Tombstone, 2003

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I think it
was in 1954 that my elderly next-door neighbor, Captain Billy,
handed me a copy of Stewart Lake’s Wyatt
Earp, Frontier Marshal
. I read it, and I was hooked. I
was probably 12 years old. Lake’s book had been written in 1931,
two years after Earp died. It reinforced the Earp legend, which
has continued to grow. Movies on Earp have been continual ever
since, culminating in 1994: "Tombstone"
and "Wyatt
," both of which were reasonably accurate, unlike
all of the others, and one of which made money: "Tombstone."

In 1955,
Hugh O’Brian starred in a TV series, "The Life and Legend
of Wyatt Earp," which became a hit and survived for over
200 shows. It didn’t go into syndication after 1960, so we don’t
see it on cable. It was sensationally popular at the time. Stewart
Lake got what every author wants: a bonanza a quarter century
after his book is published. Lake legally licensed everything
with Wyatt Earp’s name on it: lunch boxes, toy guns, the works.

Side note:
O’Brian decided to go the whole nine yards (the length of a
.50 caliber machine-gun ammo belt in World War II) with his
new TV persona. He took up fast-draw shooting. I can recall,
40 years later, a story about his skill. He could draw and fire
in four-tenths of a second. As a graduate of Col. Jeff Cooper’s
combat handgunning course, let me tell you, that’s fast. O’Brian
issued a challenge to any cowboy movie actor to beat him in
a timed, filmed draw. Nobody took him up on it. But one man
could have, the fastest man in Hollywood’s West:

Sammy Davis,
Jr. Sammy reputedly could do "the trick": extend his
hand, put a glass on top of it, pull back his hand, draw, fire,
and shatter the glass before it hit the ground. He was ranked
third or fourth nationally in quick draw competition, which
was the rage in the late 1950’s. As he used to say, "It
only takes one good eye to shoot."

Side, side
note: how fast is fast? I mean, really, truly fast? Bob Munden
is said to be able to draw and fire a single-action .45 revolver
— a pull-the-hammer, Old West-type gun — in 0.0175
. The blink of an eye is 0.15 seconds. You’d never
see it coming.

for modern double-action revolvers, the fastest pistol shooter
on earth in the 1930’s was a senior citizen, Ed McGivern (1874—1957).
His trigger finger was legendary. He once fired five rounds from
his Smith & Wesson .38 into a target the size of a playing
card at 18 feet in two-fifths of a second. I don’t know if that
elapsed time was from his holster or from when he started firing.
Either way, it’s impressive.

The Earp
phenomenon was based on the most famous gunfight in the Old West,
the fight at the OK Corral. As a revisionist historian, I hasten
to add that the fight didn’t actually take place at the OK Corral.
It took place in a lot behind the OK Corral. But "Gunfight
at the Lot Behind the OK Corral" just doesn’t have the ring
of a blockbuster movie.

The best
book I have read on Earp is Allen Barra’s Inventing
Wyatt Earp: His Life and Many Legends
(1998). It is basically
favorable to Earp. Earp was a gambler back when gambling was considered
respectable. With his winnings, he once helped fund the construction
of the first church in Tombstone, an Episcopal church pastored
by Endicott Peabody — yes, that Endicott Peabody, who became the
headmaster of Groton and who trained Franklin D. Roosevelt, the
biggest gambler of all (Pearl Harbor). (See
Robert Stinnett, Day
of Deceit
.) (Roosevelt had Peabody marry him and Eleanor,
which is proof that even the best gamblers sometimes lose a bet.)

What has
all this got to do with 2002? Directly, nothing. Indirectly, a


is in Cochise County. (The Apache’s name was actually spelled
Cachise, but the county fathers got it wrong.) It’s quite close
to the Mexican border. It is so close that the cattle rustlers
in Earp’s era would raid the Mexicans constantly. There was not
much water in Cochise County. Cattle ranching was more profitable
across the border. For Arizonans, it was cheaper to rustle cattle
than raise them.

The loosely
associated gangs of rustlers were called cowboys, and the name
stuck. In those days, it wasn’t cowboys and Indians. It was cowboys
and Mexicans. The cowboys were the bad guys.

