News from the Front #52:  

Independence Day Issue:  A Blow for Liberty at the Klamath Project

". . . all Experience hath shewn, that Mankind are more disposed to suffer, while Evils are sufferable, than to right themselves by abolishing the Forms to which they are accustomed.  But when a long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object, evinces a Design to reduce them under absolute Despotism, it is their Right, it is their Duty, to throw off such Government, and to provide new Guards for their future Security."

                                                                            The Declaration of Independence (July 4, 1776)

For many  years, the history of federal management of natural resources in the West has been a "long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object".   The Abuses and Usurpations are well-known, premised upon fraudulent "science" and gross distortions of environmental "law":  Endangered Species Act listings, National Monuments, Wilderness Areas, newly-minted Tribal rights, roadless areas, logging restrictions, wolf and grizzly reintroductions, mining prohibitions, enormous "buffer zones", and above all, theft of water.

The Object that the Federal Government is "pursuing invariably" is to remove rural Westerners from their land, so that the land may be swallowed up by ever-growing Government and its allies.  Government already owns or controls more than 42% of the land in the Nation, with a much higher percentage in Western States, and the pending CARA bill would make things worse.  Logging on public land in the Pacific Northwest now stands at 1% of the levels prevailing in 1990.  More than 85% of the storage capacity of reservoirs in the Federal Columbia River Power System is now dedicated to the imagined needs of fish.  Grazing on public lands is rapidly shrinking.  The federal government is leaving more and more rural Westerners no choice but to leave, or perhaps work for the government.

Many in the West feel powerless to stop these developments.  Certainly our present political leaders are no help.  The Democrats promote the Object to attenuate the political power of their opponents and reward their allies; the Republicans suffer it to occur because many are no more than unprincipled fools.  Eastern rivers have been reduced to a third of their former flows, and the once-mighty Rio Grande no longer even reaches the Gulf of Mexico, but no one threatens to cut off the water of the great cities of the East to restore historic flows.  The EPA rolls over and plays dead for water problems in the Nation's Capitol.  Westerners are suffering under a tyranny of the majority, and all Constitutional principles protecting their rights from that majority have collapsed.  

Is the Law Useless?

Many communities across the West are beginning to realize that legal means for addressing their concerns have not worked. They have tried petitioning, lobbying, writing letters, going to court, voting for candidates that they thought represented their interests, legal protest, and still their views are ignored.  Nowhere in the West is the realization keener than in the Klamath Basin.

They know that everyone is telling lies about them.  The big lie is that irrigated farming in the Klamath Basin has caused enormous losses to fishing and tribal communities, so that it is somehow appropriate for the farmers to suffer.  But the salmon canneries at the mouth of the Klamath disappeared long, long ago.  That was back when it was cooler in the Pacific Northwest, and conditions were more favorable for salmon.  

Back then, the mouth of the Klamath River was deep and wide, and no dams blocked the migration of salmon.  Now historic salmon habitat is cut off by dams downstream from the Klamath farmers, and devastating mudslides long ago silted in the near-ocean portion of the River, so much so that the mouth is now a narrow race over a sandbar.   If you visited there in April 2001, on one side of the River you would have seen the Yurok Tribe herding salmon into gillnets with powerboats -- hardly a  historic practice -- and on the other side, you would have seen large populations of marine mammals that have grown all along the West Coast, consuming vast quantities of salmon.  

In the Klamath River, Yurok Tribal salmon harvests have increased substantially in recent years.  California-wide harvests of chinook salmon have held steady as well:

The coho runs have fallen off, but this is mostly from overfishing and poor ocean conditions, which have recently improved.  All across the world, fishermen run marine resource after marine resource into the ground, and seek to cast the blame elsewhere.  They continue heavy mixed-stock harvests, which would be illegal if the Federal government bothered to enforce the Endangered Species Act against fishing.

It is certainly impossible to link the declines in salmon fisheries to Klamath farming, because the Klamath River flows have not changed much for decades:


Those who blame salmon fishing declines on irrigation in the Klamath Basin are just plain wrong.  Either they are ignorant, or they are deliberately lying.  Most of the "facts" commonly held by environmentalists, fishermen, and their allies are simply not true.  Those who say that suckers and coho are endangered species are either ignorant or liars.  Those who say that water must pour down the Klamath River at twice historic levels this month to save suckers or coho are either ignorant or liars.  

