Monday, November 28, 2016

American Indians were the first to learn that imperialism is the highest form of capitalism

Anyone reading the news lately will notice that the fight over a pipeline in North Dakota is escalating. I've been watching from the sidelines with a quote running through my mind, "Imperialism is the highest form of capitalism".

While reviewing the discourse regarding the Dakota Access Pipeline I found an article from, which I think is a rather well balanced description of the conflict over the pipeline. I think it's interesting that I could find very little positive support for the pipeline beyond the temporary jobs it will create and the recurring property tax revenue that it will generate.

Here is something else positive about the pipeline from the article:
According to Energy Transfer Partners, the company whose subsidiary is developing the project, the 1,172-mile pipeline “will connect the rapidly expanding Bakken and Three Forks production areas in North Dakota to Patoka, Illinois,” transporting some 470,000 barrels a day. “The pipeline will enable domestically produced light sweet crude oil from North Dakota to reach major refining markets in a more direct, cost-effective, safer and environmentally responsible manner.”
Also cited by the same article with a link to the Energy Transfer Partners site is the following passage that explains the benefits of the pipeline:
Although the United States is the third-largest producer in the world, we are the number one consumer of crude oil in the world. We need to close the gap between what we produce as a country and what we consume before we can be truly independent of foreign imports. While the U.S. produced 7.5 million barrels of crude oil per day in 2013, it still imported 7.7 million barrels per day in order to meet consumer demands. We need to close the gap between what we produce as a country and what we consume before we can be truly independent of foreign imports. Every barrel of oil produced in the United States directly displaces a barrel of foreign oil.
So the point of the pipeline is to reduce dependence on foreign oil? The same article cites a Reuters article that contains the following text:
The $3.7 billion, 1,100-mile (1,770 km) Dakota Access pipeline would carry oil from just north of land owned by the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe to Illinois, where it would hook up to an existing pipeline and route crude directly to refineries in the U.S. Gulf Coast.
The line would be the first to allow movement of crude oil from the Bakken shale, a vast oil formation in North Dakota, Montana and parts of Canada, to refineries on the U.S. Gulf Coast. (emphasis mine)
The Gulf Coast? Isn't that an export destination? Wait a minute. Energy Transfer Partners said that we need to reduce dependence on foreign oil. Energy Transfer Partners seems to be saying one thing and doing something else. Isn't that "crazy-making"? Maybe they're just lying about their intentions.

The US Energy Information Administration estimates that the United States consumes about 19 million barrels of oil per day. The same agency estimates that the US produces about 9 million barrels of oil per day. The same agency again says here that on average, in 2015 the US *exported* 4.7 million barrels a day of crude oil and refined products. That's about 25% of total combined US imports and domestically produced oil. Somehow, I'm not quite sure about Energy Transport Partners' desire to reduce American dependence on foreign oil.

For Energy Transfer Partners, this is about money, not ecology, not safety and most certainly not about being responsible. The meaning is in the response. Here is what is being shared lately about the response to the pipeline:
People are likely to start dying at Standing Rock-- if they aren't already. The Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council released this statement: “The physicians and tribal healers with the Standing Rock Medic and Healer Council call for the immediate cessation of use of water cannons on people who are outdoors in 28F ambient weather with no means of active rewarming in these conditions. As medical professionals, we are concerned for the real risk of loss of life due to severe hypothermia under these conditions.”
Not to mention continuous mass tear gas, rubber bullets, as well as stinger grenades and LRAND (Long Range Acoustic Device) for 3 hours
Law enforcement also shot down three media drones and targeted journalists with less lethal rounds.
National Lawyers Guild legal observers on the frontlines have confirmed that multiple people were unconscious and bleeding after being shot in the head with rubber bullets. One elder went into cardiac arrest at the frontlines but medics administered CPR and were able to resuscitate him. The camp’s medical staff and facilities are overwhelmed and the local community of Cannonball has opened their school gymnasium for emergency relief.
ND Office of Governor Dalrymple: 701-328-2200
Tie up the fax line too: 701.328.2205
Morton County Sheriff's Department:
701-328-8118 & 701-667-3330.
ND National Guard: Main Number: 701-333-2000
Public Affairs Officer: 701-333-2007
Call often, please.
Please copy and paste; don't click share. Then pass it on. Thank you.
Notice also that there is real fear about sharing this information with the request above to copy, paste and share, without attribution. There is fear of retaliation, ostracism and perhaps physical harm.

