Recently, a coalition of Native American tribes protested and temporarily held off construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL), or at least that part planned to cross the Missouri River. I may have missed the event entirely had it not been for the e-mails I received from some of the environmental action groups with which I stand. There was little mention of the Standing Rock protests until Democracy Now's Amy Goodman visited the site in September, and reported the attacks made on the non-violent men and women protecting their water.
The Coalition had been occupying at Standing Rock since April 1st to take action and stop Sunoco's pipeline construction. Protesters were being bitten by attack dogs, pepper-sprayed, tear-gassed, shot with plastic bullets, arrested, strip-searched and fined, but the mainstream media ignored the conflict, and any obligation they might have (I deduce it is none) to report civil rights abuses in the country its viewers live within. As soon as Democracy Now broadcasted Amy Goodman's report, North Dakota Storm Troopers issued a warrant for Goodman's arrest, Criminal Trespassing. When she returned to North Dakota for her court appearance, she was arrested again, this time for Rioting. A judge threw out both charges. I wonder why the corporate media remained silent, and sent nobody to report on what was happening there. Instead, some re-broadcasted Democracy Now's report, or portions of it, weeks later.
In November, I happened across an NPR broadcast of a discussion about Standing Rock. Native American Elders from the coalition forces spoke of their struggle to protect their water supply, the Missouri River, from certain contamination if Big Oil, the American Petroleum Institute (API) laid its pipeline. The Elders spoke of protecting "sacred sites" from desecration by Sunoco, and how Sunoco security forces in conjunction with North Dakota's storm troopers and the US Nation (one must assume) reacted to the protests and appeals.
The NPR signal faded, and I searched the radio for something else. As fate would have it, I landed on a financial news report. The correspondent was interviewing the mayor of a North Dakota town that got itself caught up in the oil boom. This particular town borrowed a couple of hundred million dollars to lay out infrastructure to support oil fracking in its backyard, while visions of money bags danced in their collective heads. But the price of crude stayed low, and their loan interest piled high, and they could not sell their crude at a price that would cover the monetary expense of welcoming the Oil companies to their town. The town had to increase their police force by a factor of 10. Crime rose 150%, and drugs, prostitution and violence became rampant when Big Oil brought their workforce to town. We won't mention ecological expense here. The DAPL delay was costing oil towns even more money. So, Sunoco's armies unleashed their dogs, tear-gas canisters and water cannons, not on the criminals in Oil town, but on the peaceful folk trying to protect their water. What?! The Sunoco-owned police forces threw protesters in jail by the hundreds, but more protestors came to replace the fallen, and held the ground. The corporate media took off their gags long enough to let Sunoco tell their side of the story. I'd like to hear the story of a Trooper who said "No" to the order and turned in his or her badge.
Along came the Rebublicon presidential candidate, Donald Trump, who renewed the battle cry "Drill Baby, Drill!" I felt as though America just jumped backward to 2008. News sources confirmed that Trump, heavily invested in Sunoco and the DAPL, sought to eliminate the EPA so that dirty industries wouldn't have to ignore feeble environmental protections anymore. This might be a conflict of interest somewhere, but not in the USA, where corporate interests and the 1% reign supreme.
The Democrat response to Boss Trump was Hillary Clinton. Could the DNC put forth a less popular candidate? Was there any other who could lose to Trump? I'm not a Demublican, so I don't know. It's almost 2017. What is more ridiculous, the possibility of a world "leader" who claims that Global Warming is a Chinese hoax (Trump), or one who claims to accept the scientific evidence of Climate Change's cause, and then allows the Gas Fracking industry to finance her campaign (Clinton). Once again, I don't know.
Luckily for the planet, Clinton lost. Unfortunately Trump won. In my mind, the most ridiculous thing of all is that over 90% of the electorate voted for Hillary Trump. I begin to understand the hopelessness and sense of abandonment that the Native Americans must feel.
I became more interested in the Native Americans' struggle at Standing Rock. I read reports and commentary from talking-heads who denounced the protestors because the pipeline route would not cross reservation lands, they were "federal and private properties." I thought "OK, but the US government has entered into over 400 treaties with Native Americans, usually with the Native Americans at gunpoint, and the US government has broken or bent every single one of those treaties (laws)." One would have to be a die-hard imperialist, or an API spokesperson to argue that the indigenous people have no legitimate claim to the entirety of the Dakotas.
