21st Century Wire
It’s been said that when it comes to news reporting, there’s nothing better than getting out on the road. What a road it’s been. I had the opportunity to get a look-in on five major national news stories in the space of only a few weeks.
Since hitching a ride on the GMN double-wide RV studio on wheels on May 29th in Las Vegas, I’ve spend two and half weeks reporting from the Bundy Ranch in Bunkerville, Nevada, before cutting across Northern Arizona, over to Albuquerque, New Mexico to bear witness to the true horrors of government-run healthcare from US veterans under the hammer of a dysfunctional VA healthcare system, and then up into the mountains overlooking Alamogordo, New Mexico, to investigate first-hand another standoff between local cattle ranchers and US federal government over land and water rights. After that the tour took an unexpected turn…
After Alamogordo and leaving Las Cruces, New Mexico, the GMN research team began feeding us real time news alerts about an immigration crisis boiling over in Arizona, so we decided to make a bee line for the Greyhound bus station in Tucson, Arizona, hoping to catch the federal government dumping off refugees that night. About 100 miles west of Las Cruces at about 3pm, a small detachment of Harley steel wheels heading west pulled up alongside the bus, signaling for us to pull over. The GMN RV was on driving duty and the driver initially crowed, “Hell no. I’m not pulling over, I don’t know these guys”. As an intentionally controversial (and sometimes annoying) radio ‘shock-jock’, today’s bus driver Peter Santilli has been known to attract all sorts of fans – and foes, and with Bundy supporters recently declared domestic terrorists (or tourists) by Nevada Senator Harry Reid, we knew the bus might be a magnate of controversy. But Pete really seemed more concerned with keeping our timetable and making to Tucson by dark. The RV’s owner, Kenny Rhoades from Michigan, agreed that the riders must have recognized the GMN signage on our bus and had something important to tell us.
Not taking no for an answer, bikers pulled up alongside us in the breakdown lane pointing to a gas station off the next exit. We decided to pull off. It turns out that the bikers were led by one John Harrington – the founder of Shield Tactical, a successful firearms business out of Shiner, Texas. John told us his story and how he was hoping to gather support for his mission to bring more awareness to the plight of a US Marine who he believed is unlawfully sweating it out in a Mexican prison on a dubious cross gun possession charge. We interviewed John on camera, edited it the next day, and the video immediately went viral on YouTube with 100,000 views in only 4 days. This led to an impromptu protest ride on June 14th with 50 Harley riders and drivers to the Tijuana crossing, and we went along for the ride with them. It was enough to attract coverage by every major San Diego broadcast network affiliate on the day, but everyone who showed up agreed that this was just a warm-up and that another bigger protest ride would have to take place on ‘Cinco de Julio’ on July 5th, now only 3 days away.
See footage of that biker rally here:
Having just arrived from London, and after being submerged in the Ukraine crisis since February, followed by two weeks baking under a 110F sun filming a documentary in Bunkerville, Nevada, I admit I was not really up to speed on the plight of 25 year old USMC Sergeant Andrew Tahmooressi. After speaking with Harrington and his crew, many details of this story became apparent very quickly. This Marine is a political football being kicked between bureaucrats in Washington DC and their equally corrupt counterparts in Mexico City.
Tahmooressi was arrested on March 31st, at the Tijuana Port of Entry into Mexico, 13 miles south of downtown San Diego, after being caught in San Ysidro’s notorious ‘magic roundabout’ where he had unintentionally crossed into Mexico. Andrew is claiming that he missed the last turn to get out – where Interstate 5 and 805 merge into 5 lanes that feed into Mexico, one of the most confusing and unforgiving bits of driving fair where if you’re not paying attention and do not take the “Last U.S. Exit, Camino de la Plaza” off-ramp – you will end up driving across the border. For those who assume that because he may have done the Tijuana crossing before, and therefore shouldn’t fall into this trap, it is still very easy to fall into this trap, especially at night. It can happen to anyone. I’ve done this crossing twice before and still nearly got locked into Mexico. If not for the fact that others were in the vehicle with me who made sure I didn’t go too far, I too, would’ve had the pleasure of an accidental crossing.
