NORTH CAROLINA: One of the 'Few Good Men' running for Congress

Ilario Pantano, Marine Corps veteran who was wrongly accused, then exonerated of premeditated murder in the deaths of two Iraqi insurgents is now the Republican nominee for North Carolina’s 7th District seat in the U.S. House of Representatives.

WND As a second lieutenant, Pantano was leading a platoon in the volatile Sunni Triangle in 2004 when, he contended, he acted in self-defense against suspected insurgents during a weapons-cache raid. But Marine Corps prosecutors insisted Pantano broke the military code and executed the Iraqis to send a message to the enemy. Pantano had faced a possible court-martial and death sentence before he was cleared by his commanding officer, Maj. Gen. Richard Huck.

He now is challenging Democrat incumbent Mike McIntyre in a district located in the southeastern corner of North Carolina that includes Wilmington and part of Fayetteville.

Recalling his two stints in the Marine Corps, during the first Gulf War and then again after 9/11, he told WND Radio he has “a background in my life of going toward the sound of the guns, of choosing service and sacrifice.”

“When I see my country under attack with the (Nancy) Pelosi agenda driving the bus, hijacking our country, killing industry, killing jobs, raising taxes and making it hard for businesses, big and small, to be effective and compete in America … boy, this is the war,” he said referring to the Democratic House majority leader.

Washington, D.C., he said, has “become the most dangerous place in the world.”

“What we need now, said Pantano, “are dedicated men and women, people interested in being civil servants, not politicians, going to Washington and doing the right things for the country – not lining their pockets and bringing back all the pork they can for their districts.”

After serving in the first Gulf War, Pantano worked on Wall Street and started his own business. Then came 9/11. After witnessing the terrorist attack on New York City, he raced to a barbershop and traded his shoulder-length hair for a Marine buzz cut, re-enlisting at age 31. By then he had a wife, a son and another child on the way.

“There was something very disturbing to me about the occasion of guys wielding box cutters slitting the throats of unarmed stewardesses and flying planes into our buildings shouting ‘Allahu Akbar,'” he said. “Something about that triggered my need to get back into the Marine Corps and get back into the fight, because it was clear that our nation was at war.”

The events of April 15, 2004, changed his life, when he shot and killed two insurgents in Al Anbar province. Months later – after engaging in successful missions, including battles for Fallujah – a sergeant under his command disputed his self-defense claim in the Al Anbar shootings. After a widely publicized military hearing and a grass-roots campaign led by his mother, called Defend the Defenders, Pantano was cleared of all charges.

The case drew outrage from many supporters of U.S. troops, including a congressman, who argued it could cause other Marines to question their own actions, possibly endangering both their own life and the continued success of the war on terror.

Pantano didn’t mince words as a Marine, and he doesn’t hold back in describing his Democrat opponent, McIntyre, as someone who “might represent the worst kind of hypocrite.” “He talks like Jesse Helms,” Pantano said, referring to the iconic late Republican senator from his state. “But when he goes to Washington, he votes with Nancy Pelosi.”

He calls McIntyre a “big taxing, big spending, big appropriator.” Pantano believes the federal government “is not our path to prosperity, it’s the private sector.” He tells voters: “I have a track record in my life of serving you and protecting you before you ever heard of me.”

Pantano at the 9/11 Ground Zero Victory Mosque protest in NYC