Fast and Furious Victims' Voices Live On Through Their Families

Since the Obama administration took up residence in D.C., that world of law and order has slipped away.  No other action by higher-ups has demonstrated this near-total breakdown of checks and balances more than Operation Fast and Furious.

Our representatives on Capitol Hill are so hopelessly flawed, our mainstream journalists so ethically challenged, and our citizens so desensitized to corruption that a government-initiated program transferring high-powered weapons to vicious Mexican drug cartels, who would in all likelihood use them to murder innocent human beings, seems like business as usual.

For months a hypnotized media has called the operation a "botched sting."  When questioned about the scandal, a majority of Americans draw a blank.  Only dedicated online alternative journalists and a few major outlets like Fox News keep on connecting the dots.

This tenacious bunch is determined not to let the story die along with the victims.

For them and most of us, it is the fierce and heroic goodness we see in the photos of Border Patrol Agent Brian Terry and ICE Agent Jaime Zapata that has left some mark on us.

Arizona Congresswoman Gabby Giffords, who was critically wounded in Tuscon only three weeks after Brian Terry's murder, wrote on December 15, 2010 of her own pain upon learning of Terry's death.

From Tuscon Weekly:

I am deeply saddened by the senseless murder of Agent Brian Terry, who was killed in the line of duty while protecting our nation's border

This is a tragedy that deserves nothing less than the swiftest and strongest response. It is a stark reminder that our borders are not yet secure. The full efforts of federal, state and local law enforcement agencies are focused on bringing to justice all those involved.

I salute the resolute work of the brave men and women of the Border Patrol and the other agencies that work every day to protect our borders. And I offer my heartfelt condolences to the Terry family for their profound personal loss. Our commitment to them must be evident in our determination to bring to justice every person involved in this horrific crime.

A report released after Terry's death stated the agent was shot and killed after "encountering a group of suspects in a remote area of Peck Canyon northwest of Nogales, Arizona."  Just weeks before the ambush, Tucson Weekly's Leo W. Banks chronicled the Peck Canyon corridor as a "smuggler's paradise."  In the same article, Banks presciently asked, "What's going on? Can the violence be stopped before we have another borderlands tragedy involving an American citizen or a lawman?"

Banks had no way of knowing how much of a tragedy this would turn out to be.  He could not know that Terry's murder might expose senior officials at the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives (BAFTE) and the Department of Justice (DOJ) as tacitly approving a potentially catastrophic operation.  Two AK-47s linked to a U.S. government program known as Fast and Furious would be found at the scene of Terry's murder.  E-mails and audio tapes also indicated that a third gun was recovered at the time and may have been tied to the gun-walking scandal.

Gabby Gifford's resolute determination "to bring to justice every person involved in this horrific crime" has prompted many outside the mainstream media to hold those at the center of Fast and Furious accountable.  Terry's exemplary life of service demands it.

Michigan State Police Sergeant Dan Bowman eulogized 40-year-old Brian Terry at Terry's funeral in Detroit on December 23, 2010.  He read from a note written by Terry when he was asked to describe himself during training.  

If you seek to do battle with me this day, you'll receive the best I am capable of giving.

It may not be enough, but it will be everything I have to give...You may defeat me, but you will be lucky to escape with your life. You may kill me, but I'm willing to die if necessary.

I do not fear death, for I have been close enough to it on enough occasions that it no longer concerns me. What I do fear is the loss of my honor, and would rather die fighting than to have it said that I was without courage.

The  tears and emotion at Terry's funeral were matched months later at the funeral mass for slain U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) Agent Jaime Zapata in Brownsville, Texas.

On February 15, 2011, 32-year-old Zapata was killed in the line of duty in San Luis Potosi, Mexico.  Zapata was on assignment at the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City when his and fellow agent Victor Avila's SUV was ambushed by members of the Los Zetas drug cartel, according to Mexican and American authorities.  Avila was wounded and Zapata killed after identifying themselves as U.S. diplomats.  One of the guns used in the shooting was traced to the BAFTE gun-walking operation where weapons were bought in bulk and agents were told not to interdict them.

By all accounts, Zapata was an exceptional person, much like Brian Terry.  An emotional John Morton, ICE director, expressed the feelings of over 1,000 mourners at the Brownsville Events Center on February 22.

I submit to you, however, that as dark as this moment is, Jaime's life is really all about light. Everyone in this room will eventually meet his or her Maker, and the real question on that day won't be how we died but how we lived. When it's my turn, I want to say that I lived like Jaime.

