Fast Assumptions

June 20th, 2012

Inspired by Martin Bashir’s report today on Operation Fast and Furious. 


“Now, make no mistake, this was a seriously flawed operation with roots in the Bush Administration and resulted in the death of a border control agent.” – Martin Bashir about the Fast and Furious operation


I love your show, but in the last,

I think you jumped to two conclusions a little too fast.


Read my analysis below if you’re curious,

And don’t worry—I’m not at all furious.


I usually agree with you, Martin, but this time I disagree with both of your conclusions, or should I say assumptions. Unfortunately, they seem to be the same assumptions that everyone in the media (left, right, and center) seems to be making.

First, was this a “seriously flawed” operation? Gun-walking is like any undercover operation: it requires that low-level criminal activity be allowed to take place in order to track that activity to its source. Why should non-professionals now be substituting their amateur armchair-quarterback judgment for the judgment of the professionals who planned and implemented the operation? Was the operation well-planned and well-executed, or, as Ronald Reagan would have put it, were “mistakes made”? If so, let’s address those issues. But that doesn’t mean that the overall approach was wrong or that the operation itself was flawed, as many on both sides of the aisle now take as a given. If that were true, then no undercover operations would be allowed ever. The death of even one person out of the over 100 thousand who die each year of drug overdoes, if linked to drugs allowed to be sold during an undercover operation, would then mean that all undercover drug operations had to be cancelled.

The second assumption which I contest is that U.S.Border Patrol agent Brian Terry died as a result of Operation Fast and Furious. While I join in expressing my sympathy to Agent Terry’s family, it is misleading and hurtful (not just to the Obama Administration, but also I would think to the family) to say that Agent Terry’s death was a result of Fast and Furious. First, it’s not even known that Agent Terry was killed by a bullet from the “walked” weapon recovered at the scene (the bullet was damaged, and so could not be matched to the gun). Two guns were recovered at the scene, so the murder weapon could as easily have been from the other one. Or, the fatal bullet could have come from a weapon which the perpetrators took with them from the scene.

But it does not matter where the bullet came from. Operation Fast and Furious can only be said to have “resulted in” Agent Terry’s death if that tragic death would not have happened in the operation’s absence. In other words, anyone who asserts that Agent Terry’s death was due to Fast and Furious is saying that if it hadn’t been for that operation, the murderer would not otherwise have been able to obtain a weapon, which is plainly absurd. About 2000 guns were “walked” as a result of Fast and Furious, which compares to 68,000 illegal U.S. guns seized by Mexican authorities. Given that widespread availability and the presence of non-walked U.S. guns, the murderer’s use of any particular gun or even any particular American gun is irrelevant: if it hadn’t been that particular weapon, it would have been any one of hundreds of thousands of others. What is relevant is the broad availability of illegal weapons from theUnited States.

The GOP and NRA love to say “guns don’t kill people, people kill people.” In this case, they’re right, in a sense. Agent Terry did not die because of that gun, he died because of the easy availability in Mexico of illegal weapons from the United States. That easy availability is a result not of Fast and Furious, but of the GOP/NRA policies that Fast and Furious was attempting to address.

So Chairman Issa, please read your Bible: Matthew 7:4-5.


Here’s Martin Bashir’s 6/20/12 report and discussion (the quote is at the 2”15 mark). But cheer up, Martin: though you may not have been right on your two assumptions, you were right about the operation’s roots in the Bush Administration.

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