Ah, the final entry in my series on scandals plaguing the Obama administration. I saved Operation Fast And Furious for last for several reasons. For one, it’s the most complicated, and I was lazy. For another, it’s probably the biggest. For a third, it kept getting stranger and stranger.
Here’s where it’s a wee bit odd: yes, it’s the most complicated. But it’s actually very simple — the basic facts are very clear and, by and large, undisputed. It’s when you get past the surface elements and actually try to understand what the hell the whole thing was about — even to the nature of the “cover story” — that it goes right off into Cloud Cuckoo Land.
It all started as a program that, officially, was to help fight the Mexican drug cartels. The drug cartels like guns, and we try to make getting them inconvenient for the cartel. This doesn’t slow them down much, but it’s something. So someone got the bright idea of making it easier for the cartels to get their guns from otherwise law-abiding American gun dealers through “straw buyers.”
Everyone knows the concept. It’s like a group of youngsters pooling their money and sending the one kid with the best fake ID to buy the booze — except in this case, the convenience store clerk has been specifically told by the cops to take the ID at face value, and the beer is actually high-powered weapons.
Anyway, the cartels found some people who were willing to buy the guns from the gun shops, then deliver them to the cartels — who would then smuggle them across the border into Mexico, for their own use in attempting to destroy the government of Mexico. And the gun stores, who normally look very suspiciously at these “innocent” buyers, were specifically “asked” by the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms, and Explosives (what we used to call the ATF, and I still will here ‘cuz it’s fewer letters to type) to turn off their normal suspicions and let the buys go through.
Now, note the quote marks around “ask.” To a gun dealer, the ATF is God. And it is not a kind and merciful God. If the ATF decides they don’t like you and your business, you might as well hang it up and start a green energy company, ‘cuz they will kill your business dead. So when they ask you to turn a blind eye to certain illegal practices, and are willing to put it in writing as a favor to them, you do it. And you don’t ask questions.
Anyway, the straw buyers — several of whom had lengthy criminal records that should have stopped the purchase on the spot — bought themselves a bunch of guns, and then turned them over to the Mexican drug cartels (who, in most cases, had fronted the money for the buys in the first place). And the cartels smuggled them across the border into Mexico, all under the discreet eyes of the ATF, who tracked the guns at every single stage from shop to the border.
Where they stopped following them.
Quite a few of the guns have since turned up — at crime scenes. Authorities in Mexico say they have linked 200 crimes to Fast and Furious guns, and three guns have turned up at murder scenes here in the US — including the killing of US Border Patrol Officer Brian Terry. And it must be noted that these are all cases where the guns were recovered at the crime scene — a very rare occurrence. Most criminals don’t just leave their guns behind; they either keep them or dispose of them in some way that would make it difficult to link it to either the criminal or the crime. So for the guns to be simply left behind at a crime scene is extremely rare — and, to me, indicative that quite a few more guns were involved in crimes, but not left behind.
Just a few more facts about the case, that no one is disputing: the ATF never even tried to follow the guns past the Mexican border, and no one in Mexico — not ATF agents or even the Mexican government — were told that the US was supplying the Mexican drug cartels with guns and helping them smuggle them into Mexico.
OK, that’s the bare bones of things. Like I said, nice and simple. Things don’t start turning into spaghetti until you ask the sixty-four-thousand-dollar question: Why?
There are numerous theories being floated about just what the big idea behind this whole mess was. What was the overarching plan at work, in which this actually seemed to make any kind of sense?
The official story, and that pushed by the Obama apologists, is that this was a rogue operation by one office of the ATF and was intended to “sting” the Mexican drug cartels by tracing the weapons right into the hands of the bigwigs, and once that was done they’d swoop in, arrest them, and convict them on weapons charges. But that simply doesn’t make any sense on so many fronts. First up, helping the cartels smuggle weapons into Mexico is a gross violation of international law and, technically, an act of war against Mexico — there’s no way in hell even the roguest of rogue agents would dare so much without getting the approval of some serious bigwigs upstairs. Further, there was never even the slightest attempt to track the weapons once they crossed the border — which means there would never be any evidence at all against the cartel higher-ups, even if it actually worked. As noted, not a single ATF agent in Mexico nor anyone in the Mexican government was even aware of the operation, let alone asked to help in carrying it out. The whole thing violates Rule 12 of the Official, Copyrighted Evil Overlord List — “One of my advisors will be an average five-year-old child. Any flaws in my plan that he is able to spot will be corrected before implementation.”
