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'High Noon' over turtles

Given the de minimis coverage by the self-gelded mainstream media, you may have missed the altogether remarkable events that recently unfolded in southern Nevada.

Given the de minimis coverage by the self-gelded mainstream media, you may have missed the altogether remarkable events that recently unfolded in southern Nevada.

For decades, rancher Cliven Bundy has grazed his cattle on government land, which has been designated habitat for the desert tortoise, one species on an ever-lengthening federal list of endangered creatures. Compounding the offense, despite two court orders, Bundy has refused to pay grazing fees to the federal Bureau of Land Management because, as he points out, his family's use of that land goes back to the 1870s, i.e., well before the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service consecrated it as a turtle habitat and the BLM came into existence.

So clearly this Bundy fellow is a regular Jesse James who must be stopped. That, at least, was the announced premise of the bizarre response to his lawless behavior.

In an insane use of government power reminiscent of the Waco and Ruby Ridge debacles, the BLM rode to the turtles' rescue by launching a full-scale military assault by 200 rangers armed with submachine guns and accompanied by helicopters, snipers, and police dogs. These agents closed off the grazing land, imposed a no-fly zone, and proceeded to confiscate - and, in some cases, kill - Bundy's trespassing cattle. When Bundy's son verbally protested, federal rangers shut him up with lunging, barking police dogs before they repeatedly Tasered him. Other agents physically assaulted another Bundy desperado, a cancer-stricken, 100-pound mother of 11, who had the temerity to block a government vehicle.

Things were proceeding according to plan as the feds slapped folks around, rustled Bundy's cattle, and pretty much let everybody know who was boss. Then it got interesting.

From across the country, hundreds of legally armed citizen militia members arrived to support the Bundy family and face down the feds. And guess what? Confronted by a countervailing armed force, the helicopters stopped stampeding the cattle, the police dogs were put away, and nobody else was assaulted or Tasered for exercising their right to oppose the government.

In a true High Noon moment, Bundy's friends, neighbors, and militia supporters had a showdown with the federal agents over the release of the confiscated cattle. As they neared the government corral, the SWAT team leader actually threatened to have them shot if they continued to advance. Undeterred, the civilians reached the barrier and demanded that the feds take their helicopters, machine guns, dogs, and Tasers and leave. Faced with hundreds of armed and determined citizens, the feds exhibited their first sign of coherence by retreating and allowing the cattle to be freed.

Though the Bundy saga is far from over, it is nevertheless clear that the BLM is badly in need of adult supervision. What idiot(s) saw fit to launch a full-scale military turtle-rescue operation to deal with a nonviolent grazing-fee scofflaw? But that question raises yet another: Was rescuing turtles the BLM's true mission? Or was it advancing some other agenda?

Either way, a wholesale government-spawned bloodletting was narrowly averted, and we taxpayers, who are forced to finance this kind of ill-conceived, dangerous foolishness, are entitled to some answers. Like the media, my old alma mater, the U.S. Department of Justice, is too politically compromised to seek those answers. That leaves the task to the House of Representatives, the only element of government that has been willing to question this administration's excesses. Who and what are behind this fiasco?

Let the hearings begin.