Jewish World Review Feb. 25, 2005 / 16 Adar I, 5765
Is the Marine Corps P.C.?
This Marine veteran, who had already served his country in the
first Gulf War, set aside his career (which also included work in film and
television), kissed his wife and two children goodbye, and headed to
Quantico, Va., for officer training school.
A Marine Corps colleague asked, "How many guys do you know (who)
would drop 100 grand a year to go sleep in fighting holes in the nasty mud
and dust for what 25 grand a year?"
There are a few and the rest of us owe them more than we can
possibly express which is why it is shocking to learn that Pantano may
now be facing murder charges.
In April 2004, American and Iraqi troops were under constant
terrorist attack in the Sunni Triangle. Hundreds were being killed and
wounded. Weapons of choice for the insurgents included roadside bombs,
booby-trapped vehicles and animals, combatants disguised as women and
suicide attackers feigning surrender before blowing themselves up.
The Washington Times reports that on April 15, 2004, "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 (Iraqis) 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." (Presumably so that any booby
traps would not kill U.S. Marines.)
After a few minutes, the two suspected insurgents stopped
searching and began to move quickly toward Lt. Pantano. Pantano's lawyer
explained that "they started talking in Arabic and turned toward him as if
they were going to rush him." Pantano shouted at them in Arabic to stop.
They did not. He shot and killed both of them. He then placed a sign on the
SUV repeating the slogan of Marine Gen. James N. Mattis, "No better friend;
No worse Enemy."
Investigation later revealed that the vehicle held no explosives
or weapons. By this time, Pantano had participated in the battle of
Fallujah. A superior officer evaluated him as an "accomplished infantry
leader. His actions during the fighting in Fallujah and Al Zaidon
highlighted a solid understanding of tactics and an ability to anticipate
the enemy. Leads from the front always and balances his aggressive style
with true concern for the welfare of his Marines. Exceptional communication
skills for a 2nd Lt. Organized, aggressive, focused and driven. Ready for
increased responsibility. Retain, promote, and assign to challenging
Except that he now waits in Camp Lejeune, N.C., while the Marine
Corps considers whether to indict him for murder in the case of those Iraqi
SUV drivers charges that could carry a sentence of death. He has also
been advised that he may face charges of "desecration" for placing the sign
on the SUV. A Marine Corps spokesman estimated that a decision on whether
Pantano faces a general court martial will be forthcoming in late March or
Obviously, the United States cannot turn a blind eye to war
crimes. If a soldier lines up civilians in front of a pit, My Lai style, and
massacres them, he would richly deserve (and every self-respecting American
would demand) a court martial. But good Lord, by what possible standard can
this be called murder?
Pantano was in the middle of a war zone, not a vacation in the
Riviera. He had been dodging ambushes and booby traps for weeks. He'd seen
his comrades killed and maimed. Perhaps he acted too hastily in shooting
those Iraqis. But a murder charge? Has the Marine Corps gone P.C.?
Pantano's parents have created a Web site for those who would
like to help their son and others like him. "DefendtheDefenders.org stands
behind the man who puts his life on the line again and again, who makes life
or death decisions in the blazing heat, exhaustion, fear and confusion of
war while conducting combat operations ... (and later) becomes the subject
... of formal charges."
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