Friday, December 14, 2012

U.S. denies Congressional Medal of Honor to Mexican Marine who threw himself on grenade, saving 12 GIs

MGRR News Analysis -
Once again, a double standard in Washington

*Update below*
Guadalajara -
While many on Capitol Hill continue to whine about the August arrest of former Marine Lance Cpl. Jon Hammar, who's in jail near Matamoros for bringing a 60 year old shotgun into the country, another Marine - a real hero - has been given short shrift by the U.S. Dept. of Defense.

Hammar's case became a cause celebre in the U.S. a week ago when McClatchy news service published this weepy report. Some in Washington are demanding that Mexico release him immediately. The case has received only the most marginal attention in this country, and has been largely ignored by the Mexican press. It's easy to understand why most here feel little sympathy for him.

Firearm ownership in Mexico is strictly prohibited, except by military and police forces. Mexico is in month 72 of an offensive against drug cartels and organized crime which has cost about 60,000 lives. It's almost impossible to enter the country by land, as Jon Hammar did, without confronting road signs clearly warning that all firearms possession is illegal. Allegedly relying on the advice of others that he was committing no offense, and that he could lawfully register the gun, Hammar ignored the warnings and crossed the border at Brownsville. He faces a decade in prison, although a diplomatic resolution appears likely.

On November 1, 2011, an assistant U.S. attorney general told Senator Dianne Feinstein (D. Calif.) that of the then approximately 94,000 weapons seized by Mexican troops since the drug war began, at least 64,000 could be directly traced back to the United States. That number represented about 68%, but officials in this country claim that 80% of all firearms it seizes from cartels and organized crime groups come from the United States. The government says that U.S. guns play a key role in Mexico's raging drug war, and former president Felipe Calderón regularly implored Washington to do something to stop the huge flow of weapons into the nation ("Dear friends in the U.S. - please, no more assault weapons to Mexico"). There's simply no tolerance of private weapon ownership here, and everybody but everybody understands that fact. Those who ignore it do so at their own peril.

Meanwhile, family, friends and supporters of another Marine - this one long dead - are doing their best to help their own fallen brother. Sergeant Rafael Peralta, a native of Mexico City whose family later moved to San Diego, died in combat in Fallujah, Iraq more than eight years ago. During a battle in November 2004 he threw himself on a grenade and saved a platoon of at least a dozen soldiers. But in a letter earlier this week the U.S. Defense Department told Peralta's family that he would not be bestowed the Congressional Medal of Honor - America's highest award for military valor - because he was wounded in the head, and probably unconscious of what he was doing, when he used his body as a shield. Instead Peralta was posthumously awarded the Naval Distinguished Service Cross, the nation's second highest military decoration. The Navy also christened a destroyer after him.

U.S. Congressman Duncan Duane Hunter (R. Calif.), whose district includes northern and eastern San Diego County, lobbied hard to get Peralta the Medal of Honor, first awarded in 1780. Rep. Hunter is a former United States Marine Corps officer and a veteran of both the Iraq and Afghanistan Wars. Soldiers who fought alongside Peralta gave statements to DOD investigators that the sergeant had only a leg wound when he threw himself on the grenade, but a military forensic analyst apparently concluded otherwise. Sgt. Peralta met one end in faraway Fallujah, and now another in Washington.

Ironically, Lance Cpl. Hammar also fought in Fallujah. He escaped physical injury, but reports say he bears many psychological scars from the vicious urban combat. Today he sits in a Mexican jail near the U.S. border, waiting to learn his legal fate.

Dec. 21 - U.S. press sources report that Jon Hammar will be released today. Mexico's ambassador to the United States allegedly conveyed the assurance to Hammar's family members. A Christmas gift from Enrique Peña Nieto, apparently. It pays to be well connected and have advocates on both sides of the border, especially if one of them is a national news service which disgustingly allowed itself to be manipulated by the defendant in a criminal prosecution. Now if EPN could just persuade his American friends to reduce the southbound shipments of assault weapons by about 80%.

Dec. 22 - With a little help from his friends, Jon Hammar released

Dec. 19 - Enrique's challenging homework
Dec. 17 - The Second Amendment and the NRA tour Mexico
Dec. 16 - El País asks, "¿Quién desarma a EE UU?" - Who will disarm the United States?

1 comment:

  1. Sounds like Hammar was just another Gringo believing that he is above the law in Mexico. As you said, the road signs are pretty clear.