Saturday, December 31, 2011

Pantano for Congress

Sometimes you watch someone in a television interview that just catches your interest. I had that pleasure as I watched a video of a man now running for Congress in North Carolina.

Here is what caught my attention:

This is his life narrative, in his own words:

"I was born and raised in Hell's Kitchen, NY, which is about as far away from here that you can get," Pantano said. "I enlisted in the Marines at 17. I fought in the first Gulf War. I was based here at Camp Lejeune. After the Berlin Wall came down and it was clear that this was a very different time and place than when I had gone into the Marines, I made a decision to get out and go work on Wall Street. I did what the son of an immigrant does: you go out and try to make some money."

After the attacks of September 11, 2001, he re-enlisted in the military.

Pantano requested, and was granted, an age waiver, and a waiver for a dependent, to re-enlist. A sergeant when he first left the Marines after the Gulf War, he was now commissioned as a second lieutenant and assigned to lead an infantry platoon. He expected a lot from the Marines under his command but quickly earned their respect as a thoughtful, capable and passionate officer.

He experienced the wrath of the American press over one mission that resulted in the death of two Iraqis.

On April 15, 2004, Pantano and his men were dispatched to investigate a house outside Mahmudiya that intelligence indicated was being occupied by insurgents. Wary of being drawn into an ambush, he sent a dozen men to raid the house while the rest guarded the flanks. Suddenly a white car approached. Pantano’s Marines fired warning shots, and the two unarmed men inside the vehicle surrendered.

After the two Iraqis had been detained, Pantano dispatched one of his Marines to inspect their vehicle. His troops found a sizeable weapons cache inside the house and, taking no chances, Pantano ordered the captured Iraqis to thoroughly re-inspect the vehicle. Accompanied by two other Marines, both with their backs turned to him, Pantano supervised the Iraqis as they looked for weapons. Believing that the men — who ignored orders to stop whispering and then turned on him abruptly — had decided to charge him, Pantano opened fire, killing both.

One of the men with his back turned, a sergeant who had clashed with Pantano in the past, filed a report claiming Pantano had unjustly executed the captured Iraqis. Pantano was relieved of his command and faced charges that, were he convicted, could have resulted in the death penalty.

“It’s amazing to face murder charges in the high intensity combat in which we were in,” Pantano told TheDC. “It’s like getting a speeding ticket at the Indy 500.”

Eventually the case against Pantano fell apart. No one could corroborate the sergeant’s allegations and the evidence, including autopsies of the dead Iraqis, seemed to exonerate him of any wrongdoing.

The military dismissed the charges in May 2005, but not before Pantano underwent what he feels was unfair treatment from some media outlets. “This was in the wake of [the] Abu Ghraib [torture scandal], and they were looking for a scapegoat,” he said.

His opponent for the GOP nomination is a more traditional North Carolinian - he worked for Jesse Helms and Elizabeth Dole. His family roots are deep in the state.

In 2012 it is important to take notice and support those candidates that capture the imagination. It is crucial to elect men and women who will take a stand and won't go wobbly, as Margaret Thatcher once said.

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