Sue Ellen Woodbridge, deputy chief of staff to Interior Secretary Gale Norton, declares "I think that any solution in the Klamath has to recognize that there is not enough water."  While that is true this year, there is no call for government to impose "solutions" to a problem that the common law solved centuries ago.  If there is not enough water, the junior rights holders go without.  

Ms. Woodbridge's remarks do not bode well for the farmers.  As I have written before, no amendment of the Endangered Species Act is needed to solve the problems of the Klamath Basin farmers.   Ms. Woodbridge's boss can grant a God Squad exemption from the Act with little more than the stroke of her pen.  The Bush Administration can de-list species like the sucker and the coho that are obviously not endangered with little more than the stroke of a pen.  

This week, the Pacific Legal Foundation is expected to file an application for a God Squad exemption with the Secretary of the Interior.  This puts the Bush Administration on the spot:  it can either endorse the application and move forward to help the Klamath farmers, or it can ignore or deny the application.  The Endangered Species Act provides the Secretary twenty days to decide whether to hold a God Squad hearing.  If the Bush Administration turns its back on the Klamath farmers, they will have little recourse in law.

Many with an instinct to fight the federal government believe that the Constitution can somehow protect them.  They know the Constitution and know that the federal government has no legitimate power to regulate the populations of fish in lakes.  At most, a Federal government acting within Constitutional limitations could regulate interstate and foreign commerce in fish and enforce treaties concerning fish.  Some communities, most famously Catron County, New Mexico, have had their county governments adopt ordinances purporting to override Federal directives.  Unfortunately, the federal courts and state courts have swatted these ordinances down like flies.  

The common sense interpretation of the Constitution is now a minority view, because the common sense is trained out of our lawyers in law school.  The problem is more with the people than with the laws, paralleling Teddy Roosevelt's observations on the fall of the Roman Republic: 

"The Roman Republic fell, not because of the ambition of Caesar or Augustus, but because it had already long ceased to be in any real sense a republic at all.  When the sturdy Roman plebian, who lived by his own labor, who voted without reward according to his own convictions, and who with his fellows joined in war the terrible Roman legion, had been changed into an idle creature who craved nothing in life save the gratification of a thirst for vapid excitement, who was fed by the state, and who directly or indirectly sold his vote to the highest bidder, then the end of the republic was at hand, and nothing could save it.  The laws were the same as they had been, but the people behind the laws had changed, and so the laws counted for nothing."

Going to courts with judges trained to uphold the government despite the Constitution is pointless.  Small battles, such as pitiful compensation years after a government "taking", might be achieved, but more than lawyers will be required to restore the Constitution as a limitation on federal authority.

On Civil Disobedience 

Ultimately, only a countervailing show of power can force the federal government to temper its exercise of power over the Klamath Project.  The Klamath Community, and communities across the West, have their own, ancient source of power.  It is a power within each individual to give voice to deep moral convictions that the federal government is wrong.  Eventually, citizens become distressed enough to be motivated to go against the grain, to sacrifice personal comfort, to face unknown danger, to give up their freedom and risk going to jail to defend those convictions.  

On Saturday, July 1, 2001, someone in the Klamath Basin did just that, opening a headgate to allow water to flow into the irrigation canals.  That person joins a long line of heroes in American history.  The American Revolution, after all, began with civil disobedience.  At the Boston Tea Party, citizens of the colony of Massachusetts trespassed on a British ship and threw its cargo of tea overboard, rather than be forced to pay taxes without representation to Britain. 

Civil disobedience has also been common in anti-war movements ever since Henry David Thoreau went to jail for refusing to participate in the war against Mexico in 1849.  The American defeat in Vietnam is testimony to the success of such movements efforts.  The Women's Suffrage Movement involved thousands of women marching in the streets, enduring hunger strikes, and submitting to arrest and jail in order to gain the right to vote.  The movement to abolish slavery was founded upon disobedience to fugitive slave laws.  The rise of labor unions, founded upon strikes that were initially illegal ultimately produced the eradication of child labor and  established the 40-hour work week.  The Civil Rights Movement, led by Martin Luther King, Jr. and others, included sit-ins and illegal marches which broke segregation laws in the south.

