Standoff At Bad Luck Marsh
by Bruce Patterson, February 17, 2016
“Go home, Oregon State Police, you have already killed enough. Go home, FBI, it is time to end this.” — Ammon Bundy, ex-armed insurgent, speaking from the Portland jail.
DAY 31. Our Armed Forces of Law and Order finally flashed their cards a few days ago over in the Harney County, Oregon. I’m talking about them rolling out their armored SUV convoys and sending them take up their strategic positions while, according to the videos, fragrantly violating Oregon’s Safe Speed Law. At their roadblocks they even stationed armored personal carriers complete with armored and turreted machine gunners with orders to draw beads on the operators of the vehicles stopped out there on Oregon’s Loneliest State Highway No. 205. That’d be the ribbon of two-lane that runs 190 miles south and connects the Greater Burns Metropolis to Nevada’s famed oasis of sun and fun Winnemucca.
“Elk-hole, Battle Mountain and Winn—Nee—Muck—Kaaaaah” sings the train conductor as they climb west out of Saltpan City.
The other day it was finally confirmed that the FBI is indeed in Operational Command. So why would they order uniformed peace officers to aim their war surplus, US Army-issue machineguns at little old you sitting there belted into your glass, tin and plastic box when clearly you’re a native born American citizen just innocently coming from, or on your way to, sweet Winnemucca? Why it’s to keep you from making any sudden moves and getting yourself shredded into borscht, that’s why. It’s for your own protection. Now once the deputy dog is done sniffing for guns, explosives and contraband and two or more battle-ready traffic cops are ensuring that your papers and vehicle are in order, your sobriety is intact and your reasons for being there are reasonable and legitimate then, assuming you’re kosher, you’ll be allowed to go on your jolly way unmolested.
“If you must know, Officer, I’m after some of them cotton-tailed Jackalopes they’ve got hopping around down there in ol’ Whinny Town after sundown. Might fondle me some casino chips while I’m at it.”
Since nowadays in the popular imagination personal security begins with Law and Order, and that begins with National Security, and National Security begins with Force Security, positioned above the roadblock were camouflaged snipers covering the turret gunner and the rest of the lawmen manning the roadblock.
While the snipers (State Police? FBI? Auxiliary Sheriffs? The Alfalfa Force?) much prefer being thought of as “sharpshooters,” their very existence raises the question: in 2016, in Fortress America Under Siege from within and without, from over and under, can our hundreds of city, county, state and federal Special Weapons and Tactics Squads (now called Tactical Units) still be considered civilians?
Now of course those sharpshooters were also acting as a blocking force, or “skirmishers” as they say in the trade. At least seven armed insurgents were still defiantly hunkered down about six graded-rock-road-miles away in the animal refuge’s HQ, they’ve been issuing some seriously anti-FBI and anti-federal wolf tickets via their press conferences, electronic devises, selfies, tweets, posters, banners and flags. And so, if by some slim chance they actually are fool enough to try’n ambush the peace officers manning the roadblock, the sharpshooters will make sure that under no circumstances will they get the chance. This while the Brass in Mission Control must’ve been thinking something along the lines of, “Ya’ll got your hearts all set on dying for your country? It can be arranged, my friends, no sweat.”
It sure got arranged for the insurgent’s most compelling spokesmen and this latest range war’s first fatality, one “Arizona cattleman” by the name of LaVoy Finicum (his friends called him “Bob”). He’s getting buried as I write this, hundreds of mourners are there but it’s not happening in Arizona. LaVoy’s not even getting planted in Alta Arizona, that strip of Mormon-ruled scrubland north of Grand Canyon NP). He’s getting planted in Kanab, Utah. Yup, that Kanab. I remember when the place wasn’t much more than a tumbleweed stuck against a telephone pole. But now it’s the sprawling Emerald City of the Mormon fundamentalist’s Holy Heartland (The Bundy clan’s Bunkerville spread is just over the Stateline along Utah’s Virgin River in Nevada).
