Julia E. Sweig is, at first glance, typical of the drones who circulate in the committee staffs and think tanks of Washington: dumpy body, bad teeth and skin, crooked nose, thick glasses, unkempt hair. Not to mention the man hands. She personifies the adage that Washington is “Hollywood for ugly people.” She has degrees from the “right” schools, and circulates with the “right” people on the Beltway self-promotion circuit: credentialed, highly verbal, same backgrounds, same ideology: once they called it “scientific materialism.” We know the type: bent double under the weight of naked ambition and lust for power, while utterly unburdened by self-doubt, conscience, or respect for the lesser proles who teem in their herds in the Great American Desert between the coasts.
A repellent creature, to be sure, but why do we even care about this disease-bearing tick on the body politic? Because from her perch at the Council of Foreign Relations, she wants to revise American gun laws, and her Beltway colleagues in the industrial media are holding her up as a neutral policy expert. She writes:
[T]he U.S. civilian firearms market continues to supply the region’s transnational criminal networks with high-powered weaponry that is purchased with limited oversight, especially from unlicensed individuals at gun shows, flea markets, pawn shops, and on the Internet. Lax U.S. gun laws enable straw purchasers, including those under investigation in Operation Fast and Furious, to legally procure thousands of AK-47 and AR-15 variants every year and traffic them across the border to sell them illegally to criminal factions.
That’s from the web page for the CFR memo; it’s a hell of a reference to Fast and Furious, in which Sweig’s beloved ATF (the nearest she can find to the police apparatus of her real hero, whom we;’ll get to in a moment) trafficked roughly 3,000 weapons (including an FN FiVeSeVeN personally owned by one of he ATF participants) to the Sinaloa Cartel, producing over 500 murders including several of US law enforcement officers.
First, let’s look at the facts. There is no evidence that “transnational criminal networks” go to the US civilian market for their arms. There are not enough private sales to be a percent of the market. If she thinks guns change hands at flea markets, let her cite an example: she can’t show us one gun in international crime that passed through some “flea market” which she imagines happening in the Dreaded Flyover States. The reference to pawn shops shows how shallow her research is: pawn shiops must have a Federal Firearms License to trade in firearms, and they must comply with all Federal and state requirements, including NICS checks. She’s simply lying, which turns out to be one of her default modes of argumentation, probably because of her Marxist background (see below). Again, we defy her to cite a single gun, let alone the tens of thousands used by “transnational criminal networks,” that made its way to her imaginary villains through this imaginary path. Finally, “Internet sales” also need to comply with Federal and state laws. Unlike Sweig, we’ve bought a few guns via Internet advertisements and auctions. Every one passed through an FFL and required a NICS check.
Also unlike Sweig, we’ve actually seen “transnational criminal networks.” We’ve trained cops to fight them. We’ve stood there while they outlined a body in chalk.Exercise for the reader: Google “los Zetas” and look at the images. Are those guys equipped with random stuff from flea markets and gun shows?
Yet Sweig seems to think the US civilian market drives Latin American crime and unrest. (So who;’s responsible for the first 240 or so coups in Bolivia? Frank Bannerman?) She claims 70, or 80, or 90 percent of organized crime guns come from American retailers and individual sellers. Sweig’s position stems from a deliberate misreading of ATF trace data. She writes:
U.S. government data highlights the problem. …. Over 70 percent of the ninety-nine thousand weapons recovered by Mexican law enforcement since 2007 were traced to U.S. manufacturers and importers. Likewise, 2011 eTrace data for the Caribbean indicates that over 90 percent of the weapons recovered and traced in the Bahamas and over 80 percent of those in Jamaica came from the United States. The ATF has not released data for Central America, but the numbers are likely similar.
In fact, what traced to US FFL points of origin were 70% of the weapons Mexican officers submitted to trace, which were the weapons they thought likely to be of US origin. ATF can provide no assistance with tracing weapons that have no US manufacturer or importer. How can they tell if a gun has a US manufacturer or importer? It is marked on the gun. If a firearm is marked only with Russian factory markings and with no US importer name, city and state, it’s a lead-pipe cinch the thing didn’t come through US civilian legal gun markets. Likewise, if it’s marked with the name of FN Herstal or Waffenfabrik Karl Walther but doesn’t have an American importer mark, it came from some other channel.
