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Are they willing to kill?

By Charles Bloomer
web posted August 6, 2001

The situation at Klamath Falls, Oregon, has moved beyond absurd and is now firmly enshrined in the surreal.

In an effort to protect some kind of suckerfish, the federal government has shut off water to the farmers of Klamath Falls. This shut off comes despite an agreement by the federal government to provide water, an agreement nearly 100 years old. The results have been predictable. Without water, the farmers cannot farm their land. Many face bankruptcy and loss of their farms. Property values have plummeted to $35 an acre.

Farmers in the Klamath Basin were granted water rights from the Klamath Lake by the Reclamation Act of 1902. Many veterans homesteaded the land and were promised water rights forever. The water promised to the farmers is absolutely necessary for the cultivation of the land, and, therefore, necessary to the economy of the area.

But the farmers and residents of the Klamath Basin are the losers in the decision by the US Fish and Wildlife Service, based on the Endangered Species Act of 1977, that the suckerfish has priority for water. The irrigation canal gates were closed to preserve water for the fish at the expense of the farmers. A federal judge has upheld the decision, and the Bush administration has been noticeably absent in this dispute.

In order to protect the Klamath Falls irrigation canal gates, the federal government has stationed armed US Marshals at the dam. The Marshals are there to prevent the farmers from opening the floodgates.

US Marshals, armed with guns.

Here's the question (actually, there are several): Are those Marshals prepared to shoot their fellow Americans? Are they ready to shoot and kill people whose only offense is to compete with suckerfish for the water in the lake? Are they ready to open fire on people whose lives have been shattered, whose farms have been devastated, whose livelihoods have been destroyed, in order to protect a fish?

Evidently, some people believe the Marshals would shoot. Surprisingly, no one yet has challenged them.

It is inconceivable, unbelievable that the government of the United States, a government charged with protecting the human rights of its citizens, could turn on its own people. It is difficult to imagine that this is the same America formed by the Declaration of Independence and governed by the most successful constitution in the history of the world. It boggles the mind to consider that an American government would be willing to shoot and kill innocent farmers over a fish, regardless of how endangered the fish may be.

Has our government become so tyrannical, so despotic that it is willing to destroy peoples' lives because of a dispute over a fish? Not only destroy their lives and way of life, are they willing to shoot people to protect that fish? Has the United States government become a totalitarian dictatorship that makes uncaring, bureaucratic decisions, that is apparently willing to shoot to kill to enforce its bullheadedness? Is this an America in which we wish to live?

It's too late to ask the people at Waco, incinerated by government agents. It's too late to ask the wife of Randy Weaver, shot through the head by a government sniper as she held her child in her arms.

To borrow a line from my friend Ken Bagwell, a radio talk show host in Asheville, NC: "Heads Up, America!". This surreal situation in Oregon should serve as a wake up call to every American. If the federal government, or government at any level, can destroy people with impunity, none of us is safe. Whose life, whose property, whose freedom is next?

It is well past time for us to demand accountability from our elected representatives and from the petty bureaucrats who want to micromanage our lives. It is well past time for us to insist that our government restrict its activities to those specified in the Constitution of the United States, that it fulfill its obligation to protect our unalienable rights to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. Totalitarian policies based on radical environmentalism are not an acceptable substitute for human rights or constitutional government.

Now is the time to send the Marshals and their guns home. Let's not test their willingness to kill. ESR

Charles Bloomer is a senior writer at Enter Stage Right. He can be contacted at © 2001 Charles Bloomer

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