The rest of the story is where things really get dicey for Andrew. Upon entry, Mexican border officers stopped him for a cursory chat and then decided to search his vehicle at a secondary station a few yards further inside Mexican customs. In his truck were three firearms in the cab: a .45 caliber pistol, an AR-15 and a 12-gauge shotgun – all legally registered to him. According to Alejandro González Guilbot, a Mexican customs officer at the Tijuana-San Ysidro border, as relayed by Vice Magazine (an HBO media outlet) the firearms found were loaded and not locked and stored away as per the California penal code on transportation of firearms. “They were all just wrapped in his belongings — clothes, a blanket,” the official said. The rifle was found behind the driver’s seat, the shotgun on the passenger seat, and the pistol was in the driver-side door pocket, along with several cartridges. “They were all loaded… and ready to fire,” Gonzalez said. The same version of events was also given in a public statement by the Mexican Attorney General, and no doubt, the facts will eventually be flushed out one way or another. Unfortunately, this part of the story was omitted throughout most of the initial US media blitz led by “legal expert” Greta Van Susteran and FOX News, and these and other details may be seized on by more liberal-leaning media outlets like MSNBC, later in this story, before or after Andrew is eventually released from Mexican custody (when– still anyone’s guess).
A number of liberal-leaning media outlets had jumped on the angle that Andrew ‘didn’t tell the truth’ when apprehended by Mexican police and that his story did not add-up due to the fact that he was being ‘coached’ by his attorney early on. For anyone naive enough to make this argument, ‘being coached’, or told to bend the truth in order to get off with a lighter sentence is in fact (and unfortunately) an hourly occurrence in any courtroom in the world. Lawyers are experts in lying and cheating justice (we have enough of them in Washington now to prove that). That’s what lawyers get paid to do, and if they advise you badly, then you fire them – and Andrew Tahmooressi has since fired his.
According to his family, Andrew had recently moved to Southern California in order to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder, and tried to escape custody after his apprehension in Mexico, and ended up being chained to a bed for 4 weeks. “Being tied to a bed in four-point restraints and joint manipulation restraints — like ways that a POW would be treated… it’s just ridiculous,” said fellow Marine and friend Sam Vranicar. Andrew also described, “a suicide attempt with a shattered light bulb after being punched, slapped, cursed at, deprived of water and food, and shackled to a bed with a four-point restraint in a Mexican prison”. After this made national media, Tahmooressi was transferred out of La Mesa prison and to a better facility south of the Tecate line. The inhumane treatment suffered by the Marine during his first weeks of captivity would normally be grounds alone to have him transferred back to the US, but not in this border war. For the Mexican authorities, Andrew is now a trophy, or political football, depending on which game you’re watching.
Most Americans who travel regularly to Mexico have argued that if he had enough cash on hand, he might be reporting for duty this week – as the US government boldly announced, ‘we need to let the Mexican justice system take its course’. As much as many liberal and young internationalists are trying to paint Mexican society as a beacon of justice and transparency, the truth of matter is that it didn’t get its reputation as a lethal tourist trap for nothing. Ask any American from 1970 onward about the cash hungry, corrupt Federales south of the border. Many, many $50 and $100 dollar bills have been passed into Mexican palms.
Unlike many other thousands making their way in and out at that time, Tahmooressi was not on a tequila sunrise mission, nor was he a flaky student on spring break. He is a decorated Marine who served two tours in Afghanistan. Although this counts for very little in the eyes of the current White House, you can’t escape the reality that it does count for a lot across for a country whose sense of patriotism has been repeatedly kicked in the teeth by a series of military-related scandals attributed to the Obama White House – the VA scandal, Benghazi, arming known Islamic foreign terrorist fighters in Syria and swapping 5 Taliban terrorists for alleged Army P.O.W. Bowe Bergdahl – who many of his own military colleagues believe was working for the other side (a story that broke on the air from Bundy Ranch), and done without the consent of Congress. Such political grievances are exactly why Andrew Tahmooressi’s story has been elevated to national status. While on the road, the GMN rural journey was approached by hundreds of Americans who were openly pissed off and feel alienated from the arrogance and evasiveness of the current White House regime. This is a reality which cannot be ignored, or written of in a Left vs. Right mud-slinging match. John Harrington echoed the general feeling by explaining, “He (Obama) says he doesn’t leave anyone behind. Well, he left four behind in Benghazi, and he’s leaving one behind here”.
