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McCaffrey on Mexico - AAR January 2009

20 March 2009

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# TCS 2009-03-20 17:06
It's simply impossible. If you don't believe me, go to a licensed dealer in "Texas, Arizona, [or especially] California" and try to purchase "high-powered military automatic weapons". Better yet, try to purchase a box of one hundred as described. Also, try to buy grenades and rocket launchers that we're also told they have easy access to. Let us know how that works out.

It doesn't surprise me that most "journalists" continue to republish this nonsense, because most of the US media these days seems to think that cutting and pasting from press releases constitutes journalism. Not one of them has apparently tried this simple test to see if it was possible. Nobody fact-checks any more.

But it does surprise and disappoint me that Michael Yon is involved. This is now the second time he's promoted this absolute nonsense, and he should be ashamed.
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# victorsam 2009-03-20 21:13
TCS, with all due respect, I don't understand what you don't get about this. They have been caught in the act. This isn't made up or falsified. There are even photos and arrest records. Granted I agree with you that it is not easy at all to walk into a gun shop and purchase a Class III weapon, it isn't impossible. I think this practice should be allowed for law-abiding citizens. However, don't forget that these Mexican drug cartels have MILLIONS of dollars. They often pay US Citizens to make the purchase for them. To me this doesn't say we should tighten up gun control laws --- it says we should tighten up our border security. Check out these links and information from US law enforcement sites:

"Since 1996, the ATF has traced more than 62,000 firearms smuggled into Mexico from the United States." much more info at link

"Armas Cruzadas"

"By pleading guilty, the defendants admitted they participated in a straw-purchasin g scheme between May 2007 and March 2008. They bought more than 90 firearms from licensed dealers in El Paso and smuggled them into Mexico for buyers who could not legally purchase firearms in the United States. The straw-purchased and smuggled firearms included an assortment of pistols and rifles, including a .50-caliber rifle."

El Paso man, Mexican citizen face weapons-smuggli ng charges
11 AK-47 assault rifles among firearms, ammunition suspected to be smuggled into Mexico

Still a "lie"? I don't think so. This is not an effort to create tougher gun control. It is the truth about the risks and probability of Mexico becoming a fallen narco state. We cannot afford to let that happen.
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# Pineland Ferg 2009-03-21 00:00
And Victor, with all due respect, I think you (and apparently the good general) have fallen for a ludic fallacy. Having walked the walk in Mexico for several decades I can assure you that the largest source of modern weapons for the cartels has been the Mexican military. Examine the weapons seized by the Federales- you will find more than a few licensed produced G-3s, -21s, and M-16A2s.

And when the military cannot provide, then the same sources of the (very illegal) cocaine, i.e. the FARC, are more than happy to oblige with sales. RPGs, grenades, and heavy machine guns are exceedingly rare in commerce in the United States (even in the black market), and practically non-existent in civilian hands barring some very affluent collectors. Weapons like that are exceedingly common, and cheap, in the international weapons market in Nicaragua, Columbia, and et al. (AKs were available in Nicaragua for under $100 a copy a few years ago)

My contacts tell me that, while there is a significant trade of American produced (or imported) weapons being conveyed across the border, they are of the "status" variety- weapons that generally do not exist in military armories- notably highly personalized pistols and the ƒ??infamous, but rare, .50 sniper rifles (which have yet to be actually used by the cartels in this crisis). 5.7 PDW weapons have a significant status (probably undeservingly) because they have light armor penetrating capabilities- i.e. ƒ??cop killersƒ?.

The new weapon of choice is the fragmentation grenade- just try to find a grenade in any legal (or illegal) gun store in the United States. Further, the vast majority of these weapons are not being purchased by the military modeled Los Zetas, but by lower level players. While I believe in the enforcement of US law should be stepped up, and more compliance inspections made by the ATFE, I don't think that is any more of a real solution to Mexico's real problem than stationing National Guard troops on the border (with an impossible ROE to deal with- donƒ??t even get me started there).

There is a common assumption that the enemy that Mexico faces (and we will eventually face ourselves) is some monolithic criminal group that can be engaged in either a traditional law enforcement fashion (as in the classic RICO armed Federal takedown of the Sicilian Mafia) or an ideological insurgency (like the Taliban) that can be engaged militarily. Neither is the case. This is a Mexican law enforcement issue first, with the crimes being committed by thousands of individual actors and organizations with different methodologies and motivations.

It is safe to say that any US involvement in this crisis is going to be problematic- legally, economically, and ethically. The root causes for the empowerment of the crisis will have to be dealt with first- the consumption of illegal narcotics by US consumers. The only way to even begin to approach this is by a very careful examination of our "War on Drugs" strategies, the way...are a complete failure. By treating drug consumption as totally a crime problem and not a health problem we, as a nation, have set the stage for the empowerment of the drug cartels- in Mexico, in Columbia, in Afghanistan, and any other location throughout the world that is either a producer or transit point.