More recently, civil disobedience tactics have been appropriated by the environmentalists, with astounding successes.  No nuclear power plants have been built for decades.  Logging on public lands has been crippled by sit-ins, blockades, tree sits and forest occupations.  And most recently, citizens have begun to employ such tactics to protect their property rights.  The saga of the Jarbridge Rebellion, which has reportedly succeeded in reopening access to a recreation area closed by a bogus endangered species listing of bull trout, should inspire all the West.  

The opening of the Klamath headgates has the potential to inspire all the West as well.  Perhaps that is why The Oregonian did not even deign to mention the event (the Seattle Times has picked up the story from the AP).  The opening of the Klamath headgates is the first step toward empowering the Klamath community to fight back against the indifference and lies of the federal government.

Polarizing the Community 

". . . what fellowship hath righteousness with unrighteousness? and what communion hath light with darkness?"  

                                                                                                                              2 Corinthians 6:14

The act of opening the headgates will tend to polarize the community, because action threatens efforts at consensus.  But that is a good thing.  Many in the Klamath Basin have urged compromise, conciliation, and consensus with federal officials and their environmentalist allies at every step of the way.  Margaret Thatcher has accurately described "consensus" as "the process of abandoning all beliefs, principles, values and policies in search of something in which no one believes, but to which no one objects; the process of avoiding the very issues that have to be solved, merely because you cannot get agreement on the way ahead.".  "What great cause," she asks, "would have been fought and won under the banner 'I stand for consensus'?"

The environmentalists have never heeded calls for consensus, which is why they are now in a position to force others to seek consensus with them.  Indeed, Leftists have always known that the time for conciliation and consensus is after they have ascended into power.  This is the fundamental lesson of Saul Alinsky's book "Rules for Radicals", and reputedly the subject of Hillary Clinton's senior thesis that remains under lock and key at Wellesley College.  Oregon's Democrats in the Legislature didn't seek consensus on drawing the boundaries of legislative districts in Oregon last month.  Instead, they illegally left their jobs -- civil disobedience -- until they could be sure that a fellow Democrat would draw the district lines to perpetuate Democratic hegemony.

With the polarization of the community, the enemies of the Klamath farmers, and of Liberty generally, will begin to stand out.  For the community to win, enemies must be recognized as enemies.  An old labor organizing song from the 1930s ("Which side are you on?") declares:  "They say in Harlan County, there are no neutrals there."  So too must it be in Klamath County, if the Klamath community  is to beat the Federal government.  

Environmentalists and the fishermen pushing outrageous lies concerning  the Klamath Project are obvious enemies.  So too are those who enable the liars.  Many of the employees of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation are enemies.  Henry David Thoreau wrote in his famous essay On Civil Disobedience

"The mass of men serve the state thus, not as men mainly, but as machines, with their bodies. They are the standing army, and the militia, jailers, constables, posse comitatus, etc. In most cases there is no free exercise whatever of the judgment or of the moral sense; but they put themselves on a level with wood and earth and stones; and wooden men can perhaps be manufactured that will serve the purpose as well.  Such command no more respect than men of straw or a lump of dirt. They have the same sort of worth only as horses and dogs. Yet such as these even are commonly esteemed good citizens. Others--as most legislators, politicians, lawyers, ministers, and office-holders--serve the state chiefly with their heads; and, as they rarely make any moral distinctions, they are as likely to serve the devil, without intending it, as God."

The term "devil" may seem old-fashioned, but using lies to take things away from citizens is evil.  And the worst part of this evil is that it preys upon the good instincts of the Klamath community, which has no desire to wipe suckers and coho off the face of the earth, and may secretly fear that their farming does harm fish.  This evil undermines the confidence of the Klamath community in its own common sense.  

It has been reported that the Sheriff of Klamath County, Timothy Evinger, retains his common sense.  He is reportedly refusing to cooperate with federal officials.  This is a good first step.  Perhaps the Sheriff can go further, instructing his deputies to tail federal officials, and publicly post their whereabouts.  Perhaps he can arrest federal officials who violate local laws, say, by going 26 mph in a 25 mph zone.  Indeed, the entire community should shun the federal officials.  Where do the federal employees eat lunch?  Where do they buy gas?  None should sell to them, and those that do should be picketed.  If the Klamath community cannot deter collaborators within, it has little hope of influencing the powers without.

