View Full Version : Defending Lt. Pantano

03-14-05, 06:53 PM

A Marine accused

Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano could face the death penalty if convicted of charges made against him last week. The charges? Premeditated murder. The facts? He shot two suspected terrorists during a mission in Iraq. The case is frought with second-guessing, and could be a disaster for future combat operations if the charges aren't dropped.
April 2004 was the cruelest month in the Iraq insurgency. It was when the assault on Fallujah took place, as did significant action in Najaf and Sadr City. About one-third of the 147 U.S. servicemen killed that month were Marines. They were killed in firefights and ambushes, and risked explosive devices in the streets " the kind of attacks that require split-second decisions to survive.
Lt. Pantano was in precisely such a situation south of Baghdad on April 15. He was leading a quick-reaction platoon raiding a house full of weapons. Two suspected terrorists had emerged from the house, got into an SUV and tried to flee. The lieutenant and his comrades shot out the SUV's tires and made the suspects search the vehicle. When the suspects unexpectedly turned toward Lt. Pantano as if to rush him, Lt. Pantano ordered them in Arabic to stop. They didn't. So Lt. Pantano made a split-second decision to preserve his life and those of his men. It turned out the two suspects were unarmed. Lt. Pantano reported the incident to his superiors, who investigated it and accepted his version of the story. He then served several more months with distinction.
Why, then, is he being charged with murder? There's seemingly no good answer.
Lt. Pantano is straight out of some romanticized war story. The 33-year-old Hell's Kitchen native left a six-figure salary in New York to serve his country. His mother says of him, "If he has a fault, it is that he is too idealistic and puts moral responsibility and duty to his country and his men before anything else." For that, Lt. Pantano faces criminal charges that could result in death.
At a time when the military is being stretched, the Pantano case sends all the wrong signals to servicemen. Finding a few good men will only get harder and harder if overzealous lawyers are permitted to intimidate the troops. In any army, that's a losing formula.
Unless it can be shown that Lt. Pantano isn't an exemplary Marine " that is, if new facts come to light showing he and his superiors are misrepresenting what happened on April 15 " we call on the Pentagon to drop the spurious charges against Lt. Pantano. As far as any outsider can tell, he acted in good faith in a life-threatening situation. He shouldn't be punished for it.

03-15-05, 11:45 AM
Is Pantano a Victim of PC?
By William F. Sauerwein
March 14, 2005

The continuing legal dilemma of Marine 2nd Lt. Iliario Pantano underlines our society’s obsession with political correctness (PC) at the expense of men and women we have sent into combat in our names.

Pantano, a Marine infantry platoon commander, remains under Article 32 investigation, and faces murder charges for his actions in combat in Iraq. He was charged on February 1, 2005, and it seems any logical investigation could have been satisfactorily completed. I believe that Pantano is the victim of this rampant PC attitude, while everyone above him franticly covers their butts.

George Orwell once wrote, “People sleep peaceably in their beds at night only because rough men stand ready to do violence on their behalf.” Throughout history, “civilization” has been protected from the “barbarians” by those willing to fight those “barbarians.” Unfortunately, those enjoying the comforts of civilization normally shun any association with those who defend them.

However, these same individuals who avoid personally “dirtying their hands” in combat anxiously write the rules for those engaged in battle. While developing these rules, if an ambiguity surfaces they stop, get further clarification, and then continue defining the rules. Soldiers in combat do not have that luxury, and hesitation may jeopardize the mission’s success and threaten their lives.

Furthermore, these intellectual experts do not understand that the enemy in today’s ruthless wars does not follow the established rules of engagement or the Geneva Conventions. While the “book-smart” rule makers quickly acknowledge flaws on our side, they do not even consider the deliberate rejection of any civilized restraints by the other side.

Pantano, like most American combat leaders, struggled to accomplish his mission, to protect himself and his men and to follow the ever-changing rules of engagement in a fluid situation.

Before 9/11, Pantano earned a six-figure income as an energy trader with Goldman Sachs in New York city. Few people whom I know would give that up for the rigors of combat. However, Pantano was no ordinary citizen. An enlisted Marine veteran of the 1991 Gulf War, he left behind his pregnant wife, two-year old son and cushy lifestyle to rejoin the Marine Corps after 9/11, where he received a commission as a 2nd lieutenant.

Having addressed the specifics of the alleged Pantano incident in a previous article (“Second-Guessing the Troops Is Dangerous,” DefenseWatch, Feb. 19, 2005) I want to focus on several new, relevant issues here.

As 9/11 fades further into memory, it seems that too many of us have forgotten the barbarity of the enemy we face in this war. From our safety we can “Monday morning quarterback” the decisions made by those responsible for protecting us. That includes military JAG officers, safely working out of climate-controlled offices at stateside installations.

Defending civilization from the new barbarians is primarily done by combat arms personnel who sustain the majority of the casualties. Their mission is to “close with and destroy the enemy,” something drilled into us during the Vietnam War through Army infantry training at Fort Polk, La. In brutal reality, that means “kill or be killed,” because the enemy is prepared to act the same way.

A soldier’s duty is to complete the mission and do everything possible to survive. A leader’s duty is the same, with the added proviso of bringing home alive as many of his or her subordinates as possible. Both require split-second decisions based on the known situation, not something discovered after the fact.

If Pantano was criminally culpable for killing the two Iraqi insurgents last Apr. 15, why did his Marine superiors allow him to continue in command for the remainder of his tour of duty? Why did an immediate battlefield investigation clear Pantano after he fully reported the shooting incident to his superiors? Rowan Scarborough of The Washington Times obtained Pantano’s efficiency report which shows that no one gave this incident much notice. His company commander stated:

“Lieutenant Pantano’s progression as a young platoon commander and leader has been impressive …. He dedicated himself to subordinate development resulting in the weakest platoon becoming one that is often the Company’s main effort … He is a proficient communicator, who should be promoted with peers … I would proudly serve in combat with at any time.”

His battalion commander further noted:

“Lt. Pantano’s performance during the reporting period has been noteworthy and established his reputation as an accomplished infantry leader …. Leads from the front always and balances his aggressive style with true concern for the welfare of his Marines …. Ready for increased responsibility. Retain, promote and assign to challenging assignments.”

Instead, Pantano faces a different challenge altogether, a general court-martial that could result in the death penalty if he is convicted on the more serious charges. According to an article in The New York Daily News on March 6, the charge sheet portrays Pantano as a self-appointed executioner in lurid terms that seemed more to describe some domestic “gang-banger” instead of a Marine in combat.

The following day, the newspaper revealed the identity of Pantano’s accuser, one Sgt. Daniel Coburn, as the alleged “disgruntled” enlisted man. Described as a 10-year veteran with service in Panama, Haiti and Kosovo, Pantano reportedly had relieved Coburn from “several jobs” including by that of a squad leader – a death knell for a NCO’s career in the Marine Corps.

In the Daily News article, Coburn described Pantano as a “motivated” leader and noted that he did “not have any animosity against him.” I find this hard to believe, given the accusations Coburn made against Pantano two months after the incident. Coburn explained that he delayed making the charges “for the sake of the unit’s morale.”

