Post #103: Terrorism, American Style

As the popularity of Donald Trump, Ted Cruz, and other race-baiting antidemocratic politicians attest, a significant portion of the American public is hostile to Washington, whether with respect to expansion of civil liberties and human rights, taxation, immigration policy, or diplomacy.  This part of the public wants a strong, no-nonsense leader who will take them out of the cultural and political wilderness, and restore to them (mainly meaning to white male America) the respect and power it once supposedly had (and supposedly deserves).  A subset of this public consists of gun lovers (again, predominately white males) who live by conspiracy theories, a distorted notion of the Constitution and the Bible, and a craving for violent action against authority.  They are our terrorists.

We in America thus must deal with the unfortunate fact that domestic terrorism is becoming a serious national security threat, greatly helped by the provocative rhetoric of the leading Republican presidential candidates.  Since 9/11, “non-Islamic extremists” actually account for more lives lost than “Islamic extremists,” by 48 to 45 (www.nytimes.com/interactive/2015/12/02/us/california-mass-shooting-san-bernardino.html).  Yet, this predominantly white, male, Christian terrorism invariably escapes being labeled as such.  Instead, the mass media uses more polite language, such as “militia men” and “armed activists”—words that probably would not be applied if the terrorists were American Indians, African Americans, Jews, or of course Muslims (www.washingtonpost.com/news/the-fix/wp/2016/01/03/why-arent-we-calling-the-oregon-militia-terrorists/?)  As Janell Ross writes in that article, “The descriptions of events in Oregon appear to reflect the usual shape of our collective assumptions about the relationship between race and guilt—or religion and violent extremism—in the United States.”

Which brings me to the current situation in rural Oregon’s Malheur National Forest Refuge.  A small group of self-styled “militia” seems to think that an armed occupation is the only alternative when complaints against government are not satisfactorily addressed.  But that is nonsense: peaceful protest, passive resistance, elections, petitions, and recalls are all available.  A year or so ago, when the Occupy movement was in thrall, peaceful sit-ins were the norm, not armed invasion, seizure of buildings, and declarations of self-rule. The current Oregon situation in fact was preceded by a peaceful protest against federal regulation of ranch land, only to have the “militia” preempt it to serve its own needs.  Its leaders never bothered to ask the Hammond family, on whose behalf the extremists says they are acting, if it wanted their support.  The extremists’ action is reminiscent of various US interventions abroad that have occurred without a request for it by local authorities.

The so-called militia in Oregon is armed and dangerous.  These people have been spoiling for a fight and, while preaching peaceful intentions, seem to welcome doing battle with government officials.  Its leaders speak the language of millenarian groups: referring to loyalty to a higher power, professing to act on behalf of “the people,” vowing violence only if provoked.  This is the familiar language of terror groups which, while to some degree reflecting a larger public anger, exploit it to further its own ambitions.  The Oregon group would like nothing better than to be joined by more far-right antigovernment outfits as a means of self-justification.  It’s a microcosm of the ISIS end-of-days perspective.

Local and federal law enforcement will need to confront these people at some point, hopefully with Waco in mind and therefore without violence.  There are plenty of options, including cutting off the group’s water, power, and telephone to isolate it.  A negotiated solution also seems possible, one that trades the group’s willingness to end its occupation in return for no prosecution.  The federal authorities also might consider reducing the sentences of the two Hammond family members who have been returned to jail.  Their five-year sentences do seem excessive, even for arsonists.  A sentence reduction would calm public resentment in that county and take the ground out from under the terrorists.

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7 Comments

  1. Unguided, as I am, by access to expert counsel regarding the outcome predicted for various actions, and uncontrolled by any sympathy for the big-hatted, big belt buckled, big booted, and big gunned rednecks involved in Burns, Oregon, I had a plan the burst upon me after watching the episode a few months ago regarding grazing fees that I would execute now. We made a terrible mistake by backing off the jerks who aimed guns at Federal Marshals last time. THAT cannot be permitted. Now, immediately, I would seal the perimeter, cut electricity and water, disable all communications except that used to talk with law enforcement, and arrest anyone trying to enter or leave the site. Any gunfire from the group would earn a ‘Shock and Awe’ reply. But, I’m a beast.

  2. Mel, While one can argue that the sentence is too long, the law would need to be changed first before considering giving them a reduced sentence. It is very bad policy to reduce a prison sentence because an armed group took over a bird sanctuary. This sentence is much less than the environmentalists got for torching SUVs. The value of the property plus the costs of fighting the fires was much less for the SUV burn but those sentences were a lot longer than 5 years.

  3. The history of the Malheur preserve is a disgraceful chapter in federal land grab and mismanagement. but the bundy family has no stake in that. I hope the ACLU takes up the Hammond cause and the federal marshals arrest the Bundys.

  4. There is no reasoning with these folks. The truth is, the Hammonds and many local ranchers have engaged in a campaign of threats and intimidation directed at federal employees in the area for many years. Employees who were just trying to make a living and do there jobs. Nothing was done about it and now it has escalated to the current situation. It is time to quit giving into people who take up arms and threaten violence just because they don’t like something. That lesson was learned in Northern Idaho back when armed white supremacists tried taking over. Decent people denounced them. Giving in just encourages them and grows their ranks. The Hammonds were never dealt with until they finally escalated their illegal activity to a point where something had to be done. Clive Bundy, his sons and terrorist supporters got away with their violent threats and now they are more extreme than ever. It is time to denounce these people and arrest them for the criminals they are.

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