by Mike Vanderboegh
(Another chapter of "Absolved", an upcoming novella)
The Doctrine of Interposition:
“The doctrine that a state, in the exercise of its sovereignty, may reject a mandate of the federal government deemed to be unconstitutional or to exceed the powers delegated to the federal government. The concept is based on the 10th Amendment of the Constitution of the United States reserving to the states powers not delegated to the United States. Historically, the doctrine emanated from Chisholm v. Georgia, 2 Dallas 419, wherein the state of Georgia, when sued in the Supreme Court by a private citizen of another state, entered a remonstrance and declined to recognize the court's jurisdiction. Amendment 11 validated Georgia's position. Implementation of the doctrine may be peaceable, as by resolution, remonstrance or legislation, or may proceed ultimately to nullification with forcible resistance.” -- Black's Law Dictionary
“We Dare Defend Our Rights”
“The Constitution is not an instrument for government to restrain the people, it is an instrument for the people to restrain the government—lest it come to dominate our lives and interests.” -- Patrick Henry
Iustum et tenacem propositi virum
Non civium ardor prava iubentium,
Non vultus instantis tyranni
Mente quatit solida.
(“For a just man and one with a firm grasp of his intentions, neither the heated passions of his fellow-citizens ordaining something awful, nor the face of a tyrant before his very eyes, will shake him in his firm-based mind.”) -- Horace, 65BC – 8 BC
"A Just Man": The Governor, One Year and Three Months After the Battle of Sipsey Street
The last time that Ray Marsh had stood up for an unpopular principle, it had cost him his job. This time he knew it would probably cost him his freedom and it might well cost him his life if he resisted, which he certainly intended to.
Still, that was a trade he was willing to make, for he was that kind of man. What pained him was the sure and certain knowledge that a whole lot of other folks might die because of the decision he was about to take. He hadn’t felt this burden since he had been a young Captain of infantry 40 years ago and a half a world away. This time a whole lot more people stood to lose their lives, and the battle would be fought at home, in his beloved Alabama, in his people’s front yards, in his hometown’s streets, and many innocents would surely die.
The state motto was “We Dare Defend Our Rights.” Ray wondered how many of his fellow citizens besides him believed it.
They were going to find out.
“Take this cup from my lips, Oh Lord,” he breathed almost inaudibly. “Show me some other way, if it is Your will.”
Ray Marsh believed in God. His God was the God of Abraham and Isaac, of Joshua and David, and, not coincidentally, of the Founders of his country. His God had sent His only Son to die upon a cross two millennia ago to take upon Himself the sins of all men. His was a Son who had said, “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” He was a Son who would one day return to finally vanquish all evil and to lay judgment upon the world.
Ray Marsh did not fear dying. No man of true faith does. If there was one thing he did fear, it was that he would be judged and found wanting by his God. And so he prayed, there, on his knees on the carpet in the Governor’s office, and begged God one more time to give him wisdom, to show him the way in which God wanted him to walk.
He was still praying when his chief of staff came into the room quietly and said softly, “It’s time, Governor.”
Ray sighed, concluded his prayer, rose and turned to face the younger man.
“OK, Jamie,” the governor of the sovereign state of Alabama replied. “Let’s go do our duty. May God guide us this day.”
“Yes, sir,” replied Jamie Frost, fearing what came next.
Placing his hand briefly on Jamie’s shoulder in reassurance, Ray Marsh walked out of his office on his way to start another American War Between the States.
The 3 Percent: "If the cause is right, we will never retreat."
“America has once again arrived at a momentous crossroads. We are going to have to decide—as we have had to decide so many times in the past—whether we shall only speak of justice and speak of principle, or whether we shall stand and fight for them.” -- Alan Keyes, 2000.
“Unfortunately, while nearly all modern historians agree on the initiating event of the constitutional crisis variously called the Constitution War, the Second American Civil War or the War of Restoration, scholarly opinion is deeply divided on the underlying causes. At least three-fourths of the scholarship on this topic is fundamentally skewed by the political opinions of the authors, or that of the audience for which the books are written. In addition, historical time lines and factual narratives are incomplete and disputed by both sides. This “factual void” came about for four principal reasons.
