The Diplomacy of Ambushes

The reporting on the ambush of 2 American trainers in Mexico on Friday reminds me of the reporting on Ray Davis’ antics in Pakistan last year. Then, there was a squeamishness about mentioning that he was a CIA contractor, even after that had been widely reported in Pakistan, even in English. Here, too, there’s a hesitation to describe what the trainers were doing in Mexico or publish the names that have been reported in Mexico (which I suspect are covers). Much of the American reporting neglects any mention of possible attempted murder charges for the attack.

More striking, too, is that only the AP has reported the US Embassy in Mexico’s accusation that this was an ambush. The Embassy in Mexico started calling this an ambush at least by Saturday (according to this account, they started calling it that on Friday after hearing the story of the two trainers). Here’s what the AP says the Embassy said yesterday.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico City said Monday that two U.S. government employees and a Mexican Navy captain were heading to a training facility outside the city of Cuernavaca when they were ambushed by a group of gunmen that included federal police. The Mexican government said federal police were conducting unspecified law-enforcement activities in the rural, mountainous area known for criminal activity when they came upon the car, which attempted to flee and came under fire from gunmen in four vehicles including federal police.

(Lawyers for the 12 Federales being detained–and some of the early reporting on this–say they were investigating a kidnapping, but I guess that’s not official.)

CNN appears to have asked State Department spokesperson Victoria Nuland whether this was an ambush–and with her equivocation, they chose not to publish that the Embassy in Mexico said it was.

The U.S. Embassy in Mexico is cooperating with the investigation into the shooting incident, Victoria Nuland, the State Department spokeswoman, said Monday.

“I’m not going to get ahead of the investigation. I think we’re going to wait and see what that concludes,” she said when asked whether the incident was an attack or an ambush.

The WaPo doesn’t get into questions of ambushes or not–but it does give more information on the trainers (whom it does refer to as such).

Over the weekend, the two men, both in stable medical condition, were evacuated to the United States, according to a U.S. State Department official.

One of the wounded men was attached to the U.S. Embassy in Mexico City, the other appeared to be in Mexico on temporary assignment, according to U.S. law enforcement officials who spoke the condition of anonymity because the case is still under investigation.

[snip]

The two U.S. employees were headed to a Mexican Navy training facility, accompanied by a Mexican Navy captain, meaning that U.S. trainers were attacked by the federal police forces they have spent the past five years helping to train.

Here’s a thought.

For the moment, I suspect this is what the US Embassy in Mexico (though not what Nuland) says it is: an ambush of two “trainers” to prevent them from getting to the Naval base where they were cooperating on counter-narcotics operations.

But what if the Federales mention of a kidnapping is accurate? That is, what if they were pursuing “kidnappers” they knew to be the American trainers? Is it possible we helped the Mexican military take someone into custody–perhaps on the Navy base–they wanted to free or retaliate for? Is it possible we got ambushed for helping the military capture someone? Did the names of the Americans–Jess Hoods Garner and Stan Dove Boss–come from the Federales, in an effort to expose their covers?

The Mexicans have shut down coverage of this pretty hard, both by locking down the site for most of the day on Friday and limiting access to the 12 Federales in custody.

It clearly seems like the trainers were ambushed (and as I’ve said, the shots seem to have concentrated on whoever was in the passenger seat). But it’s also possible that there’s a back story that is more explosive than the ambush itself.

Marcy has been blogging full time since 2007. She’s known for her live-blogging of the Scooter Libby trial, her discovery of the number of times Khalid Sheikh Mohammed was waterboarded, and generally for her weedy analysis of document dumps.

Marcy Wheeler is an independent journalist writing about national security and civil liberties. She writes as emptywheel at her eponymous blog, publishes at outlets including the Guardian, Salon, and the Progressive, and appears frequently on television and radio. She is the author of Anatomy of Deceit, a primer on the CIA leak investigation, and liveblogged the Scooter Libby trial.

Marcy has a PhD from the University of Michigan, where she researched the “feuilleton,” a short conversational newspaper form that has proven important in times of heightened censorship. Before and after her time in academics, Marcy provided documentation consulting for corporations in the auto, tech, and energy industries. She lives with her spouse and dog in Grand Rapids, MI.

8 replies
  1. Jim White says:

    U.S. trainers were attacked by the federal police forces they have spent the past five years helping to train

    After reading that phrase earlier this morning, I considered making my post for today on the spread of green on blue attacks from Afghanistan to Mexico, but I went with killer Isaac instead…

  2. OrionATL says:

    i’ve wondered about the vehicle.

    one report said 60 shots fired into it – and no one inside was killed?

    what were the mexicans using – air rifles?

    or was this an armored vehicle?

    like i said yesterday, haqqani drug corporation = guzman drug corporation = endless terrorist war.

    the difference will be that ideology will no longer be the front for drug corporation self-defense from government attempts at control of the drug corporation’s business activities.

    which in turn implies that the war of the future will be more of the immediate past stripped of ideology – corporations vs government; private, “individual” money-making activity vs public interest and public need.

  3. OrionATL says:

    funny, funny ad for silverado.

    call toyota and see if they’d like to compete (“get away in a hurry and live to tell about it”).

  4. BSbafflesbrains says:

    @OrionATL: And bumper crop of poppies in
    Afghanistan this year, thanks to the well trained security forces protecting the warlords crops. Heroin should be in good supply for the coming season. If we are going to have an endless War on Drugs we need a good supply of drugs.

  5. emptywheel says:

    @OrionATL: The car was an armored Land Cruiser. Click through the link above for pictures–as I noted, the bullet marks were almost entirely concentrated on the passenger window, with maybe four bullet marks on the rear window.

    But that doesn’t answer several other questions. Given that it WAS a bullet-proof car, how did both these Americans get injured (the Mexican driver had minor bruises, reportedly). None of the windows seemed pierced.

    Then there’s a question I noted in my last post: reports say they were unarmed. I’m skeptical, first of all, that the driver–who was a Navy captain–was unarmed. So is it true that the Americans didn’t ever shoot?

    Also, there were at least 60 bullet casings at the site. Yet the bullet marks on the Land Cruiser are pretty focused, and only 30 bullets hit the Land Cruiser. So what were the other 30 bullets shooting at?

  6. BSbafflesbrains says:

    @emptywheel: Not a ballistics expert but I have heard from many soldiers that bullet proof glass isn’t really bullet proof and fragments can be like shrapnel. Still I’m sure you are posing the right questions that will never be answered.

  7. OrionATL says:

    @emptywheel:

    maybe four folks in the land cruiser, not three?

    driver where he was supposed to be + two americans in the back seat where they are better protected + detainee/stool pigeon in front passenger seat.

    a captain as a driver?

    these must have been some important dudes!

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