Thursday, September 15, 2016

Obama’s Dakota Pipeline Twist Is Not a Victory—And Could Erase the Struggle


There's no better intro to what been going on in North Dakota than this fun, informative clip from Lee Camp's Redacted Tonight.

by Gaius Publius

Another piece with not many parts to keep in mind, this time about the native American protests of the DAPL pipeline in North Dakota. Here are the pieces:
  • The investors in the project are a group of major banks, both national and international, led by Citibank. 
  • DAPL will cross through or near tribal lands at Standing Rock, North Dakota. This is where the protest are occurring. This is also where the pipeline crosses the Missouri River at Lake Oahe, a "lake" formed by the Oahe Dam.
  • There is no way to stop climate change without stopping dead cold the use of carbon as a fuel. That means disrupting — totally shutting down — its extraction and delivery.
  • Stopping the fracking and delivery of Bakken crude oil is a major goal of environmentalists and climate activists alike, for all the obvious reasons. 
  • Right now, the protests at Standing Rock are all that's keeping the DAPL project from continuing.
  • President Obama is well into the legacy phase of his presidency. He can't afford to look bad, either to people who read news stories about him or to people who will contribute to his library and his foundation. (For more, see "Climate Change and Barack Obama's Legacy".)
And that's all you need to know to follow the next phase of the DAPL story. The map below shows the pipeline route and the protest location. Note again that the protest location is also a major crossing point on the Missouri River.

Dakota Access Pipeline route and protest location. Lake Oahe is in fact a massive widening in the Missouri river behind the Oahe Dam. It's also a choke point for the pipeline construction project (source; click to enlarge).

Now the news — just two items for now.

The Obama Administration Is Appearing to Relent

President Obama and his administration are appearing to acquiesce to the native American protesters, especially in light of the relentless — and ugly — response by the corporation behind the pipeline and its private security force (for more on that, see the video above or google "DAPL attack dogs").

A bit of that story from Larry Buhl at DeSmogBlog:
Mixed Reactions as Feds Give Standing Rock Sioux Partial Victory

Friday afternoon brought a roller coaster of emotions for the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe and supporters in the battle to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL) near the tribe’s North Dakota reservation. Shortly after a court rejected the tribe’s emergency legal challenge, a joint statement by three federal agencies effectively stopped work on the pipeline until significant questions are answered about potential environmental and cultural impacts. ...

Minutes after U.S. District Judge James Boasberg issued a 58-page ruling [pdf] today denying the tribe's request for a temporary injunction to halt construction, the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army, and the Department of the Interior issued a joint statement to “cease to authorize construction” on federally controlled lands — essentially nullifying the court’s action.
This news has stirred a number of emotions in the climate community (cautious optimism and some cheering) and also in the progressive Democratic community ("Obama's doing the right thing").

I'm not that sanguine. In fact, I'm downright pessimistic.

"Appearing to Relent" Means Lucy with the Football

This tactic, dampening protests with the lure of optimism, is an old old trick, and those who suspect it's being deployed here are right to be very very suspicious. I'd be much more optimistic if (a) there weren't so much money already on the table, and (b) Obama weren't deep into playing the middle between building a people-friendly "legacy" and collecting major corporate cash to finance his post-presidential projects.

As I said, I'm downright pessimistic, to the extent that I'd bet money Obama and his administration are playing against the protesters and for the pipeline builders. No one has explained that better than Kelly Hayes at Yes! Magazine:
Obama Pipeline Plot Twist Is Not a Victory—And Could Erase the Struggle

The illusion of victory is a dangerous thing. We could undo what we have built at Standing Rock, this unprecedented act of Native American collective resistance.

All Native struggles in the United States are a struggle against erasure. The poisoning of our land, the theft of our children, the state violence committed against us — we are forced to not only live in opposition to these ills, but also to live in opposition to the fact that they are often erased from public view and public discourse, outside of Indian Country. The truth of our history and our struggle does not match the myth of American exceptionalism, and thus, we are frequently boxed out of the narrative.

The struggle at Standing Rock, North Dakota, has been no exception, with Water Protectors fighting tooth and nail for visibility, ever since the Sacred Stone prayer encampment began on April 1.

For months, major news outlets have ignored what’s become the largest convergence of Native peoples in more than a century. But with growing social media amplification and independent news coverage, the corporate media had finally begun to take notice. National attention was paid. Solidarity protests were announced in cities around the country. The National Guard was activated in North Dakota.

The old chant, “The whole world is watching!” seemed on the verge of accuracy in Standing Rock.