Organizing the Community

While opening the headgates was a good first step, the federal government promptly closed them.  The Klamath community, like others in the West, cannot hope to make any long-term progress against the Federal government until it is united.  The most difficult part of any campaign of civil disobedience is getting the entire local community pushing in the same direction.  If the Klamath community is going to win their war, they are going to have to begin organizing into the brigades that are needed to fight it.

First and foremost, the community needs leaders who can come together to plan a concerted campaign against the federal government.  If local politicans stand in the way of the campaign, the first part of the campaign can be to recall them, and put fighters into the local offices.  Perhaps the campaign will never have to be executed; the mere resolve of the community in pursuing it could cause the Bush Administration to back down.  The Puerto Rican protestors certainly got the Bush Administration to back down on continuing to use Vieques as a bombing range.  And the Bureau says it won't even bother to investigate who opened the headgates.  

The community leaders must articulate an acceptable goal for the community.  There is no reason not to aim high, seeking an end to bogus ESA listings and bogus water operations.  In the long run, citizens may want to ask why the federal government should own the Klamath Project at all, putting its operations at the whim of remote urban elites.  The Klamath Tribe aims high, seeking its reservation back; perhaps the Klamath farmers ought to get title to the Project as part of a package deal.

And the community leaders must build support for those involved in civil disobedience, including raising money for fines and bail.  The availability of such funds will give courage to those involved in civil disobedience.  One post on the Klamath Crisis electronic bulletin board says:  "I am a housewife in S. Cal.  What can I do to help?"  Isn't it obvious?  Send money.  Let this be the first army in history that posts its receipts and expenses on the Internet, for everyone to see.  The holders of the funds can keep their distance from protestors until they are needed, to avoid charges of conspiracy.

Community leaders must also educate the community about civil disobedience, focusing upon the principle and power of nonviolence.  There is a wealth of literature on civil disobedience, including much developed by Leftists.  Many pieces deal with the philosophy of nonviolence, with important roots in Christianity and Eastern philosophies.   Nonviolent civil disobedience has transforming power because its true adherents transcend their anger at the Government, and change themselves, becoming empowered by their resistance.  Surely there are some preachers in the Klamath community who can find the time to sermonize on these subjects.

As for the acts of civil disobedience themselves, organization is counterproductive.   The federal government has an immense ability to spy on Americans, and a long history of infiltrating movements that oppose it.  The radical environmentalists have online publications on security and citizens' rights that may provide useful information for Klamath protestors; the radical right has pointed out that those interested in direct action ought to emulate the organizational structure of the Founders:  

"During the American Revolution 'committees of correspondence' were formed throughout the Thirteen colonies. Their purpose was to subvert the government and thereby aid the cause of independence. The 'Sons of Liberty', who made a name for themselves dumping government taxed tea into the harbor at Boston, were the action arm of the committees of correspondence. Each committee was a secret cell that operated totally independently of the other cells. Information on the government was passed from committee to committee, from colony to colony, and then acted upon on a local basis. Yet even in these bygone days of poor communication, of weeks to months for a letter to be delivered, the committees without any central direction whatsoever, were remarkable similar in tactics employed to resist government tyranny. It was, as the first American patriots knew, totally unnecessary for anyone to give an order for anything. Information was made available to each committee, and each committee acted as it saw fit."
It is a unity of purpose that is critical; a unity of organization creates vulnerabilities.  Internet bulletin boards, like the one at the Klamath Basin Crisis website, can help separate groups exchange information; Internet experts can tell you how to post on these forums by bouncing through offshore websites that make your posting virtually untraceable (anonymous postings done through domestic ISPs can be traced to an originating IP number).  It is also possible to secure e-mail communications against government prying by downloading PGP.

A campaign of action also requires a force consisting of those dedicated to defending the truth about Klamath farming and fish, and refuting the constant stream of lies emanating from environmentalists, government and media.  Citizens are needed to write letters to the Editor.  Citizens are needed to bird-dog each out-of-town reporter that comes to Klamath Falls, educating them in the nature of the federal fraud.

