Marine 2nd Lieutenant Ilario Pantano will not face a court-martial over charges that he murdered two Iraqi insrugents. The Associated Press reports:
The Marine Corps dropped murder charges Thursday against an officer accused of riddling two Iraqis with bullets and hanging a warning sign on their corpses as a grisly example to other suspected insurgents.Gittins's statements to the press throughout this case have often struck me as ill-considered, and his latest comment is no exception. No one assumed Pantano was guilty. Instead, they followed up on what appeared to be credible charges of wrongdoing, letting the question of Pantano's guilt or innocence be decided by the military justice system.
Autopsies conducted on the Iraqis' exhumed bodies backed 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano's assertion that he shot them in self-defense after the men disobeyed his instructions and made a menacing move toward him, Marine officials said.
..."Down at the unit level, there was never a question about Ilario's conduct and whether or not he did the right thing," said Charles Gittins, Pantano's civilian lawyer. "It was up in the higher echelons. The people removed from combat situations needed to put more trust in their officers rather than assuming they're guilty."
It's not clear whether Pantano will face administrative punishment for shooting the bodies of the insurgents an excessive number of times, as investigating officer Lt. Col. Mark E. Winn had previously recommended. But regardless, Pantano must be breathing a lot more easily now.
How many New Yorkers thought about joining the military after 9-11? Pantano did more than just think. He left behind a high-paying job, a beautiful wife, a young son, and the comforts of civillian life. Like Pat Tillman, who walked away from a multi-million-dollar pro football contract to fight (and ultimately, to die) in Afghanistan, he felt certain things were more important than his own personal happiness.
Pantano may have made a bad decision when he shot, and kept shooting, the two insurgents to "send a message". But in those painful days after 9-11, he made an amazingly selfless and admirable one. With his legal troubles and his career in the Marines apparently over, I hope he is able to able to once again enjoy everything he gave up to serve his country.
Pantano may indeed enjoy civillian life again someday, but not right away, if he can help it. According to a statement by his attorney (which was included at the end of the article I linked above, but which I missed), he wants to try to return to a combat unit. Amazing.