Tuesday, January 12, 2010
The ‘conference room’ was a hangar, with a video projection of the State seal showing on the sidewall, textured with rippled sheet metal, torqued in the earthquake. The entire hangar looked as if it had been twisted from the top down—the main doors didn’t open after the Domino, and the side doors didn’t seal all that well. The Guard, and later the Army, converted the big metal box to training space and set up some cubicles in the back end of the building.
“Coffee’s ready, ladies and gentlemen,” a young corporal announced. “And it’s real coffee for a change.”
“Good, I’m freezing,” Karen said to me, poking me on my good side.
“Get some for me, too please!” Mary added.
“I live to serve,” I said in a ‘Princess Bride’ kind of way.
We’d stopped by the house on the way over to the base to tell Karen that I’d been summoned to a meeting with Mike. Alan and Mary were at the house getting some sewing supplies, and Mike extended an invitation to them to come along. Ron and Libby were tasked with keeping an eye on things while we were gone—which we hoped wouldn’t be too long.
On the way over, Mike and I recapped the afternoon and the surprisingly forceful response from the Army and the Guard to what we thought might just be a local misunderstanding. Seeing the ‘bank manager’ and his associates face-down on the snowy asphalt, hands and feet zip-tied, and then roughly loaded into a military truck, told us that this was probably much more. We also didn’t glean anything from the incident commander, other than being directed to be on time for the briefing.
Alan joined me in the coffee line, where I noticed that we had Styrofoam cups waiting for us, already filled but not ‘dressed’ with cream or sugar.
“Look it there. When was the last time you saw a foam cup?”
“Last January. Could be from old stocks, you never know.”
A disembodied voice announced that the conference would begin in three minutes, booming through the overly large speakers flanking the video image.
“Mr. Drummond?” someone asked me from behind.
“Yes?” I said as I turned around to see who it was. “Hey, Dub. You got roped into this too?” I asked of Dub Henshaw, one of our County building inspectors.
“Well, sort of. I was out here looking at roof loads and wandered in.”
“You took my question on snow loads yesterday to heart then?”
“Absolutely, especially after getting news about a dozen roof collapses in Newport, Priest River and Sandpoint this morning.”
“How’re we looking here?”
“Better, but just.”
“Dub, I’m sorry. This is Alan Bauer, my brother-in-law. Alan, Dub Henshaw.”
“Pleasure,” Dub said as he shook Alan’s hand. “Nice belt,” he commented to Alan. Alan was sporting a new hand-tooled belt for his sidearm-of-the-day. Today, it was his Colt Anaconda.
“Thanks. Hired one of my neighbors to build this rig.”
“I’ll need to talk to him about some work,” Dub said, still looking at the detail on the belt.
“I’ll put you in touch.” I said. “Sounds like we’re about ready for the meeting.”
“Don’t get away until I talk to you about snow removal teams. Another six inches of snow here and we’re gonna see problems,” Dub said.
“No problem. Let’s talk when this is over.”
Over in the third row, Karen and Mary were eagerly awaiting their coffee.
“This place is a meat-locker!” Karen said. She’d probably underdressed for the meeting. Mary certainly had.
“Sure it is. One little wood stove in an uninsulated metal building isn’t gonna heat things much,” Alan said.
“Who was that guy you were talking with?” Karen asked.
“Building inspector for the County. Structural engineer. He’s looking at snow-loads on low-profile roofs in the service area.”
“Worried they’re going to collapse?”
“They sure could, yeah. It’s October and we’ve got January snow. What’ll we have in January?”
“How do you take care of that?”
“Clear the roofs off, by hand.”
“Fun,” she said as she sipped her coffee.
“Not remotely. But it might keep a few hundred or a thousand people working over the winter.”
“Assuming you can pay them.”
“Sure, there you go throwing cold, hard fact at me again,” I said with a grin.
“Somebody’s got to. And I have a license.”
Those still standing were being prompted to sit down, as a countdown appeared on the screen’s lower right corner.
“Ladies and Gentlemen, Governor David Hall of Washington, Governor Mark Santiago of Oregon, Governor Earl Westra of California, Governor Samantha Merrick of Idaho, thank you for your presence at this briefing this evening. General Robert Anderson, commanding general of the Pacific Northwest Command, will make a short statement to those viewing this, before Governor Gregory’s prepared statement.”
“Well, doggies,” I said quietly in my best Jed Clampett imitation. That received a poke from Karen.