As I stated in my earlier article, there are many avenues available for reporting UCMJ violations. As a veteran Marine, Coburn was well aware of these channels, yet did not use them. Since the chain of command had already conducted a battlefield investigation, everyone directly involved in the incident had already been interviewed. In other words, Coburn had no legitimate grounds to wait until two months after the alleged incident before reporting it.

Since I do not know Coburn personally, I will not make judgments of him, and instead work from my own personal experience as a career Army NCO. Pantano’s company commander stated that Pantano transformed his “weakest platoon” into a strong platoon. I know of only one reason for a “weak platoon.” The reason is weak NCOs not doing their jobs.

The only way of transforming a weak unit is to “kick ass and take names.” In other words, eliminate the deadweights and make the NCOs earn their pay. Perhaps Pantano regarded Coburn as part of this dead weight and relieved him in favor of someone who could perform better.

One curious item is that after being relieved, Coburn remained with his platoon. In my experience, a military leader will quickly transfer a relieved NCO to another unit. This not only allows a fresh start for the NCO, but helps alleviate any personality conflict that would arise between senior and subordinate. For some reason, Coburn remained there as a radioman, a duty for junior enlisted people and not a 10-year Corps veteran.

Several sources have stated that the platoon’s Navy medical corpsman – a direct participant in the operation where the shooting occurred – backed up Pantano’s story that he shot the two Iraqis only after they ignored his orders and moved toward the officer in a threatening manner. The only discrepancy is that the corpsman, who was facing away from the Iraqis when Pentaon shot them, said he believed that the Iraqis were running away, while Pantano reported they were running toward him. Pantano’s civilian lawyer states that if the corpsman were lying, both versions would be identical.

Further in Pantano’s favor is an unnamed source from The Washington Times of March 4, 2005. This “Inside the Ring” source states that the vehicle Pantano’s unit disabled did not have its seats bolted down. This has been identified as a terrorist tactic for hiding weapons, then being able to quickly retrieve them when needed.

Despite these aspects of the case working in Pantano’s favor, the Marine convening authority in Camp Lejeune, N.C., may not move to dismiss the charges against him. However, a groundswell of support for the lieutenant is gaining strength.

Last week, Rep. Walter B. Jones, Jr. (R-NC), whose congressional district includes Camp Lejeune, came out in support of Pantano. Jones stated in a radio interview that he will send President George W. Bush a letter regarding this case.

Such a movement will have scant odds of success unless it spreads to mainstream veterans’ organizations involved. To date, they have been silent on the lieutenant’s legal ordeal.

My personal assessment is that in this time of protracted war against a lethal terrorist enemy, our nation needs far more individuals like 2nd Lt. Iliario Pantano, and a chain of command with the moral courage to backing up young Marines who find themselves facing the ultimate, split-second decision of killing in combat.

>William F. Sauerwein is a Contributing Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at mono@gtec.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.


03-15-05, 11:49 AM
I had started the thread (Defending our brothers) Monday 14 Mar, our bike group is backing this Marine up if he gets an article 32.

03-15-05, 02:28 PM
They are going to burn this Marine there is no doubt..

03-15-05, 03:33 PM
This incident would not have even been given a moment's consideration during WWII?

03-15-05, 04:41 PM
yep Cpl your right but we dont live in a WORLD WAR 2 era anymore...

03-15-05, 11:59 PM
So what I want to know is...

So where is the fitness report for the so called discruntled JACKA** that started this bull sh*t???

Fitness Reports:

Conclusions of Marine Second Lieutenant Ilario Pantano’s official record of Performance In Iraq covering 01 March 04 to 31 July 04.

His Company Commander states:

"Lieutenant’s Pantano progression as a young platoon commander and leader has been impressive. Initially, his one weakness, the desire to do everything, resulted in a platoon with underdeveloped small unit leaders. Upon recognizing this discrepancy, 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.

This is a Combat Fitness report due to participation in support of Operation Iraqi Freedom II from 01 March 04 thru 31 July 04."

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."

What his Men say about him:

"…Sir, I want you to know I admired your type of leadership, and when we got back, once I became a squad leader I told myself, you were the person I was going to model myself after. Sir…I can sincerely tell you that it was an honor for me to be lead into combat by Lt Pantano. I’ll never forget the time in Falluja when you briefed the platoon in that dirty dusty little room in that run down house, you said ‘gentlemen, we will make contact.’ Sure enough we did and you sir brought us all back. Well I could go on forever sir, reminiceing, but that’s in the past, surely memories that will never be forgotten, but I got a new battle to fight now. As you would sometimes say sir "it ain’t over yet, it’s a marathon gents" and that’s exactly what it turned out to be sir.

Echo three Juliet…out"

-An email dated July 28, 2004 from a 19-year-old Marine, horribly wounded in an ambush, recovering at Walter Reed Hospital

What his Chaplain says about him:

"I have the utmost respect and admiration for 2nd Lt Pantano. He has the rare gift of grasping the essentials of a situation instantly and deciding quickly. Once he decides, he pursues a course of action with determination and skill. In a combat environment where seconds mean the difference between victory and disaster, whether in the Combat Operations Center or in the field with his platoon, he has repeatedly seen a situation and reached valid conclusions, decided and responded competently and skillfully well before either the enemy or his own peers were fully aware of what was happening. This gift of his is one of the primary reasons, in my opinion, that casualties in his platoon were relatively low while mission accomplishment was superb..."

"... He also has an excellent understanding of the moral issues at play in the conduct of war, both on a micro-level where the individual has to choose to pull the trigger or not, and on a macro-level where a society decides whether or not to go to war in the first place. This sense of morals comes into play not just in the conduct of war, but in leading Marines, assisting, guiding, and directing their interactions with each other, with the Marine Corps, and with society at large. I am extremely comfortable with his moral judgments. More than once, I have found myself advising him to do what he is already doing. I trusted his judgment with my reputation as a chaplain and my very life on numerous occasions over the last several months. I would do so again without reservation."

-Navy Officer, Chaplain

What Marine Staff Non Commissioned Officers (SNCOs) say about him:

"I’ve had the privilege of serving with many officers. Lieutenant Pantano is one of the finest officers I’ve had the pleasure of working with. While deployed to Iraq we lived in very close quarters. I would proudly serve with Lieutenant Pantano again. He is without a doubt a competent, and trustworthy individual. I would trust him with my life and the lives of Marines in My charge. He is extremely intelligent and is a valuable asset to the Marine Corps."

-Marine Staff Non Commissioned Officer

"I would have to say that Lt Pantano made it his mission to ensure that his Marines were not only in the best physical shape as well as being in the right frame of mind before our departure on our last deployment to Iraq. Once in country Lt Pantano and his Platoon Sergeant worked diligently to ensure that they stay focused on any and all missions that there platoon was tasked with…a very motivated officer and I would be honored to serve with him again anywhere."

