has several posts here and here and here.

UPDATE: Eric Hogue has posted as well US Marine Faces Murder Charges


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