- - Tuesday, May 27, 2014

Marines learn in boot camp that you always take care of a buddy, and you “never leave a Marine behind.” This is something a commander in chief who never wore his country’s colors apparently does not understand, so Marine Sgt. Andrew Tahmooressi goes on trial Wednesday in Mexico, subjected to the “justice” he can expect in a Tijuana courtroom.

Sgt. Tahmooressi, a veteran of three combat tours of duty in Afghanistan, has been in a Mexican prison since March 31 because he made a wrong turn near the border south of San Diego. He became confused in unfamiliar traffic and turned into a lane that forced him to enter a Mexican border checkpoint with no way to turn back. He told border agents that he was trying to make a U-turn and had no intention of entering Mexico. He told them that he had three legally owned weapons with him, stowed with the personal items packed in his pickup truck. He was looking for a place to live in San Diego, having just moved from Florida.

Mexican police arrested him and threw him into a cell with a dozen thugs in a jail 40 miles from Tijuana. He faces the prospect of sweating for the next two decades behind bars.

The Obama administration says it is “very engaged” in this case. Secretary of State John F. Kerry brought up Sgt. Tahmooressi’s plight last week on a visit to Mexican President Enrique Pena Nieto. “The secretary did raise this issue yesterday during his meetings,” a State Department spokesman said, “but I don’t have anything to update you on beyond that.”

Clearly, Mr. Kerry was speaking softly when he “raised the issue,” but Mr. Nieto must hear, loud and clear, that the United States regards this as a serious matter. Rep. Duncan Hunter, a Republican from San Diego, wants the Obama administration to suspend military aid to Mexico until Sgt. Tahmooressi is released. He asked the administration to provide documents about unauthorized incursions by Mexican authorities into the United States. The Oklahoma House of Representatives adopted a resolution insisting that Mr. Kerry and the administration “utilize the full extent of their resources” — which are considerable — to free this Marine.

The White House defers to the Mexican government on issues such as amnesty and immigration reform, but is so far not willing to call in a favor, if “favor” it is. It’s an embarrassment that a U.S. Marine would be subjected to the whims of a country not known for the fairness and impartiality of its judicial system.

Mexico enforces a strict policy that most guns can be owned only by the Mexican army and police. (The drug cartels get their illegal guns from the U.S. Justice Department.) The U.S. government — including President Obama himself, since he boasts that he has a telephone and knows how to use it — must make sure this particular Marine is not left behind.