Tuesday, April 26, 2005

Is Pantano Witness a Cook or a Spook?

Two major dailies offer conflicting descriptions of a chief witness in the Ilario Pantano hearing today. Pantano, a 2nd lieutenant in the Marine Corps, may be charged with capital murder, pending the outcome of the hearing. A Marine identified only as "Corporal O" was a key witness for the prosecution today. This is how The New York Times describes him:
An Arabic translator who was at the scene of the killings, identified at the hearing only as Corporal O because of what officials said was his involvement with counterintelligence operations, said he questioned the two men after they were seized while leaving a house suspected of being an insurgent nest.
That makes Corporal O sound a lot more important than this paragraph from the Washington Post account:
"Corporal O," described as a cook working to be an Arabic linguist, said the men were scared and claimed to be visiting family in the residence. After the shooting, he testified, the men "looked like they were on their knees. They were shot in the backs."
Common sense would say that WaPo got it right, and the NYT reporter missed something.

Today's testimony focused on the positions of the bodies as described by Corporal O, and the so-called "death card" ("No better friend, no worse enemy") that Pantano admitted placing on the Iraqis' car after the shooting. The "death card" would seem to have no relevance at all to what occurred, but it is prejudicial to Pantano's case.

My understanding is that President George W. Bush, as Commander-In-Chief of the Armed Forces, has the authority to stop these proceedings at any time and order charges against Pantano dropped. It's time he did so.