Meanwhile, the dominant political and social themes driving this story are as follows:
PTSD and Gun Control: Andrew’s mother, Jill Tahmooressi, came out early talking about Andrew’s post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) condition and her son’s need to feel hyper-vigilant, in part explaining why he felt the need to carry this particular collection of weapons with him. But this talking point has now taken on a life of its own. According to Congressman Duncan Hunter, R-Calif., what’s transpired in discussions he’s had with Mexican officials is that Andrew would have to admit to PTSD as the cause of his oversight in order to have his sentence reduced in Mexico. Hunter states, “It was conveyed to me that the only way Andrew can avoid an extended prison sentence is by stating that PTSD was the reason for his mistake”. Wait, hold on a minute – what (how and why) does the Mexican legal system care at all about PTSD? Did the Mexican government get this new PTSD talking point straight from Washington following John Kerry’s visit there? It certainly sounds like it. Even a Mexican precedent here would certainly be seized upon by a NAFTA-loving Obama White House, and might also embolden DOJ Attorney General Eric Holder, who himself is on a mission to restrict the use and ownership of firearms in the United States – an institutional effort already underway using psychological evaluations by VA staff to target military veterans and confiscate their guns using provisions like the Brady Bill – that includes anyone said to exhibit any PTSD symptoms, including Vietnam Vets. This is no conspiracy theory by the way because on our tour in Albuquerque at the VA Congressional meeting covered by GMN, no less three separate Vietnam Vets approached me to tell they were victims of this exact scenario.
A high-profile case like Andrew Tahmooressi would only help the White House’s desire towards disarming vets and reservists with PTSD in terms of bolstering Democrat and California voter based-public opinion, and the fact that it happened in Mexico to a US Marine, in a way provides a soft landing with little turbulence on the US legal side. It’s worth pointing out here, admist the media tornadoes, that Holder is indeed on the record saying that the government must, “brainwash people into thinking differently about guns”. Something to think about.
It’s highly laughable that the Mexican authorities could classify Andrew’s violation under the heading of “smuggling firearms” or anything other than a possession charge, as it’s obvious that the guns were not hidden and were given up by Tahmooressi when asked to step out of his vehicle at customs. If he was smuggling them, it was probably the worst attempt in history. I could give one hundred and one reasons why no American citizen would ever bother to smuggle guns into Mexico – not least of all, if you actually wanted to sell your guns in Mexico, you’d be guaranteed to get a much, much low price for them. But while we’re on the subject of smuggling guns into Mexico, let’s look at the US federal government and the Obama Administration for a minute, specifically Janet Napolitano and Eric Holder (there’s that name again) – just two top US officials who knowingly allowed Operation Fast and Furious to carry on for years – a program where Federal Agents and their network of Illegal straw purchasers flooded the Mexican black market with hundreds of thousands of illegally straw-purchased firearms from the US. To date, no one has gone down for Fast and Furious. On a global scale, Washington itself is illegally (both directly and indirectly) under the guise any given creative ‘operation’, trafficking hundreds of thousands of guns into Mexico, Central and South America, as ‘lethal aid’ to fascists in the Ukraine or ‘rebels’ in Syria, with those same arms being used by ISIS jihad terrorists in Iraq at this very moment. But that fact, in and of itself, is not going to help Sgt. Tahmooressi who faces a sentence of six to 21 years in a Mexican prison for “possession”. If his sentence is reduced for good behavior, he might get out at the tender age of 40.
