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ILARIO PANTANO’S MISSION

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By Michelle Malkin  •  June 12, 2006 10:01 AM

***update: Ilario on the Today Show***

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I couldn’t put down 2nd Lt. Ilario Pantano’s new book, Warlord. Put it at the top of your summer reading list. Send a copy to your local troops-bashing columnist or cartoonist. The writing is riveting. The timing fortuitous. The message timeless. Pantano has give us more than just a war story. This is an American story.

Blog readers will be familiar with the basic true-life military and courtroom drama that Pantano endured last year. Last spring, Pantano was fighting for his life—charged by the U.S. military with premeditated murder in the deaths of two Iraqi insurgents. The Marine sniper who enlisted at 17, served in Desert Storm, and rejoined the military after 9/11 at 31 faced the death penalty for defending himself and his men in the heat of battle. He was accused then, as Marines are being accused now, of wantonly executing Iraqis to send a message.

Lt. Pantano and his family fought back. He was exonerated. But not, however, without deep personal costs. After going through hell, he resigned from the Marines. He and his family faced jihadi death threats—including some posted on a website traced to Pakistan showing Lt. Pantano beheaded. Retired Marines set up a security watch to stand guard around his home.

In a passage that reminds me of the Times of London/Chicago Sun-Times Haditha photo debacle, Pantano recounted how Al-Jazeera ran his story “with a bogus picture of two blindfolded detainees and a caption suggesting that I had shot two bound and blindfolded men.”

Because the press and propagandists spread his photos and smeared his name far and wide, he is forced to this day to take extraordinary precautions to protect his lovely wife and two children.

Milbloggers countered the rush to judgment about Pantano. Euphoric Reality helped expose Pantano’s chief accuser–an unhinged, disgruntled sergeant who trolled on milblogs badmouthing Pantano and posting information that conflicted with his acccounts to naval investigators. The revelations helped sink the prosecution’s case. Euphoric Reality has an audio interview with Pantano up today here.

I was honored to meet Pantano (and his wife, Jill) last week. Our segment with him is now available for viewing at Hot Air.

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In a striking twist of fate, Pantano’s book comes at a time when his experience, his perspective, and his abiding faith in the Marines and our country are all needed now more than ever.

His mission: Defend the Defenders who volunteer to put themselves in harm’s way for their countrymen.

Your mission: Make this book a best-seller.

Spread the word.

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