First, several of the surviving key participants on both sides of the conflict failed to leave reliable memoirs. Second, many key state records were lost in the Federal attacks on Montgomery and Birmingham. Third, many Federal records were lost in EMP attacks carried out by the Alabama Constitutionalists and independent formations allied with them. Fourth, the technological ability to digitally create “news footage” to suit propaganda war needs, and the documented use of what has come to be called “disinformation warfare” by the Federal side in that conflict, calls into question even the most elemental military and political aspects of the crisis. Some skirmishes, assassinations and sabotage reported as fact on the evening news seem never to have taken place at all, and the reporting of many other such incidents was often “doctored” to spin the Federal side into a more positive light for public consumption. Such inventions of fact make the writing of reliable history hazardous at best….
Perhaps the most succinct explanation of the conflict was offered by an aged veteran of the Alabama State Defense Force interviewed by the oral historian William Granger in May, 2044. Then in his nineties, retired Sergeant Major Ford “Skip” Munson, said “The Feds had been pushing us away from our God-given liberties for seventy years. They finally pushed us into a corner, and we pushed back.” -- The Encyclopedia Americana, Tri-Centennial Edition, 2076.
The results of the presidential election made a constitutional crisis inevitable, although whether it would have happened as early as it did without the confluence of events represented by the Battle of Sipsey Street and the earlier election of Ray Marsh as Governor of the state of Alabama is still the subject of historical debate. Even prior to both events, many felt that it wasn’t so much that the country was divided, as it was two entirely different countries within one border.
Oh, Americans shared the same language and the same cultural heritage and history. They lived in the same neighborhoods, talked to each other at work and carried their kids to the same football games or soccer practices. But by the Battle of Sipsey Street, language and proximity was about all they shared. Each side viewed reality from a fundamentally different perspective.
Worse, there was a sharp divide over what kind of nation and government would inherit the 21st Century. The Democrats felt that the results of the previous presidential election had settled the matter and they proceeded to remake the country in their image.
Arguments over philosophy rarely end in bloodshed.
Arguments over power often do.
And as Abraham Lincoln quoted from the book of Mark: “If a house be divided against itself, that house cannot stand.” Lincoln was speaking of the divide over slavery, yet the divisions in American society at the opening of the 21st Century were just as deep, if not deeper, as those in 1860.
By the time of the Battle of Sipsey Street, these divisions were leading to the same sort of bloody argument.
One side believed that the Constitution was a “living” document and could be changed to suit “modern circumstances.” Consequently, things such abortion, gun control and homosexual marriage were perfectly constitutional if a majority of Supreme Court justices said they were. This side viewed government power as the solution to most, if not all, problems, and woe betide anyone who disagreed with paying the taxes necessary to achieve their noble goals. These Americans (called “liberals” by their opponents but self-described as “progressives”) were collectivist and even socialist in their economic beliefs and secular humanist in their philosophy. The movers and shakers of this half of America believed in the supremacy of “enlightened” man over “out-dated” laws and “old-fashioned” religious beliefs. More importantly, they believed the federal government had both the right and the duty to implement their vision of America. Their critics derisively referred to them as “the anointed” and that wasn’t far from the truth.
The anointed believed that God, if He existed at all, was welcome to His place in Heaven, if that existed, as long as no one on earth in their temporal kingdom took Him or His commandments too seriously. Man, not God, ought to govern affairs down here on earth, or so said the anointed. And if someone, anyone, was made uncomfortable by the public display of the Ten Commandments or prayer in school (or anywhere else for that matter), then such displays or prayers must be forbidden to all. They believed in tolerance, these anointed elites, unless it was tolerance for anything with which they disagreed.
Pornography? No problem.
Drugs? No problem.
Corruption of public officials (at least those who belonged to their own party)? Expected.
Devil worshipping chaplains in the US Army? Certainly.
Abortion? Of course.
Sexual profligacy? Encouraged.
Pedophilia, necrophilia, and any other kind of philia? Well, they might swallow nervously, but, yes, who were they to question anyone's morality or presume to tell them how to live? Who indeed?
Not that the anointed didn't insist on telling others how to live. They specialized in it. It was just that there were two standards. One for those with whom they agreed, and another for all the rest.
The other side held an older vision of what America had been and should be. For one thing, they believed in the rule of law: for everyone, applied equally, without fear or favor. To them, the Constitution was a fundamentally sound document as written by Founders who, having experienced oppression themselves, knew exactly what they doing when they limited the central government’s powers in the Bill of Rights. They believed that modifying or adding to the original system of the Founders should never be done lightly and that those who called it a “living” document because they wanted to be rid of one inconvenient restriction or another merely wanted it dead. They also believed that all true law, sometimes called natural law, was derived from God, and that the Constitution merely codified that which God had ordained.
