The good news is that Marine Sgt. Tahmooressi, a combat veteran suffering from PTSD, was released from a Mexican prison after being arrested for bringing illegal firearms into that country. Mexican jails are horrible places and the Mexican government is to be commended for releasing him on humanitarian grounds.
The bad news is that a lot of conservative "Obama Bashers" want to politicize this case by claiming that the Ppesident did not "do enough" to secure Sgt. Tahmooressi's release. This is a preposterous charge. Of course, for some people, Obama will never do anything right but in this case, there was actually little even the president could do. In reality, more was done in this case than is usually done by the U.S. government for Americans incarcerated abroad. Even when cases are resolved diplomatically, it often takes time.
This was not a unique case. Actually, Sgt Tahmooressi was very lucky. Dozens of Americans are arrested every year in Mexico-including members of the military-for disobeying Mexico's gun laws. It does not matter that Sgt. Tahmooressi's military-grade weapons were legally registered in the U.S. Mexico is not the U.S. Even if they are not enforced uniformly, Mexico has very strict gun laws and when they are enforced, they are enforced harshly.
Anyone who travels abroad should know that when an American citizen is arrested overseas, there is little the U.S. government can do to secure his or her release. Passports come with a clear warning that while in a foreign country, you are subject to that country's laws, not U.S. law. It does not matter that your actions were legal in the U.S. Other countries have different laws and often, different legal systems where a person may spend a long period of pre-trial confinement while the case is investigated.
If those who criticize Obama on this issue were to read U.S. State Department and consular notices and policies (available online) regarding the arrest of a U.S. national overseas, they would realize that Mexico has strict gun laws. Claiming you did not know the law or that you did not know you had the guns will not help you.
They would also know that U.S. consuls, under international and U.S. law, can do very little to help an imprisoned American. They can visit the prisoner, inform family and friends, forward money, provide a list of local English-speaking lawyers, explain the local legal process, and perhaps make diplomatic representations about inhumane treatment.
But, they cannot demand the release of a U.S. citizen. Even if the local system is slow or corrupt, a U.S. citizen must go through the legal process of that country. This has been U.S. consular policy for years, long before Obama took office.
State Department official policy is to respect the sovereignty of other countries. Many conservatives are obsessed about surrender of "U.S. sovereignty." How would they feel if another country demanded that we release their citizens charged with breaking our laws?
Nor is it appropriate to compare this case to the case of Army Sgt. Bergdahl. The Right is demanding to know why Sgt. Bergdahl was welcomed back by the president but Sgt. Tahmooressi was not. The two cases are not similar. Sgt. Bergdahl was a P.O.W. and, until a military court-martial rules otherwise, that is all he is. Those who want to politicize this case accuse him of desertion to the enemy, but have they forgotten that even under military law, an accused person is innocent until proven guilty?
Sgt. Tahmooressi was not a P.O.W. or a political prisoner. He was arrested, rightly or wrongly, for violating Mexican criminal law. Virtually no one released from custody for criminal offenses overseas gets a Presidential welcome. His supporters likely would not be upset about the numerous other Americans in jail overseas who have been charged with crimes. Do these conservatives really think we should have declared war on Mexico over this issue? It is disturbing that some wish to use this issue to further their own agendas.
(Scott Cracraft is an American citizen, taxpayer, veteran, and resident of Gilford)
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