Malheur National Wildlife Refuge was taken over by armed “patriots.”
Rallying in support of two ranchers convicted of arson on federal land and who are accused of child abuse (“Oregon Rancher ‘Heroes’ Accused of Child Abuse,” The Daily Beast, January 5, 2016), armed men, self-described “patriots,” took over the federal Malheur National Wildlife Refuge in rural Oregon. Claiming they want federal land to be given back to its rightful owners, they have threatened to kill law enforcement officers who may try to evict them. Two of Nevada rancher Clive Bundy’s sons are involved in the Oregon situation, which brings to mind my blog, “True Patriots,” of July 20, 2014.
In that blog I noted how right-wingers and racists have perverted the concept of “patriot.” In April 2014, so-called “patriots” gathered to support Cliven Bundy, who refused to pay grazing fees because he doesn’t “…recognize the United States government as even existing.” The “patriots” aimed loaded guns and rifles at federal agents and threatened to kill them. Bundy is an avowed racist who said in a New York Times interview that “the negro” was better off as a cotton picking slave. Among the Bundy “patriots” were Jerad and Amanda Miller, white supremacists who, after leaving the Bundy ranch, ambushed and murdered two Las Vegas policemen.
Shamelessly, some of these “patriots” rally under the Confederate flag. Arizonan Jon Ritzheimer, one of the Oregon anarchists, organized anti-Muslim and pro-Confederate flag rallies in Arizona. The indisputable fact is that the Confederate flag is a flag of treason, whose adherents renounced their U.S. citizenship, declared war on our country so they could continue practicing racism. Folks who rally under this treasonous flag are no patriots.
They hate the gummint except when…
The Oregon pseudo patriots claim to hate and mistrust the U.S. government. But that hate and mistrust are suspended when they suck up government benefits. Noting some of the ways these people benefit from the government, Amanda Girard reports (U.S. Uncut, January 5, 2016), that the people involved in the Oregon situation “…have attempted to portray an image of themselves as rugged, independent Americans rejecting government interference in their businesses. But nearly every part of their existence as ranchers is made possible by government welfare programs — even the building they’re depending on for shelter from the cold was built by federal tax dollars as part of the New Deal program.”
Ammon Bundy accepted $530,00 from the Small Business Administration.
Ammon Bundy, the spokesman for the Oregon anarchists, didn’t hate the government enough to stop him from soliciting and accepting a $530,000 loan from the federal Small Business Administration in 2010 for his truck maintenance business in Arizona.
Cattle ranchers like Cliven Bundy complain that the federal government is charging overpriced cattle grazing fees. Actually, the exact opposite is true: in 2012, it cost about $1.35 a month per cow to graze on federal land—the average charged by private landowners for cattle grazing is $20 per month.
Ranchers in western states lease federal land for their own private businesses at a huge discount. Via the cheap leases, the government subsidizes their businesses to the tune of $52 million to $200 million a year. Even in non-drought years, i.e., when there is no “emergency,” livestock farmers in western states like Nevada and Oregon receive in the area of $26 million per year in “emergency” feed subsidies.
The Bundys and other ranchers benefit disproportionately from the federal “animal damage control” program, in which federal employees kill off the nearby predators that present a danger to cattle. In 1994 $55.9 million was spent on this program nationwide, of which roughly $22 million (37%) was spent on western livestock operations.
The Federal Damage Control program safeguards the cattle of Western ranchers from predators.
If these farmers really were “independent” from the government they claim to hate and mistrust, they would have gone bankrupt. As Amanda Girard notes, “Ammon Bundy and his gang should thank their lucky stars to benefit from so much government assistance.”
The media’s adoption of the ragtag group’s self-description as a “militia” is disturbing. Pull up an image of your state’s National Guard—THAT is a “well-regulated militia,” as referenced in the 2nd Amendment. What is NOT a militia are people wearing cast-off camouflage clothing bought at surplus stores and grandiosely declaring a quixotic war on their government even as they beg the public to send them “snacks.” It is a grave insult to the honorable men and women who are serving in the National Guard to equate them with a gaggle of right-wingers playing soldier.
Why aren’t we calling them terrorists?
The Oregon anarchists’ action is an attempt to coerce the U.S. government to turn over federal land to them, and to achieve their objective they have threatened to shoot and kill federal officers. This is terrorism.
