Wednesday, February 1, 2012

Operation Fast And Furious: A Very Baffling Scandal

A few months back I read about a truly mind-blowing scandal involving the Bureau of Alcohol Firearms and Tobacco. Apparently the organization had been supplying guns to Mexican drug cartels which - unsurprisingly- had since been used to kill people.

Now in many parts of the world you would assume that corrupt members of the ATF were boosting their income by moonlighting as arms dealers. In Mexico the police, government and gangs are closely interlinked, and nobody is shocked.  In the 1990s some Russian soldiers sold weapons to the Chechen militants they were fighting. Why? Everybody knew: to supplement their miserable earnings.

But America is more complex than that. Apparently the ATF was “walking” the weapons to Mexico to… well, I’m not sure what exactly. I think they were trying to see if American guns were reaching the murderous barbarians who run the cartels. Well obviously they were, because the ATF itself was sending the drug lords THOUSANDS OF GUNS.

But not for cash, no… they wanted to prove a point…. Maybe the ATF was trying to trace the routes by which these weapons made it into Mexico. I’m not sure, the whole story makes so little sense. Tell you what, I’ll Google it. Back in a jiffy…

… alright, I just checked, and it still doesn’t make any sense. According to CNN:

…the ATF allowed people suspected of being straw-purchasers of weapons to sell their weapons, hoping to build bigger cases against Mexican criminal organizations.

You got that? They were going after the big fish in another country by selling them lots of lethal weapons. Nah, it still doesn’t make any sense, especially as the US government had neglected to inform the Mexican authorities, and has no jurisdiction over crimes carried out in Mexican territory anyway.

I also take it as a very bad sign that the ATF called this gory farce Operation Fast and Furious, after a very poor Vin Diesel film about cars. I mean, Vin Diesel? At least choose a film from the oeuvre of a major action star such as Schwarzenegger, or Bruce Willis, or Stallone. You know, like Operation Predator or Operation Die Hard or Operation Cop Land.

Expanding upon the Stallone theme perhaps Operation The Expendables might have been a better choice as the ATF inadvertently caused the death of a Border Patrol Agent named Brian Terry. He was gunned down in Arizona in 2010 by a gangster using one of the guns his ATF colleagues had kindly sent across the Rio Grande, one of an estimated 1,400 (out of 2,000) that remain in circulation. The weapons trafficked by the US government south have been linked to 179 crime scenes in Mexico. One of them was even used to shoot at a Mexican military helicopter. Great work guys!

As I said, I first heard about this in June when a Congressman named Darrel Issa chaired hearings into the debacle. Apparently ATF agents had been intercepting the weapons on the way south, only to be told by their superiors to let them through. The thing is, nobody seemed to know who was ultimately responsible. When questioned by the Issa panel, Obama’s hapless Attorney General, Eric Holder, denied all knowledge of his subordinates’ scheme.

At this point I expected the story to explode, since clearly somebody very high up was lying. But as usual I underestimated the servile nature of the American press, at least when a Democratic administration is in office. Instead the story went down the memory hole. How is that possible, you ask? I’m not sure myself. It just disappeared.

Conservative bloggers attempted to fan the flames of the scandal, but the White House ignored their criticisms as politically motivated. I myself was turned off by the Right’s paranoid theorizing that the Fed’s plan was to permit Mexican gangsters to buy guns as an excuse to clamp down on the E-Z access to guns US citizens so enjoy.

And thus you see the perfect alchemical marriage of a cosmically incompetent Federal bureau and a criminally complacent “mainstream” media acting to shield Holder (one of Obama’s key lieutenants) from a potentially career destroying scandal.

Recently however a reporter at CBS realized that a Federal Agency supplying Mexican gangsters with thousands of guns is actually a major news story and uncovered documents revealing that the Attorney General had been briefed on the operation in May 2010- which directly contradicted his claim (made under oath) that he had only heard about it a few weeks before Issa’s hearings began.

Isn’t that called perjury? According to CBS news, Holder’s office says no:

Holder misunderstood that question from the committee - he did know about Fast and Furious - just not the details.

…this in spite of the fact that he received weekly briefings on the subject starting in July 2010. Guess he was too busy playing The Great Gatsby for Nintendo online. It’s so implausible even ‘serious’ American journalists are starting to take notice. We may get to the bottom of this baffling scandal yet.