They believed in God, this half of America, and it was the God of Abraham and Isaac, of Moses and David. They didn’t think that God was dead or irrelevant as many of their opponents did. They believed that almost 50 million abortions was state-sanctioned mass murder that put the German Nazis to shame. They believed that the Old and New Testaments were pretty explicit that homosexuality was an abomination, and they were universally certain that the federal government didn’t have the right to prohibit either their public prayers or the display of the Ten Commandments. Nor, come to that, could it lawfully demand that their sons’ Boy Scout troop leader be a member of the North American Man-Boy Love Association. They were also certain that if you spit in God’s eye long enough, God spits back, and when He does, civilizations fall, governments topple, entire peoples are enslaved and cities disappear in the fiery blink of an eye.
They believed that the Second Amendment meant exactly what the Founders intended it to say: that "the right of the people to keep and bear arms shall not be infringed." They were a praying people, these Americans, and they went to church or synagogue. And if many of them weren’t exactly regular attendees, they at least recognized where they were supposed to be on the Sabbath, whatever day of the week they believed it to be. But, almost universally, they prayed for God’s guidance and for the deliverance of their society from a tidal wave of obscenity, pornography, venality and sin. They prayed that their children could grow up in country better than that they had grown up in, not worse.
Some of these people called themselves “conservatives”; their opponents variously called them “right wingers”, “gun nuts” and “religious fanatics”. But most of them didn’t think of themselves as one label or another, merely as plain old Americans. They resented the identity politics of their opponents, where one minority group or another got special consideration from the government. They were suspicious of anyone who considered themselves a “hyphenated American”.
Weren’t we all Americans?
Hadn’t we all come from somewhere else and struggled to make the country’s promise our own by hard work and sacrifice?
Why should one group or another be considered more worthy than any other?
To them, the argument over whether the society should treat all men and women “not by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character” had been long settled. To the more religious among them, not only was God colorblind but He required them to be as well.
Oh, they recognized that according to the Constitution and common sense, the government had no business trying to keep someone from privately sinning. But they resented it deeply when sin became public policy, when they were daily reminded of it in the media and by government directive, when their kids were immersed in it at school and on television. They recognized that the leaders and citizenry of the country were no longer bound by any moral standard whatsoever, and it frightened and angered them. What were their children to inherit? 21st Century America certainly bore little resemblance to the country they had been born into.
And out of this mix of religious belief, sense of loss and outrage, came the certainty that someone, someday, would have to do something about it.
And one day, almost by accident, Phil Gordon did.
To those on both sides who had been paying attention, this came as no surprise. Even the liberal columnist E.J. Dionne, Jr. wrote with great prescience in late August, 2004:
“Because the 2000 election was so close, the idea of an American deeply divided by region seemed entirely natural. We certainly are polarized politically. There are Americans who love George W. Bush and Americans who despise him. However this year’s voting turns out, something close to half of us will be furious if not seditious come the morning after election day.”
A wordsmith by trade, Dionne knew exactly what “seditious” meant when he wrote it. He may not have understood how right he was at the time but events were to prove he had 20-20 foresight. Yet, when the break came, no one was more astounded than the liberal elites that Dionne wrote for.
Said one Alabama militiaman at the time:
"Liberals have no deeply-held principles that they will not compromise if pushed, so they don't understand people who will fight and die rather than compromise. I guess that's what made the war inevitable. We'd been warning 'em for years, but they never thought we'd put our lives on the line just because they never had the guts to. They figured that if the federal government told us to do somethin' then, by God, we'd have to give in, whereas we knew that when push came to shove, we, by God, would NEVER give in...that they'd have to kill us first. And you know what? A man who's willing to die for his country is 99 times out of 100 a man who will kill for it too. And THAT was a part of the equation those pointy-headed liberals never counted on."
