Mandatory minimum terrorism
When Nevada’s Ammon Bundy and his rancher followers occupied an empty building on the Malheur Wildlife Preserve near Burns, Oregon, many on the left called them “Vanilla ISIS” and demanded their immediate eviction and arrest for terrorism. Bundy’s group called themselves “Citizens for Constitutional Freedom” (CCF) and vowed to stay until the Malheur Reserve was given back to “the people.”
Fortunately, the FBI announced it would not storm what they used to call a “compound,” but instead would only monitor the participants. Libertarians and conservatives, and a few genuine liberals, pushed back at the vitriol. Are the CCF terrorists?
The Bundys were there to protest a travesty of justice: After serving a prison sentence for setting firebreaks on their own ranch that also burned down some adjacent federal land, 73-year-old Dwight Hammond and his son Steven were hauled back into court again and re-sentenced under the federal Anti-Terrorism Act of 1996.
This act was passed in response to the Oklahoma City bombing. Convictions under that Act carry a mandatory minimum sentence of five years. The Hammonds entered federal prison the day after the Bundy protest began.
In what way were the Bundys terrorists any more than the Occupy Wall Street protesters? Oh, they were rural, white and armed. But, did they threaten civilians?
Mandatory minimum sentencing abuse, and misprosecution as terrorism of what were at worst minor criminal acts of the Hammonds, illuminate the sheer heartlessness of progressive public land agencies that have harassed the Hammonds for decades with the sole object of acquiring their land.
The Malheur Wildlife Preserve was originally expropriated by the great progressive Theodore Roosevelt to protect migrating birds from market hunters. The Paiute tribe that lived in grass shacks along the marshes were ethnically cleansed and resettled, and some of their descendents say they hold real title to the Preserve.
Since then we have seen a history of ranchers, large and small, who lost their lands to the Preserve through various legal actions without relief in federal courts. The liberal U.S. Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit denied their appeal of resentencing by saying there were far worse abuses caused by mandatory minimums, so who were they to complain?
The Hammonds had a history of confrontation with federal land agencies over the years. If you had such a nasty neighbor, there might be some fence wars too. Mrs. Hammond presented studies showing more wildlife used the waters on private ranches than the waters in the preserve. Telling the feds that cattle and wildlife can co-exist and even flourish is like putting a crucifix in front of a vampire.
Sen. Reid snarked, “The land already belongs to the people.” Socialists use such abstract concepts as “society” and “the people” without regard for the actual human beings like the Hammonds whose lives are not simply concepts. It is often said American liberals in positions of power love humanity but hate people.
If the land already belongs to the people, senator, will you and son Rory return the profits you made brokering numerous public-private land deals back to “the People”? Didn’t think so.
Republicans have been little better. The question should not be simply, “When will the feds drive the protesters out of Malheur?” Where are the calls from presidential candidates and Republican politicians to address some of the concerns raised by the story of the Hammonds, the Bundys and the 11 states, including Nevada, who have asked for relief from the land grabbing federal bureaucracies? Where are the calls from the Cruz, Trump and Paul camps for hearings on the public land grabs?