Forces are gathering:

US veterans plan to gather at the site where they will be witness to some of the most violent police conduct we've seen at any protest in recent memory. All of this is in a fight over a pipeline, one of many that run across US soil.

As we can see above, this conflict involves local police authorities. Theoretically, they are peace officers, but they are not acting like peace officers, they are dressed like agents of war. It is a fair question to ask, "Who does that policeman really work for, anyway?" If they are launching so many rubber bullets, tear gas grenades and water cannons at the protesters in sub-freezing temperatures, they are not keeping the peace for us. They are attempting to clear the way for the people who own the pipeline. 

As more and more public figures begin to descend upon the pipeline site, what will the pipeline owners say when one of those famous people winds up in the hospital, if that should happen? Will they be able to get to the nearest hospital in a timely manner? Judging by the roadblock below, probably not, since that public road built with taxpayer dollars, leads to the nearest hospital:

It would seem to me that the people behind that barricade are very worried that protesters might get through. It would also seem to me that the forces fighting to protect and encourage the progress of the pipeline would rather not be held accountable. See, if they are not accountable, then they don't have to listen to the protesters. There is no need to negotiate. With sufficient application of force, the entire problem can be resolved. You know, like in the movies.

There doesn't seem to be any effort on the part of the authorities to work it out with the protesters or the natives who live there. I've seen articles that say that certain tribes agreed to lease or sell their land, that certain tribes agreed to the terms and that even some of the tribes wish that the protesters would go home. Did they negotiate the land leases or sales on equal footing? Is it even fair to say that two parties with equal power negotiated a fair agreement? Judging by the show of force so far, I don't think so.

I'd say the purposes of the pipeline are many, but the primary purpose is to demonstrate power without accountability. This power is being demonstrated by the federal government, local police and the companies that are building the pipeline. They answer to no one who lives on land the pipeline crosses. They're certainly not listening to the water protectors, more than 300 tribes who have expressed opposition to the pipeline or environmentalists who have explained the risks of the pipeline.

Here's an article from The Atlantic that sketches out a good legal case to stop the pipeline. The Atlantic points out that the pipeline runs across a nation within a nation, the Lakota/Dakota/Nakota nation. The LDN nation is recognized as a sovereign nation. The Atlantic also points out that for centuries, the federal government has systematically taken land from the natives even after a treaty has been signed with them. This pipeline is just one more act of aggression, but this time, they're killing trees to win the war in administrative and judicial proceedings.

For those who think that the tribes would like the protesters to go home, the Sacred Stone Camp website reminds everyone staying there that they are guests of the LDN nation. After the Army Corp of Engineers sent a "notice of eviction" to the area described below where the protesters have encamped, Harold Frazier, Chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe sent a response stating in pertinent part that:
The area north of the Cannonball River is both the ancestral homeland of the Lakota people and inside the boundaries of the 1851 Fort Laramie Treaty, a treaty that has not been abrogated and law that governs us all.  The best of these lands have already been unjustly taken and flooded by the Corps in the disastrous Pick-Sloane legislation.  We will no longer allow our rights as a Tribe or as indigenous people as a whole to continue to be eroded.
Native American Indians have experienced American imperialism first hand and are calling it out in their response to the notice of eviction. They are the first ones. They were here first, and they are the first to fall victim to American imperialism. The imperialism they see is the land unjustly taken and they are defending the water protectors in their letter to the federal government.

The motive behind the pipeline is pure greed, something we might call "capitalism, unrestrained". Much of the land we call "America" was taken from the natives in the same way. These same natives who were living here, in peace, long before we arrived are trying to stop American imperialism, one more time.

With respect to the Dakota Access pipeline, Native Americans don't want the money (or another casino), they want the land and they want it as it was when they found it. Without a pipeline running through it. If they succeed in stopping it, they will have helped to tear down the facade of a free market of fossil fuels.

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