I recently shared a cup of Java with a man who commanded a mine sweeper. After the Gulf War, he represented America’s interests with some thoroughly nasty people in some profoundly undemocratic parts of the world. Like tens of millions of Americans, he’d never heard of the Gunwalker scandal. As I explained the history of the ATF’s gun-smuggling enablement program and subsequent cover-up, I grew increasingly skeptical about my own account of the story. In the end, he had to reassure me that Gunwalker wasn’t some bizarre spy novel . . .
After that, I shared my suspicions about the role of bribery in the ATF’s efforts to “allow” guns purchased in the U.S. to walk to Mexican drug cartels. Despite derisory snorts from the website that “broke” the scandal, I continue to suspect that ATF agents at the sharp end saw project Gunwalker and Operation Fast and Furious as a way to make a quick buck.
Hence no GPS trackers on the guns. Or arrests of ATF-tagged gun smugglers at the border. Or any attempt to follow the weapons into Mexico [via Mexican law enforcement] and arrest the “big fish” supposedly opening the sluice gates of the “Iron River” of smuggled guns. Any of these activities would have queered the deal for both the bad guys and the agents sucking cash from the bad guys.
To be clear, I agree that the ATF initiated the anti-gunrunning gunrunning program as a form of bureaucratic self-aggrandizement. And it worked; Congress shelled-out an “extra” $180 million for new agents and offices to plump the pillows under Project Gunrunner. But I’d bet dollars to donuts that the [almost] well-intentioned program quickly sank into a morass of personal corruption.
“Why wouldn’t they let a few guns walk for a few thousand dollars per run?” my Navy guy asked. “Maybe even a few hundred. That’s tax-free cash; worth twice as much as anything they make in salary . . . Anyway, that’s besides the point.
“The cartels are worth billions. By now, they control the Mexican government. Influence it at the highest level. The United States government supports the Mexican government. So the United States government supports the cartels. Some of them. The ones the Mexican government likes. The friend of my friend is my friend.
“You don’t think [the] State [department] knows that U.S. military weapons are going to the cartels? Of course they do. But there’s one thing Uncle Sam values above anything else in its foreign policy: stability. They’ll make a deal with anyone to keep things on an even keel. What is it [you said] the Brits say about playing ball with bad people?”
“You’ve got to go along to get along,” I replied.
Makes sense to me. As Calvin Coolidge remarked, “the business of America is business.” U.S. firearms and ammunition sales to drug cartels (through Mexican law enforcement agencies and the country’s military forces) are big business. Why mess with that? What for? To stop the drug trade?
Where’s the evidence that the U.S. wants to do that? In January, the head of the Department of Homeland Security declared “mission accomplished” re: securing America’s southern border. And still billions of dollars worth of marijuana, cocaine and meth flow north. And guns and ammo flow south, via sales to the drug thugs’ government proxies.
Conjecture? OK, let’s get some facts then. Let’s ask The Freedom Group how many Bushmaster ARs they’ve sold to the Mexican police and federales. How many of these weapons remain under government control? How many found their way to the drug cartels via “seepage”?
The Mexican government could give us an idea of what’s really going on with the cartels’ weaponry by releasing data on ALL the weapons they’ve confiscated from the drug gangs. Don’t hold your breath. The Mexicans started withholding the entirety of their captured gun data about the same time Project Gunrunner gained traction. Coincidence? I don’t think so.
Gun rights groups outraged by the Gunwalker scandal believe the Obama administration put the pedal-to-the-metal on the ATF’s anti-gun-running gun running to launch a jihad against American gun owners. The ATF’s stalled attempt to create an illegal long gun registry on our southern border—to combat a crisis of their own creation—certainly seems to square that circle. BUT—
Think of Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious as a classic magic trick. The audience pays attention to the hand waving about rather than the hand doing the actual “magic.” In the same sense, the ATF’s nominal interdiction efforts focused attention away from the real devil’s bargain between America and the Mexican drug cartels (i.e. the Mexican government).
Well, it would have if the ATF had enabled the illegal sales but stopped the gun smugglers from actually smuggling. If the agents hadn’t been greedy and let the guns go native. (My guess.) Then a member of a Mexican “rip crew” wouldn’t have shot Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry with an ATF-enabled rifle. And ICE Agent Zapata wouldn’t have shared a similar fate.
But they did. So now our duly elected representatives are raising a stink about the ATF and the chain of command that gave Project Gunrunner and Operation Fast and Furious the go-ahead—and then tried to cover-up their shenanigans. Which are both far-reaching and profoundly anti-democratic.
That’s democratic with a small “d”. At least until now. Democratic legislators have fired off a letter to the Prez demanding “prompt and complete answers to the questions surrounding this operation.” The bi-partisan push threatens to open a whole can of worms. If Democrats want answers, we may actually get some–but they won’t be the ones Gunwalker watchers expect.
“”I wouldn’t be surprised if they arranged to have crates of American-made guns delivered straight to the cartels,” my Navy guy said. “It’s in no one’s interest for the truth to come out.”
“No one except Brian Terry’s family,” I said. And yet we’ve heard nothing from them, either. Have they been bought off? Has everyone?
“Not yet,” Navy guy said, referring to the Congressional investigators and their newfound Democratic allies. “You know that old joke about the guy who asks a beautiful woman if she’ll sleep with him for a million bucks? We already know what kind of people politicians are. It’s only a matter of time before they start haggling over price.”