This revolution is becoming a shambles

The armed group led by the sons of Cliven Bundy that came all the way from Nevada and other distant places and has taken over a remote wildlife refuge in rural Oregon near the small town of Burns in the hopes of starting some kind of uprising against the federal government seem to be running into opposition from the very people whom they claim to be protecting from tyranny, the local population. Those people are fed up.

For days Ammon Bundy and his band of armed militia have laid claim to the federal land by arguing they have the support of the nearby community.

Yet that claim received a formidable rebuke on Wednesday night when, one by one, residents of Oregon’s rural Harney County stood before a microphone at the county fairgrounds to denounce the occupation on their doorstep.

Some 500 working-class men and women who packed into the memorial hall expressed an overwhelming consensus. It’s time, they said, for Bundy and his anti-government rabble-rousers to pack up and go home.

“This county is a united family and we don’t need people to come here from someplace else and tell us how to live our lives,” [Harney County sheriff David] Ward said to a standing ovation.

But Bundy says that said that they will not leave until the government “restores the constitution”, which as far as I can tell means letting people like him telling the government what it can and cannot do.

Tim Dickinson gives a day by day description of how the would-be revolutionaries seem to be short on people, food, and other supplies and perhaps slowly realizing that they have been placed in an awkward situation from which a dignified withdrawal is becoming less likely. He concludes, “Instead of building the fearsome anti-government insurgency of their fever dreams, the hungry, dirty, exhausted Bundy militants are looking more and more like the Gang That Couldn’t Shoot Straight. Here’s hoping they have the sense to lay down their weapons before their true marksmanship is tested.”

Jeffrey St. Clair writes that he visited Burns about two decades ago and wrote about how Dwight Hammond, whose recent arrest and conviction and imprisonment along with his son for arson triggered the arrival of these militants, also had a long history of lawlessness.

In the early 1990s, Hammond repeatedly transgressed federal environmental laws, trespassed on federal lands and hurled death threats at federal wildlife officials. Little action was taken against Hammond by a timid Clinton administration. Emboldened, Hammond and some of his fellow ranchers continued over the next two decades to flagrantly flout environmental laws and harass federal officials. These activities finally culminated in an act of poaching on Steens Mountain and two arson fires. Hammond and his son were convicted in federal court and sentenced to five years in prison. That conviction sparked the armed takeover of federal buildings now unfolding in Burns.

As of now, power to the refuge has not been cut off and the roads not blockaded as was threatened, which means that the people occupying the refuge are free to go to the grocery store in the nearest town 30 miles away to stock up on food, so the whole thing is looking more like a boy scout camping experience, just with guns. I am not sure why the authorities have not taken this minimal action against the group. Maybe they feel that even those measures are not necessary in order to wear them down.

Stephen Colbert is bemused by the standoff.

These constitution-loving patriots seem to have got used to the fact that they are a privileged class because they are white and heavily armed and talk the language of opposing government tyranny, the same language used by the Republican party, tea partiers, and the gun lobby and other conservative voices in the US. They seem to feel that this gives them immunity from the kind of response that anyone else would get if they acted in a similar fashion and that they can act with impunity. Who knows what demands they will make next?

Tom the Dancing Bug 1270 chagrin falls 15 - cattle caliphate

Tom the Dancing Bug 1270 chagrin falls 15 – cattle caliphate


  1. raven says

    Ironically, one of the groups that actually does have a strong claim to Malheur National Wildlife Refuge is the Northern Paiute. Who have already said they want these guys off their land.
    The Northern Paiute really got hammered by the European settlers. They fought some battles that they lost badly. They were given a large reservation by treaty which was soon taken away. Not too long ago, they ended up buying some land and petitioning for federal recognition, which they got.
    This was basically genocide, and they were supposed to just disappear and be forgotten. Which came close to happening.

  2. doublereed says

    I wonder if they would stay brave if the government actually threatened them, like by blasting a nearby zone and telling them to surrender.

  3. Numenaster says

    Doublereed, I think that would cheer them up immensely. They’ve been trying to start a fight and everyone has been leaving them alone: it’s got to be frustrating. I seem to recall a Renaissance writer advising a ruler besieged by a coalition to sit tight and wait. With no actual fighting to distract them, the differences between the coalition members began to cause friction, and eventually the siege broke up. If you think of the US Government as that besieged ruler, the advice is still apt here.