The culture and philosophy of the rebels of Phil Gordon's stripe, like many of their individual bloodlines, was Scots-Irish. It traced its lineage from highland freedom fighters like William Wallace and the hard-headed Scotch Covenanters through generations of Irish revolutionaries, across the pitiless Atlantic to these shores. James Webb, Secretary of the Navy in the Reagan administration and later, ironically, Democrat U.S. Senator from Virginia, wrote this of the Scots-Irish in 2004,
"They tamed the wilderness, building simple log cabins and scraping corn patches in thin soil. And they pressed onward, creating a way of life that many would call, if not American, certainly the defining fabric of the South and Midwest, as well as the core character of the nation's working class... They came with nothing, and, for a complicated set of reasons, many of them still have nothing.... These people are too often misconstrued and ignored when America's history is told. They did great things. And in truth, the Scots-Irish. . .are a force that still shapes our culture. The Scots-Irish brought with them a strong, bottom-up individualism. . . Their unique soldierly traditions formed the backbone of the country's military, particularly in the Army and Marine Corps....
"The traditional Scots-Irish culture, like America itself, is a study in wild contrasts. These are an intensely religious people-- indeed, they comprise the very heart of the Christian evangelical movement-- and yet they are also unapologetically and even devilishly hedonistic. They are probably the most anti-authoritarian culture in America, conditioned from birth to resist," said Webb, noting that even Rosa Parks, whose refusal to go to the back of the bus sparked the modern civil rights movement, spoke with pride of her Scots-Irish great-grandfather.
Despite this anti-authoritarianism, continued Webb,
"they are known as the most intensely patriotic segment of the country as well. They are naturally rebellious, often impossible to control, and yet their strong military tradition produces generation after generation of perhaps the finest soldiers the world has ever seen. They are filled with wanderlust, but no matter how far they roam, their passion for family travels with them. Underlying these seeming contradictions is a strong unwritten code of personal honor and individual accountability."
On all of these tenets of the Scots-Irish faith, the new administration was bound to fail to live up to the standards of these traditional Americans, and fail it did. There were too many campaign debts owed to the left-liberals of the Democrat party for it to be any different. From the moment the new president took over, by fiat and judicial appointment the administration began to violate every one of the Scots-Irish's most cherished beliefs, systematically intruding the federal government into their personal lives.
It began with guns, just as it had in the Clinton Administration. The alphabet agencies were packed with bureaucrats whose first reflexive actions on November 3rd were designed to curry favor with the incoming bosses.
Just as the ATF had sought to please the anti-gun Clintons by carrying out the Waco raid, the agency dusted off plans and operations that had been shelved since January, 2001. Out of this eargerness to please their new masters came the raid on Phil Gordon and the Battle of Sipsey Street.
It did not help that the judicial appointments of the new administration to the federal courts (and the decisions which those justices wrote) were fantastically unpopular with the citizens who later participated in the rebellion. The 5-4 decision in Barney vs. Boy Scouts of America which mandated that the Scouts include homosexuals and even pedophiles as scoutmasters along the Canadian model resulted in the destruction of that historic youth group. And the formation of alternative youth organizations such as the Christian Scouts of America and the Jewish Scouts of America hastened the process of polarization in the society into religious and non-religious camps.
The new liberal tilt of the Supremes was felt in decisions on everything from property rights to guns to free speech. The Court's application of the so-called "fairness doctrine" to radio and television just about killed commercial conservative talk radio. The removal of this important means of sharing information and venting opinions against the new regime caused great frustration. The people began to believe that someone was trying to silence their complaints and worse, that there was no redress possible in the courts or the political process. It was natural that some folks concluded that the only thing that they could do to defend their rights was to clean their guns and be ready to use them.
A new word began cropping up in conservative circles to describe their opponents: "anti-constitutional." The right had described the Clintonista measures of the decade before as "unconstitutional". Somehow that did not seem a strong enough word to describe what was really going on in the new administration, and "anti-constitutional" was perhaps a more accurate description.
And just as the government got more oppressive, the culture war continued to escalate. But now the body count was starting to hit closer to home for conservatives. A satanist rock band, Dark Prince, cut an album entitled "Worshiping the Master." The title track suggested that the best way to honor Beelzebub was to start stacking up bodies of their enemies, the Christian faithful. On April 20, the anniversary of the Columbine school massacre and Adolf Hitler's birthday, 18 year old Alex Benjamin, a satanist and Dark Prince fan, shot his way into a Baptist sunday school building in Centerpoint, Alabama. Before he was in turn shot dead by a churchgoer who never went anywhere without his pocket pistol, Benjamin killed 3 adults and 12 children, ages six to thirteen. He died with a smile on his face.