Open Borders and NAFTA: Between the US and Mexico, there is a huge problem with reciprocity, and so the issue of the US southern border with Mexico is also hanging over the Tahmooressi issue like a giant storm cloud. Over the last decade, over 500 fully armed Mexican military and law enforcement personnel have crossed over the US border without permission. It’s almost a daily occurrence. This naturally raises questions over why a U.S. Marine remains jailed in Mexico for the same offense. On June 5, 2014, US Border Patrol near El Paso, Texas arrested four Mexican police officers who claimed to have “mistakenly crossed the border into Texas” in pursuit of a man who had been shot in the leg. US authorities released the 4 Mexican police intruders in 48 hours. But there’s more – on June 26th, a Mexican military helicopter crossed into the U.S. and fired on two Border Patrol agents in Arizona near the San Miguel Gate, southwest of Tucson during the early morning, nearly hitting two US border agents before it turned back. You’d think this would be an international incident, from a US State Department that has held a press conference and cried to the UN every time a Russian soldier dropped a cigarette butt on their own side of the Ukrainian border. Mexico claimed it was working on an “anti-drug operation” but no one is buying it. In fact, the GMN bus had passed through that area two weeks previous, and filed a report on the free-flow of narcotics walked over the Mexican border – heroin, methamphetamines, cocaine , and cannabis another daily occurrence. Watch here:
And then there’s the January 27th incursion by Mexican troops at Sasabe into Arizona, where Mexican soldiers crossed into Arizona and drew their weapons on Border Patrol agents – just one of at least 300 incursions over the past 18 years identified in a Freedom of Information Act reported by the News 4 Tucson Investigators. “Soldiers from that same Army base also tried to kill three American citizens who were across the border in Sasabe, Sonora, last March. One of the victims was shot twice. Soldiers said the young men had tried to run a checkpoint. However, an investigation by KVOA News 4 showed there was no checkpoint in the area”. Wonderful transparency of the Mexican government.
About that helicopter attack by Mexico, we asked a volunteer Minuteman border patrol guard what he thought about it and he just shrugged his shoulders and said, “Well, what do you think? The Mexican police were helping someone”. And here’s where the rubber truly meets the road. It’s no secret that Mexican drug cartels have full operational control, not only over large sections of the US southern border, but also inside of the US, especially in Arizona. The problem has persisted for years and Washington’s finest have allowed that situation to fester. Those illegal drugs end up in cities, towns and college campuses all over the US with a multi-billion dollar distribution network that the cartels boast is “as good as Federal Express”. Millions of junkies and addicts are being serviced every day in America as a result of this unrestricted black market trade. Yet, another reason why pissed-off Americans no longer recognize ‘Mexican justice’, or ‘Washington justice’ – in the eyes of Americans they are both banana republics.
It’s somewhat ironic that Tahmooressi went down on a gun charge in Mexico. With all of Mexico’s “strict gun laws”, it hasn’t seemed to dampen their crime rate. Somehow the government has managed to devolve control over large swaths of their country to two criminal drug cartels. In Mexico, the only two groups allowed to arm themsleves are the government and the drug cartels, and everyone else in between has to fend for themselves and steer clear of the bullets. Maybe that’s the brave new North American Union that the anti-gun crowd would like to see materialize north of border too.
