It’s All in the Timing

by J.D. Tuccille

All right, here’s the scenario: you’re a law enforcement official in an unpopular agency that (like all of ‘em) is subject to political pressure, and your country is heading into the silly season of a national election. It’s a particularly tumultuous election since the current president is plagued with scandals, traditional party loyalties are breaking down, and popular dissatisfaction with the government is registering at levels that would trigger a game of musical generals in a banana republic.

Now, your agency is helping to oversee an infiltration by a local police officer of a paramilitary group in an area of the country where anti-government sentiment is the norm. This group is engaging in the currently popular sport of mouthing-off, shooting-up the desert, and planning contingency “actions” against the powers-that-be if Belgium invades and imposes a “New World Order” or, more likely, the authorities make a grab for their guns.

Oh, and four members of the paramilitary group are affiliated with a small but growing political party that is causing minor but increasing concern to the established parties at the national level, and is making major inroads in the local jurisdiction.

Do you:

If you guessed “B” you’ve been reading my column for too long and probably ought to just sit down and have a drink. That’s right, take it easy. Ummm ... but you’re right, too. That’s exactly what the Feds and the Arizona authorities did with their infiltration of the Viper Militia, and the political party with the conveniently scheduled convention is the Libertarian Party.

Now, we’ve all heard about the amazing bust of the big, bad Viper Militia. As a matter of fact, we’ve heard so much that Judge Earl Carroll has given a hand-slap to prosecutors and law enforcement officials for acting as if the trial and sentencing are a done deal and all we need await is a sufficiently strong length of rope. We’ve heard that these treasonous plotters converted rifles to full automatic (funny, I like the sound of that), that they shot up defenseless desert landscape, that they conspired to strike against the government if ... well ... if the government moved against them, and that they stockpiled hundreds of pounds of ... inert fertilizer. But, whoa, fertilizer blows up if you you do stuff to it. Which the folks in Arizona didn’t do.

But worst of all, according to BATF director John Magaw, “Right now they don’t want FBI, ATF, various government agencies. They don’t want to pay their taxes. They’re ‘anti’ what you and I normally would think is acceptable.” Ummm, John? If that’s the bulk of your case, you might want to zip it before I invite the Viper Militia over for a beer.

Of particular interest is Magaw’s admission that the militia folks had been “plotting” for two years without making any moves, and that “We were close enough to know any action that they took which would have been the move to put these explosives together and plant them.” Meaning, one supposes, that the feds were confident of their ability to head off any actual acts.

So why now? Where’s the imminent threat that would trigger a massive bust in the patriotically charged week before the Independence Day holiday?

Well, that may be a question of how you define threat. For the Arizona authorities, it may simply be the election-year threat offered by a growing political party that offered a strong gubernatorial candidate in the last election, and whose nominee for Attorney General pulled twenty percent of the vote in a multi-party race. Smearing opponents with the terrorist brush is an old tactic dating back to the glory days of the Reichstag fire (now that was a quality smear). It’s funny how the Libertarian affiliation of four of the militia members has made the news, but there has been remarkably little about the five Republicans, one Democrat, or one independent.

For the feds, there’s a nice chance to show that they’re good for something, and to paint anti-government types as bad, violent people, even if they haven’t ... well ... done anything violent. There’s always what they might have done if the forces of law and order hadn’t stepped in to save the day and confiscate all that fertilizer (Hey! Don’t anybody tell ‘em what happens when you mix sugar with ... oops ... ssshhh!). The next time somebody mouths off about the BATF, Magaw can always chuckle “Ya know, that’s just what the Viper Militia said.”

And for the Administration ... well ... any distraction is a good distraction these days. And one that taints anti-government activists and an insurgent polical party is simply too good to turn down.

So keep an eye out as the case of the treasonous Viper Militia develops. After all, real terrorists do exist and it’s possible that this time the forces of law and order stumbled across an honest-to-goodness threat to the republic. Maybe the BATF really did find a plot to repeat the Oklahoma City disaster or to target the Atlanta Olympics.

Or maybe they just busted a beer and gun club with an overactive imagination, a healthy dislike of the feds, and a convenient political connection.

From the Notebook

Now is as good a time as any to plug a new novel that sheds some light on why Americans might join such groups as the Viper Militia (only with a wee bit more discretion and a better-tuned sense of reality, one hopes). Unintended Consequences by John Ross is a surprisingly fast read for such a damned thick book. Forget a page count — it should be sold by the pound. But it’s worth every ounce.

The book follows the decay of liberty over several generations on three continents. Individuals are shown at their best, at their worst, and at the mercy of psychopaths when disarmed by the state. The main character is a man named Henry Bowman who in the closing years of the twentieth century decides that he’s had quite enough. And that’s where the fun starts. What fun? Hah! Find out for yourself (err ... some of it’s a bit gruesome, though).

You can order Unintended Consequences online from Amazon Books. And no, I don’t get a cut — although I see no reason why I shouldn’t if I’m gonna be plugging the damned book ...

Ah well, and so much for the power of argument. So back you go to Full Automatic or to my home page.

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