Many of you have emailed me the WND story of Lt Pantano who killed two Iraqis suspected of being insurgents on April 15th, 2004. According to the report, he shouted in Arabic for the two suspects to stop running at him, and, when they didn't obey, he killed them.
Apparently, Lt Pantano reported the incident. I believe that the Marine Corps initially investigated the incident and found no wrong doing.
Then, months later, a Marine labeled as "disgruntled" made a charge that Lieutenant Pantano murdered the two suspects. The US Marine Corps opened an Article 32 investigation and formally charged Lt Pantano on February 1st, 2005. Under the Uniform Code of Military Justice, Lt Pantano may now face the Death Penalty if convicted of murder.
I was contacted by Lt Pantano's mother, who happens to be a literary agent in New York. She started a web site - Defend the Defenders (which has been down all day due to high traffic) - to garner support for her son.
Rosemary of My Newz 'n Ideas has more info on what you can do - phone numbers for your Congressmen and Senators and the Pentagon.
If the details of this story don't change (meaning that we know everything at this point), the charges will be beaten, but that doesn't mean that Lt Pantano doesn't need your support. He absolutely does. And, while this story is making the rounds on every single cable news channel, it's time to cover this Marine's six. Please bear with me for a moment:
The main problem with this story is the effect that the legal wrangling will have on combat - this will cause Marines to either second guess their options/hesitate around suspects or to not get engaged in the area of operations at all. Why would you take a risk if you knew that you might be charged for making a legitimate mistake?
How can the Marine Corps make a case without Criminal Intent? Premeditated murder in a combat zone?
Either some details are missing in the media or there is pressure coming from the civilian side about this. The fact that Pantano was also charged with Destruction of (private) Property for shooting out the tires of the vehicle and having the Iraqi suspects tear out the seats of their vehicle to search for a bomb indicates external pressure. Seriously, it's a ridiculous charge. So be sure to visit Rosemary's blog and call your representatives. If there is undue pressure from the civilian side of the DOD, you can help offset it.
Unfortunately, one thing here is most likely true: When this is over, I doubt that Lieutenant Pantano, as much as a Patriot as he is, will have much stomach for being a Marine.