Alligators in the Moat: Politics and the Mexican Border, the latest book by popular cowboy author, Ed Ashurst, not only reveals that life on the border has never been more dangerous, it exposes the extent to which the federal government will go to cover-up how bad it is.
The Arizona – Mexico border continues to see a steady increase in illegal human smuggling and drug trafficking. While the cartels continue their brazen attacks on the ranchers in southern Arizona and the public at large, the American government seems to be doing all it can to hide the truth and refuse to hold anyone accountable for the dangerous situation along the Mexican-American border.
In his book, Ashurst, a rancher whose property lies very close to the border, reveals the realities for those who live – and die – near the border.
Ashurst discusses the constant fear that grips the residents. The fear of theft, murder, and abductions are constantly on the minds of those who live in what is now described as “no man’s land.” Ashurst hopes his book will educate people who live north of him – revealing to them what it is like to have federal government officials who avert their eyes as cartels stomp through your backyard.
Ashurst discussed the most stunning revelation; the truth about the death of Border Patrol agent Nick Ivie, during an appearance on the James T. Harris radio show on Monday. [Listen to the interview here]
The official story crafted by the federal government was that Agent Ivie was killed dead due to friendly fire. The story goes that Ivie was shot by fellow agents after he mistook the two agents, in the dark of night, as drug runners. Ivie supposedly shot one agent in the ankle and the buttocks while the other remained unharmed. One of the two agents fired back and killed Ivie instantly.
According to Ashurst, the media portrayed Ivie’s death as a sad result of a “gross rookie mistake.”
In his book, Ashurst reveals another version; the version that is based on the extemporaneous reports taken by the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office.
Ashurst told Harris, “The female agent who was there, which is a matter of public record in the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office. You can go get the report yourself and read it. She said that they were in contact with Ivie by radio. They saw Ivie signal them with a flashlight so they knew where each other were. She said when it all started, there was screaming and yelling, and there was gunfire from what she described as a long gun – a rifle, and none of the Border Patrol agents had rifles. She said she heard voices and then she hit the ground and went nowhere and then she saw three or four bodies walk past her going south to Mexico.”
“The officer, the Cochise County sergeant who wrote up the report, at the crime scene said Ivie hit the ground and passed away immediately. He went nowhere. The third agent, another man, was wounded in the ankle and the buttocks. He went down and undoubtedly went nowhere and the sergeant described a bloody trail from the north area of the incident which is the direction that Ivie entered, and the bloody trail – very well described – went south toward Mexico,” Ashurst explained.
“There were multiple footprints along that bloody trail that were not consistent with responders. In other words, they were shoe tracks that were different from Border Patrol tracks and sheriff employee tracks. There was an empty rifle cartridge trail. There were three fresh water bottles with fresh blood on the bottles and that is the most damning thing,” said Ashurst.
“There were also other rifle cartridges off to the side of the trail. Nick Ivie could not have made the bloody trail because he was killed instantly. The agent who was injured in the ankle and hind end would not have made it because he was in the wrong position and he undoubtedly went down. The girl’s testimony says that when the gunfire erupted she immediately went down and took cover and never moved. And she said she heard voices and that she saw three or four bodies walk past her close enough that she could see them and they were going south to Mexico.” Ashurst concluded, “The sad thing of this whole situation is that the government made Nick Ivie look like a moron rookie who opened fire for no reason and he died without the honor of saying he was involved in a gun battle.”
Ashurst explained that he “had no intention of writing about the Nick Ivie affair” because he “really didn’t have any inside information.” He told Harris that he “was very suspicious and had heard a lot of rumors. I was well into the book, about three or four months, and I was contacted by a fellow that I knew and he said, ‘You’re writing this book. I’ve got something you need to see.’ It is what is called the Cochise County Sheriff’s incident narrative. Basically a crime report. The night it happened there were a dozen or so Cochise County Sheriff deputies who were called to the scene. All but one them didn’t really see anything. They were just supplying perimeter security etc. But there was one sergeant who was at the crime scene and wrote up a report. He saw whatever all the FBI and Border Patrol saw. He was also present four hours after the incident took place and was in the interview of the female agent that was one of three agents that were involved in the shooting. And what that crime report said blew me away.”
