To catch part one of this three-part editorial series by Aberjhani please click here. Part two begins now:
Fast, Furious, and Possibly Guerrilla Decontextualized
Following the death of border patrol agent Brian Terry on December 14, 2010, a subcommittee of the U.S. House of Representatives began investigating the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives’ (ATF) now thoroughly infamous Operation Fast and Furious. The operation was designed to track gunrunning––or illegal weapons trafficking–– by members of the deadly Mexican cartel. The basic scheme was to allow a fairly large number of firearms to make it into Mexico and then trace their movement back to various heads of the cartel.
That plan has now been acknowledged by nearly all involved as ill-conceived and badly executed. At least two guns that were part of Fast and Furious were found among a number of others at the scene of the shootout where agent Terry was killed––the FBI reportedly has not been able to determine whether these fired the shots that killed the agent.
Contempt and Regret
In the course of its examination of the failed operation, the House of Representatives’ investigative committee declared U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder Jr. on June 28, 2012, in contempt of Congress–– ostensibly for not relinquishing documents it stated was relevant to the case. As it was, the House committee itself demonstrated a notable degree of contempt by basically ignoring President Obama’s decision to assert executive privilege prohibiting release of the requested documents.
Mr. Holder, who became the first African American to serve as U.S. Attorney General shortly after Barack Obama became the first African American to win the U.S. presidency, made a different kind of history when the contempt charge branded him as the first serving attorney general to receive such a dubious distinction.
In Holder’s words, “The action that the committee took…was unwarranted, unnecessary and unprecedented.” He and others also described the move, which prompted a number of Democrats to walk out of the proceedings, as little more than a political stunt intended to win points for Republicans in this 2012 election year. If the attorney general is right, then this “stunt” might be considered a form of guerrilla decontextualization on a grand scale. The grossly manipulated image in this case would be that of a fallen warrior contrasted with that of a supposedly tainted representative of the law. The target in this guerrilla decontextualization scenario appears to be the attorney general but many presume it is in fact his boss.
History of a Bad Idea
Operation Fast and Furious as an official mission got underway at the end of October 2009. The guiding principles behind it have been around longer, at least since the implementation of Project Gunrunner and Operation Wide Receiver, which made their official debut in 2006. According to the ATF:
“Project Gunrunner’s objective is to deny Mexican drug cartels the tools of the trade, which they employ to murder rival drug traffickers, civilians, as well as political, military, and law enforcement figures in order to strengthen their grip on the lucrative drug and firearms routes into and out of the United States.”
While critics have frequently described this operation and the ATF itself as unsuccessful, organization administrators state the following on its official website:
“Since its inception in 2006, and through Fiscal Year 2010, ATF’s Project Gunrunner has recommended over 1,100 criminal cases and in excess of 2,500 defendants for prosecution. To date, Project Gunrunner investigations have resulted in the seizure of over 10,000 firearms and nearly one million rounds of ammunition destined for Mexico.”
The problem is that statement does not answer the question of how many seized firearms only made it into Mexico because of ATF in the first place? In addition: to what degree is the agency’s “gunwalking” (as opposed to the cartel’s gunrunning) genuinely responsible for the death of agent Brian Terry? To what realistic extent should Attorney General Holder or President Obama be held responsible?
Critics of Mr. Obama have contended that he allowed the ATF to continue its practice of controlled gun-walking in order to gain political ammunition to fight for increased gun control legislation. With the tragic massacre in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012, the shooting of former Congresswoman Gabrielle Giffords and others in Tucson, Arizona, in January 2011, and the astonishing number of fatal shootings in Los Angeles and Chicago throughout the year 2012, it’s horrendously clear that no one needs to manufacture reasons to support more stringent gun control regulations.
NEXT: Guerrilla Decontextualization and the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign Part 3: Scapegoats and Death Tolls
co-author of Encyclopedia of the Harlem Renaissance
and author of Visions of a Skylark Dressed in Black
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- Poetics of Paradigm Dancing in the 2012 Presidential Election Campaign Part 1
- Dancing to the Paradigm Rhythms of Change in Action part 1
- World Voices Festival Celebrates Literary Diplomacy Part 2
- Paradigm Dancing An Introduction
- The Nature of this Paradigm Dancing
- Approaching the 100th Anniversary of the Harlem Renaissance