There was
not much local law enforcement in the county. The locals resisted
the U.S. government and its marshals. Wyatt Earp was an assistant
U.S. Marshal, so he had lots of local enemies. His brother Virgil
was town marshal. It was under his authority that the gunfight
took place.

The border
wars really were wars. Sometimes, they were gang wars. In a famous
incident in the summer of 1881, the gang run by Newton "Old
Man" Clanton attacked a Mexican gang of thieves that was
bringing a horde of stolen loot to Tucson. In
Skeleton Canyon, the Clantons killed something like 20 Mexicans.

But two dozen mules were also killed, so the gang had trouble
taking out the loot. They had to bury most of it. The gang’s members
were mostly dead within a year. The loot has never officially
been found.

A month later,
the Mexican federales responded — at least some historians think
it was the federales. The Skeleton Canyon massacre may have been
the reason: "You can’t kill our bandits — they’re ours!"
Or it may have been because of the continuing rustling by the
Clantons. The federales, stinking badges and all, crossed the
border into Arizona. In Guadalupe Canyon, which was a sort of
neutral area where gangs on both sides of the border operated,
the federales ambushed the Clantons. At least five men were killed,
including Old Man Clanton.

In October,
the OK Corral incident took place.

What is my
point? It’s beginning to happen again. The Cochise County border
is becoming a sieve, just as it was in 1881. The old resentments
on the Mexican side of the border, coupled with jobs and money
on the American side, have combined to bring the "rustlers"
up from Mexico. They are trying to rustle low-wage jobs. Americans
who live close to the border are losing control over their way
of life.

article in World Net Daily
(Oct. 19, 2001).
As you read these extracts, think "Homeland Security"
and "airport searches."

COUNTY, Ariz. — The U.S.-Mexican border here is the most heavily
used corridor for illegal alien traffic on America’s southern
boundary. With its difficult topography that is folded, creased
and convoluted, it is a land that yields well to smuggling.
The Huachuca, Chiricahua, Dragoon and Whetstone Mountains are
riddled with hundreds of deep canyons, caves and arroyos that
offer superb concealment for the hundreds of thousands of illegal
aliens that annually cross here.

The numbers
of unauthorized immigrants smuggled across this porous border
dumbfound the imagination. To date, the U.S. Border Patrol has
apprehended 158,782 illegals in 2001. By the Border Patrol’s
own admission, it catches one alien in five, and admits that
around 800,000 have slipped across the U.S. line this year.
The local ranchers, who have been watching the border for several
generations, strongly disagree. They contend the agency only
nets one in 10, and estimate that in 2001 over 1.5 million unlawful
immigrants have crossed into America in what the Border Patrol
calls the Tucson Sector. . . .

agent, of supervisory rank, stated, "The smuggling traffic
of Mexicans has really slowed. We are experiencing a tremendous
increase in OTMs" — border lingo for "other than Mexicans."
When queried about the ethnic make up of the OTMs, he answered,
"Central and South Americans, Orientals and Middle-Easterners."
Middle-Easterners? "Yeah, it varies, but about one in every
10 that we catch, is from a country like Yemen or Egypt." . . .

Arabs have
been reported crossing the Arizona border for an unknown period.
Border rancher George Morgan encounters thousands of illegals
crossing his ranch on a well-used trail. He relates a holiday
event: "It was Thanksgiving 1998, and I stepped outside
my house and there were over a hundred u2018crossers’ in my yard.
Damnedest bunch of illegals I ever saw. All of them were wearing
black pants, white shirts and string ties. Maybe they were hoping
to blend in," he chuckled. "They took off, I called
the Border Patrol, and a while later, an agent, Dan Green, let
me know that they had caught them. He said that they were all
Iranians." . . .