And then came today’s ruling, with a federal judge finding against the Standing Rock Sioux, and declaring that construction of the pipeline could legally continue. ... But then something happened. Headlines like, “Obama administration orders ND pipeline construction to stop” and “The Obama Administration Steps In to Block the Dakota Access Pipeline” began to fill my newsfeed, with comments like, “Thank God for Obama!” attached to them.

Clearly, a major plot twist has occurred. But it’s not the one that’s being sold.
"Thank God for Obama!" must be sweet music indeed to post-White House legacy ears.

Now the plot twist:
To understand that this isn’t the victory it’s being billed as, you have to read the fine print in the presently lauded joint statement from the Department of Justice, the Department of the Army and the Department of the Interior:

“The Army will not authorize constructing the Dakota Access pipeline on Corps land bordering or under Lake Oahe until it can determine whether it will need to reconsider any of its previous decisions regarding the Lake Oahe site under the National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) or other federal laws.”
Note what’s actually being said here, what’s being promised and what isn’t.

What is actually being guaranteed?

Further consideration.
In addition, the joint statement includes this: "In the interim, we request that the pipeline company voluntarily pause all construction activity within 20 miles east or west of Lake Oahu."

"Letting the air out of a movement's tires"

Here's why that's so bad:
Let’s reflect on that for a moment: A company that recently sicced dogs on Water Protectors, including families, who stepped onto a sacred site to prevent its destruction, is being asked to voluntarily do the right thing.

But the thing is, they probably will. For a moment. Because what’s being asked of them isn’t an actual reroute. Right now, all that’s being asked is that they play their part in a short term political performance aimed at letting the air out of a movement’s tires. ...

As someone who organizes against state violence, I know the patterns of pacification in times of unrest all too well. When a Black or Brown person is murdered by the police, typically without consequence, and public outrage ensues, one of the pacifications we are offered is that the Department of Justice (DOJ) will investigate the shooting. It’s a deescalation tactic on the part of the state. It helps transition away from moments when rage and despair collide, creating a cooling off period for the public. “Justice” is still possible, we are told. We are asked to be patient as this very serious matter is investigated at the highest level of government, and given all due consideration.

The reality, of course, is that the vast majority of investigations taken up by the DOJ Civil Rights Division end in dismissal – a batting average that’s pretty much inverse to that of other federal investigations. But by the time a case gets tossed at the federal level, it’s probably not front page news anymore, and any accumulated organizing momentum behind the issue may have been lost — because to many people, the mere announcement of a federal investigation means that the system is working. Someone is looking into this, they’re assured. Something is being done. Important people have expressed that they care, and thus there is hope.

So how is this similar to what’s happening with Standing Rock?

It’s the same old con game.
Anyone who's watched every Black Lives Matter protest of what appears to be police murder has seen this game. The offer of hope, the promise of due process, then months after the protest has stood down, the whitewash. It's almost Lucy and the football at this point — entirely predictable — which is why I'm much more pessimistic than my climate brethren (and sistren).

How to Apply the Lesson that BLM Protesters Learned

In my view the only way to apply that knowledge and that lesson is this — do not stand down short of real victory. In other words, ask for the right thing and hold to it. If the ask is, "Please, Obama, take us under your wing if you can," then the answer will certainly be, "Sorry, I tried, but I can't ... but I did try, right?"

The ask must be, "Obama, stop this pipeline. Period. We're here until you do." It's the only way.

And frankly, if that's what happens — if the protesters ramp up instead of ramping down, continue to disrupt in the way that got them this far in the first place — I'm extremely optimistic. This is indeed, as Kelly Hayes writes, "the largest convergence of Native peoples in more than a century." If battles can't be won in the election booth or the courts, they'll have to be won in the streets — or unhappy citizens will just have to continue to take their lumps and go home.

This advice applies as much to progressives in their contest against the Democratic Party — can progressives really win at the voting booth and fundamentally change the Party? — as much as it applies to forgiveness of student debt (will asking for relief solve the problem?), as well as to stopping the almost certain climate crisis to come.

At Standing Rock, victory will be won by the protesters, so long as they don't take the administration bait and stand down. Remember, no matter where DAPL is routed, it still has to cross that river. If they can't cross the Missouri River, they can't ship the crude to refineries in Illinois.

More as it develops. If this goes as I hope it will go, it could be big.


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At 10:33 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Obama has often been a great disappointment during the past eight years, which Howie warned about from the get go. Obama never lifted a finger to go after the banksters or the lying criminal Bushites, mistakes (unfortunately intentional) that have enabled our present horrendous state of affairs and that will continue to haunt our country. Though of course Obama does have some good points, and compared to the Trumpster he is gold. Although almost anyone compared to the Trumpster looks pretty good.