“All the newspaper articles and everything that has ever been put out by the federal government says that it was friendly fire,” Ashurst told Harris, “That it was all a big mistake. There has never been any mention; there has been blatant denial that there were armed drug cartel agents on the scene. The government stance on it is that Ivie approached from the north, the other two agents from the south. When they got close to each other they mistook each other for outlaws and Ivie opened up first and shot the other guy who returned fire and killed him. They refuse to admit that there were armed outlaws involved. That is the damning thing about it; the fact that Ivie may have been killed by friendly fire. That to me is irrelevant. They have made Nick Ivie out to look like an idiot and I’ve interviewed many agents and they all had a deep respect for him. He was a veteran. A very good man and very, very competent. He wasn’t a rookie and he doesn’t have the honor of being said that he was involved in a gun battle.”
Ashurst also believes that the Cochise County Sheriff’s Office has no reason to lie in this situation and that the sergeant who wrote the report is a highly respected as is the entire Sheriff’s department in Cochise County. Ashurst is adamant that the federal agencies involved in the friendly fire story – the FBI and the Border Patrol itself, are the ones who were actively trying to sell a different version of the tragedy that just so happened to take place 34 days prior to the presidential elections in 2012.
“Another interesting thing here is that this happened on October the 2nd 2012,” Ashurst told Harris. “Thirty four days before the presidential election. Janette Napolitano who was acting Secretary of Homeland Security and David Agular was at the time the highest border patrol agent in America was in Sierra Vista less than 48 hours comforting the Ivie family. There was a newspaper article that quotes one of Nick Ivie’s brothers saying “it was a lot easier thinking there was an outlaw involved.” In other words they were told by Napolitano and Agular that there were no armed outlaws at the scene.”
During that election, the Obama administration pushed the narrative that the border was safer than it had ever been before. Leading up to that election, in a speech near the U.S.-Mexico border in El Paso, Texas on May 10, 2011, President Obama said Republicans in Congress were never satisfied with the government’s actions on the border. He stated that they will want a “higher fence” and then “a moat,” and then “alligators in the moat.” Hence the title of Ashurst’s book.
Dr. Scott Catino joined Ashurst on Harris’ show. Catino, a former Associate Dean of Strategic Security with specialization in security, intelligence and modern military studies, edited the book and wrote the foreword and contributed to its conclusion. Catino says that the Ivie incident is upsetting, but the government’s gloss-over of border realities is not.
“We always hear this narrative of the poor illegal, who crosses over. Ed and many ranchers like him have a very different picture. The attitudes are often very defiant and very opportunistic,” Catino said of the cartels. “Also so many of the average illegals crossing over are working with the cartels as they control these lines and are forcing these individuals to serve their needs.” Catino said that Ashurst’s book was important because it provides insight and exposes the types of characters involved in the “political scenario that manipulates and falsifies the level of security and the types of situations that are taking place,” on the border.
Harris said that two seemed to be “describing a military operation,” on the part of the cartels. “I mean we’ve gone from open borders, we’ve gone from refugees, as you say – we paint the faces of these little children coming across – and Ed’s reality is that they are dealing with well-armed criminal activity with, in some cases, military precision.”
“That’s exactly right,” replied Catino, “and for many of us, who served in Iraq and Afghanistan, to come home and to see this on our border – not 1,000 miles away in some country we’re serving in – but right here on our own borders.” Catino said the cartels make “very sophisticated tactical movements. These aren’t just poor individuals coming across, the cartels control it and they are moving in a very sophisticated way and they have automatic weapons. They have advanced communication technology, and they have an intelligence network around them on both sides of the border that some have even penetrated our forces and the population. It’s really a dangerous situation. The politicizing of the border issue also creates another realm of chaos.”
In talking with former Border Patrol agents, Catino found that they are willing to tell the story and explain just how badly the job has been battered by bureaucracy rather than action. “I look at a case like this with Nick Ivie – as important as it is to his legacy for the person, who served faithfully, and who served for his family and for those who serve like him – it is extremely important but I wish it was just an isolated case.”
Catino continued, “When I hear the quote that you have by the President where he talks about people who are concerned about security as never being satisfied. It’s just so hurtful to hear that after seeing so many ranchers and how they are suffering, and how the illegals are suffering under the cartels. When I hear stories about increasing funding, manpower, technology, if that funding was quadrupled or even tenfold it would mean nothing if they are not giving a mission to prosecute an arrest.”
Catino notes that in his experience there is a difference between many current Border Patrol agents and retired agent. “I talk to former Border Patrol agents and they simply want to tell the story of how bad and politicized the system is,” stated Catino, and now when he runs “into Border Patrol – and forgive me – it is almost comical. Some of them are almost robotic in their response. It is so obvious that they are politicized and are afraid to speak. And others suffer in silence. They openly tell me they wish they could tell me more or they are pained, literally pained, because they are muzzled from telling the truth of what is going on. So the story of Nick Ivie; as tragic as it is, it only is the tip of the iceberg.”