Something strange is happening in Oregon.
It appears that we’ve got ourselves another militia standoff out West, this time in rural, eastern Oregon, where armed activists are taking issue with the federal government over control of a wildlife refuge and the fate of two ranchers who are supposed to be on the way to jail. Complicating the issue (at least in the eyes of the media) is the fact that the protest is being organized and led by three sons of Cliven Bundy, who I’m sure you all remember.
The short version is this: a few years ago, ranchers Dwight and Steven Hammond were convicted of arson for setting fires, one of which may have been an accident, the other of which may have been set to cover up illegal poaching on federal land. They served their sentences but a federal judge decided those sentences were too light and they deserved more prison time. There was a peaceful protest against it but the men seem to have agreed to go back to jail.
Now three of Cliven Bundy’s sons, along with what they claim are 150 militia sympathizers have seized an unoccupied building on the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in protests of both the sentences given to the Hammonds and general federal use of lands.
A few points to make:
First, many people are comparing this to Islamic terrorism. That’s absurd. The Bundys have not declared war on the United States. They have not taken hostages. They have not shot anyone. They have taken over a building. This is not terrorism. Robby Soave:
And here I was thinking liberals were just as skeptical as libertarians about the prudence of labelling everything and everyone a terrorist. Don’t they remember that every time someone brands someone else a terrorist, the Patriot Act gets a dozen pages longer? Government power relies upon such unfounded suspicions.
Keep in mind that the ranchers haven’t taken hostages, damaged property, or hurt anyone. The previous standoff between federal authorities and the Bundy family was resolved peacefully. It’s possible the situation at the wildlife headquarters escalates into something horrifically violent, but it seems wildly premature and speculative to assert that it will.
Nor is it treason, as some have claimed. They have not declared war on the United States. Nor have they treated with our enemies.
This incident has exposed a lot of the ugliness that underpins the Left’s supposed reasonableness. This is trending on Twitter as #OregonUnderAttack even though there has not, to this point, been any violence. Many of the liberals who were — rightfully, in my opinion — appalled by the tactics used against Occupy protesters are gleefully calling for an armed response. One of the comparisons being made is to the attack on MOVE in 1985. But a) MOVE had already engaged in armed conflict with police; b) the bombing of MOVE was a bad decision that destroyed a neighborhood and killed 11 people. Saying that the attack on MOVE justifies an attack on Malheur is basically saying that two wrongs make a right.
That’s not to say they aren’t wrong. They are occupying a federal building and demanding changes in federal laws before they leave. These are criminal acts and I believe they should be prosecuted. But I think, given how isolated they are and the lack of an eminent threat, it is perfectly reasonable to surround them and wait them out.
I also disagree that the federal use of lands is something that justifies this kind of reaction, as I noted in my post on the earlier standoff with the Bundy clan:
Whatever one may think of the Federal use of land (in this case, to protect an endangered tortoise) there is not much doubt that it is Constitutional. The federal government does have the power to buy land for public use (and, thanks to Kelo, private use too). Their land use may be stupid, but it’s Constitutional. Is Bundy arguing that the cattle aren’t on Federal land? Is he arguing that the Feds never properly compensated anyone for the land or that it is not a public use? Is he claiming that it was his family’s land and he was not compensated? It’s hard to tell since most of the media are ignoring the story so I only have fragmented reports from the edge of the blogosphere.
I’m more libertarian than the next guy but don’t understand the fascination around such as the Hammonds and Bundys, who apparently think the entire country is some sort of commons for them to use as they please. We’ve had federal parks, wildlife refuges, and the like going back to the days of Teddy Roosevelt; how that has diminished our freedom of Americans is not clear.
It’s a little more clear to me, as I noted in my previous post. But even so, it does not seem to justify this sort of response. Jazz, from the link above:
But… with all of that said, I’m with John Hawkins on this one. This is crazy. (And I know that’s not going to sit well with those regularly spoiling for a fight with the feds.) Taking armed troops in to seize control of a federal building and essentially daring the government to come get you is pretty much the course of last resort. This is the fight you choose to draw the line in the sand over? If the Hammonds aren’t seeking protection and are planning to continue their appeal through the normal legal channels, this armed insurrection isn’t being done for their benefit. If you’re doing it to try to stop the feds from exercising control over a wildlife refuge, well… nope. Sorry. Still crazy.
Harness all of that energy and enthusiasm into getting a legal team to begin challenging the federal government in court over it. It will be a long, hard slog, but you’ll garner a tremendous amount of support around the nation, particularly among conservatives and libertarians. Taking up arms over this will produce just the opposite result. It’s time to get the troops out of the building before somebody gets hurt and this turns into a literally bloody debacle.
We have not slid down the slide of tyranny so far as to justify this.