Tuesday, January 05, 2016

Insurrectionists? Terrorists? in Oregon

I have to admit that I have really mixed feelings about the mess in South Eastern Oregon... My first reaction was that if a group of heavily armed black folk took over a government building, we'd have the National Guard with armored personnel carriers and there would be blood shed.  If it was a group of unarmed Muslims, even if the group was primarily women and children, we'd have the same reaction. 

And that is exactly what the folk who took the building want.  They have said they want the public lands to be returned to local control - i.e. they want to be able to use public lands for their benefit at no cost and with no restrictions and they'll stay there "as long as it takes."  As long as what takes?  Do they really believe that federal land use policies will be changed because a group of somewhere between 20 and 150 heavily armed idiots are sitting in a building way out in the middle of nowhere?  No, the "what" they're waiting for is for someone at the federal level to get impatient and come in with guns blazing so they can be martyrs for their cause (sound anything like the fundamentalists of Da'esh?).

I have to admit that my gut first said that the government should give them what they want.  Treat them the same way a group of black men or Muslims would be treated.  Responses that I routinely condemn by the way...  No... it seem to me that the government is responding in a reasonable way so far in avoiding violence. 

So what do I think they should do from here?  First, this group should be defined officially as terrorists.  That is what they are.  They are using violence and the fear of violence to influence political outcomes.  They are clearly seeing themselves as fighting against the federal government as they embrace that crazy reading of the 2nd Amendment that says the reason we have guns is so we can fight against a tyrannical federal government.  "Tyrannical" means whenever the federal government does something they don't like.  Their intent is to use violence in order to get their way.

Then, all power should be cut off and a perimeter set up around them to keep anything - food, water, information, whatever - from going in or out.  Then wait.  If some go out to hunt, arrest them, and try them for terrorism.  They say they'll stay as long as it takes... let them.  Arrest them as it becomes possible.  Continually offer a non-violent resolution which results in their arrest.  If they begin a violent confrontation, do the best possible to keep it from escalating but do not allow them out except as prisoners.

At the same time, it does seem that our federal government has taken a hands off approach to right wing insurrectionist groups.  They cannot be allowed to flout the law without serious consequences.  Armed insurrection while threatening to kill law enforcement and military personnel must result in significant prison terms.

What do you think?