The past nine months have been a mixture of raw grief and frustration for Mary Zapata-Munoz and Amador Zapata, Jaime's parents. They initially wanted to know what he was doing in Northern Mexico hundreds of miles from the U.S. Embassy on only the ninth day of his assignment; each asked questions about the weapons used in the ambush.  Authorities reported that a Romanian-made semi-automatic pistol had been traced back to a Dallas-area arms-trafficking ring.  In late October, the family stated that officials had not yet told them if the weapons used by Los Zetas were part of Operation Fast and Furious, based in Phoenix.

In the beginning, Jaime's dad, Amador, a Vietnam War veteran, missed the daily telephone calls he received from his son.  Mary missed her son firing up the barbecue at their home in Brownsville.  Their sadness has since morphed into a primal need to know the facts behind their son's murder.

I feel like I'm not getting the truth. I know nothing will bring my son back. No truth. No nothing. But I want to make sure that no other person has to go through what we went through, what Jaime went through. Can you imagine those last moments, trying to save your life and your buddy's life? What it must have been like?...We don't just want answers...You can always get an answer, but it's not always necessarily the truth. We want the truth."

When it comes to Operation Fast and Furious the truth is hard to come by.  American agents Zapata and Terry aren't the only victims, their families not the only ones demanding answers.

Whoever authorized the deadly program back in 2009 did not alert the Mexican government.  Mexico Attorney General Marisela Morales said law enforcement officials were not told details of Fast and Furious until January 2011.  More than 200 of the trafficked guns have shown up at crime scenes in Mexico.  Morales called the secret gun-walking project an "attack on the safety of Mexicans."

One of those Mexican citizens was Mario González Rodríguez, an attorney and brother of Chihuahua's former attorney general, Patricia González Rodríguez.  Rodríguez was kidnapped, tortured, and killed by hooded gunmen from the Sinaloa drug cartel, who posted a video online with the captive denouncing his sister.  When his body was found in October 2010, two AK-47s with serial numbers traced back to the Arizona gun-smuggling operation were found.

When Carlos Canino, an ATF officer attached to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, told Patricia González about the weapons found at the murder scene, the grieving sister expressed disbelief.

The basic ineptitude of these officials caused the death of my brother and surely thousands more victims.

U.S. Assistant Attorney General Ronald Weich listed a few of the places in Mexico where Fast and Furious guns were retrieved in a September 9, 2011 letter to Congressman Darrell Issa and Senator Chuck Grassley.

One AK-47 type assault rifle purchased by a Fast and Furious suspect was recovered Nov. 14, 2009 in Atoyac de Alvarez, Mexico after the Mexican military rescued a kidnap victim.

On July 1, 2010, two AK-47 type assault rifles purchased by Fast and Furious suspects were recovered in Sonora, Mexico after a shootout between cartels. Two murders were reported in the incident using the weapons.

On July 26, 2010, a giant .50 caliber Barrett rifle purchased by a Fast and Furious suspect was recovered in Durango, Mexico after apparently having been fired. No further details of the incident were given.

On Aug. 13, 2010, two AK-47 type assault rifles purchased by a Fast and Furious target were recovered in Durango, Mexico after a confrontation between the Mexican military and an "armed group."

On May 27, 2011, three AK-47 type assault rifles purchased by Fast and Furious targets were recovered in Jalisco, Mexico after having been fired. No other details of the incident were provided,

One of Mexico's most revered poets , Javier Sicilia, grieving over the loss of his son, who was found murdered with six other people in a drug-related mêlée, organized a march in May declaring that he and the Mexican people are "hasta la madre" -- "fed up."  One of the participants lamented, "Young people are no longer the country's future; we're this country's dead."

Sicilia echoed the Terry and Zapata families, saying, "I'm going to march ... because I don't want any other family to suffer the loss of a son as we are suffering due to a poorly planned, poorly executed, and poorly led war."

Sicilia blames politicians and criminals, who he believes are complicit in the violence.  In a callous dismissal of empathy for victims and their family members, the Calderón administration stigmatized the casualties, arguing that "90% of drug war murder victims were linked to organized crime."  According to activist organizations banding together in protest, "the murders weren't mourned, let alone investigated."

In a country that has lost 40,000 citizens since 2006 in a drug war, the addition of a couple of thousand "walked" weapons and hundreds of more victims might not elicit outrage in the United States.  But Sicilia the poet, who was not content to let his son's murder become just a statistic, reminded the marchers of the sanctity of each individual life.

Many of the dead, maybe the majority of the dead, they have a story. They were innocent and they were killed stupidly for no reason ... They're human beings, and behind them there are families who are suffering very much.

The victims of Operation Fast and Furious are speaking from their graves, through honest journalists, grief-stricken parents, and awakened Americans who have had enough of the cover-up.

Read more M. Catharine Evans at Potter Williams Report.

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