Monday, December 5, 2016

Water Protectors Get Reprieve

Maybe it was the incipient televised public relations disaster of militarized police doing battle with military veterans acting as human shields for the protesters that finally forced the Obama administration's hand.

But whatever the motivation - fear of democracy, pragmatism or a genuine concern for the environment - the basic human right of clean water has at least temporarily prevailed over Big Oil.

It's a testament to the power and value of human solidarity that for once in a very great while, people have actually won over profits. It helped enormously that celebrities and popular politicians like Tulsi Gabbard and the military son of Democratic bigwig Wesley Clark directly joined the cause and physically showed up at the protest site in frigid, snow-covered North Dakota.

In the face of continuing horrible publicity, the Army Corps of Engineers did an abrupt about-face and announced on Sunday that it would not, after all,  grant the permit for the Dakota Access Pipeline to drill under the Missouri River.

Mind you, this is only the latest reprieve for the Standing Rock Sioux. As stressed in the letter announcing the decision, the government will now "explore alternative routes." The addition of the buzz-phrase "there's more work to be done" in the written decision is neoliberal code for kicking the can down the road until Barack Obama can hand over responsibility for any potential bloodbath or environmental disaster to Donald Trump. If Obama has demonstrated anything during his eight years in office, it's his loathing of direct confrontation.

He'd already waited as patiently as he could throughout months of brutal corporate funded police assaults against the protesters before ordering his first timid temporary halt to further construction this past September. His decision came in the wake of the Army Corps of Engineers overriding the Environmental Protection Agency and the Advisory Council on Historic Preservation by giving the green light to pipeline construction beneath the Missouri River, prime source of drinking water for the local population.

Obama, if he wanted to, could Trump-proof the pipeline construction permanently by declaring the region a national monument. But he has preferred not to. He prefers to ride out his term and call himself the good guy in the process. He is being praised far and wide for his statesmanship. In the age of Trump, statesmanship has been reduced to delaying the inevitable.

Trump, who is personally invested in the pipeline, has already trumpeted his intention to resume construction of the $3.8 billion project once he takes office. For one thing, native Americans and Hollywood stars and environmental activists are not part of his voting base. For another thing, he is not about to evoke the wrath of other global finance industry investors which make up "Energy Transfer Partners."  (not to be confused with the diverse cast of characters paid to act in those oily "I'm An Energy Voter" commercials which in turn allowed CNN and others to give Trump his $5 billion worth of free advertising time -- which propelled him to victory.)

The oil profiteers, Energy Transfer Partners, and Republicans in Congress might be pretending to kvetch about the Corps of Engineers' delaying tactics now, but just wait a few weeks. This is only a petty skirmish to these pathocrats. The brutal class warriors do not give up. 


annenigma said...

My local tv news is really giving a lot of great, extended coverage to the Standing Rock situation, probably because we have so many Indian tribes in Montana whose members are joining in. Unlike the news from the MSM, it's really got an encouraging, uplifting tone.

It's definitely a showdown though. Despite the Gov't announcement and the blizzard conditions, the Water Protectors are staying put and even increasing in numbers, while the pipeline company is still insisting they won't move the route. The veterans really are playing a crucial role. It's so great that they've found a genuinely worthy cause to serve their/our country. May this be just the beginning.

I am so proud of everyone participating. Mitakuye Oyasin!

Jay–Ottawa said...

Thanks for this article, Karen.

The Army Corps of Engineers is involved of course but they are the front man taking the hit for some higher decider of conceding a point to protesters. The ACE build projects or approve plans; they don't make policy. Who really made the decision to bury the oil pipe elsewhere? I doubt the reversal was initiated by Obama.

One thing about which I'm more certain: the suspension, for the time being, of oil work on or near native land and water was brought about by the people living there along side a lot of outside help. And at some cost: a woman's shattered arm, another's loss of an eye, lung poisoning, hypothermia that can have lasting effects, cuts, heart attacks, stuff like that. The latest wave of veterans on the scene seems to have been the clincher in putting a stop to corporate violence. As Anne noted, finally a mission the vets can be proud of.

Chris Hedges keeps saying that nothing will change in the empire until thousands fill the streets and make it known they don't intend to move until they secure real change. Protesters, many and persevering, are the only change agents left. Only, this time, the point wasn't made in city streets but out on the plains. Lots of little people were able to push back the corporate giant. When was the last time we saw something like this? The win is big but it may not be final, as has been pointed out. As soon as the protesters go home and start to get warm, we might expect more perfidy from the people who have money, power, big guns and their own army of vets who are willing collaborators. This war ain't over.

There is another front in the climate war, further north and west, also peopled on the front lines by what Canadians call First Nations. The photogenic Prime Minister, Justin Trudeau, decked out in his father's buckskin tunic, this week approved–– despite protests by natives, tree huggers and the anti-carbon pack––the Kinder Morgan pipeline (710 miles), which will pump oil from Alberta to the coast of British Columbia, where tankers will take it away. Lots of money, lots of jobs, and the Canadian dollar is already getting stronger on news of Kinder Morgan. Let's see whether the spirit of Standing Rock gets transferred to the scene at Kinder Morgan.

Meredith NYC said...

I’m very impressed that the veteran organizations went out there and stood with the protesters. Wow. What a story. They have to be interviewed on every TV show. A small bit of positive news. An example has been set. Before this, only Democracy Now covered the protest consistently. Now it’s on the network nightly news.