-Marine Staff Non Commissioned Officer

"I found him to be professional, knowledgeable and truly passionate about the safety of our Marines and the Iraqi people who live in our Area of Operations (South of Baghdad). I found 2nd Lt Pantano always to be motivated and truly concerned about the battalion Operations, Forward Operations base security and the daily lives of the Iraqi people who live around our base. I would serve with in another combat tour with 2d Lt Pantano without hesitation."

-Marine Staff Non Commissioned Officer

What his fellow and senior Marine Officers say about him:

"Even when our physical and mental limits were tested he was a leader among men. His intelligence, charisma, and genuine care for others were apparent even in the worst of conditions. I have been in direct with Ilario throughout his time as an officer in the Marine Corps. He has always been an example for others to follow and is truly an asset to anyone he serves with. He proved to be a highly effective combat leader in Iraq, accomplishing every task assigned to him with the utmost care and diligence. The Marines that he commanded in Easy Company are no doubt better Marines and better people because of his leadership. 2nd Lt Pantano remains an example for Marine Officers and it was my honor to serve with him in Combat."

- Marine Officer

"Through the various missions we accomplished, I had the honor to serve with Ilario. I saw him turn a platoon that was desperate for central leadership into a cohesive fighting infantry platoon. His enthusiasm, charisma, and unswerving integrity became the backbone of his leadership style. His hard work and dedication paid off as he soon gained a solid reputation as an outstanding combat leader, and gained the respect of his Marines, peers, and his superiors. As a man, he was dependable, outgoing, friendly and would give the shirt off his back to help anyone. As a leader he inspired his men to fight and accomplish every mission in a deadly environment against a patient enemy. As a brother in arms, Ilario’s steadfast poise and dedication to his fellow brothers has etched his infallible image into my memory forever. It is truly was an honor to serve with a man of Ilario’s stature and I consider him a lifelong brother at arms."

- Marine Officer

"His military character is impeccable. His peers have always regarded Lt Pantano as a model Marine Officer. Having served in the Gulf War, Lt Pantano reentered the Marine Corps, giving up a lucrative and successful career, due to a sense of patriotism and lack of selfishness. From the day I met him, he displayed an aggressiveness tempered by a sense of caring for his fellow Marines that bordered on a maternal instinct. Lt Pantano was chosen by his peers to be the Class Commandant Infantry Officers Course (IOC) 1-04…Lt Pantano is a Moral and Just Man to whom I would entrust any member of my family. I do not hold these beliefs because he is my friend; he is my friend because I hold these beliefs. I have no doubt ion my mind that any actions taken by Lt Pantano were justified and done to protect his Marines. I look forward to testifying to the quality of Lt Pantano’s military character."

- Marine Officer

"He is not only a dedicated Marine officer, but a loving husband and father. His unrelenting devotion to his family and country is proof-positive that he experienced a proper upbringing. Ilario is truly blessed and has generated tremendous success in both his personal and professional life. Ilario’s resolute moral strength and integrity is the bedrock to which his success is anchored…He served his country in time of need and made great sacrifices to answer his call to duty. I would entrust anyone to Ilario’s charge and in doing so would sleep easy at night."

- Marine Officer

"Lieutenant Pantano has consistently impressed me with his confidence, intelligence, and ability to make sound decisions in a chaotic environment. While he served as Watch Officer, IK witnessed his poise and leadership skills in the management of simultaneous contingency situations. Despite the hectic nature of the battalion’ Combat Operations Center (COC), I always felt comfortable with decisions and the overall command of the situation demonstrated by Lieutenant Pantano"

-Marine Officer

"Lieutenant Pantano has consistently impressed me with his confidence, intelligence, and ability to make sound decisions in a chaotic environment. While he served as Watch Officer, I witnessed his poise and leadership skills in the management of simultaneous contingency situations. Despite the hectic nature of the battalion’ Combat Operations Center (COC), I always felt comfortable with decisions and the overall command of the situation demonstrated by Lieutenant Pantano"

-Marine Officer

"On April 11, Lt Pantano’s platoon was the battalion’s Alternate Quick Reaction Force. On that day, my platoon became decisively engaged with an insurgent group that had ambushed an Army convoy carrying m113s (ambulances) and logistics. When dispatched to the scene, his reaction was swift, decisive and sound. His actions allowed the remainder of that convoy to break contact with the enemy force. He and his Platoon may have saved the lives of several soldiers in the ambushed convoy and may have saved the lives my Marines who were engaged with the enemy.

Later Lt Pantano served as a watch officer in the battalion Combat Operations Center, hearing his voice on the radio meant I would be well supported. With sound and timely decisions from my higher headquarters. Lt Pantano displayed a level of judgment and decisiveness not commonly seen in officers of his grade."

-Marine Officer

03-16-05, 06:46 AM

From the Editor: A Marine’s Trial

By Ed Offley

To his family and fellow Marines, 2 Lt. Iliaro Pantano is a genuine hero of the ongoing war in Iraq. To some Marine prosecutors at Camp Lejeune, N.C., Pantano is an accused murderer in light of an incident nearly a year ago when he shot and killed two Iraqi detainees that the young officer and several eyewitnesses claimed were about to attack him.

2nd Lt. Iliaro Pantano USMC, a Gulf War enlisted veteran, rejoined the Corps after 9/11 and received an officer’s commission. He faces multiple charges of murder from an incident in Iraq last April in which he shot and killed two Iraqi detainees.

Since an Article 32 hearing process began last month at the North Carolina base, public interest in the case has steadily grown, and promises to become a major news event should the Marine Corps opt to try Pantano on charges that , if convicted, could result in the death penalty.

Pantano’s family has created a website, Defendthedefenders.org, which has a lot of relevant background material on the case. In addition, radio talk show host Michael Savage has posted numerous documents about Lt. Pantano’s situation on a special page at his website, “Defending Lt. Pantano.”

Documents available for reading include the Marine Corps charge sheet against the lieutenant, and an affidavit supporting Pantano’s account by a Navy corpsman who was on the scene at the time of the shooting.

We at DefenseWatch have been monitoring this case closely and intend to continue doing so in the weeks ahead. We encourage our readers and supporters to do the same.

Ed Offley is Editor of DefenseWatch. He can be reached at dweditor@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com. © 2005 Ed Offley.


03-16-05, 06:47 AM

Pantano: The Charges Are Baseless

By Raymond Perry

In recent days, the case of Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano has sparked consternation among many veterans, as well it should.

The 33-year-old New Yorker is charged with premeditated murder in the death of two Iraqi men in his custody. The charges were brought only recently even though the acts occurred nearly a year ago on Apr. 15, 2004.

Maj. Gen. Richard Huck, commanding general of the 2nd Marine Division, is processing charges for premeditated murder, destruction of property and desecration of property against Pantano for his actions surrounding the detaining of two alleged Iraqi insurgents. An Article 32 hearing, the rough equivalent of a civilian grand jury proceeding, is scheduled for early April.

As I can best discern from the steadily growing public record, here are the facts of this incident:

* Lt. Pantano’s platoon was directed to search a suspected weapons storage and insurgent hiding place.

