Monday, April 07, 2008


In the most famous gunfight of the old west, Wyatt, Virgil and Morgan Earp, with Doc Holiday at their side toting a sawed off double barreled shot gun, took on "the cowboys" which included Frank and Tom Mclaury and Ike and Billy Clanton. Frank, Tom and Billy were killed but Ike saved his own life by raising his arms high showing he was not armed. He ran though the middle of the gun play unharmed. Both sides agree that Wyatt Earp pushed him to the side and said for him to arm himself and join the fight or to get out of the way.

The story of the OK Corral has been told and retold by both sides. The Mclaurys and the Clantons were sons of wealthy ranchers and the local county sheriff was a close friend. One of several important questions that remain unanswered, "Was Tom Mclaury armed?". The Earps were accused of murder and investigated by a "grand jury" but never indicted. Tom had turned in his pistol at a saloon but could have carried a concealed weapon (as did Doc Holiday and others) and Virgil Earp testified that he saw Tom shoot over his horse and that he also saw him reaching for a riffle. The Earps testified to their belief that the "cowboy" friendly sheriff removed Tom's pistol from the evidence. Anyone who has seen politics as practiced by various sheriffs throughout history know that it is entirely possible for the sheriff to have tampered with the evidence.

The Earps were heroes for the first couple of days after the fight but the local saloon owners and shop keepers were turned to the side of the wealthy ranchers. The shop keepers feared the loss of business and the saloons where the cowboys gathered to retell the story from their point of view were the popular ones. We will never know if Tom Mclaury was armed or not but we know that the story that he was not was used to whip up the sentiment against the Earps and we know that Virgil and Morgan were shot "in the back" (Virgil lost the use of his left arm and Morgan was killed) in the months that followed the shootout. After the back shooting, Wyatt made his famous ride of revenge. He and a few friends, including Doc Holiday hunted down and killed most of the remaining cowboys, including the famous Johnny Ringo.


I will spare you the details of my "army stories" but in one there is a close parallel to the OK CORRAL story. I was an eye witness to a situation in which a young Sargent "handled a difficult problem well". On a cold rainy day, he wrapped a young private in his poncho to prevent him from striking an officer. The private got off with a mild reprimand instead of being placed in the stockade to await court martial. Within a couple of days a very different story had spread. Suddenly there were dozens of eye witnesses who saw the Sargent use the poncho in an attempt to suffocate or strangle the Sargent. I was within three feet of the event and heard the conversation and saw the reactions clearly. I rebutted the stories with the truth that it was the private who had initiated the confrontation and that the poncho had simply been used to prevent the private from doing harm to the officer and to himself. The troops did not want to hear the truth and, to this day, the great majority surely believe the privates side of the story. Ironically the hotheaded private did not deny swinging at the officer and bragged that he would do it again if the situation arose again.

Virgil Earp gained experience as an army officer during the civil war. He was the marshal, sworn in to uphold the law. I do not believe the Earps murdered Tom Mclaury. The fact that Ike Clanton ran through the middle of the fight with his arms held high was never disputed and the fact that he lived to tell about it shows the Earps did not kill at random. Even though the popular sentiment turned against the Earps, the jury saw insufficient evidence for a murder trial. Some cops are crooked and all cops make mistakes but they are like the rest of us, innocent until proven guilty.


Could the Gunfight at the OK Corral been prevented? It is possible the Earps could have saved several lives, including that of Morgan Earp by taking a different approach. Perhaps they could have recruited a couple of dozen armed men to go help them disarm the offenders, or, perhaps, the Earps could have made the saloon off limits until the offenders turned in their guns. On the other hand, disarmament without reconciliation might have only postponed the inevitable.

In the case of Iran, Amadenijhad must be feeling pretty lonely down by the OK Corral. The US has recruited a large group that is asking Amadenijhad to disarm. Amadenijhad is cut off from the saloon, he cannot come into town to get a drink. His bankers are cut off from the rest of the world. He can still sell oil but putting the cash received to good use is becoming difficult. Inflation in his country is running at 30% or better. He has few friends.

Last week, Secretary of Defense, Gates, visited Oman. Oman has done a few deals with Amadenijad. The Sultan of Oman does not believe the sanctions against Iran can be effective and history is mostly on his side. Boycotts are hard to enforce and easy to withstand. Cuba has withstood 45 years of US boycotts. On the other hand, the nuclear missiles were removed from Cuba about 45 years ago and, since then, the "rest of the world" has not joined the US in boycotting Cuba. In the case of Iran, the policy is that a friend of our enemy needs to be very careful in order to avoid becoming our enemy. The UN sanction resolutions against Iran have been unanimous votes with the exception of one abstention.

