U.S. Weapons in Cartel Hands? Blame Uncle Sam

M61 and M67 Fragmentation Hand Grenades

The Vietnam-era M26/61 series of “lemon” grenades (so-called because of their shape) and modern era M67 “baseball” grenades have been recovered in substantial quantities in Mexico, to the tune of as many as 1,600 a year.

This suggests tens of thousands of grenades are in cartel hands, many of these given to Central American regimes as foreign military aid, or sold or stolen out of military armories. The American and South Korean copies of the M67 grenades are by far the most common hand grenades in cartel hands.

40mm Grenades and 40mm Grenade Launchers

While the M26/61 and M67 grenades acquired by cartels are hand-tossed and effective only as far as a man can throw them (30-35 meters), 40mm grenades are fired from grenade launchers, giving them a range of hundreds of yards and providing cartels the kind of man-portable firepower earlier generations would classify as light artillery.

The most common 40mm grenade launcher recovered in Mexico is the M203, commonly mounted under fully-automatic M16 rifles and M4 carbines sold to the Mexican military. Older Vietnam-era single-shot M79 grenade launchers also turn up on rare occasions.

M72 LAW Light Antitank Weapon

The LAW is a single-shot disposable anti-tank rocket first used by American forces in Vietnam to crack open Vietcong bunkers, and which has recently been recalled to duty to perform a similar role in Iraq and Afghanistan. Variants captured in the hands of Mexican cartels are most likely from foreign military sales to El Salvador.

M16 and M4 Assault Rifles

Unlike the less common machine guns, hand grenades, and rocket launchers that cartels acquire from foreign military sales, the most likely source of the ubiquitous M4 and M16 assault rifle in Mexico is Mexico itself. These direct commercial sales to the Mexican government are stolen or sold in droves to the cartels by corrupt government officials and military officers.

It is thought that President Obamas 90-percent lie is based upon his willingness to try to obscure the direct commercial sales of these selective-fire weapons from the American government, conflating them with the much smaller number of semi-automatic rifles that look like these weapons. Cartels have smuggled these over the border at a much higher-per gun cost.

The U.S. government is indirectly responsible for these weapons, from heavy machine guns that can bring down military helicopters and slice through light armored vehicles to the grenades and assault weapons cartels use against police, civilians, and each other. The U.S. put them there with previous military support, and continues sales of weapons to regimes that cannot or will not control their stockpiles of weaponry.

The ATF, Attorney General Eric Holder, and the president all seem quite intent on finding a scapegoat for the violence of the Mexican drug war. Instead of trying to frame Americans citizens, they should examine the havoc and bloodshed they are responsible for creating.