USA: Police State

Fallujah, U.S.A.

by William N. Grigg

While commanding a Marine platoon occupying Fallujah, Illario Pantano gunned down two unarmed Iraqi men during a search of their vehicle. After perforating the bodies of his victims with more than 60 rounds from his M-16 (which means he had to reload),Pantano attached a sign to the corpses that read: “No better friend, no worse enemy.”

In Patano’s retelling, the victims, Hamaady Kareem and Tahah Ahmead Hanjil, made a “threatening movement” in his direction after briefly conversing in Arabic. The intrepid second lieutenant, fearing for himself and the men under his command, shot them in “self-defense,” leaving the sign as a “warning” to other “insurgents.” That version was embraced by the militarist Right when Patano confronted a court-martial in 2005.

During Patano’s 2005 Article 32 hearing at Camp Lejeune (the military equivalent of a grand jury), both sides stipulated that the supposed insurgents were unarmed; that they had been detained for over an hour while their sedan was thoroughly searched under Patano’s supervision; and that shortly before the shooting Patano suddenly changed the “search” procedure, ordering the two unarmed Iraqis to search the car together after ordering two other Marines who were present to “face flank” — that is, away from what would become the scene of a war crime.

In his summation at the Article 32 hearing, Patano’s defense attorney, Charlie Gittins, insisted that there were only two valid considerations.

Lt. Pantano.

The first was that whatever Patano may have done in Fallujah on April 15, 2004, he was a Marine of irreproachable character. Presumably, this means he was simply entitled to waste a couple of unarmed Iraqi civilians.

“One of the great things about the military justice system is that character does count,” Gittins insisted. “A military judge told me a couple of weeks ago that good character still is, alone, sufficient to result in an acquittal, that you can take [the] character of the accused, you can weigh it, and you can determine that alone provides you with sufficient reasonable doubt to acquit.”

What this means, of course, is that Patano could be exonerated of war crimes on the basis of who he supposedly was, rather than what he actually did.

The second defining consideration, Gittins continued, was that “you can’t import civilian standards into a combat situation.” Sure, there is a series of steps that military personnel are required to carry out when detaining a suspected “insurgent,” but everything else is subordinate to the needs of “force protection.”

Rather than being governed by the demonstrated facts of the case, Gittins insisted, the presiding officer should consider an “alternative scenario”:

“Lieutenant Patano is standing at the vehicle three or four feet away from these Iraqis. They converse in Arabic. They decide they’re going to take his weapon and they’re going to rush him…. Lieutenant Patano might get a shot off, but one of them is going to get to him. And if that had happened, that would really be a crime. That would truly be a crime, to have a lieutenant of [the] Marines killed by two Iraqis.”

“Under no circumstances would it be reasonable for Lieutenant Patano to get within reaching distance of those two individuals,” insisted his attorney. “Shoot. Aim center of mass, shoot to kill. Just shoot if you don’t have time to go through the steps.” There’s nothing improper about pumping several dozen rounds into the targets as well, since “it’s only the first shot that matters.”

Nor does it matter that the victims were unarmed and outnumbered, Gittins maintained, since as “a matter of common sense — and you can watch it on COPS, you can watch it on any show where they have actual video … police officers on a day-to-day basis are killed by people who have no weapons.”

This would seem to contradict Gittins’ argument that it is “improper [to] import civilian standards into a combat situation.” That apparent contradiction is resolved once it is understood that every encounter between domestic police and unarmed “civilians” is considered a combat situation.

Major Mark Winn, the officer who presided at the Article 32 hearing, dismissed all of the charges against Patano. Elsewhere, the same military “justice” system that saw nothing wrong with Patano’s actions is pressing war crimes charges against Omar Khadr, who is accused of terrorism and conspiracy to commit murder for allegedly throwing a hand grenade at at U.S. soldier during a 2002 firefight in Afghanistan.

Please forgive a brief but relevant digression:

Khadr, a Canadian citizen whose relatives include jihadis sympathetic to al-Qaeda, was 15 at the time he was wounded in Afghanistan and taken into U.S. custody. He has spent more than a third of his life in Gitmo, were interrogators used threats of gang rape to terrorize him into “confessing” that he had thrown a grenade that killed an American sergeant. His interrogator was later court-martialed for abusing detainees at Afghanistan’s Bagram air base.