Now it’s a little known fact that even Mormons can’t agree on what exactly a real Mormon is. That’s how it’s always goes with True Believers no matter what their stripe. For instance, how many different kinds of Born Again Southern Baptists are there in Mississippi? How many more sects in Old Dixie’s Bible Belt? Add in the Creoles and Cajuns, the Creeks and Civilized Tribes. How about them West Indians and West Africans, Chinese, Vietnamese, Guamese, Apaches, South Asians, Spaniards, Slavs, mixed-breeds, Mexicans and—how many did I forget?
There may very well be just One True God and One True Religion—The Big Bang and Science with Soul?—but if you’ve managed to convince yourself that you’ve got a hold on the two right ones, you’re not supposed to tell anybody. You want to keep the peace, you’ve got to hold your tongue on stuff like that. And that negates the whole idea: nothing is any good until it’s shared and, on that point, at least, you are correct.
Anyway, I was watching the evening news out of Bend when I heard that LaVoy Finicum had been shot and killed by “law enforcement” on a “remote stretch” of US Hwy 395, that bit of federal right-of-way that connects the western legs of the Pan American and Al-Can Highways—Mexicali with Cascade, British Columbia, to be precise. Details are still “sketchy” but it seems there were two vehicles with perhaps six or seven armed passengers. There are also reports that one of the Bundy boys has been shot by the authorities, although not seriously and nothing has been confirmed. Stay tuned . . .
Since, the last I’d heard, there were only a dozen diehards left at the Alamo at Bad Luck, I figured half of them must’ve been trying to make a break for it. But how or why’d they’d want to get to Hwy 395 was beyond me. To head north on 395 they’d hafta pass through downtown Burns and I didn’t think they’d be so reckless or bold. A few days ago, the first member of their unnamed Civilian Militia occupation force had gotten collared in Burns. Wanting some fresh groceries, the fellah parked his Park Service pickup truck in the Safeway parking lot. He was walking out of the market with his bags of groceries when, much to his shock and dismay, he was arrested for stealing a government pickup truck. And, get this: they popped him for driving without a license. And, get this again: he was also a felon in possession of a firearm (two counts). Now before you go and condemn this fellah’s, ah, trustiness, have some pity. Maybe when he was a baby his mother used the back of his skull for cracking open walnuts.
Since it seemed extremely unlikely that the desperados would pass through Greater Burns to get to 395, it occurred to me that they must’ve four-wheeled it west through about 50 miles of the open range scrubland, had reached 395 and had hightailed it south intending to disappear into the giant spider web of dirt roads deep in the Great Big Empty. Had they made their move in the dead of night and if they hadn’t been detected, it seemed to me they may have gotten a good ways down the highway before they’d gotten caught.
But boy I was wrong. Turns out that just past sundown the insurgents merged onto 395 in downtown Burns and, probably thinking they’d just pulled a fast one (they were using their own rigs), they headed north aiming to get over the mountains to attend a public meeting up in John Day. Now if it was a summer heat wave and you were coming from somewhere way down south like Kanab, Utah, or Searchlight, Nevada, and you entered that timbered high country north of Burns, you’d think you’d died and gone to hillbilly heaven. That’s probably what the Bundy bunch thought, too, especially since the forest was covered in a couple feet of fresh snow. Must’ve been a mighty pleasant drive until, about 20 miles up the road, they got stopped at a State Police checkpoint (when they left Burns, the authorities slammed the door shut in front of and behind them).
LaVoy Minicum was driving one of the rigs and, after halting as per order, he must’ve gotten possessed with a Great Notion. His eyes on the Promised Land, LaVoy he floored his gas pedal and, even with the snow and ice, he got his rig from zero to 60mph in 5.8 seconds. And then they were doing just fine again until they flew around a long sweeping curve, spotted a real roadblock and, not wanting to hurt anybody, LaVoy swerved off the highway and got his truck stuck in the snow. He reportedly got out of his truck, approached an officer, went for his gun and got shot dead.