“Good evening,” the General said from behind a lectern, one that I thought I recognized from Fort Walla Walla. “I am here to present to you information that will be made public within the next four hours regarding the discovery of information about pending Federal actions upon the populace of the United States and her territories.”
“These discoveries were made by Pacific Northwest Command and shared with Central and Southern Commands, and can only be regarded as a direct attack on the Constitutional rights of the citizens of the U.S. I am here to provide an outline of the proposed actions of the Federal government against the States and the local population.”
“Holy sh•t,” someone behind me said. I agreed. Karen squeezed my hand.
“Within the past several days, announcements have been made hastily, regarding the re-establishment of a Federal currency throughout the U.S. and her Territories. The monetary system was presented as following similar or identical standards to those historically in effect while the U.S. was on the ‘Gold Standard.’ What we have discovered, however, is that while the coinage is similar in size and denomination to older silver and gold-content coins, they bear little physical resemblance. Of more importance the rules under which the new Federal banks are to operate place unreasonable restrictions on the people. Let me first explain how this information was gathered, and then I will elaborate on the Federal banking plan.”
“Intel,” the General said as he looked down at the lectern. “Intelligence was gathered through civilian and military means within the financial industry and within the United States Department of the Treasury, Federal Bank division. Much of this information was unsolicited and forwarded to intelligence personnel for analysis. We have an exceptionally high degree of confidence that the material is in fact an accurate and comprehensive overview of the Federal plans. Multiple, independent sources have provided similar or complimentary components of the ‘Central Economic Recovery Plan,’ which is the official title for instituting and controlling economic transactions in the United States.”
I looked around the few rows around and in front of me, where I noted both a degree of disgust and anger on the faces.
“On to the banking operations themselves. From our analysts, both in the military and independent and trusted members of the financial community, it appears that the Federal government intends to issue the initial ‘distribution’ of two hundred dollars, to be held on account at Federal banks, and only to be legally spent at ‘federally approved’ vendors at ‘approved’ prices. Existing silver and gold coins will be accepted by Federal banks but not ‘approved vendors’, and will be removed from circulation. By the end of the next fiscal year, non-approved silver or gold coinage or bullion will be illegal for use in the U.S. and in territorial states.”
“Additionally, no transactions of any kind will be legal unless they are conducted with Federally-issued monies, effective on the first day of the new Fiscal Year, next July. This explicitly applies to retail, wholesale, public and private transactions of any kind. In short, if you want to trade someone a steak for two dozen eggs you can’t do it legally. Nor can you cash a paycheck anywhere except a Federal bank, and you can only have a limited amount of ‘cash’ from that paycheck.”
“To summarize, the Federal government wants to control every dime you make and tell you where you can spend it and how you can spend it.”
I expected that other video conference rooms were erupting in anger around the West about now. Ours was buzzing, but settled back down quickly.
“To continue, copies of the information collected through various means will be provided to every public official on a flash-drive, to be distributed as you see fit. The files are extensive and voluminous.” Images of the documents the general referenced came up on the screen. They seemed quite authentic. Several were on White House stationery. One copy of an executive order bore the signature of the President.
“On to equally serious matters that are only a few weeks away, on the Federal calendar. An outline of planned Constitutional restrictions has surfaced in the last few hours, within the core of the Federal government, including milestones for their adoption by Executive Order and approval by congressional select committee. Recently-dated versions of this information have been discovered at abandoned or captured New Republic strongholds in the Eastern United States within the last three days, providing evidence of high-level collusion between New Republic and Federal leadership, long after known diplomatic contact had ended. These documents, originating within the Executive Branch of the United States Government, intend to abandon the principles on which this country was founded and seek to extinguish the light of freedom and liberty in the name of security and peace.”
Now, our room erupted. General Morton ceased speaking to the camera, perhaps hearing the response in several of the feeds from various locations back to Walla Walla. In a couple minutes, our room had settled down, perhaps the others had as well with some prompting. Morton’s intensity…or anger…was visible in his eyes if not on his face.
“These restrictions include severely limiting or eliminating many of our basic rights, including a free press, freedom of religion, the right to keep and bear arms, the right to assemble, and dozens more, spelled out in clinical detail. Copies of correspondence regarding this will be provided to public officials, again for publication and distribution as you see fit.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, citizens of the United States of America and her territories, the joint United States military commands will not follow illegal orders to circumvent the protections provided under the Constitution of the United States. I would like to assure you that Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine, and Coast Guardsmen throughout the country stand fast and defend our oaths. We will not sweep aside the Constitution and the Bill of Rights as the Executive Branch proposes. To the contrary, we will defend them with our very lives and will tolerate neither fascism nor authoritarian dictatorships. A free and representative republic on this continent will be re-established and will use the Constitution and the providence of God as her guide.”