  4. lorn says

    Generally it is far better to give these sorts as much rope as possible while noting their transgressions. Every time they show up armed to the teeth and foaming at the mouth about jack booted government thugs, who conspicuously fail to show up, and are met with a resounding ‘meh’ they lose a little support. Cliven Bundy may owe over a million dollars in range fees but a million dollars isn’t even a down payment on an excessive use of force lawsuit. As long as it is well away from populated areas I suspect that non-reaction is the right thing to do.

    Let them punch themselves out fighting the hard edges of reality. It is cold, and wet, and the food is lousy, and nobody cares if you have a tricked out M-4 and the latest color coordinated camouflage. Nothing tarnishes the zeal for heroic action like a week being cold, hungry, tired and abjectly under appreciated. The previous standoff at the Bundy ranch had side effects the “patriots” aren’t talking much about. Scores of people, mostly men and blue collar, left jobs and families behind to participate. A good fraction of them lost those jobs and/or have shaky marriages after their time rusticating.

    I will add that these people, and most others, misunderstand what the military is and does. The popular view is that the military is primarily about guns, and bombs and missiles. Things that go bang, blow things up and kill people. The military has some of those things. But primarily the military is about logistics. For every “trigger puller” there are scores of clerks, truck drivers, maintenance personnel, cooks, and people trying to keep the logistical tail unknotted and working.

    A popular truism is that when amateurs talk about military actions they talk tactics; professionals talk about logistics. Real military power flows from logistical performance. Anyone can grab a gun and squat in the woods. For a time. But without income and provision for the family back home, food and water, access to basic health care, dry socks , a system for rotation to a safe zone, and regular replacements you aren’t going to stay for very long. For average soldiers, a few weeks.

    In the 80s and 90s the US ran numerous exercises trying to find out how long you could realistically keep soldiers in the field without resupply starting with only what they could carry. They used SEALs, marine recon, and army SF and concluded that, even with highly trained professional soldiers, assuming only limited movement and no hostile action, 90 days was about the upper limit before they couldn’t met minimum standards for performance. In some cases the people were so debilitated after this ordeal that it took almost a year recovering before they were judged fit enough for full duty. In some cases people retired with disabilities. Cold-wet environments, with the difficulty staying dry and the constant threat of hypothermia, were seen as hardest on personnel.

  5. kyoseki says

    “The United States military is first and foremost and unfathomable network of typist and file clerks, secondarily a stupendous mechanism for moving stuff from one part of the world to another and last and least a fighting organization.”

    Neal Stephenson, Cryptonomicon

  6. sonofrojblake says

    Concise lorn: “An army marches on its stomach.” It’s not a new observation, but if anything it’s truer today than it’s ever been, as weapons have become more complex and people’s minimum standards of comfort have become higher.

  7. says

    “The United States military is first and foremost and unfathomable network of typist and file clerks, secondarily a stupendous mechanism for moving stuff from one part of the world to another and last and least a fighting organization.”

    It was a realization like that that “radicalized” me when the pieces of the US military puzzle all fell into place for me. I was in a restaurant in Switzerland talking with a friend who (like everyone else, more or less) was in the Swiss military. We were talking about military history and (speaking about the Swiss military) he said “you can tell an army’s purpose by its composition.” We’d been discussing how the Swiss military was able to cheat on logistics by having pre-positioned stuff all over the place, and -- most importantly -- not going on the offensive. Then he said, “you know if I was commanded to attack another country, let’s say Lithuania, we’d have to go on Lufthansa.” Then I started thinking about the US military. It’s utterly unconcerned with defense; it’s entirely oriented toward fighting wars in other people’s back yards. The US well learned the lessons of WWI and WWII and became and remained a system of “force projection” For those of you who don’t speak fluent beltway, “force projection” is a term that would immediately resonate with Julius Caesar: it was Rome’s main product.

  8. Sunday Afternoon says

    @Marcus: indeed -- what exactly are all those nice aircraft carriers are for?

    A long time ago in my mid-teens, I had the opportunity to walk on the flight-deck of one of the (then) 2 UK aircraft carriers equipped with the ski-jump for Sea Harrier jump jets (think Falklands conflict). She was moored close to another naval ship, dwarfing her. The officer escorting us pointed that a Nimitz class US carrier would dwarf the carrier we were on in roughly the same proportion!

    You mention Switzerland where we are told repeatedly that “everyone has a gun” by the right wing here. They miss the detail that you added -- the are in the military (reserve?) making them the quintessential “well regulated Militia”.

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