We have met the enemy...and it is us. And while it is nice to blame the ƒ??evil old gunsƒ?, it is more appropriate to blame the casual marijuana and cocaine user in the US.
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# Wadeusaf 2009-03-22 02:46
--Drug gangs have high-powered military automatic weapons.--fact
--Perhaps 90% of these weapons smuggled across US border. --Very Very Poor Guess
---Frequently purchased from licensed US gun dealers in Texas, Arizona, and California.--Duh
--AK-47 assault
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# Wadeusaf 2009-03-22 02:57
But not high lighted.
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# Gismo Fly 2009-03-22 09:23
There, that's your knuckles rapped, Michael! You got it all wrong, mate, along with your media cronies.

My thoughts are that the US needs defence in depth quite apart from giving maximum support to the 'good' Mexicans. You really do need to militarize your southern border to combat the drug cartels who appear to be controlling the other side. It won't happen of course but it has to be said. Good luck, America. You have the nuance to solve this problem.

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# TCS 2009-03-23 00:09
Victor says: "Granted I agree with you that it is not easy at all to walk into a gun shop and purchase a Class III weapon, it isn't impossible."

No, it's not impossible. It just takes about $20,000+ each and a many many month wait for ATF approval, however, not to mention an extensive paper trail, once you find one for sale. And that's ONE -- good luck finding a caseload for sale. That'd be like trying to find rare baseball cards by the caseload.

It really doesn't take much research into the details of the US market to see that this doesn't make any sense, but the people who keep defending this crap clearly haven't done any. Some of the "explanations" thrown around are laughable (last time someone suggested "forged class 3 licenses". Yes, anyone with a laser printer could whip one up in 5 minutes, I guess, but even a passing familiarity with the class 3 purchase process would tell you it'd be of no use whatsoever.)

It's simply inconceivable that Mexican gangs are going to go anywhere near that expensive, cumbersome, and very-visible-to -law-enforcemen t Class 3 purchase when AK-47s are available from the third world for $100 or so, no waiting, and no ATF paper trail and audits. Further, if the US was the source, there would be other obvious signs like skyrocketing prices. Given the very small, permanently limited number of transferrable automatic weapons in circulation in the US, having them disappear to Mexico in these numbers would cause a massive price spike (higher than the already outrageous 5-6 digit prices). And, had the ATF tracked any of these as being NFA registered, you can believe the C3 community would have heard about it.

It simply makes no sense that the US could be the origin of caseloads of automatic weapons. The kind most often cited, AK47s, are not made here (no military/police interest, none can be made for civilian sale), existing stock is extremely low and difficult/expen sive to obtain as explained above, so where would they come from? Stolen from US police/military ? Again, they don't use AK47s here. Secret illegal manufacturing plants? More fantasy. (and wouldn't those be easier set up in Mexico or South America anyway?)

Maybe it's possible that automatic weapons are entering mexico from the US, as a transshipment point, but that too would seem to be doing things the hard way. Wouldn't they be easier to smuggle into Mexico directly, or from the south?

It's far more likely that what we have here is a twisting of several facts together. I could easily believe that 62000 FIREARMS (which is what the link says -- not automatic weapons) have been smuggled into Mexico and that most come originally from licensed dealers -- but the vast majority of those are likely to be handguns. (It would make sense to smuggle from the US something that IS actually available and fairly inexpensive here). And, I can believe the gangs have automatic weapons. But, those two facts are not connected. It defies all logic that
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# TCS 2009-03-23 01:53
hmmm, cut off. Continued...

It defies all logic that Mexican gangs would try to source military grade weapons from their north, where they are scarce and expensive, instead of from their south, where there are literal TONS of them in military arsenals (guarded by the same easily corruptible troops that allow the drug trade to flourish), and in the hands of the same rebel groups that they already source drugs from. Or heck, import them by the sea-container from China, Cuba, etc. I don't doubt that the Mexican gangs now have lots of dangerous military hardware, but they wouldn't try to source them from the US unless they were idiots or a masochists or both.

[I didn't even touch originally on another piece of nonsense in this whole thing, which is the ubiquitous description of the AK47s and other assault rifles in these press releases and media reports as "high powered". A true assault rifle, by definition, uses a weaker intermediate-po wer round. The 7.62x39mm round used by the AK47 is far less powerful than a typical .30-06 or .308 deer rifle, which shoot actual "high power" rounds. Certainly they can be lethal or they would not be used by militaries, but they are not high-powered by any stretch. "High powered" sounds cool and scary though, I guess, so what the hell! Who cares if it's true... we'll call them that in the press release. It's not like the reporters fact-check...]