So the official explanation simply makes no sense.
OK, so much for the official explanation. How about some of those crazy, crackpot, nutjob conspiracy theories?
First up: that this was actually a covert attempt to toughen gun control laws in the US. This one is a little convoluted, but bear with me. It starts with two statements by President Obama: the first, that he told the Brady gun-control nuts that he was actually working under the table to help gun control, but couldn’t give them the details because it was a secret. Second, President Obama fudging some numbers and saying that a majority of guns seized from the Mexican drug cartels were from the US. (The truth is that Mexico only identified a small fraction of guns they captured as likely being from the US, and the vast majority of those were actually from the US — I want to say it was 95% of 10%, or about 9.5% of the total guns.) (Correction: here’s the full story and explanation.)
Those two factors came together in a truly diabolical scheme: if Obama’s statement were somehow “helped” to be more accurate — that most of the guns the Mexican cartels used were from the US (and not stolen/bought from the Mexican military, or brought in from other countries less interested in a stable Mexico and more interested in making some quick bucks), then that could be used as an argument in favor of tightening gun control — after all, we need to keep our guns from getting into Mexico, don’t we?
This one also fails the aforementioned five-year-old test. It hinges on a large number of people actually buying into the argument that “drug cartels are killing a lot of innocent people south of the border, so we need to do all we can disarm innocent people on this side of it.” It also depends on a whole lot of people knowing details of the plan, and never ever ever letting that slip. And that should have been obviously a bad bet from the outset, as numerous ATF agents went on the record as telling their superiors that it was a very, very, very bad idea. All it would take would be a single one of all these people to have an attack of conscience (or a need for attention and to be perceived as the heroic whistle-blower) to keep some key documents and let it all out later. And we already know that this mess reached pretty far — already it’s entangled most of the ATF leadership, the FBI, the Justice Department overall, and the State Department. Plus there are all those otherwise law-abiding gun dealers who made all those sales to straw buyers over their own objections and better judgment — gotta keep them quiet, too. That just ain’t possible.
Then there’s another, even bigger theory — that the whole operation was part of a grand scheme to benefit the Left politically. In that theory, here’s how it works out:
1) As the cartels get better armed, more Mexicans flee Mexico to escape the terror — and come to the US, where they would be far more likely to support Democrats.
2) As the gun violence ramps up and more and more guns are traced back to the US, support for tighter gun control laws — “to keep them out of the hands of the Mexican drug cartels” — increases and truly draconian laws are passed — and another goal of the Left is realized.
3) As that fails to do anything to stop the violence, finally someone pushes a law to decriminalize many drugs in the US (another favorite of the left) to strip the cartels of their prime source of income. If the drugs become legal, then most of the profit in smuggling and selling them goes away.
Now, I happen to think both those theories are thoroughly crackpot. But I can’t help but notice — they’re actually less crazy than the official story.
I’ve put my own imagination to the task of explaining what the idea behind Operation Fast And Furious was — from both sides, defending and attacking it. And I consider myself a moderately imaginative fellow, especially when it comes to cooking up rationalizations and excuses. But here, I have to admit defeat. I simply can’t come up with an explanation that I can’t immediately tear to shreds.
But you know what? I don’t really care. Just going on the indisputable facts, officials in several branches of the Obama administration were complicit in a scheme that broke American laws, Mexican laws, international laws and treaties, and constituted an actual, honest-to-God act of war against a sovereign and allied nation. At this point, I’m completely fine with unleashing the legal hounds of Hell against all those we already know were in on the whole mess, and sweating them until we find out just who was the highest-ranking official who was involved.
Then — and only then — do we ask them, nicely, if they’d like to explain just what the big idea was. And it would be purely in the context of mitigating circumstances for their trial on charges of espionage, treason, and accessory to the murders of hundreds of innocent Mexicans.
And — most importantly — United States Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry.
At this point, I would like to say that “someone needs to hang” or “someone needs to burn” for this whole mess. But we don’t use nooses or electric chairs for federal executions any more; we use lethal injections.
I’ll cheerfully provide the needle.