Benjamin became a folk anti-hero in some quarters and over the next six months copy cat massacres spread across fourteen states. In California, a yeshiva was targeted by a self-proclaimed Odinist. This specimen of twisted humanity claimed in a note found after the attack that he killed his victims in the sincere hope that if enough bodies were stacked up, the gates of Vahalla would spring open and Odin and all his other Norse biker-god buddies would come roaring back out onto the earth to reign in blood and terror. Thirty-seven people, mostly children, died in the yeshiva attack. On the door was posted a sign in bold letters: "Absolutely no firearms allowed." When he ran out of victims, the Odinist killed himself.
After that, the Jewish Defense League began to experience a resurgence, not only in California, but all over the country. Christian volunteers also began providing armed security for their own church properties and, in four cases, would-be mass murderers were killed in the parking lot before they could strike down innocents at worship, thus getting to meet the Devil a little earlier than they had planned. A website devoted to the fad carried this advice to the satanist faithful: "Don't target the Catholics, Baptists, Methodists or Presbyterians. They're more likely to pack when they pray. Hit the Unitarian-Universalists, they believe in gun control."
To the Scots-Irish, especially the Christians among them, it seemed as if the world were turned upside down. Robert Thomas Barry, an oil-patch worker from Hobbs, New Mexico, put it this way:
"You know, this is worse than 1860. A Tidewater cotton planter and a cod-eating New Hampshire Yankee had more in common with each other than we do with our own countrymen today. They prayed to the same God, believed in the same rule of law, and shared the same heritage. The only thing they disagreed about was slavery. Now that's a pretty big thing, but at least they considered each other to be countrymen. These people? Why these people are the enemy.... They are the antithesis of everything we believe in. God, private property, morals everything. It scares me I don’t know these people. I don’t understand these people. They are aliens. Its like the invasion of the body snatchers. They look like us. They talk like us. But they are NOT us! Do you realize that I have no reasonable expectation that the basic concept of my house is my house and yours is yours is respected? I have no reasonable expectation that my daughter's chastity is of any interest to them. I have no reasonable expectation that THEIR OWN daughters' chastity is of any interest to them. And if I'm so rude as to point this fact out to them, they have no idea what I'm talking about. I could be talking in Urdu. The bottom line is, we’re God-fearing, life-loving, freedom-cherishing responsible people, and they ain’t. And you know what? As time goes by, we get fewer and they get more numerous."
For the devout tradition-loving people of the country who increasingly felt like a despised minority in their own homeland, the new administration looked like the local representatives of the Devil himself.
As the months rolled by, and the country grew more chaotic and yet less free, some of them came to a conclusion: this can't go on much longer. History, they knew, is made by determined minorities. For good or ill, majorities coalesce around the few who have the will to resist the tides of the history and the strength to swim upstream dragging the rest of the society with them.
During the American Revolution, for example, one third of the colonists were against British rule, one third were for it, and the final third blew with the wind, willing to take whatever came. Indeed, there were more colonists who served in the military forces of the Crown than served under Washington. In the end, the Revolution was accomplished by less than 3 percent of the population fighting as combatants, actively supported by a mere 10 percent of their countrymen.
Just 3 percent to fight the greatest military power then in the world.
And they won.
When James Webb wrote these words in 2004, he, like Dionne, was more right than he knew:
"The Scots-Irish are a fiercely independent individualist people. It goes against their grain to think collectively. But, as America rushes forward into yet another redefinition of itself, the contributions of the Scots-Irish are too great to remain invisible. My culture needs to reclaim itself-- stop letting others define, mock and even use it. Because our country needs us. We are the molten core at the very center of its unbridled, raw, rebellious spirit. We helped build this nation from the bottom up. We face the world on our feet and not on our knees. We were born fighting. And if the cause is right, we will never retreat."
However cognitively dissonant he was in hitching his political wagon to the collectivist Democrat party who largely despised the traditions of the Scotch-Irish, beginning with the Battle of Sipsey Street, Webb's prediction unfolded with swift and startling prescience.
"Old Dog": 3 weeks after the Battle of Sipsey Street
Office of the Governor of the State of Alabama
10:00 AM Central
The men and women filed into the office gravely, somberly. The subject of this meeting was Phil Gordon, the Battle of Sipsey Street, more than a hundred dead federal agents on Alabama soil, and what the state of Alabama was going to do about it, if anything.
