The latest horror of August 25 has shaken Mexico. In a brazen and senseless assault, reportedly part of an extortion plot, members of the deadly Zetas criminal organization firebombed a casino in Monterrey, Mexico. In the ensuing inferno, 52 Mexicans—mainly middle-class women with no drug connections—died.
Mexican President Felipe Calderon denounced the casino outrage as an unprecedented “abhorrent act of terror and barbarism.” He appealed forcefully to the U.S. and the Obama Administration to do something about drug consumption and the southward flow of guns into Mexico.
On August 26, the White House issued a message of condemnation and condolence, praising the Mexican people and government for their “brave fight to disrupt violent transnational criminal organizations” and pledging its commitment “to continuing our unprecedented cooperation in confronting these criminal organizations.”
Yet the tone of conviction and determination sounds less convincing in light of the August 30 Justice Department announcement of a shake-up of the Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (ATF) in the wake of the Operation Fast and Furious scandal.
The Justice Department announced it was moving acting ATF director Kenneth E. Melson to an advisory position and accepting the resignation of U.S. Attorney Dennis Burke in Arizona.
The Obama Administration clearly wishes to deflect congressional, public, and Mexican scrutiny away from its ill-conceived and ill-fated strategy of prosecuting gun-running to Mexico’s deadly criminal organizations—by allowing guns to walk without informing U.S. officials in the Mexico City embassy or the Mexican government. The Administration wants to minimize the fact that guns that walked in this operation were found on the scene when U.S. Border Patrol agent Brian Terry was murdered in December 2010. Or that caches and weapons have appeared on crime scenes in Mexico. Or that ATF has lost track of 1,400 weapons.
Regrettably, the Justice Department’s management of ongoing investigations into Operation Fast and Furious is filled with accountability avoidance, blame-shifting, damage control, and bureaucratic stonewalling—all much too common in the Obama Administration.
Observed Congressman Darrell Issa (R–CA), who has been instrumental in leading the congressional probe: “We know we are being gamed [by the Administration] and we think the time for the game should be up.”
In short, Issa is demanding the sort of cooperation that the White House promised to the government of Mexico in the aftermath of Monterrey’s horrific casino tragedy.
While political appointees and career government officials in the U.S. [and Mexico, too] worry about their reputations and jobs, they need to realize that on either side of the border, there is an ongoing fight—better said, war—against sophisticated and deadly criminal organizations. Lives are frequently at stake, and those who bear the brunt of the risks demand clear thinking and accountability, not bureaucratic maneuvers or cover-ups when government officials mess up.