At 11:41 AM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't trust Obama as far as I can throw him across the Potomac from Los Angeles. That lying bastard will betray the tribes just as soon as the election is over.

At 1:18 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Indeed, compared to Bush II and Herr Hair, Obumma CAN speak adult-level English.
That, and having broken some of us of the self-abuse of lesser-of-evils voting, however, are the only compliments I have to offer.

Speaking of lesser evils, note that HRC is now predicted to take only 274 electoral votes. This is down almost 100 since just before she started attacking Herr Hair supporters and having blown her "allergies" hoax.

John Puma

At 8:44 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

Allergies can lead to pneumonia, John Puma, by the way. Yes, she held back the recent pneumonia diagnosis (as have all candidates ever held back non-vital things), but to you that's as bad as lying every day of the campaign multiple times a day like Trump has and does, and as bad as his being the first outright violence-stoking fascist/racist to be a major party candidate. You people who have terminal cases of self-righteous diarrhea of the mouth about every Clinton imperfection, yet hardly ever say anything about Trump (Why? Does your control-freak self secretly approve of Trump and want him elected?), turn my stomach.

At 11:12 PM, Anonymous Anonymous said...

To anonymous @ 8:44 Pm

Here's a tip that will save your stomach lining: look at the bottom of each comment BEFORE reading it. If you see my name skip the article. Simple, eh?

Here's some other HRC "imperfections" to ponder (lifted from another i-net commenter):

So, what has HRC done?

As a senator she voted for:

a) Unlimited global war on terror (S J Res 23)

and then twice more reauthorized and expanded it (HR 3162, HR 3199 Dec. 16, 2005, HR 3199 March 2, 2006).

c) Creation of the Department of Homeland Security
 the largest expansion of the Military Industrial Complex. (HR 5005) outside of WW II.

d) Invasion of Iraq 
(and all later authorizations to fund it “off the books”) (H J Res 114).

e) Bush II's NeoCon Artist appointments
:Condi Rice and Robert Gates. (PN 8, PN 2191)
f) Bush II's signature "No Child Left Behind" 
destruction and privatization of public education. (HR 1).

g) Like her hubby, she never met a "free trade" agreement she didn't love, and voted for 3 new ones. (HR 2739, S 3569, HR 3688).

h) Border Fence and Customs Appropriations (2480) 
that we all chided McCain over supporting.

i) Gulf of Mexico Energy Security Act (S 3711)
“Drill baby drill” sounds so much better when Hillary says it than when Palin did.

Then, as Secretary of State, she brought the world:

a) Immediately called the coup in Honduras “legitimate” and then supported refusing asylum to all those children fleeing the violence (at least 10 of whom were murdered after we shipped them back to Honduras).

b) the bloody U.S. "interventions" to topple the governments of Libya, Sudan and Syria. 

c) the "troop surge" in Afghanistan.

d) threatened to bomb Iran.

e) She brought back from the first Clinton Administration Victoria ("Yats is the guy…. F*ck the EU") Nuland as Asst. Sec. of State leading to the bloody coup and “civil war” in Ukraine.

That’s the record anyone with liberal/progressive values must weigh against the belief that she may support a handful of domestic social policies.

John Puma

At 7:27 AM, Blogger jvb2718 said...

Thank you, John. But I am confident the target is immune to facts and reason.

GP is evolving in his attitudes to today's realities.

1) The 4th bullet point: "There is no way to stop climate change..." is true, then false. If it stopped where I quit cutting, it is true. period. No qualifications can make it more true. I've 'splained many times in replies to GP offerings why this is so: Too many goddamn humans on the planet and far more coming makes any sort of fossil fuel action moot. Can't keep 7 billion humans from breathing, eating, shitting and seeking warmth in the winter no matter what you do with oil, coal, methane and ethanol. In a generation, it'll be 9-10 billion. And they'll all want to stay warm, eat, drink, shit, piss and fuck. It's a mushroom cloud of humanity and until you impede that cloud, it won't matter a bit how much you swap coal burning for methane burning.

2) the general attitude, that obamanation and his admin are fooling the protesters with "clever language" (english) is the evolution. If the money wants something, like that pipeline, it shall get that something in time. And if a few (up to millions) of humans don't want it, they'll either do it anyway (non-election years) or baffle them with bullshit until the election year is over. But that something (pipeline, TPP, TTIP...) shall become a reality... because the money gets what the money wants.
It's useful to point out one such tactic, as GP has done here. It would be MORE useful if the humans protesting turned out to be less gullible and more determined than the BLM and OCCUPY protesters have been... but whatever.


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