Thus according to the Regime’s moral calculus, a partisan fighter who may have thrown a grenade at an armed U.S. soldier invading a foreign country is a “war criminal,” but a Marine who guns down two unarmed Iraqis and then defiles their body in a premeditated act intended to “send a message” to insurgents is a war hero.

Support Your Local War Criminal: Deputy Pantano.

Owing to the strength of his appeal to the militarist Right,Pantano is likely to be elected to the House of Representatives in a couple of weeks. His first career move following his exploits in Iraq was to serve briefly as aDeputy Sheriff in Wilmington, North Carolina.

This is entirely appropriate, given that the mindset Pantano displayed in Fallujah — “force protection” is the highest and most urgent consideration — is substantively indistinguishable from the “officer safety uber alles” mindset that typifies contemporary domestic law enforcement.

Despite the fact that law enforcement is a ridiculously safe occupation — much safer than many forms of productive labor — those who wear the habiliments of the state’s coercive caste are relentlessly indoctrinated in the belief that they occupy a 360-degree battlefield, and that every Mundane they encounter should be treated as a potentially lethal threat.

In any encounter between a police officer and a mere civilian, advises Sgt. Matthew Koep of the South Plainfield, New Jersey Police Department, “What’s going to cause the situation to get worse is for the fear factor to rise in that officer. The officer is more likely to cut you a break as long as you can reduce that fear.”

This is why, according to columnist Jennifer Waters (who synthesized advice offered by Koep and several other police personnel), motorists who are stopped by the police should behave as if they’re being detained at a military checkpoint: “Don’t make any quick movements, and don’t turn to grab your purse or put your hands in your pocket or under your seat to retrieve your license — until the officer instructs you to. Then do it slowly.”

If you do anything to startle the timid creature in a government costume, you may very well end up dead — and it would be your fault.

Sure, it’s a terrible thing when a Mundane is injured or killed as a result of excessive or entirely unwarranted police violence. However, to paraphrase Charles Gittins’ defense of

Orphaned at a checkpoint in Fallujah.

Patano’s atrocity in Fallujah, it “would truly be a crime” for a sanctified personage in a policeman’s uniform to come to harm.

Anchorage resident David Zellmer was treated to a display of that same mindset on the front porch of his home after an encounter with an animal control officer. Zellmer wasn’t inclined to answer questions about his dog, so the dog catcher returned with three police officers in tow. In an transparent effort to bully their way into Zellmer’s home without a warrant or probable cause, the officers demanded his ID. Zellmer — who recorded the exchange — offered to retrieve it, but the officers insisted that they be allowed into his home.

“You guys can stay out here and I’ll go and get it,” Zellmer told them.

“Actually, we’re going to go inside with you,” one of the tax-fattened functionaries asserted.

“No, you’re not, unless you have a warrant,” Zellmer replied.

“I don’t need a warrant,” lied the armed tax-grazer.

Eventually one of the heroes in blue held up his portable torture toy.

“You see that red dot?” he sneered. “That’s a Taser. You don’t want that.”

“Sir, you’re not going to go into the house where you have access to a weapon without us going with you,” added one of the Taser-wielding thug’s boyfriends. “It’s that simple.”

Bear in mind that there were four police officers present, at least three of whom — unlike Zellmer — were armed. One of them threatened the unarmed man with a lethal weapon because he had correctly asserted his constitutionally “protected” rights. Yet the assailants were the ones who saw themselves as potential victims.

“We frequently remind the officers, and we train the officers, that once you make contact with a person at the front door, particularly if you can observe them, you have somewhat of a controlled circumstance,” explained Derek Hsieh of the local police officers union. “Once the person leaves your view, you can end up with an uncontrolled circumstance.”

This is exactly the same “force protection” doctrine Patano successfully invoked to justify his war crime in Fallujah.

“Basically, they bullied me and the threatened to Tase me,” Zellmer summarizes. “I sit in my living room and there are four cops standing in my living room. It was totally surreal. I just couldn’t believe I was in America and this was happening to me.”

The setting may be Fairbanks, Fargo, Frankfort, or Fallujah; it makes no difference. When the State’s armed enforcers are trained to act as an army of occupation,  geography is inconsequential.

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