Thought On Oregon

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.

James Joyner:

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.

Comments are closed.

  1. CM

    How is it not domestic terrorism Hal? They are heavily armed and holed up, making demands of the government, and saying they’ll stay there as long as it takes. They have a political purpose and they clearly are willing to use violence to get their way. They won’t even confirm how many people are holed up, on the basis that it might expose “operational security.”

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  2. Hal_10000 *

    Technically, it meets the definition of terrorism.  Practically, if you’re going to call occupying something terrorism, you are creating an enormous number of terrorist, including our former attorney general.  I am very resistant to such an expansive definition of terrorism.  “Criminals” will do fine.

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  3. richtaylor365

    Glad to see CM coming around to labeling OWS and BLM as terrorist groups, something the rest of us knew all along. But the difference between these Oregon trespassers and OWS is that in Oregon they are not trashing the place, assaulting and raping women at odd hours of the night, selling or doing drugs, and they understand the importance of personal hygiene. And the difference between them and BLM is that they are not trespassing on already occupied lands full of people just trying to eat brunch in peace or conduct legitimate business, they rally behind the American flag and the Constitution, and don’t chant to  bogus unfounded claims like ,”Hands up, don’t shoot”.

    Is anyone else here gravely disturbed by the practice of  legally convicting someone in court, having them do their legally proscribed sentence and releasing them when they did their time, then allowing some agenda driven federal judge to say ,”Ya know, you did your time and we should leave you alone but I want a redo, I want to convict you a second time and send you back to prison because I don’t think the sentence was long enough”? Talk about a clear violation of due process.

    MLK Jr realized long ago that calling attention to injustice and erect change you need to sometimes peacefully break the very laws you think unjust. He was willing to be arrested and go through the process, these Oregon poachers should do no less.

    But if it does go horribly wrong, it will probably be at the hands of some Waco style government intervention with the whole place being burnt down.

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  4. AlexInCT

    This is nothing but a vendetta by another petty and totally bullshit government entity against people that didn’t show their betters more difference. Fuck the BLM and the FWS for doing this to these people. If you want a great rundown of how horribly fucking ugly this shit is read this:

    SO now Obama wants to confiscate our guns from us by fiat so we uppity serfs can’t do this sort of shit anymore, Seriously, you can’t parody  this level of fucking evil from these holier than thou fascists that comprise government bureaucracies.

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  5. louctiel

    Is anyone else here gravely disturbed by the practice of  legally convicting someone in court, having them do their legally proscribed sentence and releasing them when they did their time,……

    I might be concerned except that must be for another case – not the one in question.


    The Hammonds were convicted of several crimes and agreed to accept what amounts to a plea agreement.  At the sentencing, the District Judge sentenced one to 90 days and another to a year and a day.  The Hammonds were ordered to pay $400,000 as well.


    At the time of the sentencing, the prosecutor said the judge did not have the legal authority to reduce a legally mandated minimum sentence.  In this case, that sentence is 5 years.  The prosecutor said he would appeal the sentence as he is allowed to do.


    While the Hammonds served their time, the appeal went to the 9th Circuit who sent the sentence back to the original Court saying “you cannot reduce a sentence that is proscribed by law.”   The Hammonds appealed to the Supreme Court who denied cert (refused to hear the case) thus allowing the 9th Circuit’s remand to stand.


    I am not sure where you get the idea that another Judge was “agenda driven.”  He was not.  The first sentencing judge had retired.  The second judge was bound by the law and the 9th Circuit’s remanding.


    I am also not sure where you got the idea that there was no “due process” as the Hammonds had their day in court for a trial, had their input in the original sentencing, were part of the appeal to the 9th Circuit and submitted briefs to the Supreme Court.


    Where is the lack of due process there?


    Personally I believe the law used to sentence the Hammonds was not intended to be applied to a burn that got out of control and burned a little more than one fifth of a square mile of land.  I think the penalty is excessive as well.  If the burn had not crossed onto Federal property and stayed on either private property or land owned by the state of Oregon, the <b>maximum</b> penalty the Hammonds would have faced is a year in jail and a $6250 fine for a Class A misdemeanor.


    In short, we can argue all day about the proportionality of the sentence, but your narrative on this case does not fit the facts.




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  6. louctiel

    Strange, no mention of this in your piece Alex

    Why should there be?  The case you mention was brought up during the original sentencing.  It is why the elder Hammond received a sentence of “a year and a day” and the younger received a sentence of only 3 months.  The judge noted that the elder Hammond had a case dealing with a tattoo in the past.

    Your post failed to note the outpouring of support of the Hammonds in the community as being good people who enhanced and benefited the people of the area.   Your post failed to note that it was not just the defense that took notice of their standing in the community, but the prosecutor and the original sentencing judge as well.


    The charge of abuse was adjudicated and although in the past, it still factored into the original sentencing.


    What more do you want?

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