* Two men departed from this building in a vehicle giving the Marines a clear perception they were attempting to evade capture.

* Marines shot out the vehicle’s tires to stop it.

* Pantano ordered the Iraqi men to search this vehicle themselves as a method of reducing the exposure of U.S. Marines to injury.

* The vehicle was rigged in a manner consistent with hiding weapons and held hardware used in preparing improvised explosive devices (IEDs).

* The Iraqi men ignored orders to cease talking with each other during the search of the vehicle and gave the impression of secreting something on their persons.

* Pantano directed a Marine sergeant and a Navy corpsman attached to his unit to establish protective positions during the search.

* The two Iraqi insurgents stopped their search of the vehicle and began to move suddenly, ignoring Pantano’s shouted orders in Arabic to stop.

* Pantano shot both of them to death. He used two magazines of ammunition.

* Pantano later posted a sign on their vehicle quoting a senior Marine commander, then-Maj. Gen. James Mattis stating that Marines were the Iraqis’ “best friend and worst enemy.”

* Pantano correctly reported the shooting incident to his superiors as required.

* His on-scene commander conducted an investigation of the incident that cleared Lt. Pantano of any wrongdoing.

* His superiors subsequently wrote a fitness report on Lt. Pantano crediting him with superior performance of his duties in Iraq.

In order for the murder charges to be legitimate, Lt. Pantano’s actions must have been unlawful. In this case, the lieutenant believed that these men were insurgents. Their vehicle was rigged to hide weapons. The two men had the ability to retrieve weapons during their search of the vehicle. They had ignored previous direction from the lieutenant.

These facts appear to be uncontested. Pantano considered these men to be combatants who had possibly armed themselves. When they began to move suddenly and again ignored his order to stop, Pantano’s defensive response was reasonable. The charges of murder appear invalid on their face.

The charge of willful or reckless destruction of property appears to be based on “slashing of the tires” of this vehicle as a willful act. It appears uncontested that the tires were shot out during the initial attempt to escape instead of slashing as a vengeful act. If the evidence is as clear as it appears to be, that charge is baseless.

The alleged act of desecration described, that of posting a sign on top of the vehicle quoting Maj. Gen. Mattis, is not directly contemplated by the UCMJ. Rather it probably would be charged under UCMJ Article 134 for acts contrary to good order and discipline. Somehow the posting of a sign without profane or denigrating words just does not fit a reasonable definition of desecration.

Military law allows anyone to “prefer charges” so long as they are willing to swear to the truthfulness of them. Normally a criminal cover-up or other fraud does not surface for a while after the act. But the criminal charges against Pantano were not brought to light until nearly a year after the event.

What appears to me to be one of the most critical facts in this case was that Pantano himself properly and immediately reported the shootings to his superiors. His superior commander then conducted an investigation while maintaining Pantano in a full duty status. His immediate superior clearly did not contemplate charges as a result of his review. This commander later reported very positively on Pantano’s fitness in combat.

There is a separate issue alleged of premeditation. In my experience, when a person commits a premeditated act, as is alleged here, he is fairly precise in his actions. Pantano’s spraying of many rounds of ammunition appears to denote a reaction rather than a conscious, deliberate decision.

News reports have also noted that Pantano was a trained sniper in his previous service as an enlisted Marine. If there had been an act of premeditation on his part, I cannot imagine that a man trained for “one shot, one kill” would have acted as Pantano did. Such training ingrains in such men a precision that is almost reflexive in nature.

One more piece of information is even more revealing: As commentator Art Moore noted in an article in WorldNet Daily on Feb. 17 (“Accused Marine Featured in Gripping Story”), Time magazine reporter Paul Quinn-Judge was embedded in Pantano’s platoon just nine days after this event.

As a former career military officer, I find it inconceivable that had there been a cover-up of the two detainees who had been shot, this reporter would have heard about it and reported the incident. It belies common sense that it would not have leaked.

Quinn-Judge wrote movingly of the daily combat faced by these Marines.

He reported that what appeared to the public to be a disconnected series of skirmishes were in reality daily, grinding combat with “a well organized and relentless enemy.”

When taken in this context – and understanding the context of close combat in Iraq is crucial in this matter – it is clear that Pantano had a reasonable basis to believe that the two Iraqis were enemy combatants who were seeking to harm him or his men. So long as Pantano’s belief was legitimate when he pulled the trigger, that is legally sufficient to clear him of the charges the Marine Corps is now bringing against him.

What the editorial writers seem incapable of realizing is that in order to enjoy the protections available under the Laws of War, persons “hors de combat” must fully submit to all legal orders and cease all warlike acts. These men did not do so, and paid the price.

Precisely where the bullets struck these men and whether or not there were weapons in the vehicle or on their persons are irrelevant to the legality of the lieutenant’s response to their deliberate – and final – sudden movement. Pantano’s actions last Apr. 15 appear fully justified.

The only rationale for the late reporting of the event appears to be retribution by a former squad leader in Pantano’s platoon who reportedly was the individual who filed a complaint against him months after the incident had occurred.

Retired Marine Gen. Joseph P. Hoar has written about the social contract within the profession of arms that emphasizes the responsibility of seniors toward juniors. Unless a case can be made for cover-up or fraud of some sort on the part of Lt. Pantano for the Marines to give these charges any credibility shocks the conscience of the American people.

It should also shock the conscience of the entire U.S. Marine Corps.

The facts I cited above seem to be perfectly clear, with substantial corroboration: The charges against Pantano are baseless.

If Maj. Gen. Huck has any sense of Gen. Hoar’s concept of the social contract of leadership with his men, his course of action will be simple, quick and conclusive: Dismissal of all charges, and steps to ensure no stain lingers upon Lt. Pantano’s stellar record.

The American people expect their military leaders to have the knowledge, experience and moral courage to do the right thing.

Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.) is a DefenseWatch Contributing Editor. He can be reached at cos1stlt@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.


03-16-05, 09:06 AM
Please visit the Department of Defense web page and sign a brief message
> thanking the men and women of the U.S. military services. The compiled
> of names will be sent out to our soldiers at the end of the month.
> So far there are less than 9 million names. What a pity. There should be
> hundreds of millions of "Thank You's". Please forward this message to your
> friends, so they can do the same.
> It takes less than a minute to sign the card.


03-16-05, 02:44 PM
Too many different stories coming out of this deal. Theres something more going on then whats being told..

d c taveapont
03-19-05, 01:24 AM
2 magazines for 2 iraqis.......what a waste of ammunation...2-4 bullet holes would have been just fine...but too empty 2 mags...a little over the top if you ask me...and just maybe thats the problem....either way hes screwed. and a waste of one career in a screwed up war....

03-19-05, 09:32 AM
He is has been charged by the Corps with two counts of premeditated murder for the deaths of two Iraqi insurgents. not for emtying two mags and if he did so what. The scum bags murder over three thousand Americans and he kills two of them, and he is charged with murder? Why go to war? Are these men just supposed to let the enemy kill them or are they allowed to fight back?