The Governor looked out the window, lost in thought as the members of his new administration took their seats. As the last invited attendee came through the double doors, the Director of the Department of Public Safety leaped to his feet and strode across the carpet to clap him on the shoulder and shake his hand.
"Jack, you old dog, howinhell ya been?"
Jack Durer, pushing 70 and still the tallest, if grayest haired, man in the room, returned the greeting warmly in his booming bass voice:
"Hell, Billy, I rode in here on my Harley from Chilton County. I guess that counts for something."
The exchange drew the Governor out of his reverie. He pivoted his chair to face his staff directly. He nodded at Durer.
"Jack, thank you for coming. Billy tells me you have a lot to contribute to our understanding of the overall picture."
Now seated, Jack Durer nodded, "Yes, sir, I believe I do."
"All, right. Billy, what do we know about what really happened at Sipsey Street?"
The DPS director began his briefing. The Governor had heard most of it in dribs and drabs over the past three weeks, but it was many in the room's first time to hear the story.
It wasn't pretty.
From confidential sources in the public and private sectors, DPS had determined that Gordon had probably not deserved the attentions of the feds. It seemed that he had not crossed the line into illegality until after he learned he was being targeted by the ATF, and in that he had only (only!) broken the laws on the use of explosives. He had his blaster's license, after all, so mere possession was not illegal. The firearms he had used were all semi-automatic so the allegation by the ATF of automatic weapons possession was bogus as near as anyone could reconstruct from the wreckage left by the explosion of Gordon's gun safe. The ATF had apparently picked on Gordon because they didn't like him running his mouth, writing letters to the editor and politicians about ATF abuses. Only they'd finally picked the wrong victim. Of course the ATF was saying he was the greatest madman mass murderer of all time, but that was true only if Gordon hadn't been acting in self defense.
"So," the Governor said when Billy Mitchell finished, "was it self defense?"
The DPS director looked up from his notes.
"Governor, the Attorney General can probably speak to that subject professionally," the director nodded toward dark-skinned AG across the room, "but I'd say that if he had lived, and his defense had access to the information we've uncovered, his lawyer could make a damned good case it was self-defense."
The AG nodded in agreement.
Mitchell continued, "But sir, Jack here knew Phil Gordon personally. I'd like you to hear his opinion."
The Governor turned to Jack Durer.
"What can you tell me?"
Billy Mitchell interrupted. "Governor, I know there's a lot of folks here who probably don't know Jack or his history of service to Alabama."
He paused, and the Governor nodded his assent.
"Jack Durer retired a few years ago after serving in DPS from the Wallace to the James administrations. He ran the Intelligence unit of the Alabama Bureau of Investigation for many years and he's kept up his sources of information since then. There's more than a couple crooked politicians in this state who are out of office or behind bars because of Jack's work -- and that's AFTER he retired. If there's something going on in the state that Jack doesn't know about, it's either unimportant or one of his informants hasn't checked in yet."
Jack Durer grinned. "Thanks, Billy, that's quite a buildup."
Actually, it wasn't close to being half the story. Oh, Durer had had a long and fabled career in the Alabama State Troopers and ABI, to be sure. But he was, as they say, a man of many parts. Before his career in Alabama law enforcement, Jack Durer had served in the 5th Special Forces Group in Vietnam, eventually working for, and becoming friends with, the legendary Bill Colby of the CIA in the Phoenix Program. He had maintained his contacts in the spook community since then and they had often paid him, and the people of the great state of Alabama, great dividends in the intervening years.
Not that the people of the state would ever know it. Jack Durer was also a man who could keep secrets, especially his own. Most of those crooked politicians that he'd arranged jail time for never knew his fingerprints were on their case files. They never knew he was coming, what hit them, or that he had ever been there in the first place. He still carried his 5th Group coin in his wallet, and had lived its motto, "De Oppresso Liber" -- "To Free the Oppressed."
Durer lost his smile as he faced the Governor.