Then came the immigration crisis – which is technically a refugee crisis. The issue of mass Mexican migration into the US is nothing new as they come in droves to gain an economic advantage. For some reason, however, over the last year tens of thousands per month have been pouring over the Texas border, mainly from Central American countries Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador, some were socioeconomic refugees, and some were fleeing the violent drug wars there, while others were indigenous people fleeing very real persecution in their country. Zeta Cartel-linked paramilitary groups control the profitable cocaine crops in Guatemala and are also exacting vengeance on locals who oppose it. The government there seems about as ineffective in dealing with the cartels as in Mexico. There were others on the DHS bus, including groups of young men from the Middle East and Central Asia that GMN witnessed getting off at one of the Department of Homeland Security’s ‘people-dumping sites’ in Phoenix. They looked a lot like middle class college students, wearing designer T-shirts and jeans, who looked like they had read Trip Advisor and downloaded a how-to-guide for an easy and cheap path to asylum in the US (and they did). But overwhelmingly, the DHS dump-offs were Central American – and they were vulnerable, including many single mothers, all exposed and being thrown onto US streets without any noticeable support network one would expect for typical political asylum applicants from a country like Afghanistan or Bosnia for instance. There was a air of secrecy about the whole DHS operation which was unsettling. It’s now well and truly a free-for-all of epic proportions, not unlike the influx of Syrian refugees who flooded into Lebanon and Jordan over the past three years. What do these Guatemalan and Syria refugees have in common? They are both on the move en mass as a direct consequence of US foreign policy and CIA activity in their home countries. Maybe that’s a problem too big and too old to fix, but unless American can do something about the root causes of the mass exodus, then it will simply never stop.
Adding fuel to the flames, there is also the medical health issue. Volunteers we spoke to on the ground in Phoenix told us that there was a TB issue among the homeless there and that these refugees were also at risk. We can also now report that the general population might also at risk too, but it’s hard to tell just how much. An unaccompanied child held at a South Texas DHS ‘warehouse’ for children was hospitalized this week after showing symptoms of swine flu, or H1N1. On this issue alone, Washington has failed miserably in managing the tide coming over the border. We saw DHS bus drivers dumping human cargo in Phoenix wearing blue rubber surgical gloves – unusual, but it seems even they were afraid of something.
Here’s the billion dollar question: what is America’s illustrious sister banana republic – Mexico, doing about these immigrants using their country as a transit area? Answer: what they normally do, which is absolutely nothing. Granted, the Democratic establishment led (for now) by Barack Obama, Nancy Pelosi and Joe Biden, see the migrants flowing over the southern border as future legions who will vote Democrat and maybe this is why the unprecedented flow of asylum applications has been allowed under this Administration. Nancy Pelosi even went to the border recently, proudly declaring, “We are all Americans”. So there’s something else at play here, something much bigger and more Hegelian than just growing votes. Problem, reaction, solution. This is no accidental crisis, it is an engineered one, designed to evoke public outrage, where poll master and focus groupers in Washington will be calculating public opinion closely in order gauge acceptance of something which is already signed, sealed and has only to be delivered.
Most Americans never payed attention to the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) because they didn’t understand it, or because they were intentionally misled about its alleged benefits by Presidents Bill Clinton, George Bush and Barack Obama. This is no longer a conspiracy theory, it is a fact. This full-court press of border crisis issues is only pressing the public towards a series of ready-made solutions waiting in the wing to be wheeled out at the optimum time. On this new bullet-train NAFTA , the President is the conductor. “We need more funding to send to Guatemala to tackle the refugee issue”. Check. “We need more funding for cross-border ‘cooperation’ with Mexico to tackle ‘the drug problem’ “. Check. “Sorry, but now it seems this problem just too big for the US anymore, we need to pool the resources of our North American ‘partners’ Mexico and Canada to deal with these important issues.” Check. That… is the endgame to this engineered border crisis – a North American Union where the US will finally sign over its sovereignty to an EU-style continental bureaucracy. What bureaucrats and lawyers-cum-politicians in Washington aren’t telling Americans is that it’s already a done deal. “After America comes North America,” said David Petraeus (rather confidently) this past week in answering the question, ‘what comes after the United States’. “Are we on the threshold of the North American decade, question mark? I threw that away, threw away the question mark — and boldly proclaimed the coming North American decade, says the title now.” Bilderberg steering committee member Petraeus tells us how our three economies have already been “put together” over the last 20 years in the “implementation” of NAFTA. Funny how we haven’t seen any economic benefits. In the new North American Union, the US will be forced to subsidize Mexico, through taking on increased debt and every business will have a new regulatory regime to comply with – giving a marked advantage to corporations who already command large economies of scale. Every state and county in the US will be expected to constantly fund the new North American Union, the same way all European nations are made to supply constant funding the EU bureaucracy. And like Europe has done, there will be no referendum on the issue, instead it will be signed off as a ‘treaty’ by our CEO the President. Sounds like utopia, right?