What ever happened to the little scum bag traitor that threw the grenade into the tent of his own military bothers. Did they hang him. Does he get the death penalty? I sure hope so....Let this Marine go. Let him do what he was sent to do...May the Lord have Mercy.

03-19-05, 03:19 PM
gentleman there have been so many different stories on this thats its hard to believe what is real and what is not. The bottom line is there are rules of engagement even in war... Even though I have of a problem with the engagement rules during war they are still there.. The bottom line is that the military has to teach the men and women what the threat is before you can open fire on the enemy. so where do we begin with this? Was these men a threat? Did these men have any weapons on there person at the time they where captured? I believe that was answered that they had no weapons on there persons at the time of capture. One story was these men started running from the Lt after he ordered them to stop and the Lt opened fire on these Men killing them both. Another story was that these men came at the Lt after he ordered them to stop and the Lt opened fire on both subjects killing them. The buttom line if there was all these witnesses and these men where that close to the Lt why was these men allowed to be standing on there feet and not on the ground where they should of been. The buttom line is if in fact these men where checked for weapons and found not to have any weapons, Where is the threat??? as i said there has been so many stories on this you really dont know what to believe. rules of engagement gentlemen I know i have been there 2 tours in Nam.

d c taveapont
03-20-05, 10:22 PM
muffinman, My point was that ; To empty two magazines IS a little over kill, 2-4 Bullet holes would have been fine, and what is sad about the whole thing is the R.E. has NOT been explained to our troops....its a DAMN shame to have this happen...

03-20-05, 10:59 PM

For the Record: H.R. 167 Supports Pantano

Compiled by DefenseWatch Staff

A powerful North Carolina congressman has publicly announced his support for Marine 2nd Lt. Iliario Pantano, who faced multiple criminal charges including two counts of premeditated murder following an incident last year in which the lieutenant shot and killed two Iraqis during the cordon operation to secure a house that was found to contain weapons and evidence of Iraqi insurgents.

Rep. Walter B. Jones , an 11-year member of the House of Representatives who serves on the House Armed Services Committee, has introduced House Resolution 167 that expresses “the sense of the House of Representatives” that Pantano “was defending the cause of freedom, democracy and liberty in his actions of April 15, 2004, that resulted in the deaths of two suspected Iraqi insurgents …. ”

Jones’ congressional district includes Camp Lejeune, N.C., where Pantano is currently awaiting results of an Article 32 investigation that could lead to a general court-martial.

The Washington Times reported today that Jones hopes to persuade the House Armed Services Committee to approve his resolution in time for a full vote on the House floor within the next month or two. The newspaper also reported Jones has written a personal letter to President Bush seeking his personal intervention in the case.

“The ongoing war in Iraq has taken a toll on this nation,” the Times quoted Mr. Jones’ letter to the president. “Families have been torn apart by the loss of a loved one who has paid the ultimate price in service to our country. Charging Lt. Pantano with murder is not only wrong, but is also detrimental to morale in America. This sends a potentially flawed message to those considering enlisting in our military. Furthermore, we need to consider what this does to embolden the enemy who can now better rely on an overly cautious soldier or Marine second-guessing his actions.”

“This nation needs good Marines like Ilario Pantano,” Jones continued in his letter. “Charging him with murder creates an unnecessary risk of losing other future leaders like Lt. Pantano. I would greatly appreciate your personal investigation into this very serious matter.”

The full text of Jones’ resolution is available online at the congressman’s website.


03-21-05, 07:33 AM

Pantano: Why the Charges Don’t Stand Up

By Raymond Perry

The Marine Corps has now made available the formal charge sheet prepared for the case of 2nd Lt. Iliaro Pantano, who is facing a possible general court-martial for the shooting deaths of two Iraqi men his platoon captured near Mahmudiah, Iraq, on Apr. 15, 2004.

In a recent analysis of this case (“Lt Pantano: the Charges are Baseless,” DefenseWatch, March 11, 2005), I reviewed the known information about the incident and concluded that the charges were baseless. This article reviews the charges themselves in the context of how court-martial members might dispose of them.

Here are the charges against the lieutenant under the Uniform Code of Military Justice:

Charge I: Article 92, two specifications, Dereliction of Duty by failing to properly safeguard two prisoners.

Charge II: Article 109, one specification, Damaging private property.

Charge III: Article 118, two specifications, Premeditated Murder.

Charge IV: Article 133 (Conduct Unbecoming an Officer), two specifications: Dishonorably failing to safeguard the prisoners and desecrating their bodies by placing a sign above their corpses.

What are the differences in the known “facts” of the case that these charges seem to indicate by their wording? Do Marine Corps officials know key information that has not yet come to light, and if so is it damning enough to go forward with these charges?

Charge I: The associated actions listed under the specifications state that Pantano relieved the two members of his platoon from duties guarding these men, directed them to remove restraints and to station themselves so as to be unable to view the lieutenant’s actions. The charge is that his subsequent actions were derelict.

These seem to be directly contradicted by the voluntary sworn statement of Hospital Corpsman George A. Gobles, who was assigned to Pantano’s platoon and was operating as one of the lieutenant’s personal security elements on the day in question. In his published statement to investigators given on June 10, 2004, eight weeks after the incident, Gobles described Pantano’s orders as conforming to established procedures in the search of a suspected insurgent vehicle that may contain arms or explosives. Gobles added that at the moment of the shooting he was stationed as a security element at or less than 50 meters away from the lieutenant.

The second eyewitness to these actions appears to be the disgruntled sergeant bringing the charges. This individual was stationed at about twice the distance away from the suspect vehicles as Gobles.

Charge II: Gobles’ statement indicates that the Iraqi vehicle was disabled only after the other events of the incident. Gobles’ matter of fact description of the lieutenant using his K-bar knife to puncture the tires leads me to infer that this also may be a routine practice in such circumstances. If so, this charge has no place on the charge sheet.

Charge III: The key issue of whether or not Pantano’s fatal shooting of the two suspected insurgents was murder or an act of self-defense in combat will turn on whether these men did in fact ignore his order to cease certain actions and move suddenly toward him, causing Pantano’s concern for the safety of his men and himself. Again Gobles’ statement seems to substantially corroborate the lieutenant’s description of his actions.

Charge IV: There are two specifications covering different aspects of this incident but I infer that the lawyers framing them thought to themselves, “If we can’t get him on any of the other charges, maybe we can get him on this one.”

Specification 1 really just restates Charge I framing it as dishonorable performance by an officer. Specification 2 attempts to bring an issue to the table of how corpses are treated under Islamic religious tradition. The known facts seem to indicate that a sign was placed on the damaged car. The wording of this specification was framed broadly enough to encompass placing this sign on the bodies or the car.

Gobles’ statement is silent regarding these two accusations. However, I infer from the manner in which the hospital corpsman ended his statement – by saying that he returned to his unit and they continued their assigned mission – that Pantano had done little else after the shooting. Pantano’s report of the incident and his commander’s subsequent actions, including a glowing fitness report recommending the lieutenant for promotion and “challenging assignments” to further his career, tell this part of the story far better.