"Sir, Phil Gordon was as law-abiding a feller as I ever knew. We didn't meet in Vietnam, but I got to know him, I guess about five or six years after we came home, at an Alabama Gun Collectors Association gunshow. Phil was a serious gun nut and so am I. He always despised the ATF for Waco and their many more minor sins over the years, but he always obeyed their stupid laws and regulations even though he thought they were unconstitutional. I hadn't talked to him for almost a year, right after his wife died. After he was killed I spent a little time running down sources that I have within the ATF and FBI. I've shared some of that, but not all, with your director of DPS here," nodding at Billy, "and I'll tell you that the ATF did not intend for Phil to survive that raid. They wanted his scalp."
"What I believe is that Phil Gordon, learning by accident that he had been targeted by the ATF for his opinions, decided to teach them a lesson about picking on the wrong feller, and by God, he sure did."
Jack paused again. "But was it self-defense? Hell, yes. No doubt about it."
Roy Marsh turned to his Attorney General.
"Robert, what do you conclude?"
The immaculately dressed AG, Alabama's first black man to serve in that post and widely expected to succeed Roy Marsh as Governor, replied without hesitation.
"Sir, not only was it self defense, I'd consider bringing murder charges against the ATF agents responsible."
"If any of them were still alive."
Jack Durer chuckled, and the room stirred.
The Governor did not smile.
"You know," speaking to no one in particular, "I went to many of those ATF funerals. I didn't go to Phil Gordon's. I was advised not to."
Here, the Governor looked hard at his Chief of Staff.
"Maybe I should have."
"Gosh knows there's at least half the state who think you should have," said his press secretary. "They believe he's a hero."
"Maybe he was," said the Republican senate minority leader.
"But you'd better not say so in public," the press secretary shot back. "You'll end up with a federal tax audit at least."
Jack Durer spoke up. He hadn't come here to honor Phil Gordon or to bury him. The state was about to come apart and Ray Marsh needed to know it.
"Sir, there's more pressing business because of this, and Phil Gordon's last stand is going to look like a Disney World ride if you don't deal with it."
Ray Marsh replied, "Go ahead."
"De Oppresso Liber"
"Governor, Alabama has had a large and active militia movement for almost twenty years now. Most of 'em are real quiet, but they've been training, most of 'em, since the '90s. And ever since the new administration took over, they've been growing -- growing BIG, and growing more competent. My sources within the movement tell me that its all they can do to restrain their members from attacking the feds right now. And its not like they have full control over their troops. They're militia, all volunteers, and leading them is like herding cats and chickens at the same time, as one of them told me. There is no Betty Crocker Seal of Approval for militias. There's racists out there, Kluxers and Nazis, who have been waiting for something like this. The responsible leaders will help us prevent terrorism if they can, but they want assurances that the state is going to do what it can to prevent the ATF from attacking them like Phil Gordon. And if the ATF screws up and attacks one of them like they did Phil, they'll ALL react. They've been sitting on ready for three weeks. And not just here, all over the country. You've seen the headlines, sir. Surely you know where this is headed. It's going to get bloody. And with the new laws coming down the pike . . ."
Durer let the menace of that thought hang in the air.
Billy Mitchell put in, "I'll tell you this, they're badgering me about it. Kraut Mueller's called me twice a day since it happened, "touching base" and wanting to know what we're going to do to keep the ATF from doing it again."
The press secretary snorted, "Mueller? That fat old windbag? He's all talk."
Durer's head pivoted like a machine gun traversing until his steely gaze locked in on the PR flack.
"That, I have reason to know, is incorrect. Kraut Mueller is a lot more than talk."
The press secretary tried to hold Durer's eyes and failed, looking down at his feet.
The Governor looked about the room. Everyone here, save Durer, was part of what he called his "kitchen cabinet." They could be trusted, he thought, with what was going to come next without leaking it to the press or the feds.
"Well, Jack," the Governor said mildly, "as it happens the Attorney General and I have had some ideas along those lines. Robert, why don't you tell us about the Doctrine of Interposition and how it may apply here?"
The AG smiled broadly,
He began, "The Doctrine of Interposition goes back to English common law. . ."
And as they listened to the AG's presentation, they began to see where this was headed. For his part, Jack Durer reached into his back pocket and fetched his 5th Group coin from his wallet. As the Attorney General spoke, he idly flipped it over and over in his right hand.
"De Oppresso Liber."
As the immaculately-dressed magna cum laude graduate of Harvard Law School concluded his presentation, the "old dog" knew he was going back to war one last time.
And he smiled.
Only those who knew him best would have seen the hint of the deep sadness behind it.