On the Other Hand...

CBS Visits Ruby Ridge

by Jim Davies

Four years later than they should have, this May CBS Television broadcast the story of the invasion of Ruby Ridge in Northern Idaho.

I heard of the outrage shortly after it occurred, and then no thanks to the major media - it reached me via the underground press. At the time I was doing a weekly TV show in Connecticut, so took the opportunity to tell the people of that State a bit of what was going on; and it's been interesting to compare.

With their somewhat larger resources CBS did a far more professional job than I could, by a factor of a thousand or so. Theirs was a 3-hour miniseries, with the story told in good detail and with first-class acting. From what I know of the facts, with one important exception they portrayed them fairly and quite fully. There were the Weavers, a close family that got deeper and deeper into its own form of religion and prejudice while wishing only to be left alone, and there was the US government, busy harassing them for being heterodox.

And there were the killings, up near the family's house at Ruby Ridge. It was interesting to see that each side in the siege did not at first know that one of those opposing them was dead.

Early one morning the Weavers' houseguest and son Sammy went out hunting deer, as they thought, led by one of the dogs who had caught a scent. What they didn't know was that the scent was of US marshalls; and as the dog chased the marshalls and the hunters chased the dog, each party misunderstood the other's purpose. That sort of thing happens in armed confrontations.

A marshall killed the dog, the houseguest fired back at a marshall (thinking him to be a malefactor - which he was) and killed him in self-defense, without knowing it; and then a marshall killed young Sammy, shooting him in the back. Yet for several days the Weavers mourned Sammy and the government people mourned the marshall, each thinking there had been no other killing (except the dog) and supposing the other side had started the firefight.

Subsequently a couple of hundred heavily armed government agents camped out at the foot of the only access road, spent a million of your dollars every day, and planned how to wipe out the adult Weavers. One of their killers shot Randy Weaver and his guest, not fatally, but killed his wife Vicki with a bullet through the head. That was one event which I thought may have been misreported; the version I heard said the shooter took deliberate aim at her as she emerged from the doorway holding her nursing baby. CBS portrayed it instead as a shot aimed at her husband which went astray and killed her behind a window.

No great matter; either way, she was killed outright, by one of your employees.

What was Left Out

The siege was ended thanks to intervention by Bo Gritz, a fellow White Separatist and erstwhile candidate for US President. He persuaded the surviving Weavers to surrender, on condition that Jerry Spence, no less, would defend them in Court and so bring the whole sorry episode into public view.

Brief courtroom extracts were shown, including a memorable exchange in which Spence asked the Head Thug about his shoot-on-sight order; did it also apply to the dogs? - answer, No, of course not. "So the dogs on Ruby Ridge had more rights than the human beings?" - Gotcha!

Weaver's decision to compromise to that extent was a spectacular success; he and his guest were both acquitted of all serious charges, the government was left with richly deserved egg on its face, and later yet had to award him over $3 million dollars compensation to avoid further legal action. Too bad that sum had to come out of our pockets, instead of those of the particular thugs who actually caused the killings. And the story did get told; in the trial, in the Congressional hearings, and on this CBS miniseries. What a tragedy that Vicki and Sammy Weaver had to die as the price of exposing the evil governments do.

For all that, all three of those public airings left out one key factor.

They all concentrated on the purely procedural matter of whether the invading thugs - marshalls, FBI, local police and BATF - were operating under proper "rules of engagement" - ie, to shoot on sight. The utterly vital question of whether they had any business trespassing on the Weavers' property at all, was not even mentioned. Yet that is THE central issue; if they hadn't been there in the first place, the question of engagement rules would never have arisen!

Did they have such right? - of course not! Their actual motivation (quite fairly shown by CBS) was to strike at the despised Aryan Nation movement, which in my opinion too is one of the sorriest excuses for American humanity outside of government employ - but whose rights to exist and preach are unconditionally guaranteed by Amendment #1. Their pathetic excuse was that Randy Weaver had sold a shotgun, sawn off a little more than government rules allow, and had failed to answer that charge in a government court. Since any reader of Amendment #2 can see plainly that the law in question was and is totally unconstitutional, Weaver was perfectly entitled to ignore it. By harassing him in any degree, therefore, all government agents involved were trampling on his rights under Amendments 1 and 2, both; so making themselves major criminals.

Yet that was something carefully ignored; in the trial, in the hearings, and on the CBS movie. All of them left intact the alleged right of government agents to do whatever they like regardless of the Supreme Law of the Land, provided they follow the rules of procedure their bureaucratic bosses have written. The government's "justice" monopoly is such that it would seem even the persuasive and charming Jerry Spence does not fancy his chances trying a case on its Constitutional merits alone. Thus far has the People's Law been disembowelled.

Accordingly, the tragedy at Ruby Ridge will be repeated, somewhere, some day; for its cause has not been ripped out by the roots and burned to ashes.

© Copyright Jim Davies 1999

Jim Davies lives in New Hampshire,
and enjoys contemplating which way is up.

The above is Edition # 157

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