With all the frenzied hysteria comparing the election of Donald Trump to the second coming of Hitler, the media has been strangely silent on the assault by police, government, military and private security on water protectors protesting the North Dakota Access Pipeline. Over the course of months, peaceful protesters have been sprayed with water cannons in sub freezing temperatures, pepper sprayed, maced, shot with rubber bullets, had dogs set on them and concussion grenades thrown at them – one woman reportedly losing an arm – for standing in the way of oil companies and their rapacious quest for profit.
A few facts to be clear on:
- The land in question is under treaty. It does not belong to the United States, but to the sovereign Lakota Nation.
- Energy Transfer, the company behind DAPL, is owned by Texas billionaire Kelcy Warren, with a personal net worth of $4bn
- DAPL and its subsidiaries are acting in a criminal manner. The law requires a Environmental Impact Statement and cost benefit analysis be submitted for work to commence on the project. To date these have not been forthcoming.
- This pipeline will impact water quality for millions. The 1,172-mile pipeline was originally to cross the Missouri River north of Bismarck, North Dakota, but was rerouted after complaints from local (non-indigenous) residents fearing for the safely of their communities and water.
Many progressives are quietly hoping President Obama will take action to help the people of Standing Rock. His remarks from Cushing Oklahoma in March 2012 suggest they are probably dreaming:
”Now, under my administration, America is producing more oil today than at any time in the last eight years. (APPLAUSE.) That’s important to know. Over the last three years, I’ve directed my administration to open up millions of acres for gas and oil exploration across 23 different states. We’re opening up more than 75 percent of our potential oil resources offshore. We’ve quadrupled the number of operating rigs to a record high. We’ve added enough new oil and gas pipeline to encircle the Earth and then some.
So we are drilling all over the place — right now. That’s not the challenge. That’s not the problem. In fact, the problem in a place like Cushing is that we’re actually producing so much oil and gas in places like North Dakota and Colorado that we don’t have enough pipeline capacity to transport all of it to where it needs to go — both to refineries, and then, eventually, all across the country and around the world. There’s a bottleneck right here because we can’t get enough of the oil to our refineries fast enough. And if we could, then we would be able to increase our oil supplies at a time when they’re needed as much as possible.
Now, right now, a company called TransCanada has applied to build a new pipeline to speed more oil from Cushing to state-of-the-art refineries down on the Gulf Coast. And today, I’m directing my administration to cut through the red tape, break through the bureaucratic hurdles, and make this project a priority, to go ahead and get it done.” (APPLAUSE.)
In a letter addressed to Standing Rock Sioux Tribal Chairman Dave Archambault II, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has expressed its plans to remove Water Protectors from the site on December 5. Of course there is nothing new about forcing indigenous people from their ancestral lands – this is the nature of colonialism, usually overlooked or brushed off as the relic of a distant past. But when the government employs state violence, using militarised police to act with extreme prejudice against its citizens on behalf of private capital, you can forget the idea that you live under a democracy.
North Dakota’s Emergency Commission voted on Wednesday to borrow a further $7 million to cover the cost of enforcement related to the pipeline. With some 2000 veterans set to join the demonstration this weekend, things are likely to heat up. If tensions escalate, this has the potential to make WACO look like a Sunday stroll.
This is unacceptable on so many levels, not least that a nation which sees itself as a beacon of liberty and democracy should continue to hold its indigenous people in such utter contempt. Former presidential hopeful Bernie Sanders told Rolling Stone on Wednesday that America is rapidly headed towards an “economic and political oligarchy”. It seems the good senator has been living under a rock. When private profits are put before citizens’ rights and police are employed to operate as a private security force for big oil interests, you no longer have the conditions for either a constitutional republic or a democracy. This is fascism writ large.