Friday, October 9, 2009

The Hardin Saga: Waiting for the Punchline (Will Grigg)

Will Grigg travels to Hardin, Montana to investigate rumors of a takeover by a para-military group:

Hardin, Montana -- In his memoir Against All Hope, former Cuban political prisoner Armando Valladares tells the story of a Cuban ruler who built a huge prison, a structure several times larger than necessary to incarcerate the island's criminal population.

When he was chastised by an adviser for spending a considerable sum on a prison too big to use, the dictator smiled and replied: Don't worry, someday a ruler will come along who will fill it up.

The "someone" predicted by that ruler was Fidel Castro.

Just inside the city limits of Hardin, Montana (pop. 3,500), next to an IGA grocery store and not far from a sugar plant, there sits a huge, empty "jail" -- actually, a small prison -- that cost $27 million to construct. Driven to desperation as its construction bonds went into default, the city government, acting through its economic development arm, the Two Rivers Authority (TRA), offered last March to accept prisoners from the Gitmo detention camp.

That offer piqued the interest of some yet-unnamed people in California, who chartered a security pseudo-firm calling itself the American Police Force (APF).

The figurehead of that ersatz mercenary outfit is a diminutive Montenegrin Serb known by several aliases, most recently "Captain" Michael Hilton.

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