The media is, of course, an enemy too, because it reflects the biases of its urban and liberal owners.  While the Klamath Bucket Brigade was an enormous success, it got little press in the mass media; the opening of the headgates has gone unnoticed, in part because there wasn't enough organization to ensure resistance when they went to turn the water back on.  The media will always go for what is most dramatic:  if several thousand people sit down peacefully, but one throws a bomb, the coverage will be all about the bomb.  Activists can expect nothing but relentless criticism from the media, at least in the early stages.  This is nothing new.  During the Civil Rights movement, even the so-called liberal columnists all deplored nonviolent direct action, and called upon the participants to go to meetings, and testify before Congress, etc.  And the media will yawn at demonstrations unless they are particularly novel, creative, or funny.  The challenge for Klamath activists is to figure out demonstrations and protests that will engage the media, perhaps even by making the media itself the target.

Citizens can also bypass the media now through e-mail, posting on the Internet, and even buying advertising time.  Cable television commercials can be purchased in many markets for less than $10 a showing.  Citizens could  videotape the stories of suffering, and make compelling low-budget radio and television commercials.  That's how Measure 7 got passed. 

An important purpose of civil disobedience tactics is what the Leftists call "consciousness raising".  The Klamath farmers and all the other victims of the War on the West must get so "in your face" that people in general can no longer deny there is a problem. The sit-ins and protests of the Civil Rights era angered people, and undoubtedly made life difficult for many wholly blameless individuals, but they focused the Nation upon a serious problem.  The force of publicists supports the actions of protestors to raise the consciousness of our fellow citizens.

General Observations on Civil Disobedience Tactics

The best kind of civil disobedience is that which puts the Government in a dilemma:  if the protest goes forward, the protestors accomplish an important objective; and if the Government represses the protestors, the Government puts itself in a bad light, and the general public is educated about the injustice.  From that perspective, the "open the headgates" strategy is a good one for the Klamath farmers.  Even if the farmers cannot keep the headgates open, they can tie up quite a lot of Federal resources in the process.  The point is not to "make a stand" once and for all.  The point is to gradually make the Klamath Project ungovernable without the expenditure of more and more resources.   This is how the environmentalists shut down logging.  They just made it more and more difficult for the Federal government to do its logging business.

And protestors must focus upon whom in particular they are trying to influence.  At present, the efforts of the Klamath community appear focused upon influencing the entire Nation to realize that the the Endangered Species Act should be amended.  While this is a worthy goal, how can ESA reform ever get past the Democratic Senate?   Some in the Klamath community are promoting a caravan to Washington, D.C., with the same goal in mind.  

Without a truly national effort, such a tactic can be no more than an early, first step.  In the summer of 1965, a few hundred people had gathered in Washington to march in protest against the Vietnam war.  By 1971, twenty thousand came to Washington to commit civil disobedience, trying to tie up Washington traffic to express their opposition to the War.  Fourteen thousand of them were arrested, the largest mass arrest in American history.  And it took four more years before the antiwar movement triumphed.  Without a more focused approach, the Klamath Basin could turn into a dust bowl before anything changed.

The focus of the Klamath Basin protestors should by now be obvious:  the Bush Administration, and, more specifically, the official with the power to solve the problem:  Interior Secretary Norton.  It may prove useful to focus attention on her personally, dogging her every public appearance with protestors whose signs ask, in substance, "why, oh why, have you turned your back on us?"  

Mohandas K. Gandhi's first principle of strategy was to stay on the offensive.  That means focusing civil disobedience over and over upon designated targets, not filing like sheep into Government meetings.  If Secretary Norton is not accessible, those who report to her are available, and their every dispatch to D.C. should be a tale of woe about the erosion of their standing in the community, and the hostility they are experiencing.

The Larger Struggle

The Klamath problem is just one of a "long Train of Abuses and Usurpations, pursuing invariably the same Object".  Perhaps the opening of the headgates will be one small step in a long march toward to frustration of the federal designs for rural Westerners.  Some idea about the size of the larger struggle may be gleaned from the history of the anti-nuclear movement.  Since 1980, roughly 50,000 people have been arrested protesting nuclear power, and they in turn arrested the collective will of the federal government and the utility industry.  50,000 arrests may sound like a lot, but it's not, really.  There are more battlefronts in the War on the West than there are nuclear plants.   It is a War that can be won.  

The War can be won because the federal government's Object provides ample allies all over the West, and their cause is just.  When each community offers help beyond its borders, and seeks help beyond its borders, there is no limit to what these communities can accomplish.  We hope and pray that the Klamath community will join the fight.

               James Buchal, July 4, 2001

You have permission to reprint this article, and are encouraged to do so. The sooner people figure out what's going on, the quicker we'll have more fish in the rivers.

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