Rep. Tom
Tancredo, R-Colo., in an Oct. 9 speech to the House of Representatives,
stated, "It’s almost incredible to recognize, as part of
the overall strategy this government is going to employ to deal
with the issue of terrorism, that we would not concentrate heavily
on securing our borders and try to do everything humanly possible
to stop people, who have evil intent, from coming into the United
States." . . .

personal note: "I do not see how the folks living along
this border keep going. I am a former U.S. Marine sergeant,
and yet the presence of so much apparent violence spooked me.
In researching this story, I went backcountry on quad-runners
with a goodly couple, Larry and Toni Vance. The first thing
they asked me was if I brought a sidearm. When I said, u2018no,’
they promptly gave me a wheel-gun to strap on. To tell you the
truth, that lump of metal was comforting. It’s not wise to travel
unarmed in a war zone."

A nation
that cannot secure its borders might as well make plans to become
a very different nation.

It is obvious
that the 2,000-mile Mexican border with the United States cannot
be sealed, but at least it could be monitored more closely. Meanwhile,
we have troops stationed in over a hundred countries, and tens
of thousands heading to Iraq. The U.S. government is about to
launch a war against people who have long memories and a lot of

Which brings
me to the next part of the Tombstone story.


Wyatt Earp
was a murderer. No other word should be substituted.

After the
famous gunfight, Marshal Virgil Earp was shot, but not killed
by would-be assassins. Then Morgan Earp was gunned down in a pool
hall by unknown assassins. He died on the pool table. Wyatt then
took Virgil to a train in Tucson to send him to their father’s
home in California. A few weeks before, Wyatt had resigned as
deputy U.S. Marshall. (Barra, Inventing Wyatt Earp, p.

At the train
station, Wyatt spotted Frank Stilwell, whom he suspected of having
killed Morgan. He went after Stillwell on foot, who ran for his
life. When he caught Stilwell, he blew him away with a shotgun.
The next day, the body was found, riddled with bullets.

Earp was
not arrested.

A few days
later, Earp and his associates — called a posse by Barra — began
what Barra accurately identifies as the Vendetta Ride. It is accurately
portrayed in "Tombstone."

Earp interrogated
one suspect, who admitted that he had stood guard for the others
when they killed Morgan. When Earp learned that the man had been
paid $25, he told him to draw. He would give him three seconds.
The man did not draw, and Earp shot him.

Three seconds
is not much time. Handgun specialist Jeff Cooper taught us that
if you can draw and fire in less than three seconds, you could
kill a person who had drawn a gun on you. "If he hasn’t shot
you yet, he has a reason. Something is holding him back. If he
is not a professional gunman, it will take him three seconds to
respond." I learned to do this in two seconds — facing a
dummy, of course. Facing a man with a drawn gun is something else

The victim
was facing Earp and others in the "posse." Earp was
a master with a pistol. He was basically shooting the man down
in cold blood. There were witnesses.

Then began
the ride. Earp, Doc Holliday, and the others went looking for
the remnants of the Clanton gang. One by one, they killed them.

Then they
left Arizona, never to return.

The governor
did not pursue the matter. Earp was never extradited or even charged
with these murders. The governor probably figured the gang had
it coming to them.


Like the
federales who crossed the border to take out Old Man Clanton,
and like Wyatt Earp and his "posse," the United States
government is about to launch a pre-emptive war in Iraq.

We have been
shooting down planes in no-fly zones for over a decade. This has
not been authorized by the United Nations. It has been a bi-partisan
unilateral decision.

This foreign
policy has led to atrocities, as war always does. Here
is a report by British journalist John Pilger, an opponent of
the war against Iraq.

The term
"combat" is highly deceptive. Iraq has virtually no
air force and no modern air defences. Thus, "combat"
means dropping bombs or firing missiles at infrastructure that
has been laid to waste by a 12-year-old embargo.

The Wall
Street Journal, the authentic voice of the American establishment,
described this eloquently when it reported that the US faced
"a genuine dilemma" in Iraq. After eight years of
enforcing a no fly zone in northern (and southern) Iraq, few
targets remain. "We’re down to the last outhouse,"
one US official protested.

I have
seen the result of these attacks. When I drove from the northern
city of Mosul three years ago, I saw the remains of an agricultural
water tanker and truck, riddled with bullet holes, shrapnel
from a missile, a shoe and the wool and skeletons of about 150

A family
of six, a shepherd, his father and his wife and four children,
were blown to pieces here. It was treeless, open country: a
moonscape. The shepherd, his family and his sheep would have
been clearly visible from the air. . . .

