Who was it who initiated the wrongful use of ‘force, fear and violence’ in Bunkerville?

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(A version of the following missive appears in the summer edition of CJ Hadley’s Range magazine, on newsstands May 1:)

In a criminal complaint filed Feb. 11, federal prosecutors charge Nevada rancher Cliven D. Bundy with “assault on a federal law enforcement officer,” “conspiracy to commit an offense against the united states,” “obstruction of the administration of justice,” and “use and carry of a firearm in relation to a crime of violence” in the standoff at his ranch east of Las Vegas, two years back.

Interesting timing. They wait two years, then gin up a warrant when they catch Cliven stepping off a plane to see about his son’s arrest in another case of non-violent resistance to these federal land-grabs, this time in Oregon. (Well, the Bundys were peaceful, as ever, occupying a building out in the middle of nowhere which had been closed for the winter. It was the federals who shot to kill. (See http://www.fourwinds10.net/siterun_data/peace_freedom/patriots_and_protesters/news.php?q=1460824922 , for starters.)

The actual complaint was sworn by Joel P. Willis, FBI agent, who contends “Beginning in at least March 2014” Cliven Bundy, “aided and abetted by others, did use a dangerous and deadly weapon to forcibly assault, resist, oppose, impede, intimidate,” etc., “federal law enforcement officers” who were “guarding and protecting government personnel and equipment located at the Impoundment Site at or near Bunkerville, Nevada, while executing federal orders to remove cattle from federal public lands,” blah blah blah, with the result that the federal rustlers backed down and released their stolen cattle.

All very interesting, given that I never saw Cliven Bundy carrying a firearm, either during the federal siege or at any other time I’ve visited his ranch.

I wonder at what hospital the “assaulted” federal troops were treated. Oh, wait: Not one of the federals, many dressed in full combat gear with M-16 rifles, were injured or even inconvenienced.

Seems these brave federals don’t like it when the folks they intend to oppress show up with more guns than the occupying army thought to bring -— kind of like the way the redcoats responded when George Washington showed up with his cannon on the ridge line above Boston in 1776.

Cliven Bundy’s real crime was to just stand around calmly answering questions from the press while the federals spent about a million taxpayer dollars making themselves look like incompetent idiots, rounding up cattle by panicking them with helicopters in the springtime, the season when such actions were most likely to -– and did -– result in the deaths of many young calves. They also shot most of the bulls they encountered, bulldozing them into shallow graves.

And how were the federals “caring” for the cattle they hadn’t bothered to shoot, given reliable reports that no one in the four-state area would sell them any feed, nor that any other state would accept shipment for auction of that stolen herd, branded with brands registered to the Bundys, who alone have the grazing property right to those State of Nevada public lands, as adjudicated in state courts, which have jurisdiction over grazing rights here in the West?

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EVERY OTHER RANCH DESTROYED

Bundy, contends the FBI agent who wrote this masterpiece of whining, “had trespassed his cattle on federal public lands for over 20 years, refusing to obtain the legally-required permits or pay the required fees to keep and graze his cattle on the land.”

Now why on earth do you suppose Cliven didn’t just keep renewing his federal permit, allowing the federals to order him to get his cattle off the land during the spring rains (the only time cattle can be fattened, out here in the desert) supposedly to prevent them from “stepping on little desert tortoises,” just like the other 50 ranching families who had applied for such “permits” to graze public land in Clark County by the 1950s.

Well, for starters, studies show the tortoises in arid Southern Nevada are most numerous per acre on urban golf courses in Las Vegas, and second most numerous on lands grazed by cattle, while they struggle to survive at all in the fire-prone wilderness that’s created when the federals drive ranchers and their cattle off the land, allowing all the brush to dry out. Meantime, increasingly restrictive and economically nonsensical federal “grazing permit” restrictions have put every single one of those other 50 Clark County ranching families -– the ones that “played by the rules” — out of business, which is precisely the federal goal. Every one.

What this indictment claims, when you come right down to it, is that the Bundy family went on the Internet and invited members of America’s citizen militia to come join them in a show of force, standing in non-violent resistance against this federal exercise of grossly unconstitutional force, “flooding the internet with false and deceitful images” and “deliberately lying” by claiming the federals were “stealing his cattle,” when in fact all they were trying to do was, you know . . . steal his cattle.