Based on the apparent record, I believe court-martial members may well approach the issues this way:

First: Did Pantano shoot these men lawfully? As I discussed in my previous article above, the issue is, did the lieutenant have a reasonable belief that these men were about to take a warlike action as they finished their disassembly of the car? If so, he is innocent of the two specifications of premeditated murder in Charge III.

Second: If court-martial members conclude that he was acting lawfully, then Charges I and IV (Specification 1) will be viewed as “piling on” and they will also quickly toss aside those two.

Third: Was the act of disabling the vehicle following the shooting legitimate or at least a routine practice? If so, this will likely also be viewed as “piling on,” and the court will also toss aside this charge.

Fourth: Given the apparent placement of the sign on the car, I believe the court will also view Charge IV (Specification 2) as a sweep-up charge, tacked on to the others as an “If we can’t get him on anything else, maybe this one will stick” measure.

In my observation throughout more than 20 years of military service, military court members are very capable of seeing through multiple charges that are really the same accusation repeated in different ways (as distinct from “lesser included offenses”). In such instances, court members frequently throw down the penalty flag with little discussion beyond, “How gullible do these JAGs (lawyers) think we are?”

What facts are not generally known that point toward Pantano’s guilt? Why did Marine Maj. Gen. Richard Huck go forward with these charges? It is legitimate for the Trial Counsel (military equivalent of a prosecutor) not to tip his hand regarding how he will present his case. But under established military law and rules he is required to reveal all evidence to the defense that he plans to present at trial.

Only if there is some evidence a classified nature is there a basis for withholding such material. At this juncture and with the growing publicity in this case it is does not appear that there is any classified evidence reasonably associated with the case against Lt. Pantano.

The Marine Corps can solve its steadily-worsening public relations nightmare without violating court procedures by revealing all unclassified facts in evidence now.

In an interview last month, 2nd Marine Division spokesman Maj. Matt Morgan he enjoined the public to trust the legal process to protect the lieutenant from invalid charges (see the bottom of that article). But without some indication of facts that point to guilt, his words – designed to deflect reporters’ questions – actually spoke to a senior Marine Corps leadership that appears to have already failed the lieutenant.

The first few steps of the process of bringing charges tasks the general court-martial Convening Authority, Gen. Huck, with the responsibility to critically evaluate the credibility of the charges. Having done so, he is responsible for dismissing charges that lack credibility on their face. The general’s experience and judgment are where “the rubber meets the road” in the U.S. military justice system.

The UCMJ contemplates that combat is cruel and inhuman, requiring life-and-death decisions in a split-second. It further contemplates the situation where a person may act in a manner where dispassionate consideration of all facts might indicate criminality, but understanding that soldiers frequently are called on to make exactly these decisions reactively rather than dispassionately. As such, if his combat actions were lawful then there is no criminality involved in this case.

That is why Gen. Huck has the responsibility to give due weight to the investigation already conducted in the field and to refuse action if preliminary findings warrant that step. He must use his experience, particularly with regard to combat, to justly act on the accusations.

Based on the public record and the absence of and no indication that undisclosed classified information exists to change the case, the charges against Lt. Pantano are without merit. The spokesman’s assertion that we should “trust the system” is to accept that a system that may have already failed will still produce a just result.

No soldier should face unjust, or even questionable, charges as a result of combat. The American people, and more particularly military veterans, should not accept a broad statement of “trust the system.”

Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.) is a DefenseWatch Contributing Editor. He can be reached at cos1stlt@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.


Ed Palmer
03-21-05, 08:00 AM
Lets do this the easy way,post charges against every pilot that dropped a bomb and killed (realy) innocent Iraqes we all know that the kids that were killed in their sleep were,nt carring weapons or IUD,s so lets charge everyone involved.
And then get the fuxk out of town.

03-21-05, 09:16 AM

Amen on your statement - if you are going to charge one, charge them all!!!!!!!!!!!!!! THEN get the fuxk out of town, or the desert or whatever.


03-22-05, 11:43 PM
Under Fire Combat Marine Tells His Story

Dave Eberhart, NewsMax.com
Monday, March 21, 2005

For the first time since giving a statement to the Naval Investigative Service, Marine 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano is talking to someone other than his attorneys about that fateful day in Iraq in 2004 when he shot dead two suspected Iraqi insurgents – a wartime deed that has led to him being charged with their premeditated murders.

In an interview by Stone Phillips on NBC's "Dateline" program, the embattled Marine, who is facing an Article 32 pre-trial hearing near the end of April at Marine Corps Base Camp Lejuene, N.C., immediately took the offensive – just like the man one superior characterized as having "more integrity, dedication and drive" than any Marine he has ever known:

"The job description of an infantry platoon commander is to close with and destroy the enemy. Kill is part of our vernacular. That's part of our job. So to speak to murder with premeditation in the context of defending my life is outrageous."

Pantano, who served as an enlisted Marine in the Gulf War, came back into the Corps after the 9/11 attacks – this time as an officer. By April 2004, the newly commissioned 2nd lieutenant was on patrol with his platoon in Iraq, just in time for the deadliest month of the war for American forces.

As a warm-up to his own day of infamy, he and his Marines engaged in a six-hour gun battle that began with an ambush. "This was the wake-up call to all of us that we were - that things had really transitioned from the peacekeeping mode to full combat mode," Pantano revealed.

Earlier, Pantano had pledged to bring all of his young charges home – a vow he was to keep even through all those bloody and dangerous months in-country.

On April 15th, his unit got a tip from some Iraqis in a town south of Baghdad, but the vigilant, wily Pantano says he smelled a set-up to an ambush. There were too many details in the tip – and even a map – all too good to be true.

"And the most critical clue was that the people who gave us this information drew a map," the officer told Phillips. "We had never had that kind of a windfall of information. So this thing smelled like an ambush immediately."

Trusting his instinct of pending danger, Pantano related how he reacted. "We went in heavy. We had machine guns with us because we fully expected we would be ambushed by some larger force as we had seen just days prior.

"In the process of starting [my] squads moving forward [toward the house identified by the tipsters], we saw a white sedan start pulling away from the house. And I - I ordered the vehicle to stop.

"We fired a couple of shots into the ground, and they knew to stop the car. I had to grab my radio operator and my corpsman and go after the car because it was now away from the target house down the road.

"I order my corpsman to do a - a search of the car. He looks, finds nothing.

"When I heard [over the radio] that there was this arms cache [found] at the house, I thought these guys are bad guys and that they know they've been caught.

"I wanted the car looked at more thoroughly, and I wanted them to do it. I wanted them to take the car to the bones, and I didn't want to risk one of my Marines, or my sailor, my corpsman, in this - what could be a dangerous procedure."

Armed with an M-16 semi-automatic rifle, Pantano watched the Iraqis as they began to search the car, one the front seat, the other the back. He says they began speaking to each other in muffled tones in Arabic:

"I give them a command in Arabic to stop. They continue, then there was this moment of quiet. I felt - I could feel like the oxygen getting sucked out of my lungs. I could feel this thing was happening. There was this beat, and they both pivoted to me at the same time, moving towards me at the same time. And in that moment of them, you know, of them disobeying my command to stop and pivoting to me at the same time, I shot them.

