I’ve been a fan of Ilario Pantano’s since first hearing about him. The New York native has the sort of American dream back story writers drool over: Born into tough circumstances, he worked hard and found success on Wall Street. Then, when 9/11 happened, patriotism caused him to walk away from fortune and return to the Marine Corps to serve his country. That is — simply put — a fantastic story.
But in those post-Abu Ghraib days in Iraq, when the split second decisions of the troops on the battlefield were scrutinized by people sitting in comfy seats in Congress, people so far removed from the battlefield that they assumed the worst of our service members, Ilario got swept up in an investigation into the supposed murder of civilians in Iraq. He always maintained his innocence and the charges against him were ultimately dropped, but his Marine Corps career was over. I wrote about his struggles back then and expressed my support for him, as well as for the Marines who were accused in the so-called “Haditha Massacre” — another “massacre” that never was. (Those Marines were also cleared.)
Fortunately for those of us in southeastern North Carolina, Ilario decided to stay here. I got to meet him last year when he was campaigning to represent us in the Senate and was very impressed. He is the most sincere politician I’ve ever met. I’d vote for him in a heartbeat. (And, to all my CrossFit buddies — He’s a CrossFitter, too!) Had he picked any other district, I think he would have won. He ran a very good race. He has also written a book about his ordeal with the investigation.
Today this column about Ilario appeared in the New York Post. It’s a good read and worth your time. But the most important sentences are these:
Five years too late, Ilario Pantano has finally found justice — as have those Marines accused in the Haditha case, who had the charges against them dropped over time, as well.
But two nagging questions remain. When will the media quit treating every war incident involving Americans as if it were My Lai? And when will our military justice system stop second-guessing our troops on the battlefield and let them do their job?