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    Wednesday, March 02, 2005

    United States Armed Forces Persecutes Marine for Doing His Job

    01 March 2005

    Since I am several weeks behind, most of you have already heard about Marine Corps 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano. For those of you who haven't (and to be honest, the media has been fairly silent on this issue, in my opinion), Lt. Pantano is being charged by the USMC with premeditated murder. He could get the death penalty if convicted. What did he do to deserve having these charges brought against him? He shot two suspected terrorists in south Baghdad. "He was leading a quick-reaction platoon raiding a house full of weapons. Two suspected terrorists had emerged from the house [where the marines found several mortar aiming stakes, a flare gun, three AK rifles, 10 AK magazines with assault vests and IED making material], 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. After Lt. Pantano had ordered them (in Arabic) to stop what they were doing, the suspects unexpectedly turned toward the Lieutenant to rush at him. So Lt. Pantano made a split-second decision to preserve his life and those of his men [In other words, he made them stop with the application of deadly force]. It turned out the two suspects were unarmed [a fact that he could not have known when they rushed him]. 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." In a world that made sense, that would have been the end of the matter. Lt. Pantano was in a combat situation, and he shot two of the enemy as they rushed toward him and his men. That's his job. It's what we pay him to do.

    But apparently, the ugly world of politics has crept into the bureaucracy of the United States armed forces. You see, the actions by Lt. Pantano took place in April. He has only been charged recently. I have heard that, despite corroborating evidence by a naval officer, Pantano is being charged on the lone accusation of an enlisted man with a history of trouble-making. The Marines are probably afraid of an ACLU lawsuit or some such thing if they don't prosecute Lt. Pantano, so they are sacrificing him to make themselves look good. At the same time, the Naval Criminal Investigative Service is using political doubletalk to make it sound like the Lieutenant hasn't actually been charged with anything yet. It's politics, it's ugly, and it has no business in our military. The charges against Lt. Pantano need to be dropped immediately and if the ACLU does sue the Marines over this incident, they need to be sued themselves for endangering our soldiers. If our soldiers have to stop and ponder whether the enemy rushing toward them really means to kill them or not for fear of an ACLU lawsuit if they choose wrong, their effectiveness will be greatly reduced as will their safety. If our soldiers become paralyzed by murky political considerations, they will be little better than targets. That the marines would do something like this to one of our soldiers for any reason is downright criminal.

    The media coverage of this story has been, for lack of a better word, incomplete. Of particular interest to the discerning reader will be the TIME 'article' below. It's really an opinion piece -- and not a very well-reasoned one at that. That TIME would print such a specimen speaks volume about the quality of their publication. This editorial contains ad hominem attacks, digression, affirming the consequent, non causa pro causa (possibly), and who knows how many other formal fallacies. Of course, in the author's defense, TIME might have minimum word limits, which leads to a lot of excess verbiage, which, in turn, can cloud the issue (it's the main reason so much academic prose is so obtuse). My impression of the piece was that the author, Paul Quinn-Judge, seems to focus solely on the seriousness of the charges against Pantano (erroneously assuming that the charges themselves are evidence of wrongdoing). While he finally admits that Pantano "received word that a large arms cache had been found in the house the men had just left" (of course, this falls short of the detail available: "several mortar aiming stakes, a flare gun, three AK rifles, 10 AK magazines with assault vests and IED making material"), Quinn-Judge does not seem to think that this should make Pantano any more wary of the suspects if they were to, say, make any sudden moves. My criticisms of the author's presentation notwithstanding, this article does provide an alternative view of the circumstances of the actual shooting that is not presented in the other articles I have read -- of course, that view is largely that of the unnamed sergeant who filed the complaint. In my opinion, the evidence favors Pantano, but I don't have access to all the evidence.

    To me, perhaps the most disturbing thing about this whole matter is the fact that the burden of proof in the media reporting seems to be on Lt. Pantano. This is not correct. In such cases, the burden of proof is on the state. Anyone ever hear of 'innocent until proven guilty'? Lt. Pantano is not guilty unless the reasoned findings of a court indicate that he is so. Yet, why do we have only Lt. Pantano's name? Why don't we have the name of his accuser? Why don't we have the name of the particular officer who is responsible for prosecuting him? Why don't we have the name of the officer who ordered that the charges be brought against Lt. Pantano months after the fact? Considering that these people have the burden of proof in this case, do they not deserve the same scrutiny that the defendant gets? Apparently not. If you notice, in many cases that are reported, if the name of the accuser and the prosecutor, if they are mentioned at all, are difficult to find. More difficult if it's a federal prosecutor. Why is the media so willing to print the name of the accused, but either de-emphasizes, or totally omits the name of the prosecutor and the accuser in many cases? If the prosecutor and the accuser are honest, then there is no reason to conceal their identity (this does not conclude that they are dishonest, but it raises the question). This practice has the danger of giving the false impression that the accused is guilty before there has even been a trial. And they call bloggers irresponsible . . .
    ---------A Marine accused
    ---------FBI probing threat against accused Marine
    ---------Fire Lt. Pantano's accusers
    ---------TIME: Did He Go Too Far? -- How a shooting in Iraq led to murder charges against a respected Marine
    ---------This US Marine Needs Your Help
    ---------Witness says accused Marine ordered Iraqis to stop


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    "If you love wealth more than liberty, the tranquility of servitude better than the animating contest of freedom, depart from us in peace. We ask not your counsel nor your arms. Crouch down and lick the hand that feeds you. May your chains rest lightly upon you and may posterity forget that you were our countrymen."

    --Samuel Adams

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