Anxious for more details, I stayed up for the late night TV news and, after they’d rerun tapes of what they’d said already, they broadcast an interview with a young lady who’d been riding with Finicum and, it turns out, Ryan Bundy. In so many words, she claimed that Finicum had been summarily executed by the FBI. This prompted neither query nor comment from the young boy newsman, who switched to teasing the next story about a kitten up for adoption before disappearing into “a break.”
DAY 32: Even though their silence is bound to make the natives restless, until this morning the FBI hadn’t uttered a peep. They were engaged in a counter-insurgency operation and the local civilian’s discomfort was just meaningless collateral damage to them. Rather than calling for the insurrectionist’s unconditional surrender and, if they refused, setting siege to them and, if need be, forcefully apprehending them, they’d lulled them to sleep with their plastic Nanny State’s endless love. Yet, in military terms, the only thing more boring and expensive than setting siege is standing down. Still, even though they had the insurgents hopelessly outgunned, the FBI had gotten them to divide their forces and step right up into their trap: a trap that netted their entire leadership. Now the FBI could checkmate the stragglers and call for their surrender. Three of them promptly did surrender but four others are still holed up now on Day 39 (my old computer finally crashed—this here is a modern one: faster and more inscrutable).
Of course, after what that young woman had said, the FBI was forced to pop a head up out of their bunker and speak. They couldn’t let that crazy woman’s baseless slander go unchallenged. They had to prove that Finicum’s killing was justified and, using an aerial surveillance video, they did just that. All military organizations have Rules of Engagement and the State Police had followed theirs to the letter. Which means, by law, cops flat-out can’t get trigger happy. Better thee than me, brother: S.O.P. When we tell you to freeze, you’d best freeze.
DAY 42: It’s Victory Day in Harney Co. Since the killing of LaVoy Finicum 15 days ago, there’s been four diehards holding out in the Alamo and the FBI had left them alone until last night. Last night they moved in with, according to the besieged individual’s fevered electronic SOS’s, “four armored personal carriers.” The FBI issued an ultimatum: come out one at a time with your hands up beginning at 8:00 tomorrow morning or we’re coming in to get you. The peaceful surrender was finally completed at 10:30am and wasn’t pretty. But I won’t get into it other than to say that rarely in the annals of military history have so many been used to subdue so few.
Naturally, the media unanimously assures us, everybody’s heaving a big sigh of relief. The FBI Isn’t saying anymore and nobody else, it seems, is authorized to squeak. All through their 42 nights at the Burns Best Western, the media have been so evenhanded and non-judgmental that it makes me wonder if they’ve forgotten how to ask questions. (Good God, could they have lost the ability for abstract thought?)
Doesn’t anybody want to know how many bullets LaVoy Finicum took and where? How many millions of dollars has this prolonged counter-insurgency campaign cost us taxpayers? By their own solitary low-ball daily estimate made weeks ago, they must have spent at least $20,000,000 on the operation. Is that so? And how much you intending to charge us for your “month long investigation of the Crime Scene?” How the hell can you take that long down there? What you going to do, demobilize your army and leave one solitary dude out there snooping around with a magnifying glass? How do your budgets compare with, say, the annual budget of Harney Co?
Oh, almost forgot. Cliven Bundy, the Bunkerville Patriarch and sagebrush-poaching Sagebrush Sage, got arrested by the FBI up at the Portland Airport first thing this morning. With two of his boys in jail, seems old Cliven wanted to pay them a visit and now, of course, he can’t. That’s 21 arrests and indictments so far, although that number hasn’t been confirmed as official.
NEXT: Eisenhower was a Commie. Or: Send them Sage Grouse back to Mexico where they belong. Or maybe: Finicum’s Rainbow.