The dire predictions in this article are based simply on seizing existing trends and following them to their logical conclusions. The most crucial trend here is that Barack Obama, no matter what he says, will do the will of his puppetmasters in the military-industrial-surveillance complex unless Congressional Democrats forcibly pressure him not to. We've seen this time and again with Obama's desire to cut Social Security and Medicare, wage a Syrian war, or fast-track the Trans-Pacific Partnership. But on climate change and the police state, issues where Congressional Democrats are (with honorable exceptions) cowards at best, Obama has been free to do his masters' bidding.
The Keystone XL pipeline intimately involves both climate change and the police state--the police state far more than people realize, as I intend to make clear here. As both issues are, for most Congressional Democrats, areas of sniveling cowardice, the strong likelihood is that Obama will approve the pipeline and the police state crackdown on dissent against it will be BRUTAL, given the irreconcilable bitter conflict between planet-saving civil resisters on one hand and ruthless, billions-at-stake "oiligarchs" on the other. Obama's stealthy crushing of Occupy--which Congressional Dems fully (and spinelessly) condoned--will seem, by contrast, some staged dress rehearsal.
Pretty clearly, the only way to Obama's heart is through his Congress--at least the Democrat aisle--and because anti-pipeline activists fail to grasp that crucial trend, they've insanely refrained from pressuring vulnerable Congressional Democrats--an insanity best highlighted by noting this is an election year where Dems face Republicans' potential takeover of Congress.
So since pipeline activists' own trend is a resounding failure to press Congressional Democrats to press Obama, those of you plotting civil disobedience against the pipeline should deeply ponder Bob Dylan's strikingly relevant words of wisdom. <blockquote>"If you're looking to get silly/You'd better go back to from where you came/Because the cops don't need you/And man, they expect the same."</blockquote> But cops are only part of the horror you're facing. Substitute police state, media, and Democrats for cops as key pipeline actors who "don't need you," and you may get some inkling of the brutal crackdown you'll soon be facing.
The Specter of Fascism
A specter is haunting America, and that specter is fascism. And no issue embodies fascism better, or is more likely to rapidly accelerate its onset, than the Keystone XL pipeline. For those who understand the pipeline simply as an energy policy or environmental issue--and don't fathom its watershed importance for civil rights, and possibly the survival of democracy itself--this essay should serve as a rude wake-up call.
Every bit as much as in Nazi Germany, a thuggish minority hell-bent on insane destructiveness--in this case willing to risk not mere genocide but the actual extinction of humans and most other animal species--has already seized substantial control over American society, most crucially its government and media. This fascist minority--it's high time we start using the proper word--knows full well that its plans (dangerously dubious at best, per science's overwhelming verdict) could never survive the free flow of information essential to a democratic society. So, again every bit as much as Hitler's Nazis, it relies on a combination of propaganda, censorship, and intimidation: intimidation where propaganda and censorship fail. But make no mistake: democracy and genuinely representative government are its bitterest enemies.
Now while the increasingly death-claw grip of corporate plutocrats on government and media is the crisis America--like much of the world--now faces, the absolute worst corporate actors belong to the fossil fuel industry. The indispensable thing to know about this industry is its unchallenged bully's "childhood": not only were its fossil fuel products the energy basis of modern industrial societies, but in its U.S. home region (essentially Texas and its "suburb" states), it accumulated all the political power--and crucially, the deeply corrupting habit of always getting its way--entailed in being the uncontested source of regional prosperity. This full-fisted industry gives the slogan "Don't mess with Texas" new meaning; and any Calvinistically damned peon foredoomed by Providence to resist it (say, by suffering irreversible contamination from its drilling) could cite you chapter and verse on which Texans you don't wish to mess with.
For such an industry--almost infallibly accustomed to getting its way, and past adepts in all the dubiously legal (and inevitably, un democratic) tricks for doing so--fascism is simply in its DNA. And with the vast profit opportunities offered nationwide by unconventional fossil fuel extraction, Texas's brutal neighborhood bullies (always powerful in Congress) have become a fascist national menace. And now that the industry's mainstay products--and crucially, the methods now required for extracting them--no longer meet human needs, but instead menace our species' very habitat, the industry faces levels of resistance never previously seen. Especially when it swaggers with six-guns into new regions where people aren't long-since browbeaten and resigned to its tyranny. My best human model for the industry's response is an utterly coddled Nero or Caligula with absolute power who suddenly, shockingly finds someone thwarting his will. Hint: Run fast and far!
Evidence of Industry Fascism--Don't Expect Protection
Now, the fossil fuel industry doesn't have absolute power, but it certainly has enormous power, and the only constraints on that power are the increasingly shaky bulwarks of public opinion and government. A vast array of evidence supports the "Nero" or "Caligula" model of how the fossil fuel industry reacts to resistance--starting with the central fact that it's willing to risk the continued survival of the entire human race to keep selling its product. For an industry willing to commit humanicide, quietly riddling the bodies of a handful of anti-pipeline activists with sniper bullets seems rather trivial. Especially when one considers that, with much less at stake, there was documented talk of doing the same to the leaders of Occupy Houston. That this happened on the oil and gas industry's home turf is hardly sheer coincidence. And Chevron's recent response to an explosion on its watch that caused death and injury by offering community members free pizza (!) starkly documents how minimally industry bigwigs value human life.
My point here is that, to extent the oil and gas industry is allowed a free hand in protecting the XL pipeline, expect brutality; and to the extent that they're forced to rely on government for pipeline protection, expect them to press for brutality. Already there have been reports of XL pipeline builder TransCanada recruiting off-duty cops along the proposed route to provide its asset-protecting muscle. (If folks intent on heroic civil disobedience against the pipeline care to save life and limb, they'd better interest whatever gutsy media and pols they can in exposing such corrupt cops for their scumbag role in siding with private industry against the public good. Perhaps, if prompted, Glenn Greenwald's new adversarial media outfit, First Look, would tackle this.) And living in Columbus, GA near Fort Benning, I've also learned that major oil and gas player Chesapeake has been recruiting soldiers slated to be downsized for its own asset-protecting goon squad. It's easy to imagine Chesapeake, in a fraternal gesture, lending these trained killers to TransCanada or the Kochs. Hey, who needs posse comitatus when the military-industrial revolving door can deliver your hired thugs legally-- and trained at taxpayer expense?
To anyone who objects that these are worst-case scenarios, that the oil and gas industry won't ever have license to shoot pipeline dissidents on sight, the proper response is, it might. There are documented instances aplenty of governments (especially state ones) collaborating scarily with this industry, just as federal agencies were instrumental in spying on and infiltrating Occupy. For example, in 2010 PA Homeland Security Director James Powers was brought down by a scandal for openly admitting that his agency was on the oil and gas industry's side in clandestinely spying and reporting on peaceful anti-fracking activists as potential ecoterrorists. It always seemed scarily suggestive that ex-PA governor and ex-national Homeland Security chief Tom Ridge became a well-paid hired shill for the gas industry--especially since an Israeli firm that received a no-bid contract to spy for PA Homeland Security had previously done business with Ridge Global. More recently, Ohio officials, up to and including Governor John Kasich, were implicated in a scandal where the Ohio Department of Natural Resources--in theory charged with protecting the state environment--was planning a campaign with the fracking industry to protect industry plans to drill in Ohio state parks against the "propaganda" of "extreme" activists (like the Sierra Club!). These plans even included a Nixon-style enemies list. This comes as no surprise to PA victims of fracking contamination, who used to quip the initials DEP of PA's Department of Environmental Protection stood for "Don't Expect Protection."