Not rebels, but insurgents

 

The closest I ever came to understanding genuine terror was in Sri Lanka, in 2007. For five weeks, I’d been reporting on the insurgency of the Tamil Tigers, a separatist group fighting the Buddhist majority government. The insurgency had grown increasingly violent over the years, and bombings around the country had intensified. When my work in the capital, Colombo, was done, I jumped on a crowded bus and left town, ready for a few days of decompression at a beach on the other side of the island.

That afternoon, on the last leg of the trip, two young, nervous-looking men suddenly pushed their way through the passengers and sprang off the bus, sprinting away as hard as they could. Bomb, I thought, and I was not alone. Instantly, the passengers stampeded for the exits at either end of the bus. I was stuck in the middle, and as terrified men, women and children tumbled off the bus, one after another, I caught myself praying: “Not like this. Please, not like this.”

HCN managing editor Brian Calvert.

I escaped the bus, and in a matter of minutes learned there was never a bomb, merely two mischievous boys running for home, oblivious to us passengers, who now stood aghast in the middle of the road. “I think it was a joke,” one man whispered to me. Later, as I covered similar conflicts in southern Thailand and Afghanistan, I often thought of that bus and the nonexistent bomb. In the events that have unfolded in the past days, including the shooting death of a militiaman in Oregon, I’ve started thinking about them again. That’s because High Country News has been digging into the connections between people like those who occupied the Malheur National Wildlife Refuge and a broader network of malcontents bent on delegitimizing the federal government.

This magazine has followed the Sagebrush Rebellion for decades, but during the last two years, our journalists have focused on something more insidious, an inchoate movement of militants, law enforcement officers, state politicians, county commissioners and other supporters that I believe is more dangerous than it first appears. The Malheur occupation is only part of it. The State Department defines an insurgency as “the organized use of subversion and violence to seize, nullify, or challenge political control of a region.” That’s starting to happen right here in the West.

These would-be guerrillas are different from other insurgents in degree, not kind. They are not interested in the rule of law, nor the principles of democracy. They are zealots, blind to all but their version of the truth, stumbling toward some unseen flashpoint. We’ve dedicated much of the current issue to understanding this movement, one that is largely unknown to the public and perhaps partially obscure even to itself. The problem is not going anywhere, and, though I wish it were, it’s certainly not a joke.      

High Country News Classifieds
  • MONTANA DIRECTOR OF DEVELOPMENT
    YOUR POSITION WITH TNC The Director of Development (DoD) is responsible for directing all aspects of one or more development functions, which will secure significant...
  • DEVELOPMENT AND OPERATIONS COORDINATOR
    Development & Operations Coordinator Terms: 1.0 FTE (full-time), Salary DOE ($45,000 - $55,000) Benefits: Paid Time Off (12-24 days/year depending on tenure), Paid Holidays (10/year),...
  • GUIDE TO WESTERN NATIONAL MONUMENTS
    NEW BOOK showcases 70 national monuments across the western United States. Use "Guide10" for 10% off at cmcpress.org
  • CARBON RANCH PLANNER
    The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic, and social health through education,...
  • EDUCATION AND OUTREACH DIRECTOR
    Education and Outreach Program Director The Quivira Coalition (www.quiviracoaltion.org) is a Santa Fe-based nonprofit that builds resilience on arid working lands. We foster ecological, economic,...
  • WESTERN DIVISION DIRECTOR OF FIELD PROGRAMS
    DEADLINE TO APPLY: October 29, 2021 LOCATION FLEXIBLE (WESTERN HUB CITY PREFERRED) Overview The Land Trust Alliance is the voice of the land trust community....
  • COMMUNICATIONS AND OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Communications and Outreach Associate Position Opening: www.westernlaw.org/communications-outreach-associate ************************************************* Location: Western U.S., ideally in one of WELC's existing office locations (Santa Fe or Taos, NM, Helena,...
  • FREELANCE GRAPHIC DESIGNER & PROJECT COORDINATOR (REMOTE)
    High Country News (HCN) is seeking a contract Graphic Designer & Project Coordinator to design promotional, marketing and fund-raising assets and campaigns, and project-manage them...
  • FILM AND DIGITAL MEDIA: ASSISTANT PROFESSOR OF INDIGENOUS MEDIA, CULTURAL SOVEREIGNTY AND DECOLONIZATION (INITIAL REVIEW 12.1.21)
    Film and Digital Media: Assistant Professor of Indigenous Media, Cultural Sovereignty and Decolonization (Initial Review 12.1.21) Position overview Position title: Assistant Professor - tenure-track Salary...
  • REAL ESTATE SPECIALIST
    To learn more about this position and to apply please go to the following URL.
  • ENVIRONMENTAL GEOPHYSICS
    "More Data, Less Digging" Find groundwater and reduce excavation costs!
  • RARE CHIRICAHUA RIPARIAN LAND FOR SALE
    40 acres: 110 miles from Tucson: native trees, grasses: birder's heaven::dark sky/ borders state lease & National forest/5100 ft/13-16 per annum rain
  • CENTRAL PARK CULTURAL RESOURCE SPECIALIST
    Agency: Oregon Parks and Recreation Department Salary Range: $5,203 - $7,996 Position Title: Central Park Cultural Resource Specialist Do you have a background in Archaeology...
  • STAFF ATTORNEY
    Come live and work in one of the most beautiful places in the world! As our Staff Attorney you will play a key role in...
  • ARIZONA GRAZING CLEARINGHOUSE
    Dedicated to preventing the ecological degradation caused by livestock grazing on Arizona's public lands, and exposing the government subsidies that support it.
  • OPERATIONS MANAGER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo (friendsoftheinyo.org) is seeking a new Operations Manager. The Operations Manager position is a full-time permanent position that reports directly...
  • WATER RIGHTS BUREAU CHIEF
    Water Rights Bureau Chief, State of Montana, DNRC, Water Resources Division, Helena, MT Working to support and implement the Department's mission to help ensure that...
  • DEVELOPMENT & OUTREACH ASSOCIATE
    Southeast Alaska Conservation Council is hiring! Who We Are: The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council (SEACC) is a small grassroots nonprofit based out of Juneau, Alaska,...
  • DESERT LANDS ORGANIZER
    Position Summary: Friends of the Inyo seeks a Desert Lands Organizer to assist with existing campaigns that will defend lands in the California desert, with...
  • IDAHO CONSERVATION LEAGUE
    Want to help preserve Idaho's land, water, and air for future generations? Idaho Conservation League currently has 3 open positions. We are looking for a...