Self-Defense or Murder in Iraq?

After a year of officer's training and a steep pay cut, Pantano was assigned as a second lieutenant to Easy Company of the 2nd battalion of the 2nd Regiment of Marines -- 2-2, for short -- in January 2004. In mid-March, he arrived in Iraq. Officially, the battalion was on a peacekeeping mission, but the Marines soon realized that the Iraqi insurgency meant business. Pantano kept close watch on his platoon and, according to published reports, was well-respected by his peers and the military's top brass.

The Marine Corps is not talking, but, according to published reports, it is confident in its case against Pantano.

"My suspicion is that the Marines woudn't have gotten this far without credible evidence," said Scott L. Silliman, a military law expert at Duke University's law school.

Pantano's lawyer believes this trial sets a terrible precedent.

"It will lead to Marines and soldiers wondering what they should do instead of doing it when in a similar situation, and it is likely to get an American killed," Gittins wrote in an e-mail message to

As the case gets more coverage, Web sites have popped up debating Pantano's acts. One entry on's blog reads, "I do not agree that Marines will hesitate to shoot. I've thought about that too. But I know that's not how we're trained. And all of us would rather be tried by 12 than carried by six."

Regardless of the training, Silliman believes that soldiers are also taught discipline. "Just because you are fighting insurgents doesn't mean you follow different rules."

Jill Pantano reiterated on "Good Morning America" that the truth will come out. "I trust my husband's judgment implicitly. He was there to protect his men and he told their mothers he would bring them all home safe alive and he did."

The Bodies

The Marines recently sent Gittins a letter from an Iraqi doctor who allegedly performed post-mortem examinations on the two Iraqis.

The letter, according to Gittins, doesn't prove anything. He says it's dated March 15, 2005 -- nearly a year after the shooting occurred -- the letter is translated by the Marine Corps, and the doctor's statement is very unclear.

"I can't even say if he [the doctor] knows he is talking about the right day or the right bodies."

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