The only link you provided that mentions assault rifles is the one about the 11 AK47s. But here again, we have either incompetence or deception in the description. The headline described sized assault rifles, yet the body describes instead "assault weapons", a made-up term designed to create confusion between assault rifles and civilian-grade copies. These "AK47s" are in fact not AK47s at all, they're semi-automatic *pretend* AK47s. I'm sorry, but the seizure of less than a dozen civilian-grade wannabe knockoffs plus half of an AR15 (!) and a small amount of ammo is hardly compelling evidence that the US is the source of a dangerous military-grade arms problem in Mexico... again, a small amount of background knowledge would reveal that this article isn't relevant at all. But in the era of copy-and-paste- the-press-relea se journalism, this story goes out on the wire into the media echo-chamber unchecked and becomes "the truth".

And that is the real danger here, not to the second amendment, but to the *first*, and ultimately to our democracy. You may recall FEMA getting in hot water a while back over faked press conferences, with FEMA employees pretending to be journalists asking softball questions of their own agency. That's appalling, but hardly much worse than most of the reporting we get. When journalists are blindly regurgitating whatever they're told, there's not much difference. We are in serious trouble when the whole population is routinely mis- or under-informed on every important subject. It's not a question of left or right bias in the media. Our echo-chamber media is fueled by biased or just plain wrong information from every side. Garbage in, amplify times a thousand, then garbage out.

It was suggested to me once that I should pay careful attention to media coverage of stories where I have some expertise, and based on the measurable quality and accuracy of that coverage, assume that the media does an equally good or bad job covering everything. That was a terrifying eye-opener. I don't know much about finance, but if I assume the financial crisis is being covered this way, I shudder to think how we'll ever escape if the public and politicians being so misinformed. Likewise I assumed (correctly) that coverage of Iraq and Afghanistan was largely horribly inaccurate, and that led me to Mr Yon. I was glad to find a real journalist who actually took the time to ask questions. But, it's very troubling that's he's fallen into the cut-and-paste trap on this other subject.
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# victorsam 2009-03-23 20:06
You have very valid arguments and I do agree with you... I would love to hear General McCaffrey address the supposition as to why wouldn't Mexico's gangs be getting their AK-47's from other countries. It really doesn't make sense as to why they would be getting them from the USA, and even more so being that they are semi-auto versions. Maybe either General McCaffrey or Mr. Yon could elaborate on this? I would also like to hear the official position of ATF, ICE, DEA, etc... But they do have the press releases on their official government websites detailing seizures of weapons, while not full auto versions of the AK, we still should not allow these guns to fall into the hands of the gangs and cartels. I hope that can be stopped. Anyway, great points and good discussion. Cheers.
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# victorsam 2009-03-24 17:33

Here is some action... see article. Even mentions, "DHS is also increasing its technology and south-bound rail screening to look for guns going from the U.S. to Mexico."
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# victorsam 2009-03-25 17:19
"More disturbingly, intelligence officials told, the cartels are offering profitable incentives to its US operatives to engage US law enforcement. The cartels also are kidnapping members of operativesƒ?? families in an attempt to force these operatives in the US to take more forceful responses to law enforcement crackdowns on cartel operations. Others are simply being threatened with heinous torture and execution if they do not carry out the cartelsƒ?? orders."

"The FBI has warned law enforcement officers along the southwest border that Mexicoƒ??s cartels have ordered their operatives to begin killing police who get in the way of their operations."
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# John Capt in ANG 2009-03-29 20:43
I've live in a state that allows the sale of fully auto weapons (Colorado) and the report doesn't match reality. First even if you take the 62,000 weapons found by the ATF last year, that's 1.7% of the crossings. It's easy to say 1% of the people who cross carry, as you see this all the time on planes. You read often of people who "forgot" they had the gun on them as they go through airport screening.

It's a no brainer that if a gang banger walked into a Class 3 dealer and ordered CASES of fully automatic weapons, that the owner would pick up the phone and call ATF. We've caught domestic para-military style groups here in the US many times. So it doesn't seem credible they'd be doing it consistently and in such large volume. If it did, what's the point in applying for Class 3 licenses? It's almost hilarious that people think you can just walk in and buy a few cases of fully auto weapons and then just walk away.

Being an expert in anything completely destroys any confidence in today's media. I've sat in on US Senate Armed Services meetings with Rumsfield and Gen Franks and then read the absolute fiction printed in the papers the next day. I am involved with satellites and space, and most of what I read is either wrong or misleading.
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# Mary 2009-04-11 14:53
It is interesting that the American militia movement was being (knowingly and unknowningly) logistically supplied with weaponry by global jihadists with their own agenda. Then, American militia members volunteered to patrol our borders. Part of the strategy of global jihad is to smack down America with drugs. Now the drug cartels and even petty traffickers are being supplied with weaponry and sophisticated intelligence and support. We are just starting to connect the dots.
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