Viva Villa!

Certainly an unpopular and even dangerous thing to say today down on the Texas border, where they are reclaiming the bodies of two Americans killed by bandits in Matamoros. But by ironic coincidence March 9 marks the 107th anniversary of the predawn attack on the little town of Columbus, New Mexico, and the adjacent U.S cavalry Camp Furlong by the outlawed bandit and failed revolutionary Pancho Villa.

It’s not clear Villa himself was on the scene or directing the attack from otra de lado, just as there is some uncertainty over whether he was aiming for the 13th Cavalry’s stables and armories, the vault of the local bank (it was still standing forlorn in an empty lot the last time I visited), or the head of the town’s leading merchant, who had cheated the general on an arms deal.

Whatever Villa’s motives, the raid left 17 American soldiers and citizens dead. Public outrage forced revered professional intellectual and passive-aggressive pacifist President Woodrow Wilson to send the Army into Mexico to capture Villa “dead or alive.” If you’re interested in the details, I highly recommend The Great Pursuit.

America faces a much greater threat today from the murderous cartels that have controlled the border for more than a generation, reaping enormous profits from the traffic in illegal immigrants and illicit drugs. We’ve ignored that underlying problem in our endless arguments over immigration and border security, but it’s past time both governments confront the issue –hopefully with more success than Black Jack Pershing (hampered by a hostile Mexican government and a dithering Presidential administration) had in chasing Pancho Villa.

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