Another talking-head proclaimed that he would like nothing more than to see the US energy system completely fossil-fuel free. But, he elaborated, it would be catastrophic if the Nation were to do it now, all at once. I wondered: "Catastrophic for whom, and in what way?" Shoot, I know the answer to this one... It would be like a financial apocalypse for the API corporations and all those invested in their commodities and exploits. I envision Trump, addressing the Nation, telling everyone how "hugely bad" (huge repeated 15 times during the course of his ramblings) it would be to the Money Market, therefore to the People, if the Fossil-fuel industry was to go belly-up. And so, he would have no other option but to spend X Trillion tax dollars (none of them his) to bail those nation-critical corporations out. Deja vu. Again, we are on the cusp of 2017, and most of us have known since 1960 that everything about fossil-fuels is filthy and ecologically destructive. Even API, after decades of publishing lies claiming otherwise, now admits that Global Warming (Climate Change) is a consequence of putting way too much carbon into the atmosphere. Extracting, processing, transporting and burning fossil-fuels has been a catastrophe for the Earth, her weather and All who breathe her air and drink her water. Should I have the slightest concern for the corporations, their stock-holders' portfolios, or a nation that pursues financial wealth at the expense of the entire planet's health?
When I was in the Navy, sailors would sometimes get frustrated when made to work under conditions that might have been avoided had the boss just thought ahead a little bit. The disgusted sailor would mutter under his breath "Poor planning on your part does not constitute an emergency on my part," and then he'd go about the task. US industry and its market-based economy should have been weaned off their fossil-fuel addiction decades ago. So if API and its minions suffer catastrophe, it is only because they chose to stay ultra-comfy in their ultra-greediness, and ignored, even lied about the impacts of their actions. It is their own fault. It is our fault. It is my fault for not taking a stand sooner! These short-sighted, money-hungry, Earth-destroying corporations, now considered people in accordance with the the Supreme Court's ruling on Citizens United, should be executed! Let me be perfectly clear here. I don't want to see anyone killed. I don't want to see folks tear-gassed, tortured, shot with plastic bullets, or attacked by dogs even, but it might be a good idea to release some of the Water Protectors and whistle-blowers from jail (Leonard Peltier and Eric Snowden come to mind) to make room for say Oil and Gas corporate hierarchy. I want to see the Fossil-fuel industries and their ecologically destructive impacts, not people, exterminated.
The defenders of Standing Rock call themselves Water Protectors. I get the sense that they make no real claim that the land or water is their property. Property ownership is a concept that Columbus (with a national holiday in his honor), and the other European Conquistadors brought to this hemisphere and force-fed the indigenous people. The Water Protectors are doing something much greater than protecting their water supplies. They are protecting our Earth for our grandchildren, and our grandchildrens' great-grandchildren. They are showing all of us a path forward, a Good way. They send us a wake-up call, and plead with us to regain, maybe find for the first time, our wits and balance for the sake of All the Creations.
I am deeply touched by the selflessness, courage, resilience and love of the Earth that the Water Protectors display. They are defending the Living and the Unborn from a very real Machine of Terror. I am a veteran of the U.S. Armed Forces which are an integral part of that Machine. In hindsight, I realized that I served a nation controlled by money-hungry scoundrels, with schemes that were anything but honorable. I never felt pride as a consequence of my veteran status, but when 2000 Veterans for Peace took the field at Standing Rock, I felt a tinge of pride, and shame, and hope. Those veterans, allies of the Water Protectors, helped to win the First Battle of Standing Rock against Big Oil and his Storm Troopers.
Footnote: As I proofed my letter, and checked some facts, it came to my attention that on about December 12th, 2016, a North Dakota pipeline leaked an estimated 176,000 gallons of crude into a nearby creek. Sub-zero temperatures have made clean-up impossible. The company owning the pipe has reported 36 other spills since 2006. Since 1996, there have been 4 oil-spills per year in North Dakota alone. API claims that these oil rigs and pipelines are safe, and there is no adverse environmental impact. More lies and environmental destruction brought to you by the American Petroleum Institute.