'I didn't Wait to See If There Was a Grenade'

"I didn't wait to see if there was a grenade. I didn't wait to see if there was a knife. And unfortunately, there are a lot of dead soldiers and Marines who have waited too long. And my men weren't going to be those dead soldiers and Marines and neither was I.

"There wasn't time for a warning shot. There was time for action, and I had to act. It becomes - it becomes very personal. It stops being about war and moving blue arrows and little pieces and big pieces and we'll hold this bridge and take this ground. These guys tried to kill me. That's what I'm feeling. And the language that's - that's going through my head at that point was ‘no better friend, and no worse enemy.'

That phrase comprised the unofficial motto of Pantano's division in Iraq. Invented and promoted by the division commander, General James Mattis, the lead officer wanted his Marines to bring help to friendly Iraqis - and a world of hurt to anyone who stood in their way.

According to witness accounts and Pantano's own voluntary statement, Pantano wrote the motto on the piece of cardboard, then placed it on the car above the bullet-ridden bodies.

"Those words, ‘no better friend, no worse enemy,' were repeatedly drilled into us. It was our - the mantra of our mission," Pantano told Phillips.

That night he returned to base and was debriefed – with no great hue-and-cry being raised about what he had done:

"The mood was congratulatory. It was, you know, these guys made a mistake. It was ‘they picked wrong Marine,'" Pantano related.

However, Pantano's radio operator raised questions about the shooting to a fellow Marine, and that Marine, in turn, reported it to his chain of command. According to a statement from the radio operator, Pantano, after learning about the cache of weapons at the house, bashed the Iraqis' car with his rifle butt and seemed "like he wanted to teach them a lesson."

But Pantano explained it this way to Phillips: "I wouldn't say that I was angry. I would say that I was feeling like we had had a successful mission."

Eventually, Pantano was pulled from the field and lost command of his platoon. Then, after returning to the U.S., he got word that the Marines were charging him with murder:

"I put the sign on - on the car, nowhere on the bodies, to show my Marines this could have been them that would be dead. And I took the sign down two minutes later."

Documents indicate that there was some evidence that the suspects were shot in the back, a claim reportedly based on no firm forensic evidence. (The bodies were turned over to the Iraqis and buried, according to the Pantano defense team.)

"I shot them in the sides, I shot them in the chest, I shot them as they were turning towards me," explained Pantano.

But documents associated with the charges allege that Pantano emptied a magazine and then emptied a second magazine.

"The speed it took me to wipe the sweat off my brow is how quickly you fire and reload a magazine. I shot them until they stopped moving … [C]ombat is a pretty ugly business. What's the right number of rounds to save your life? I would say it's enough until there is no more threat … I kept firing until they stop moving. It doesn't take a lot of energy to pull a grenade pin. To protect the lives of my men, I would do it again in a moment," he said.

The radio operator who complained had been relieved as a squad leader by Pantano, who describes him as being disgruntled."My second most senior person in my platoon was relegated to one of the most junior positions that you can have in a platoon. A sergeant of 10 years was carrying the radio for me… I don't think he ever thought it would take the direction that it's taken."

The Navy corpsman present at the scene told investigators that he heard Pantano yell ‘Stop!' before the shooting began. And when he turned to look, he thought the Iraqis were trying to flee.

It is conceded – thus far – that neither the corpsman nor the Marine sergeant saw what happened in the critical seconds before Pantano opened fire.

Pantano summarized: "I was told to go do a job. My job is to locate the enemy. In this case, the enemy threatened me and I killed the enemy… The saddest day of my life is – is - is this day, is this moment where I have to use my - my passions to defend myself against my Corps instead of defending my country against our enemies. That is what breaks my heart."


03-23-05, 12:41 PM

Missing the Point: NBC Botched Pantano Report

By Raymond Perry

On Sunday, March 20, NBC reporter Stone Phillips presented a “Dateline NBC” report interviewing Marine 2nd Lt. Iliario Pantano, who faces premeditated murder charges nearly a year after a deadly shooting incident in Iraq on April 15, 2004. Phillips covered several key elements of the charges against the Lieutenant.

But Phillips did not get it right. Either the journalist and his staff just do not understand war or his report was a deliberate example of the kind of yellow journalism where U.S. soldiers and Marines are always the guilty ones. Phillips’ staff prepared him as if the deadly encounter between Pantano’s unit and the Iraqis was a traffic stop on an interstate instead of another deadly day fighting insurgents.

The key issues that Phillips covered were the number of rounds the lieutenant fired from his M-16, whether Pantano’s actions were defensive, and the lieutenant’s responsibility for handling prisoners under the laws of war.

In each case, it is clear that the preparatory work done by Phillips’ staff was lacking. The show had its dramatic moments but they did not do their homework.

Phillips first questioned the number of rounds that Pantano fired in the shooting that killed the two Iraqis, why it took so many rounds to stop the two men. Pantano responded with his concerns that they were about to attack him and his men.

News reports to date indicate that the number of rounds Pantano discharged from his M-16 at the two Iraqis was about 30. Navy Hospital Corpsman George A. Gobles, assigned to the lieutenant’s platoon as a personal security element for Pantano and an eyewitness to the shooting, stated during a June 2004 investigation that Pantano discharged only one magazine. He described his memory as clear. Pantano himself recalls discharging nearly two magazines from his rifle, leading to speculation that he ran out of ammunition very quickly upon opening fire and reloaded.

The American people should look back on our last major combat arena, Vietnam, for perspective in judging the lieutenant’s actions. The experience of our soldiers in combat in Vietnam is relevant to understanding what happened last April 15 in Iraq.

Following the publication of an earlier article on this incident (“Lt. Pantano: The Charges Are Baseless,” DefenseWatch, March 11, 2005), I received an email from Lt. Col. Sam Asbury, an infantry officer in the U.S. Army Reserve. He spoke of his grim experience in the Vietnam War, describing two relevant and personal examples of combat where the shooting was brutal and involved many rounds fired in full automatic.

In one case, Asbury witnessed fellow soldiers kill an injured but armed man who had been left to cover the retreat of his Viet Cong compatriots. The Americans fired until the enemy stopped moving.

Asbury also described a second case where a Viet Cong sapper with satchel charges was about to enter an ammunition bunker. Again, a soldier armed with an M-60 machine gun fired a string of at least 20 rounds into the man. The sapper collapsed and stopped moving. He did not make it into the bunker and failed to detonate the satchel charges.

The officer’s closing observation was clear: Killing “always looks brutal because it is brutal.”

Phillips then questioned the issue of self-defense in the incident. Pantano described his actions, asserting them to be both defensive and protective of his men. Phillips then asked several questions with dramatic emphasis, including: “You emptied a magazine. And emptied a second magazine … (pause) … 50 rounds, 60 rounds to stop them …. (Pause) When did it go from firing in self-defense to sending a message? At what point? How many rounds in?”

