Former Marine runs for N.C. Congress seat
02-14-2010 11:44 AM
Ilario Pantano, a former Marine who garnered national attention in 2005 when he was charged in the shooting deaths of two Iraqis but later had all charges against him withdrawn, has announced his bid for North Carolina’s 7th Congressional District seat.Pantano, 38, is a Republican and self-described political outsider. He announced Jan. 28 that he would seek to unseat Democrat Mike McIntyre, a seven-term incumbent from the state’s southernmost district. He said he hopes to shake up the Washington establishment and cites job creation as his top priority.The former second lieutenant was charged with murder in the 2004 deaths of two suspected insurgents, whom he shot 60 times after forcing them to search their own car for explosives. Afterward, he left a sign by their bodies reading “No better friend. No worse enemy.”Although the prosecution said the killings were not justified, Pantano said the men had moved toward him in a threatening manner. They had been detained by Pantano’s unit — 2nd Battalion, 2nd Marines, out of Camp Lejeune, N.C. — after fleeing a house that contained insurgent propaganda, mortar equipment and possible bomb-making materials.Following Pantano’s Article 32 hearing, all charges against him were withdrawn.He first enlisted in the Marine Corps at 17, became a scout sniper and served during the Persian Gulf War. He left the Corps to pursue an education, then worked on Wall Street, started his own business and, in the wake of Sept. 11, decided to rejoin the service as an officer. Since 2006, he has worked as a deputy sheriff in North Carolina. He also wrote a book about his experiences and now is pursuing a master’s degree in national security policy.Winning the May 4 primary, he said, is his priority.Pantano regards the Afghanistan and Iraq wars as critical, but said they have been poorly managed.In Iraq, he said, waste ran rampant, hampering the mission and robbing taxpayers.“You don’t need 31 flavors of Baskin Robbins at a [forward operating base],” he said. “With so many supply trucks coming down [main supply routes], you have to close them and then [Iraqi parents] can’t get their kids to school. That builds resentment.”That kind of resentment, he said, fostered the insurgency and led to unnecessary bloodshed.“We were pushed into situations where we killed people that would have not needed to be killed,” he said, adding that under other circumstances, many Iraqis may not have turned to violence.
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