A key aspect of “Domestic terrorism” as defined in federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2331) are acts that “Appear intended (i) to intimidate or coerce a civilian population; (ii) to influence the policy of a government by intimidation or coercion…” Federal law (18 U.S.C. § 2332b) defines the “federal crime of terrorism” as an act that “Is calculated to influence or affect the conduct of government by intimidation or coercion, or to retaliate against government conduct.” Clearly, what is going on in Oregon is “Domestic terrorism” and a “federal crime of terrorism,” pursuant to federal law. So, as Janell Ross of the Washington Post (January 3, 2016) asks: “Why aren’t we calling the Oregon militia ‘terrorists?’ ”
They are white men—that is the difference…
What would be the response if a group of armed African Americans, Chicanos or Muslims were to take over a public site?
Another question being asked, in private and in public, all over the country is: what if armed African Americans/Mexican Americans/Native Americans/Muslims forcibly took over a federal building and threatened to kill any federal or local law enforcement agency who tried to dislodge them? The question, of course, is rhetorical, for those of us who have been involved in the civil-rights struggle and who have a sense of history know that political and law-enforcement officials have not tip-toed gently around situations when—unarmed!!!— people of color have gathered in support of the civil rights of communities of color. Just recently, when unarmed Black Lives Matter activists peacefully protested at the Mall Of America, hundreds of police, dressed in militarized gear, were mobilized and forced the BLM out of the mall.
The Oregon terrorists are getting a pass from the government, just as two years ago the Bundy “patriots” got a pass after pointing guns at and threatening to kill police officers. Burns Paiute Tribal Council member Jarvis Kennedy noted in a press conference that if tribal members had taken over Malheur rather than white anti-government militants, “We’d be already shot up, blown up or in jail … They are white men. That is the difference.”
NRA: only white folks can open carry…
Does the NRA aid domestic terrorists?
The NRA paves the way for domestic terrorists such as those in Oregon. As long as the people involved are white, the NRA (National Rifle Association) and the Republicans they own will always support the notion of people carrying guns and rifles in public, including automatic weapons whose sole purpose is to kill people.
But as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler reports in his 2011 book, “Gunfight: The Battle Over the Right to Bear Arms in America,” in 1967, when armed Black Panthers were patrolling their neighborhoods in Oakland and other California cities, the NRA helped write gun-control laws to keep guns out of black hands. In a direct reaction to the Black Panther Movement’s rise in California, the NRA worked hand-in-hand with conservative icon and then-CA Gov. Ronald Reagan to promote the Mulford Act, which prohibited citizens from carrying guns in public. Reagan told reporters in California that he saw “…no reason why on the street today a citizen should be carrying loaded weapons.” The NRA helped craft similar legislation in states across the country, targeting black people.
The NRA’s and the Republicans’ view of carrying arms in public changed when the Black Panthers were decimated by the government and white folks wanted to carry automatic weapons in public to intimidate citizens and politicians.
Return the land to its rightful owners…
Patriots or terrorists? Who’s going to call them out?
The Oregon terrorists claim they want the federal land they’re on to be returned to its rightful owners. They don’t really, for, if the land were indeed returned to its rightful owners, it would be given back to the Burns Paiute tribe, from whom it was wrested forcibly. According to Burns Paiute Tribal chairwoman Charlotte Rodrique, the tribe considers the Malheur Refuge sacred ancestral land and “the gunmen” are desecrating a site that was inhabited by the Paiute long before white settlers had even set foot in the U.S. If anyone has a claim to the land, surely it is the tribe whose members were forced off of it a century ago. During a press conference on this matter, Burns Paiute Tribal Council member Jarvis Kennedy movingly described how the tribe was forced to march hundreds of miles in the snow when their land was taken. Kennedy said the terrorists “…just need to get the hell out of here” and stop causing problems for the community—for example, schools are closed as a precaution against potential violence from the armed terrorists.
And it’s not just the Paiute who want the terrorists to leave. At a community meeting called to discuss the situation, Harney County Sheriff Dave Ward, echoed the sentiment of the majority of those present when he said, “(These outsiders) don’t get to come here and tell us how we get to live our lives.”
Even the ranchers convicted of arson and accused of child abuse in whose support the terrorist takeover allegedly was launched don’t seem to support the terrorists. Dwight and Steve Hammond turned themselves in to start their sentences and have been silent regarding the Malheur takeover. Reuters News Service reports that “A lawyer for the Hammond family has said that the occupiers do not speak for the family.” Some of the terrorists claim to be Mormon and couched their action in theological terms, which led to, as the Oregonian newspaper reports, “The Church of Latter-Day Saints (releasing) a statement Jan. 4 condemning the occupation.”
Indeed, these terrorists should be condemned. In an ideal world, they would also be prosecuted vigorously. c/s
Copyright 2016 by Salomon Baldenegro. To contact Sal write: firstname.lastname@example.org