Anyone see a little First Amendment problem, here? You can now be jailed -– before trial, and without bail — for telling truths that government agents contend are “lies”?

For that matter, why did the Federalists assure us we’d never have to worry about the central government taking away our liberties? Didn’t Madison and Hamilton and the gang tell us not to worry, since any attempt by the federals to usurp powers not specifically delegated to them would be met by a “citizen militia many times larger than any force” the government in Washington City could ever hope to field, “armed with every terrible instrument of the soldier”?

Does the Constitution grant the federals any power to “issue or withhold permits” for ranchers to graze their cattle inside the borders of a sovereign state, or any power to round up and steal said cattle if the rancher declines to participate in their extra-constitutional “permitting” scheme? Of course not. So how can it be a crime to do precisely what the Founders said we were supposed to do in such cases -– show up with our guns, in order to “demand a redress of grievances” and guarantee ourselves and our children “the security of a free state”? Do you really think a polite letter to Barack Obama or Harry Reid would have done the job?

When the collectivists now running things in Washington were in college in the 1970s, they didn’t mind trespassing to stage their “sit-ins” in the dean’s office, demanding whatever absurd concessions their far-left professors dreamed up. Heck, some of Barack Obama’s far-left friends and supporters went a lot further than that, joining groups that built bombs intended to blow up police stations. How come none of them are in prison for making armed federal combat troops “afeared”? If some left-wing minority murder suspect today were chained in a Henderson jail cell in his own feces and without food for 20 hours at a time, don’t you think the ACLU and a half-dozen other Civil Rights outfits would be on the case, lickety split? That’s the way the non-violent Bundy brothers have been treated. Is there a different standard when it comes to conservative ranchers?

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NOT FEDERAL LAND

The real problem is that most Americans not directly involved in these issues, who get their news from TV networks that just rip-and-read federal propaganda press releases, think we still live in the country they were taught about in school, the one founded in 1776 or 1787, where everyone has a right to a speedy trial by a jury of his peers, allowed to present a defense which includes “the whole truth.”

If that were the case, fine, send Cliven Bundy home on his own recognizance and let’s have a trial in a couple of months. The federals claim he “made them afeared” on their “federal public lands,” right? (Reminds me of all these courageous cops who — after breaking down a door in the middle of the night with six or eight black-clad buddies wearing Kevlar vests and proceeding to shoot unarmed victims in those victims’ own homes or cars — are coached by their police unions to whine “I was afeared! He put me in fear for my life when he made that ‘furtive movement’!” They should at least make these characters show up in a pink bra and panties and pee on themselves while they testify about how “afeared” they were.)

The first thing any attorney worth his salt would ask about this criminal indictment is, “FEDERAL public lands? Wow. Did my client do all this inside some federal arsenal or dockyard or Air Force base? No? Well then, the first thing the prosecution has to establish before this goes any further is that he was on federal land. Can we see their deed, please, their bill of sale, a true copy of the vote in the state Legislature in Carson City authorizing the federal government to buy the lands in question (as required by Article One Section 8 of the Constitution, which all federals including this judge and this prosecutor have sworn an oath to protect and defend), and for good measure maybe 10 or 20 years worth of receipts showing the federal government has been paying county property taxes on those lands, as any ‘owner’ would have to?

“What? They don’t have any of those things? Well if these remain state public lands, on which the Bundy family holds adjudicated grazing rights, then who was the trespasser? Look at these photos of government troopers in full combat gear with automatic rifles. These people were ‘afeared’ of a peaceable 70-year-old rancher? Doesn’t it seem more reasonable to conclude they were trying to make him afraid . . . and were deeply puzzled and chagrined when they failed? Isn’t that what this case is really all about?

“Your honor, just to create a level playing field, ask all these federals if —- should this verdict go against them and the Bundys get acquitted on the most serious charge facing each of them —- these federals will agree in advance, right now, to give up in perpetuity the right of their agencies to keep and bear and deploy arms, and to claim ownership or control of any public lands in Nevada and Oregon not purchased from the state as required by the Constitution. Shouldn’t both sides have the same amount of ‘skin in the game’ — about the same amount to lose?”

