Tactics and semantics of warfare turn ugly situation much worse
Zapata - When more than one boat load of Mexican men brandishing automatic assault weapons began to chase the young couple, they ran for it.
The engines “personal watercraft” - jet-propelled boats resembling snowmobiles – screamed as they accelerated to maximum speed.
The crystal-blue waters of Falcon Lake are divided by concrete pylons that mark the course of the Rio Grande before the dam was completed in the fifties and the lake began to fill.
Safety lay on the other side of those range markers.
Then the young woman saw a bullet strike the back of her husband's head. He toppled from his jet-ski and the “dead man” feature built into the machine shut the engine down, stopped the propulsion nozzle thrusting huge amounts of water behind the small craft to make it race, skimming across the surface.
Tiffany Hartley jumped into the water. She tried to lift her husband David on board the boat, but his inert body was too much for her.
When bullets began to whiz through the air around her and she saw the water churned by the high velocity lead projectiles, she was forced to make a tragic decision. She fled for her life. She had to leave her husband behind.
Why did her assailants not shoot her?
It's a well-known and time-honored feature of warfare that when irregular, undisciplined paramilitary soldiers take female hostages, they gang rape them. Dead, she would not have suited their purposes.
The poor young woman displayed a huge degree of moral courage. A lesser woman would have panicked, behaved like a deer in the headlights and submitted to their cruel attack.
These are the terms under which the deadly three-way conflict between the Mexican military with its “war” on drugs, the Gulf Cartel, long-time exporter of drugs, importer of laundered cash and traffickers in slave workers, and the burgeoning band of Mexican Special Forces deserters, the Zetas, are fighting out on a daily basis.
Amid the swirling accusations – many of them politically motivated – Tiffany Hartley's story remains the same. Pirates attacked her husband. They shot him. She fled for her life. End of story? Not quite.
The Governor of Texas, out stumping on the campaign trail, is demanding the President of the United States do more to get to the bottom of the investigation and stimulate some action. State authorities' hands are tied. They cannot cross into Mexico.
Said Rick Perry, “I don't think we're doing enough. When you call off the search they way they do...and give as the reason because the drug cartels are in control of that part of the state, something's not right.” He called the federal law enforcement and diplomatic response “irresponsible.”
U.S. Representative Henry Cuellar has said he believes Mexican authorities are doing everything they can. Darkness was falling; Mexican searchers called it a night, fearing an ambush in the dark.
His brother Martin, Sheriff of adjacent Webb County, said from his office in Laredo that he has no doubt Mexican officials are looking for the body of the man authorities believe lost his life to gunfire a week ago, on Oct. 1.
Within days, she speculation begam that the killing in fact never took place.
The Mexican Foreign Relations Ministry issued an official statement saying they have been looking “from the first moment.”
The District Attorney for Miguel Aleman Province sparked the contrary speculation when he said, “”We are not sure. We are not certain that the incident happened the way they are telling us.”
The young widow instantly lashed out in her grief. She told a network news anchor, “As far as we know, we don't think they have been looking. And there is – we understand the possiblity that the people who did this probably have him. And that's why maybe they can't find him.”
Zapata County Sheriff Sigifredo Gonzalez said, “We just want a body. We cannot arrest anybody for what happened in Mexico, we cannot prosecute on the state level anybody for what happened in Mexico. We just want a body. I did send word to the drug cartel, the Zeta cartel in Mexico, I sent word to them unofficially. I can't tell you how but I sent word to them.
Amid all this furor, irresponsible and irreverent bloggers are venturing the opinion that it's entirely possible no shooting took place at all, that nothing happened. There is no body to be found, they say. Perhaps. Just perhaps. In fact, one major network has aired an entire series and wrapped it up with that speculation.
After all, October before a November election – mid-term or not – is always ratings sweeps time. You can't be too careful when Christmas bonuses are on the line.
With the alleged crime scene being located in a foreign country, American lawmen are hard pressed to investigate any aspect of the mystery.
An angered father of David Hartley stopped accusing Mexican officials of willful inaction when they became aware of the full ramifications of the problem.
All this has set off a media feeding frenzy that is unattractive to behold.
But the attack is nothing new. Local televised reports of exactly the same kind of attacks began to surface in the spring of this year when bass fishermen competing in a tournament reported being chased away from the Mexican side of the border by armed men in boats bent on taking their vessels away from them, brandishing assault weapons and demanding they heave to and submit to boarding.
Like the Hartleys, they made a run for it, but their luck held and they were more fortunate. They escaped with their lives.