“Ladies and gentlemen, I now present Governor Merrick from the state of Idaho. Governor?”
“Thank you, General Morton. Ladies and gentlemen, you have just heard a brief summary of information collected that represents the intent of the current Federal government to destroy the freedoms of the citizens of the United States. What we’re not clear on is the depths of the connections between the New Republic leadership and the Federal leadership, and how events within the past twenty-four to forty-eight hours may be linked to a larger picture.”
“I speak to you as the Governor drawing the short-straw. The Governors collected here in Walla Walla, as well as more than a dozen more are making similar briefings to the citizens of their states and territories. We are of a common mind however, in that the states will not stand for these planned actions by the Federal leadership and those pulling their strings.”
“I am here to inform the citizens of my state, and those states represented here by their respective Governors, that our states will follow the United States Constitution as legally amended, in the preservation of freedom for our citizens. Actions otherwise by the Federal Government will be regarded as illegal and subject to prosecution in the strongest terms. Actions to limit the movement of citizens, eliminate free trade, seize weapons or control state militias are unacceptable and will not stand.”
“To the representatives of the Federal Government that are behind these plots and schemes. We know that you are listening to this or will have this information presented to you. You are being given an ultimatum. You are to resign your office by November first at the latest, and to be replaced by a legally elected replacement. Evidence of illegal actions and planned illegal actions is being gathered for prosecution to the full extent of the law. Refusal of this ultimatum will be regarded as an act of war against these several states.”
“To our citizens, I would like to state this. The military forces within the collected states are formidable, and still perhaps the strongest in the world. We believe that the greatest percentage of our active and Guard units will uphold the oath to protect and defend the Constitution, and will not follow the shining path to dictatorship or fascism. State leaderships are united in this belief as originally stated by Jefferson, that the tree of liberty must be refreshed from time to time with the blood of patriots and tyrants.”
“As of this hour, all military units under State control are on full alert, and will only respond to legal orders under trusted command and control authority. This applies to strategic forces as well, I am assured.”
“None of us asked for this. None of us wants this, but it is here and we stand fast in our beliefs. The United States of America will not be ruled under fascist, totalitarian tactics. To the citizens of these several states, prepare and stand fast. A revolution is on your doorstep,” the Governor concluded. “We pray that those of us that believe in the principles of the United States Constitution have the wisdom to see us through this. Good evening, and my prayers are with you all.”
Karen was squeezing my hand harder than I thought she might realize. I looked over at her and a single tear rolled down her cheek. I put my arm around her, still seated, and pulled her closer to me. We were probably all in some degree of shock from what we’d just heard and seen.
“It’s war,” she said quietly. “It’s a civil war.”
We milled around for a few minutes before an Air Force major tracked me down, and asked me for a few minutes in private. Karen, Alan and Mary waited for me, talking with Dub Henshaw and a few other folks we’d had the opportunity to work with over the past few months. Karen looked worried for me as I was shuttled out of the hangar into an adjacent group of ‘temporary’ construction trailers. One still bore the name of a former client, Kingsley Construction. I was pleased to see Bruce Weathers in attendance, along with a half-dozen other Metro staff from various departments. Several of them stood as I entered.
“Please, sit. Or in the vernacular, ‘at ease.’”
A moment later, General Robert Anderson joined us, minus rank on a digital-camo uniform. Anderson was the ranking officer in the Spokane region, putting him in charge of both ground and air operations. That sometimes didn’t sit well with the Air Force side of the table, having a West Point graduate in the pilot seat as it were…
“Ladies and gentlemen, thank you for joining me. As you heard, we have interesting hours and days ahead of us.”
“To put it mildly, General,” I said. “I’ve not fought in a revolution before. Is there a how-to manual?” I asked with some humor to lighten things up a bit.
“We have the high ground here, obviously. But there are substantial challenges that we may see come up, which is why you’re here. You heard the short version of the presentation, I’d appreciate it if you would take the time to review the documentation in full by the end of tomorrow, and share it liberally. If you didn’t get a flash drive with the information yet, please see the warrant officer before you leave.”
No one else was speaking up. “What kind of challenges do you see?”
“The Federals still have significant military assets behind them. We don’t know to what degree they’re willing to pursue this agenda with military force. If they act, we will react. If there is an imminent threat, we will use a pre-emptory strike against their forces.”
