Even though he never even intended to cross the border, U.S. Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi has been held captive in a Mexican prison for the past four months. He is charged with violating that nation’s draconian gun laws, simply because he had guns in his vehicle when he made a wrong turn on a southern California road. Mum on the entire situation, the White House seems content with allowing Tahmooressi to remain captive in Mexico, despite clear evidence of injustice and reports of severe mistreatment. With government unwilling to act, private citizens must step up to free Tahmooressi. Someone with the power to do so should act, as industrialist Ross Perot did 35 years ago in funding and organizing a mission to free two Americans unjustly held captive in Iran at the start of the Iranian Revolution.
Tahmooressi, a Florida native, was staying in California earlier this year to receive treatment for post-traumatic stress disorder diagnosed after he returned from duty in Afghanistan. On the night of March 31, after a visit to Tijuana, Tahmooressi drove from a California parking lot onto a northbound road he thought would lead him to San Diego. Instead, the road looped to the south and took him across the border. He did not realize he was in Mexico until he came upon a checkpoint. At the checkpoint, Tahmooressi notified the guard of his mistake and informed her of the weapons inside his vehicle. Initially it seemed the authorities would escort him back to the border. However, a Mexican military officer arrived and sent Tahmooressi to a holding area. Eventually, Tahmooressi arrived in prison where he endured severe mistreatment. Guards stripped him of his clothes, chained him to his bedpost, and hit him. Tahmooressi described the guards’ actions in a May 29 interview with Fox News’ Greta Van Susteren:
I was hit multiple times. I was punched in the stomach a few times. To the point where I couldn’t breathe. I was gasping for air. I was struck in the face a bunch of times with open palms, slaps. My jaw, I got slapped on one side of my jaw maybe like ten times in a row, and my jaw kind of — it fell out of place — not out of place, but it moved in a way where something didn’t feel right. I was slapped in the forehead a lot. My feet were — I was forced to be on my knees with my face pushed up against the fence, hard up against the fence. My feet were stepped on.
With increased media coverage, particularly that of Van Susteren, Tahmooressi’s conditions improved. His case is currently being heard before Judge Victor Octavio Luna Escobedo. According to Tahmooressi’s defense attorney Fernando Benitez, the case is going well for Tahmooressi. However, judges are often corrupt in Mexico, and Benitez reports that Judge Escobedo will likely not make a decision for three months. That is far too long to wait and far too uncertain to take no action.
Nonetheless, the inaction and silence of the Obama administration communicates loud and clear that it has no problem leaving a Marine, who served his nation honorably, to rot in a Mexican prison based on an honest mistake. This is the same administration that used the principle of “leave no soldier behind” to justify its exchange of five enemy combatants for one American soldier accused of deserting his battalion and voluntarily joining his “captors” in Afghanistan. Such backwardness from government should not be surprising. In this case, it clearly demonstrates the need for the private sector to take charge and do the right thing.
Tahmooressi’s predicament is similar to that of two American employees of the Ross Perot-outfit Electronic Data Systems, who were imprisoned in Iran in 1978. The two workers stationed in Tehran, were arrested and charged with bribery by Iranian officials who set bond at $12.75 million. Perot attempted to negotiate a release, with no success. He then called on retired Army Special Forces officer Arthur Simmons to break the employees out of the prison. The attempt was a success and inspired the 1983 Ken Follett novel On Wings of Eagles and the 1986 miniseries of the same name.
Something similar should be done today to free Tahmooressi of his Mexican captors. Though perhaps no one has the employee loyalty to Tahmooressi as Perot had to the prisoners in Iran, a wealthy man can still put together a team to break Tahmooressi out of prison with patriotic loyalty as motivation. This poses three questions. Who is brave enough to step forward and lead this effort? Who is willing to risk everything to liberate a man from injustice? And, if anyone, who will use the private sector to rescue Americans abandoned abroad, acting as the Ross Perot of this generation?