Malheur Echo Chamber

The Pacific Patriot Network (PPN) issued a press release Jan. 10 regarding a “Proposal for Resolution of the Peaceful Occupation of the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge by Citizens for Constitutional Freedom.” This is the armed convoy that disrupted the press conference I attended Jan. 9 while out in Burns checking out the Malheur occupation. 

According to the release, PPN’s purpose in Harney County was to “establish open communication towards a peaceful resolution while maintaining civility within Harney County.” To do that, PPN would establish a “perimeter of protection for the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge” while initiating discussion with federal agencies.

PPN made three demands in its statement: the occupiers be granted a written grievance process, a criminal investigation of prosecutorial misconduct by the federal government in the Hammond case be initiated and “the transfer and unconditional return of the lands in question to Harney County and Burns Pauite [sic] Tribe.”

The statement concluded: “This situation is not conducive to solutions.” I agree with their assessment. Two of PPN’s three requests will not fly. Even if the FBI agreed to a grievance process to include a written resolution of the stand-off, there’s no way they’ll agree to a criminal investigation of prosecutorial misconduct in the Hammonds' case — I’m not sure the FBI can even negotiate on behalf of the federal courts. Nor would the FBI consider the transfer and unconditional return of the lands in question to Harney County and the Burns Paiute Tribe — even if its name were spelled right. If it were up to me, I’d give it all back to the Paiutes. I trust them. As long as they’d promise not to sell any land to white folks.

The ostensible trigger for the Malheur takeover was the re-sentencing of the Hammonds by Federal Judge Ann Aiken, as was handed down to her by the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Eastern Nevadans Ammon and Ryan Bundy represent the face of this militia. They are sons of the infamous Cliven Bundy, the pseudo-patriot, right-wing-wacko-anarchical, seditious super-moocher, public land cattle-grazer who owes the feds $1 million in back grazing fees — that guy. 

As with many of these self-declared “prophets” of their faith, both Ammon and Cliven Bundy have publicly acknowledged it was their direct communication with God in each case that led them to Malheur and their previous armed conflicts with federal agencies. In the case of the Malheur attack, Ammon told OPB’s Amelia Templeton “it [the Malheur takeover] was validated by God in the form of a flock of geese he saw flying” (which has significance in Mormon teachings). So that’s why all these folks took over a bird refuge.

 If you want to find out more about how “prophets” in this fundamentalist ideology behave after getting direct “revelations” from personal communication with their God, read Jon Krakauer’s book Under the Banner of Heaven. Hint: It’s not about Muslim extremists; nor for that matter is it about the vast majority of rational law-abiding Mormons. Just like some on the left, these occupiers only talk and listen to each other. It’s all about power, justification and self-reinforcement.

This press release is not a legitimate proposal; it is simply designed to buy time. And I have no qualms about the lead agency, the FBI, taking time to let this develop a bit more. I guess turning off the power and water is not as simple as it seems. There are legitimate concerns about unauthorized use of federal equipment and the occupiers’ access to federal records and Paiute cultural sites and property. But I don’t mind a waiting game. It’s cold over there, and this not-so-well prepared gang arrived and immediately sent out a nationwide alert to militia groups. Turns out they hadn’t brought much food and supplies —  because guns, ammo and ideology take up so much space. 

During this assignment, I ran across some really good writing about the Malheur siege in particular, and the history of the Western cattle conflict in general. Jeff Wright of The Register-Guard wrote an excellent piece Jan. 12 about what American terrorism feels like in Harney County: the anxiety of community members being followed around, tires slashed, cars parked outside their houses — creepy stuff. And kudos especially to Steve Duin of The Oregonian for his Jan. 8 column describing Republican Congressman Greg Walden’s nasty role in this fiasco. Duin described Walden’s empathizing with the “militant Mormon tour group perpetuating the farce” while cynically killing the Klamath Basin Restoration Agreement in order to avoid a Tea Party challenger in the primary. Stay tuned.

Tony Corcoran of Cottage Grove is a former state senator and retired state employee. He traveled to Burns and wrote of his adventures and observations in our Jan. 14 issue. 

Comments are closed.