Now the Texas/Arizona refugee crisis has grown a new head in Murrieta,California where the DHS has erected (in advance of this crisis) a giant containment and processing facility for the refugees that Texas and Arizona can’t handle anymore. They’re busing them in, processing them, and then they are spread out to different parts of California and the US. This border facility is the latest battleground designed to divide Democrats and Republicans, Left and Right, on the issue. The GMN RV then headed to Murrieta last night to find out what’s really happening there and it was as we suspected – the same as in Tucson and Phoenix – and further fueling the immigration crisis.
‘New York’ Myke is a fiercely patriotic American, and owner of Harley Davidson in San Diego who has donated his parking lot as a meet-up point for the ‘Cinco de Julio’ ride to the Tijuana border on July 5th . Myke is passionate about where the country is heading and also wants to see Andrew back on US soil. “We were there loud and clear for Bowe Bergdahl, no matter what he did we rallied for years to get him free, now we’re rallying to free Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi and he’s wrongly imprisoned in Mexico as far as we’re concerned.”
“We have Mexicans coming here (to the US) all the time – by the hundreds of thousands, if not millions, and they’re all demand – and getting from the United States government welfare, food checks, education and better medicine than our veterans are getting. All that we’re asking is that one guy (Tahmooressi) that made a mistake – should come home.”
In the wake of this federal chaos, there’s also been calls to boycott Mexico – and shut down commerce on the border. By anyone’s estimate at San Yisindro alone, a stoppage of tourism and commerce would amount to losses in excess of $1 million per hour, enough to make Mexicans put pressure on their own authorities to transfer Tahmooressi back home.
“I would like everyone to know that I’m an innocent man and that it was just a big mistake and that I had no intention of bringing weapons into Mexico or committing any crime at all,” Andrew said in an interview from the Tecate prison. “Unfortunately, I wasn’t treated right at the border and my rights were violated.”
Many of his supporters are coming the realize that USMC Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi is an unofficial P.O.W. in a NAFTA border war. He’s represents an emotional rallying point, a symbol of something bigger. Putting aside the traffic school logistics, the medical diagnosis and John Kerry’s diplomatic minutia of what he did, when and why, the bottom line is that there are now millions of Americans who want him back, and they want their country back, and they really want their Constitutional Republic back. Americans, especially those residing in the 11 western states are quickly realizing that the chances of Washington ‘fixing it’, any of it, is really slim to none. Likewise, Washington is unlikely to do anything to secure the transfer of Tahmooressi back to the US.
In advance of July 5th, John Harrington has taken to the road again on what he describes as his ‘Wake the Giant’ tour, to build up awareness for some of these issues, across Texas, Louisiana, Florida, Tennessee, Kentucky, Missouri, Nebraska and back down to San Diego for Cinco de Julio. Harrington put it best, “This is no longer left or right, this has now come down to good vs evil – whether it’s a Marine in Mexico or the way the VA has treated our veterans.”
“The other day I read the Declaration of Independence. It looks like Obama’s ‘to do list’. All the grievances in the Declaration of Independence are happening right now”.
Everyone seems to agree that something has to be done – and that Washington’s not going to do it.
According to biker organizers, a ‘Cinco de Julio Ride to the Border’ meet-up will be held in San Diego on July 5th.
Author Patrick Henningsen is an independent freelance journalist and filmmaker traveling through the American Southwest to cover a number of breaking stories this summer. He has worked as a European, Middle East correspondent, and also regular contributor to Russia Today (RT) and UK Column TV (UKCTV), and host of The Sunday Wire weekly radio show broadcast globally on the GMN radio network. Other past work includes associate editor of Infowars.com, presenter and producer of 21st Century Wire TV on SKY Channel 191 in 2012-13, and has written for The Guardian, New Dawn Magazine, and appearances on Coast to Coast AM, Red Ice Radio, Edge Media TV(UK), ITN, and Al Jazeera International.
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