Sweig knows this. The anti-gun groups she coordinates her message with know this. This old canard has been debunked time and again (for example, here, here, here, right here at WeaponsMan.com, thank you very much, here, here, and an overview explaining how traces work (and don’t) in .pdf. What she is doing, then, is not analysis. It’s advocacy — or in terms she’ll recognize, agitprop.
So who is Julia Sweig, inside the rebarbative exterior? She’s a full-on apologist for the Castro regime, as a read of her book, Cuba: What Everyone Needs to Know will tell you. If you want to go beyond that, you can read her other books: Friendly Fire, which explains that the US has caused all the evil in the world and if we just started, say, toeing the Cuban Communist line, things would be better; and Inside the Cunam Revolution.
The most interesting book is the one on the revolution, Inside the Cuban Revolution: Fidel Castro and the Urban Underground which appears (from its dry and stilted tone, craptacular writing, and mountains of awkwardly-formatted footnotes) to be a hastily-published version of her doctoral dissertation. What makes it interesting is that Sweig, as an ideologically pure and doctrinally compliant researcher, was given access to Cuban underground archives that previously, only Cuban government propaganda writers have seen.
When you read her book, you understand why. She’s just another Cuban government propaganda writer. Not surprisingly, Amazon tells us that people who bought her books (which are used by a number of Marxist professors as texts) also bought tomes by Marx, Chomsky, and Che Guevara.
As Ernesto Betancourt (whom she quoted without interviewing in Inside) has noted, she did not interview him nor any of the other 26th of July Movement revolutionaries who were later exiled or purged, but only quotes the selected documents and the surviving island heroes. She got the “unperson Betancourt crimethink” message.
She’s multilingual, dispensing anti-American propaganda in Portuguese and in Spanish for her Cuban… fellow travelers? Masters? Crushes?
Don’t take our word for it. Here’s La Sweig on NPR, gushing and giggling over having actually spoken with The Great Man Himself, and trying to rationalize a way forward for the economy of the Detroit of the Caribbean. Is the “Castro Groupie” in our title too cruel? Here are some lines from the NPR transcript:
“He looked great. He sounded great. You know, I met him for the first time when I worked for a Washington-based think tank in 1987. I then met him in 1998, and about 10 years later and then most recently, about 10 years ago, still at that time with the Council on Foreign Relations. Hadn’t seen him since 2001. He suffered a very serious illness. He has in color in his cheeks, bright disposition, voluminous energy.”
“Cuba has always been, in a way, too small of a stage for Fidel Castro, even when he was president. Big issues of international security, and war and peace, and globalization, and debt crisis and climate change. And sort of the big global issues of the day have been his priority and his focus.”
Hell yes, she’s a groupie. She’s still the fat, dumpy Jewish girl who never got over her crush on the tall Latino starting pitcher.
The Violence Policy Center, that is working hand in glove with Havana Julie here, is the Joyce-funded gun-ban group. “Smart Gun Laws” is the Law Center to Prevent Gun
Ownership Violence, an Alinskyite group that aims to use legal attacks to undermine Americans’ gun rights. It is also funded by the Joyce Foundation. It was founded as the Legal Community Against Violence by far-left San Francisco lawyers after a 1993 mass shooting by an ambulance chaser’s scorned client, but like most anti-gun groups, changes names as its old names establish a reputation. For example, it often describes itself as the Law Center to Prevent Violence (leaving out the “Gun”), and sometimes represents itself as an allegedly neutral organization, the Firearms Law Center.
We may have a few pearls from her books as we review her recommendations for American gun policy, in the light of understanding those are the recommendations that Fidel Himself (as she might capitalize Him) would make if he had the ear of the American public. He doesn’t, but Havana Julie is eager to intercede on his behalf.
Exit question: how much airbrushing went into the thumbnail for twitter?