Iran is flailing around trying to deal with the isolation while sticking with their nuclear program. Iran has asked OPEC to stop pricing oil in terms of dollars. The idea is to try to get way from holding so many dollars but there is no way. No matter what currency is used to set the price of oil, the sellers will have to accept dollars if they want to sell oil or they will have to allow speculators a substantial spread for converting dollars to other currencies.

For as long as Iran is holding up at the OK Corral, the US does not have to be in any hurry to have a shoot out, provided Iran is not about to complete nuclear bombs! In the mean time, the Iranians become all the more isolated. When a country like Oman makes a deal or two with Iran, they get a one on one "sales" call. The central bank has been declared the financier of terrorism so transactions are subject to legal disruption. Companies and nations are generally avoiding doing business with Iran. Of course, the normal trade in oil continues but it is particularly difficult for Iran to purchase goods like computers that could possibly be used in nuclear arms production.

Over in Iraq, al-Sadr is being isolated because his militias have been supported by Iran. While Sadr controls 30 seats in the Iraqi Parliament, he is being threatened with the loss of political power. His party will be banned from the October elections if the militias do not put down their arms. Yesterday, Iranian officials once again offered to sit down with US negotiators so that Iran could "help" with "Iraqi problems".

The US continues to look for a cessation of Iranian support for "our enemies" in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, the West Bank, Gaza and elsewhere. The attitude of the US is that we don't mind having the Clantons sequestered at the OK Corral because we at least know they are not out rustling cattle. A key point is that Iran cannot afford for any of its bombs to be used to attack peaceful nations. One attack on another nation, proven to have come from Iran would give the world all the reason it needs to blow up the nuclear facilities in Iran.


No one knows the extent to which the "Clanton Cowboys" were just rowdy fun loving guys as opposed to thief's and rustlers. When Big Nosed Kate got angry with Doc Holiday and accused him of being involved in a stage coach robbery, the story stuck even though Kate admitted she lied. Ike Clanton was caught rustling several years after Earp's ride of revenge. Was he "forced" into a life of crime? The "Clanton Gang" violated the law on more than one occasion. Burning down a store in town was dismissed by the sheriff as a drunk out of control and a civil matter.

President Bush has been in a position similar to that of the Earps. The bad guys kept committing crimes but were largely ignored by "old sheriff Clinton". After Bush's entry into Iraq, he was a hero for a short while. The more the story is retold, the more it becomes "true" that the "marshal went too far". Iran has retaliated more discreetly than the Clantons. For many years, (at least as far back as 1,000 years), terrorist have known how to make a significant strike and then to lay low for a long time until the anger subsides. They understand that the "good guys" are too powerful to fight in a fair fight. They survive by practicing a game of hit and hide. However, the terrorist are not as likely to attack in America as long as substantial numbers of troops are stationed in Iraq, Kuwait and Afghanistan.

I believe the Earps could have waited the fight out. Sooner or later the Clantons would have wanted to stop hanging out in the corral. The would have eventually followed the law of no guns within town limits in order to hang out at one of the saloons. I know I am in the minority but I support the Bush approach in Iraq and Iran. Mistakes have been made and progress has been slow but the support of terrorism has been dramatically diminished.

It may be that Amadenijad is the Islamic version of Johnny Ringo. Maybe he wants to pick a fight just to show off. The UN security council voted 14 to 0 to isolate Iran. People all over the world desire to live in peace. I believe Iran will ultimately be allowed to develop the peaceful use of nuclear power. This is as far as the compromise can go. We cannot allow Amadenijad to carry a nuclear weapon. We cannot allow him to fund Hezbollah, Taliban and other Shia and, yes, even Sunni Terrorist.

It is cause for great concern that the presidential nomination process has spent countless hours debating NAFTA while the potential of major war, including the possibility of nuclear war gets little mention. The good news is that while none of us fully understand the nuances of international diplomacy and while the majority believe the invasion of Iraq was a mistake, the majority accepts the need for troops in the Middle East. The link between maintaining troops and preventing a US attack is not easily appreciated but the idea that there might be a link is sufficient reason for many Americans to err on the side of caution.


NWA and DAL might merge in a holding company structure where the pilots will not need to immediately resolve their seniority disputes in advance. The sentiment for owning airlines is very low. The great majority of people are bemoaning late flights, lost luggage and poor service. The reality is that the number of people flying just hit a peak never seen before. After string of small carrier bankruptcies, the availability of extra cheap seats is falling. Pundits are starting to suggest that even the legacy carriers will quickly burn through their 19 Billion Dollar Cash Hoard. NOT GONNA HAPPEN! The failure of the deep discounters is a good thing for the other carriers. Profits will rise as a result of higher ticket prices. As has been demonstrated again and again, the legacy carriers will ground planes before they will continue losing flights.