by Gary North
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 Earp," 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 seconds. The blink of an eye is 0.15 seconds. You'd never see it coming.As 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 lot.
SOUTH OF THE BORDER, DOWN MEXICO WAY
Tombstone 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.
Consider this article in World Net Daily (Oct. 19, 2001). As you read these extracts, think "Homeland Security" and "airport searches."
COCHISE 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. . . .
Another 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 ‘crossers' 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." . . .
Reporter's 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, ‘no,' 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 grievances.
Which brings me to the next part of the Tombstone story.
THE VENDETTA RIDE
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. 243.)
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 entirely.
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.
THE SADDAM GANG
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 sheep.
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.
"At 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.
"We 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 retired.)
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.)
Robinson 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.
What 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.
January 29, 2003
Copyright © 2003 LewRockwell.com