Operation Fast and Furious spins into Operation Blame Game

Image courtesy of Flickr user Svadilfari
Image courtesy of Flickr user Svadilfari

Fast and Furious was a conspiracy by President Obama to destroy the Second Amendment.

Fast and Furious was actually the brainchild of the Bush administration, and the ATF simply continued the operation under a new name.

These are two of the conflicting conspiracy theories now surrounding the infamous gun-walking strategy dubbed Operation Fast and Furious. Which is true? Neither.

With all the political spin coming from Washington and here in Arizona, it’s been difficult trying to sort fact from fiction. But there are some credible articles worth reading, including one recently published in The Arizona Republic by reporter Dennis Wagner. If you didn’t get the opportunity to read the article, you can find it here.

Mr. Wagner’s story highlights the strange bedfellows made between opposing political philosophies, that of ATF agents and prolific Second Amendment bloggers. It details the steps taken by an ATF whistleblower to shine light upon the irresponsible and deadly operation that left one U.S. border patrol agent, Brian Terry, and an untold number of Mexican nationals dead.

But what’s makes Mr. Wagner’s story even more compelling is the way politicians used the death of Agent Terry to spin conspiracies and theories for the benefit of party politics. It’s the type of spin that makes fact-finding and problem solving difficult and underscores the current, extremist political divide that uses controversy as a means to destroy the opposing side.

On one side of the aisle stand the Republicans, lead by individuals such as Representative Darrell Issa and Senator Charles Grassley who, along with the NRA, have insisted Operation Fast and Furious was a grand scheme cooked up by the Obama administration to allow a flow of high-powered firearms into Mexico. The Republicans want the public to believe this was a calculated attempt to win a future assault weapons ban. If the administration could demonstrate that scores of weapons used by Mexican cartels were being traced back to American gun stores, Democrats could justify the need for further gun restrictions.

Of course there’s already proof that cartel members use straw buyers to purchase weapons such as AK-47’s from American gun stores. This is something we’ve known for years and something the Mexican government has been pleading with us to stop.

But saying the administration would purposefully allow guns into the hands of cartel members simply to gain an advantage in a policy debate goes beyond the normal Washington rhetoric and into the land of hysteria. Combine this with the fact that there is no shred of proof to this conspiracy theory and that it’s being disseminated by those who stand to benefit from throwing the Obama administration under the bus, and all Americans have reason to be suspicious.

The theory also fails to explain why the Bush administration would use similar tactics in the first failed gun-walking strategy, Operation Wide Receiver. Nor does it explain why ATF whistleblowers point the finger at Arizona ATF supervisors, NOT Washington politicians.

The whistleblowers have maintained the strategy originated in the Phoenix office and was promoted by administrators who overlooked obvious and fatal flaws in favor of self-inflated hopes for promotions and recognition. As of yet, we still have no idea how far the details went up the chain of command, nor do we know when, exactly, Attorney General Eric Holder knew about the operation.

It’s quite possible Holder knew about this strategy much sooner than he’s testified to, but it’s a big stretch to maintain the Attorney General’s knowledge of the strategy is the same thing as being the mastermind of it or that the intended goal was some sort of assault weapons ban.

The Democrats, however, should not continue to lay blame for the operation at the feet of the Bush administration. In theory, the idea of allowing weapons to walk in order to take down top cartel leaders is a good one. If the U.S. government was able to trace the weapons to those in charge, it’s possible they’d be able to help the Mexican government clamp down on the cartels.

Unfortunately, what was good in theory failed miserably in practice.

This became obvious during Operation Wide Receiver when weapons walked and officials were unable to track them once they crossed the border. The operation failed, and it ended. For Democrats to excuse the strategy simply because it was first employed years earlier is a cop out and does nothing to address the obvious incompetency of the ATF or why a failed program would resurface and continue even after tragedy.

The ATF, as pointed out in Mr. Wagner’s article, has a history of problems that date back several administrations (think Waco, Texas). The fatal Fast and Furious operation and ensuing investigations could be an opportunity to radically change the ATF. But that will only happen if politicians on both sides of the aisle stop trying to spin conspiracies and instead begin the long, overdue process of cleaning up an embattled bureau.

As is common in most dysfunctional agencies, ineptness begins at the top and filters down. Politicians would be wise to listen to the field agents versus the administrators to find ways to bring about effective change.

The circumstances of Officer Terry’s death should outrage all of us, but let’s use that outrage to fix the system, and its agency, instead of using it to score points against an opposing political party.


  1. Mel Maguire

    Personally, I think that there have been elements in ATF leadership that have long been incompetent. I have to wonder, however, if they were all really naive enough to believe that a failed project like OWR could have been given a bigger budget and more manpower and been fixed. You are correct – in theory, it could have worked, but only if they had a concrete method for tracking those weapons.

    Once it was put on ice it should have stayed that way. I have a very hard time believing that ATF supervisors could have resurrected the project with nearly four times the original budget and three times the original detail without the blessing of the administration. I think the only way to move past the rhetoric is to carry out the investigation and subpoena every single person involved, from the top down.

    1. Post
      Julie Erfle

      Mel, I agree… we need a detailed investigation, and everyone, including Mr. Holder, should release all the information they have in this case. Politicians from both sides of the aisle should be willing to work together to find out how and why this occurred.

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