But of course none of that will happen. Some political flunky appointed to the court by Harry Reid will rule the land is federal land, no debate about that permitted, no opposing position may be raised as part of the defense; defense disallowed; if you try to bring up that topic in open court — or any question regarding this court’s jurisdiction or the inherent conflict of interest of a judge appointed by Harry Reid and payrolled by the plaintiff federal government — the judge will hold the defense attorneys in contempt and jail them.

Nor will the press cover such rulings —- all part of the boring preliminary maneuvering, no one wants to read about that.

The last thing the federals want is to give Cliven or Ammon Bundy a televised pulpit to explain all these issues —- any more than they ever gave Irwin Schiff a real “day in court” -— the chance any truly independent arbiter would have given him to spend days cross-examining IRS agents on their contradictory, extra-legal regulations, trying to explain how on earth they can reconcile them with Supreme Court rulings which Schiff knew backwards and forwards, rulings reiterating that any federal tax must be either an indirect excise or a direct tax capitated — rulings not rendered void by the income-tax amendment — with all America looking on.

No, their strategy is to over-charge till the defense attorney has to advise the Bundys “If we go to trial, now that all our best defenses have been disallowed, given that they won’t allow any ranchers or 70-year-old Mormons -— any of your real peers -— on the jury, but will instead use voir dire to stack your jury with young Green activists from Las Vegas who will swear in advance to follow the judge’s orders, I have to warn you you’ll probably get 20 years, doubled because someone in proximity to you ‘had a gun at the time the felony crime of showing disrespect was committed.’ So your best option is to quietly plead guilty to a lesser charge, serve 18 months at a minimum security country club, maybe even get probation, as long as you agree to never own another firearm, to never speak out in public, and also to sign here on the dotted line, agreeing that you were wrong and the federal government owns and controls all the lands and you’re out of the cattle business.”

ALL THEY RESPECT IS FORCE

I don’t think most Americans today even realize what a modern “trial” looks like. In the old movies like “To Kill a Mockingbird,” the whole town showed up, hundreds of people sitting in the courtroom with even the balconies full. Today armed bailiffs turn me away from “coroner’s inquests” into Las Vegas police shootings of unarmed suspects in little 12th-floor “courtrooms” with empty seats despite the fact such brand-new “courtrooms” are now designed to hold 32 people (32; I counted!)

Hands on their sidearms, two abreast, these shaved-headed goons snarl, “This isn’t open to the public.” And this after I’ve gone through all their metal detectors and strip-search rigmarole! I go back to my office, call the court administrators, identify myself as a newspaper editor, the court administrators say, “Oh, they must have misspoken. Of course it’s open to the public, but there’s assigned seating and you weren’t on the list, see.”

Meantime their real goal is to see that these last ranchers left standing are driven to bankruptcy. The cases never end, even when we think there’s been a victory for private property rights as in the Wayne Hage case -— where a federal judge actually recommended indicting the federals for racketeering and persecution and organized crime -— the government keeps appealing and re-filing, long after the all-too-mortal principals on the other side of the case are in their graves.

As I’ve said before, if all they know is violence, if all they respect is force and the threat of force, once these federals have eliminated any viable way to peacefully resist and seek a redress of grievances, where do they think it will end?

The day will come when dead federals litter the desert, coyotes picking at the bones in their bleached fancy uniforms lying next to their rusting SUVs, when federal agents won’t dare travel anywhere outside their urban fortresses except in armed convoys, like Napoleon’s troops in the mountains of Spain in 1812. The day will come when these federals will wish they were still facing opponents as calm and polite and straightforward and respectful — and as peaceful -— as Cliven and Ammon Bundy.

Then they will finally know what it is to be “afeared.”

And who will have made it so?

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Vin Suprynowicz was for 20 years an award-winning columnist and editorial writer for the daily Las Vegas Review-Journal. He is the author of the essay collection “Send in the Waco Killers” as well as the 2014 Range Magazine Special Report on the siege of Bundy Ranch, “Patterns of Harassment.” ( http://www.rangemagazine.com/features/fall-14/range-fa14-sr-patterns_of_harassment.pdf .) He blogs at www.vinsuprynowicz.com .

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