The shepherd’s
brother told me, "I heard explosions, and when I arrived
to look for my brother and family, the planes were circling
overhead. I hadn’t reached the causeway when the fourth bombardment
took place. The last two rockets hit them.

the time I couldn’t grasp what was going on. The truck was burning.
It was a big truck, but it was ripped to pieces. Nothing remained
except the tyres and the numberplate.

saw three corpses, but the rest were just body parts. With the
last rocket, I could see the sheep blasted into the air."

It was
not known if American or British aircraft had done this. When
details of the attack were put to the Ministry of Defence in
London, an official said, "We reserve the right to take
robust action when threatened." This attack was significant,
because it was investigated and verified by the senior United
Nations official in Iraq at the time, Hans Von Sponeck, who
drove there specially from Baghdad.

He confirmed
that nothing nearby resembled a military installation.

And so it
goes. So it will go if we invade.

There is
no doubt in my mind that Saddam Hussein is a lot worse than Old
Man Clanton. But the Mexican federales did not belong inside our
borders in 1881, and Wyatt Earp did not have the lawful authority
to kill the remainder of the Clanton gang.

This is a
vendetta ride. George W. Bush is determined to settle his father’s
score with Old Man Saddam. And the American public cheers. It’s
like watching a movie. Nobody gets hurt except the bad guys.


At home,
we are being subjected to the loss of our freedom in the name
of homeland security, yet the crucial factor in national security
— a nation’s ability to defend its borders — is missing.

I have reported
many times on my friend Arthur Robinson’s assessment of how little
it would cost for a team of one biochemist and two grad students
to launch an anthrax attack on a major city. Dr. Robinson is a
chemist by training and a specialist in biochemistry. He is one
of the world’s leading experts on longevity. He says that a nation
that cannot defend its borders is not pursuing longevity. Here
is what I wrote in the aftermath of September 11.

When Dr.
Arthur Robinson, a biochemist, and I wrote our book-long tract
favoring a national civil defense shelter system, Fighting Chance
(1986), we had in mind biological weapons as well as nuclear.
This nation’s civilian population has never been considered
worth protecting. To do so would be opposed to MAD.

When researching
the topic of civil defense at the Oak Ridge National Laboratories,
Robinson met the long-time director of the civil defense research
program, Conrad Chester. Robinson used this library extensively.
(The U.S. government ordered this library destroyed after Chester

After his
retirement, Chester stayed in contact with Robinson. Chester
once wrote a paper for a group that Robinson is associated with,
Doctors for Disaster Preparedness. It went into detail about
how a small terrorist group could use home-brew anthrax to kill
at least 90% of the population of New York City, or any major
city, 24 hours after they released it into the atmosphere, i.e.,
12 hours after they had fled the country. Robinson persuaded
him not to go into the details, merely use his authority to
persuade the audience. Chester complied — wisely, I think. (Chester
later died of natural causes.)

tells me that any skilled Ph.D in biology could do what Chester
described, using used equipment that costs $25,000. New, it
would cost $250,000. All he would need in addition to the equipment
is a year’s time and a pair of M.A.-level graduate students
in biology.


The question
now is this: How long will the UN weapons inspectors be permitted
by President Bush to continue looking? If they are forced out
by the threat of becoming collateral damage by "friendly
fire," the Islamic world will seek revenge by representatives.
There will be lots of volunteers. The Old Man of the Mountain
(Osama bin Laden), dead or alive, will get lots of recruits.

Fred Reed wrote over two years ago
, regarding nuclear bombs
in a truck (far more expensive and therefore far less likely than
anthrax in a van), remains true:

If Iraq
nuked us, we’d turn the place into a geologic lava-lamp, and
they know it. So they won’t. But if the Red People’s Liberation
Jihad Army Hoopty-Squat Dirtbag Guevarist Fifth-of Some-Month
Movement did it, well, we might catch a few of them. But so
what? Hoopty-squat dirtbags are easy to replace.

We know
how to get even with a country. We don’t know how to get even
with six congenitally furious goat-herds from an unsuccessful
culture with too much sand.

29, 2003

North is the author of Mises
on Money
. Visit
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