Remembering Randy Weaver

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Media is all abuzz right now. "How shall we commemorate the
first anniversary of 9/11?" they ask. "Where do you draw
the line between a tasteful memorial and too much?"

It's
a safe bet that politicians and pundits will err on the side of
"too much."

Meanwhile,
another significant anniversary will likely go forgotten by CNN,
Donahue, Brocaw, and others.

August
21 marks ten years since the federal government's siege on the home
of Randy Weaver and his family at Ruby Ridge in Idaho.

The
Weavers have disappeared down an Orwellian memory hole for most
Americans. You see, their story doesn't offer an occasion for waving
flags and singing patriotic songs. In fact, despite the tragedy
that befell the Weaver family, Randy Weaver is still vilified by
major media and so-called liberals for his "crimes and strange
beliefs." Those crimes and strange beliefs include distrust
of your government.

Randy
Weaver had reason to distrust his government. In 1991, an agent
of the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco and Firearms (BATF) entrapped
Weaver by hiring him to cut off the barrels of two shotguns illegally.
Once Weaver was arrested, BATF tried to force him to inform on the
Aryan Nation group, with which he was affiliated, but he refused.
Weaver also refused to appear in court for the minor firearms charge.
For the next 18 months, the U.S. Marshals Service spied on the Weavers'
isolated mountain cabin, where Randy lived with his wife Vicki,
son Sammy (14), daughters Sara (16), Rachel (10), and Elisheba (10
months), and a young friend named Kevin Harris.

Then
came August 21, 1992. On that morning, six trained government marksmen
wearing ski masks and camouflage and armed with automatic weapons
equipped with silencers, crept up on the Weaver cabin without warning
or warrant and without identifying themselves. First they shot and
killed the family's yellow Labrador, Striker, who had been barking
at the intruders. When young Sammy witnessed this, he fired a .223
mini-14 in the direction from which the shots had come, then ran
back toward the cabin. Agents shot Sammy in the arm, knocking him
down. The youngster got back to his feet and began running again.
Moments later, a second gunshot caught Sammy in the back, killing
him.

Within
24 hours, one Deputy U.S. Marshal was dead and some 400 federal
agents were arriving at the scene, along with a helicopter, "humvees,"
and armored transport vehicles and personnel carriers. The Weavers'
dead dog was left in the road and repeatedly run over by government
vehicles. On the afternoon of August 22, Vicki Weaver, standing
at the cabin's kitchen door and armed with nothing more lethal than
baby Elisheba, was shot in the head by a government sniper. The
round hit Vicki in the temple, traveled through her mouth, tongue,
and jawbone, then severed her carotid artery. Kneeling on the floor
and still clutching her baby, Vicki bled to death.

Nine
days later, Weaver, a badly wounded Harris, and the surviving kids
surrendered to federal agents. Eleven months after that, a jury
in Boise, Idaho, acquitted Weaver and Harris of murder and conspiracy
charges stemming from the government assault.

When
the jury came back with its not-guilty verdict, Randy Weaver turned
to his lawyer, Gerry Spence. "I've learned something about
the system," he told Spence. "This is a good system. This
system will work."

Weaver
was more optimistic than I am. More forgiving, too. In 1995, Congressional
hearings into the Weaver tragedy revealed a cover-up, but the feds
refused to prosecute the killers of Sammy and Vicki Weaver. Case
closed. And despite all the evidence of government wrongdoing, those
of us who now mention the name Randy Weaver are generally dismissed
as "right-wing, gun-toting, conspiracy nuts."

Today,
while the Weaver story is falling through the cracks of history,
most Americans look toward the anniversary of 9/11 and demand that
the government "do something, anything" to protect
them from foreign terrorists u2014 highly trained assassins wearing
ski masks and camouflage and armed with automatic weapons equipped
with silencers.

As
for me, I will respectfully observe the 9/11 memorials. But I also
intend to take a few minutes on August 21, the tenth anniversary
of the Siege at Ruby Ridge, to ponder how best to tell the Bad Guys
from the Good Guys during these difficult times. And to wonder how
wise it is to demand that one band of murderous thugs protect us
from another.

August
10, 2002

Wally
Conger [send him mail] is a
marketing consultant and writer living on California's central coast.

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