In asking that question, and more importantly by the dramatic manner in which he phrased it, Phillips demonstrated his own lack of understanding of combat and the laws of war as they apply to the lieutenant’s case. Only a person who has never seen combat and is feeling safe and secure, and distant from the battlefield, could use those words to shape his question.

This leads to a wider point: An entire generation of Americans has matured without knowing the horrors of war. Have we forgotten how truly awful combat can be and how truly creative and sly our enemies can be?

In Lt. Col. Asbury’s words: “Nearly every everyone I know who has personally participated in close combat would probably state, in those circumstances overkill is always better than underkill.”

Phillips next briefly explored the issue of treatment and protection of prisoners. He coupled these with an allusion to the lieutenant’s responsibilities under the law of war. Once again, his staff did not prepare him adequately.

The laws of war provide that captives must be protected. That our soldiers and Marines are responsible to ensure the safety of captive insurgents or civilians suspected of being insurgents, is quite clear. This is true, but irrelevant to the microseconds during which the lieutenant chose to pull the trigger of his M-16.

The laws of war also provide that all captives must cease all warlike acts and comply with all orders from our soldiers or Marines. Until they do this, clearly and completely, any act that may be interpreted as threatening justifies a defensive and deadly response.

The key point is not what the captives really intended to do, nor what was or was not later found on their person or in their car – these are not relevant to those microseconds of decision. The first responsibility lies with the captives. If their actions could be reasonably interpreted as threatening, then Pantano’s reaction – shooting them dead – was legal.

To Pantano and his Marines at that moment, it was entirely possible that the two men were attempting to detonate a car bomb. We know this to be untrue now, but that belief is directly relevant to the lieutenant’s acts at that moment.

The indisputable facts are that the captives were suspected insurgents, that they had previously ignored orders and they then moved quickly and contrary to Pantano’s direction.

The MSNBC staff had a unique opportunity to raise the real issues at stake for Pantano and his men, but failed to do so. They did not properly cast the issues for Stone Phillips to explore, and as a result he came off as another journalist totally ignorant of the realities of combat.

We are at war. One only has to read the lessons learned from Fallujah last November published by the 3rd Battalion 5th Marines to understand what our troops are facing. The lessons learned report speaks eloquently to the American people as well as teaching other Marines how to survive and prevail on Iraq’s mean streets. The vivid lesson-by-lesson description of combat, the inventiveness and tenacity of the insurgents, and the day-by-day grind of combat appears in gritty detail in that report.

At the same time, the American people ought to demand that commentators such as Stone Phillips be knowledgeable of the background issues and to convey this in their reporting.

There may be real offenses buried in Lieutenant Pantano’s actions. The Marine Corps has not yet revealed this information, if it does exist.

But Stone Phillips presented us with scant facts and little more than drama. He did a disservice both to Lt. Pantano and to his viewers.

Lt. Raymond Perry USN (Ret.) is a DefenseWatch Contributing Editor. He can be reached at cos1stlt@yahoo.com. Please send Feedback responses to dwfeedback@yahoo.com.


03-23-05, 02:49 PM
WTH 2 magazines to kill 2 guys what is wrong with this picture? ohh maybe he was a bad shot at boot camp??

04-01-05, 10:41 AM
Sent to me by Mark (Fontman)

Legion sees duty in helping Marine
By John DeSantis
Staff Writer

The guilt or innocence of a Wilmington-area Marine accused of murdering two alleged Iraqi insurgents is not an issue for members of a local American Legion post raising money for his defense. They cite their mission of aiding all veterans as the primary motivation for a fund-raising fish fry scheduled for Friday afternoon.

Evidence against Lt. Ilario Pantano will be presented at an April 25 hearing at Camp Lejeune, at which prosecutors are expected to paint the April 15, 2004, shooting of the two men as an “execution.”

Lt. Pantano maintains the shootings were done in self defense, and that he feared for his life when the two men – under his custody and control while searching their own car at his order for explosives or other weapons – moved toward each other simultaneously after ignoring his repeated demands that they stop talking to each other.
If the proposed charge of premeditated murder sticks, Lt. Pantano could face the death penalty.

Free pending further developments in the case, Lt. Pantano is expected to attend American Legion Post 10’s fish fry Friday, where money will be raised to aid his defense and the defense of other military personnel who might find themselves in similar circumstances.

Post Commander Michael Gregorio said his group is aiding Lt. Pantano because “the American Legion is all about veterans helping veterans.”

“His innocence or guilt is not on our shoulders,” Mr. Gregorio said. “His right to the best representation and support is on all veterans’ shoulders. This is not just about Lt. Pantano; it’s about all military personnel serving in harm’s way who in the future may have to second-guess their actions in combat or may feel, why serve if your country will not stand behind you.”

The group traditionally holds a fish fry and barbecue on the first Friday of every month. The one scheduled for this week, from 1 to 3 p.m., will result in $1 from every $6 plate of food being donated to the organization Lt. Pantano’s mother formed to help him, Defend the Defenders.

The group’s Web site, www.defend thedefenders.org, contains detailed information on the case.

The menu includes deviled crab cakes and whiting along with coleslaw, hush puppies and traditional North Carolina barbecue.

Rep. Walter Jones R-N.C., who has introduced a House of Representatives resolution supporting Lt. Pantano, will also attend and will address attendees.

U.S. Marine Corps officials have refused to comment officially on the case, stating that to do so would jeopardize Lt. Pantano’s right to a fair trial.

The lieutenant’s case has garnered nationwide attention since the Star-News broke the story in February. Several network news programs have included features on issues arising from it.


04-01-05, 11:10 AM




04-02-05, 01:53 PM
This Marine should of had medals pinned on him, not charges!
as far the "disgruntled NCO" is concerned he should have been drop kicked out of the Corps a long tome ago.

04-02-05, 06:33 PM
The media is once again making combat troops pay the price when called to duty. War is not pretty. The media started with VietNam where they felt sympathy toward the enemy. Now Iraq!!!
They forget that when those terrorists boarded the planes on 9/11/01
they fit the description of "innocent civillians" by their defenition.
But 3,000 plus civilian deaths later they were terrorists.

The next thing you know the press will be calling for the heads of any surviving crew members of the Enola Gay for bombing the Japanese civilians to end WWII.
No wonder enlistment is down. You are asked to put your life on the line and then put under a microscope after the fact.

04-02-05, 07:51 PM
hey I have no problem with using 2 magazines to whip out 2 dudes i just wondered why he wasnt a better shot?? and heck yes brother we need to all get together for a small reunion here in Kansas City for a day and drink some coffee or eat dinner and swap some stories...

04-02-05, 08:03 PM
Originally posted by hrscowboy
hey I have no problem with using 2 magazines to whip out 2 dudes i just wondered why he wasnt a better shot?? and heck yes brother we need to all get together for a small reunion here in Kansas City for a day and drink some coffee or eat dinner and swap some stories...

Agree hrscowboy and OLE SARG, let's get it done with the small reunion and then head down to Branson, MO in June for the big one.