“Bob, let me ask the zillion dollar question. Nuclear forces?”
“Nuclear weapons formerly controlled by the National Command Authority are now under the sole authority of the Joint Chiefs. Launch code protocols are in place under legal military authority with regional civilian leadership as well. We have complete control over remaining U.S. tactical and strategic nuclear weapons world-wide.”
“We’re sure of what we have. Let me clarify. We’re sure that pre-War U.S. nuclear forces are under our control. We’re not sure of anything acquired black-bag or through New Republic operations on the Eastern Seaboard through smuggling. That might mean that foreign made nuclear weapons or delivery systems might be in Federal control.”
I sat there for a few moments, before Bruce Weathers spoke up. “What flashpoints are on the map now, General?”
“Attempted seizures of the majority of Strategic Command forces in multiple locations this afternoon, a complete blockade of traffic into the Denver and St. Louis Federal Areas, and requirements for Federal identification for any travel across state lines or into Federal zones.”
“Success on the Strat forces?”
“They took Barksdale, Whiteman, and Tinker Air Force Bases. They attempted to take numerous assets in Texas and were soundly defeated. What they didn’t know is that the very few aircraft remaining at those bases are largely hangar queens or parts dogs. Ready aircraft were scrambled when the first illegal orders started showing up. There isn’t much left on any of those bases that will prove to be of much use should real shooting start.”
“Tinker had Materiel Command and one of the logistics centers….” Bruce said, thinking of the impact.
“Did. Until last May. Materiel Command was shifted to Ogden and Warner-Robins. Didn’t want all our eggs in one basket.”
“That include spares?”
“It did. Critical-needs parts for remaining weapons systems are no longer present at Tinker. They do have a pile of shot up parts and fried avionics however, marked as ‘reserve ready.’”
“How long have you known about this, sir?” Weathers continued.
“I’m not at liberty to say. Longer than you might think.”
“So what do they have in terms of military assets?”
“They have a very limited number of air assets, including rotary and fixed wing aircraft. F-15’s, a couple –52’s, C-17’s, a couple AC130’s. They have very, very little in the way of ordnance or parts. They do have at least five full divisions of Regular Army and Guard mechanized units, fully capable, and that means pre-War levels.”
“What is that,” I asked. “Fifty thousand men?”
“Easily that, yes,” Anderson responded.
“All United States naval vessels that survived the war are under control of the Joint Chiefs and regional commands. From what we can determine, the Federals have no viable naval assets. Again, though, we don’t know what might be lurking in the East that slipped through U.S. naval patrols,” Anderson replied.
“What’s the sphincter-level here, sir?” Weathers asked. “These Army units firmly on their side or not?”
“We don’t know for sure. We do know that a good thirty percent of them are, and that is certain. We think of those units in terms of the old Iranian Revolutionary Guards. They’re the True Believers. It may well be that that thirty percent is making sure the remainder is staying in line.”
“Anyone on the inside?” I asked, not expecting an answer.
“Absolutely,” Bob replied. “Not everyone is on board with what the Feds are doing. They believed they had significant air assets that vanished quite suddenly. We have multiple sources in multiple units providing intelligence at the risk of summary execution.”
“Fair enough,” I said. “What’s next?”
“Waiting game for the next few hours or days, to see how the Feds react to what the States are demanding. After that, things could go hot on us. We don’t know.”
“Expectations here? I mean, what do you need from us?” I asked.
“Things go hot, military units could be redeployed within hours. That means dramatic changes in security here locally, transport, infrastructure support and manpower. You know that as well or better than anybody else, Rick.”
“I suppose I do,” I said, turning over the implications in my head.
“One thing though, Pac Command doesn’t suspect any military action in our area. They don’t have the assets to come this far, and they have nothing in place up here according to our intel. That’s the good news. The bad news is that you’ll see a military draft. You’ll also probably see refugees come into this area from other parts of the country if it lasts that long.”
I heard a buzzer down the hall, reminding me of a cheap alarm clock. A moment later, a burly light colonel came into the room, and whispered something to General Anderson. He straightened up in his chair, if that was possible given his rod-straight posture, and looked out at the table before looking around at us.
“Ladies, gentlemen, I’m afraid we have a shooting war,” he said. “Three petroleum refineries in Wyoming and one in Billings, Montana were just attacked and heavily damaged.”
I felt as if I were six moves behind in a life-or-death version of chess. “Our fuel came from Billings and from Wyoming, in case anyone was wondering,” I said.
“You’ll excuse me,” General Anderson said. “Apparently I have a war to fight.”