When they turn the attack dogs on you, you know that you’ve won…morally. Of course, moral victories aren’t worth much in the short term. All too often the price of a moral victory is to lose what you’ve put your life on the line fighting for, if not your life itself.
Such was the appalling scene this week on the plains of North Dakota, when security goons for the Dakota Access pipeline attacked defenseless protesters, many of them members of the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe, with dogs, clubs and pepper spray.
The local police stood by and watched, egging on the mercenaries. A few days later, the local sheriff, a big oil automaton, would issue warrants for the arrest of Jill Stein and Ajamu Baraka for vandalizing a bulldozer with spray paint. That’s what passes for justice in the Bakken oil fields.
The sheriff has been peddling outrageous and racist slurs about the protesters “carrying hatchets and knives,” in order to justify his orders to seal off the protest site, conduct warrantless raids and searches at the Sacred Stone Camp and dress up his rent-a-cops with shields, riot gear and high-powered weapons. These tactics seemed to be motivated by a desire to provoke the tribal protesters into a violent defense of their camp. It failed. The war zone is his own creation.
As Sarah Manning reported in chilling detail for Indian Country Today, the pipeline company’s Praetorian (or one should say, Petroleum) Guard was used to shield bulldozers and trenchers as the machines chewed into burial grounds and sites long sacred to the Sioux. This brazenly illegal act was a preemptive strike against claims filed by the Sioux and others in federal court challenging the pipeline route. “Portions and possibly complete sites have been taken out entirely,” Tim Mentz, the Tribal Historical Preservation Officer, told Manning.
The obvious comparison is to Bull Connor and his thugs, when they brutalized civil rights marchers in Birmingham, Alabama. But the assault in North Dakota seems somehow more grotesque, sadistic and, ultimately, pointless. What, after all, are the oil goons defending? No demented principle, no deranged “way of life,” as with the deluded bigots of the Old South. The pipeline itself is like some steel artery implanted in the dermis of the Earth to carry poison, a black death, threatening the water supply for 28 million people.
The biggest hypocrite of them all, naturally, is Barack Obama, who only this week gave an interview with the New York Times where he said the signature issue of his presidency was the fierce battle he waged to confront runaway climate change, which he called “terrifying.” This shameless bit of malarky comes from the man who enabled the fracking boom, oversaw the near death of the Gulf of Mexico (Deepwater Horizon) and whose agencies gave the green light for the Dakota Access fracked oil pipeline and dozens like it.
(As I write this, word has come down that the federal court in DC denied the tribe’s request for an injunction against the pipeline based on the threat it poses to tribal burial grounds and sacred sites, which constitute violations of the Antiquities and Historic Preservation Acts. This is a bad ruling which needs to be appealed. A few minutes later the Department of the Interior and the Justice Department issued a joint letter “requesting” that the pipeline company “pause” its construction before tunneling under an undammed stretch of the Missouri River. Gang Green is, of course, heralding this as a “major victory.” But it is yet to be seen whether this letter has any “legal force,” whether the pipeline company will heed the “request,” how long the project will be “paused” and what happens to sacred sites on either side of the river crossing in the interim. One theory is that the “pause” is intended to quell the protests and that the destruction will resume after the masses of people have left the site. By the way, James E. Boasberg, the Federal judge who denied the Standing Rock Sioux injunction, was a member of the (Geronimo’s) Skull and Bones Society. You really couldn’t make this shit up.)
The Sioux have been winning moral victories for more than 200 years. But their land keeps shrinking, their lives and way of living more and more under threat. The Standing Rock Sioux are, in effect, defending the quality of life of those who are mindlessly attacking them. They are, and have been for centuries, the true defenders of the homeland. Their fight is ours. Let us join them.
(Of course, there has been a little progress in the last 40 years. Some of the dog-wielding goons where female. Yes, you’ve come a long way, baby.)
(Jeffrey St. Clair is editor of CounterPunch. His new book is Killing Trayvons: an Anthology of American Violence with JoAnn Wypijewski and Kevin Alexander Gray. He can be reached at: email@example.com. Courtesy, CounterPunch.org)