Gimme some DAPL

December 2, 2016

Socialist Worker's Danny Katch, author of Socialism...Seriously: A Brief Guide to Human Liberation, gives the government and Big Oil a chance to explain themselves.

THE NORTH Dakota governor and the Army Corps of Engineers have ordered the Standing Rock Sioux and their supporters to clear out of the tent camps they've set up to stop construction of the Dakota Access Pipeline (DAPL).

Water protectors have made many convincing points against DAPL on the grounds that it's a violation of tribal sovereignty, a threat to water safety and a contribution to increased global warming, while the government and the pipeline company Energy Transfer Partners (ETP) have mostly let attack dogs and water cannons do their talking for them.

So in the post-election spirit of getting out of our bubbles and engaging in respectful dialogue with the other side, I'm going make the case for DAPL for them. Since this is a serious argument, it will take the form of a listicle.

1) Show some respect for sacred traditions

DAPL is being built on land that belonged to the Standing Rock Sioux under the Fort Laramie Treaty of 1868. The Sioux have been pushed off much of the original 1868 land through repeated violations of the treaty, including the 1944 Flood Control Act that allowed the Army Corps of Engineers to use eminent domain to take the land being used today for the pipeline.

This Week in Capitalism | By Danny Katch

The point is that breaking treaties with indigenous nations is a cherished part of U.S. culture and tradition. When Standing Rock Sioux Chair Dave Archambault II says the Corps should stop ignoring "laws that require federal agencies to consider environmental risks and protection of Indian historic and sacred sites," he is showing the government profound disrespect by asking that it betray its own history of double-crossing and land-grabbing.

Or consider the history of the energy industry going back to its founding father John D. Rockefeller. When coal miners went on strike against Rockefeller in Ludlow, Colorado, in 1913, they were kicked out of their company-owned shacks and set up tents--just like today's water protectors--to continue their struggle.

In response, a private militia hired by the Rockefeller and the Colorado National Guard attacked the strikers with machine guns and set fire to the tents where the miners' families were hiding. The charred bodies of 11 children and two women were found the next day.

When people complain today about the North Dakota police and ETP security brutalizing water protectors, what they are really saying is that they are ignorant and unappreciative of the Ludlow Massacre and other traditional practices of one of our country's leading industries.

2) Nobody loves nature more than oil company executives

The CEO of Energy Transfer Partners is Kelcy Warren. He owns an 11,000-acre ranch in Texas that has giraffes, javelinas and gaurs. A javelina is a little pig thing and a gaur is an enormous Asian ox. You probably didn't know that, but Kelcy Warren does.

He also has "ranches in eastern Texas and southwest Colorado, a house on Lake Tahoe, and an island off the coast of Honduras"--all of which undoubtedly feature lots of flora and fauna you've never even seen.

Warren even had a 12-foot section of an oak tree cut, polished and installed in his son's bedroom to make it feel like a tree house. I'm guessing your kid's room doesn't contain any hardwood trees, so how about you leave decisions about what's good for nature up to true aficionados like Kelcy Warren?

3) This is about jobs

Not pipeline jobs of course. Once construction is over, DAPL will require "just 40 permanent maintenance and operational jobs along its entire stretch."

But the pipeline will make boatloads of money for people like Kelcy Warren, which means lots of new jobs in oak tree polishing, javelina pooper scooping and pole vault pit maintenance (oh did I not mention that Warren's mansion has a pole vault pit?)

This is why the AFL-CIO supports DAPL. The nation's largest union federation thinks it will be able to recruit lots of these new workers since they will have so much in common as servants of oil industry executives.

4) It's an issue of public safety

North Dakota police and the Army Corps want to clear the tent camps "to protect the general public from the violent confrontations between protesters and law enforcement officials... and to prevent death, illness, or serious injury to inhabitants of encampments due to the harsh North Dakota winter conditions."

Who knows many innocent bystanders walking around rural North Dakota have already accidentally stumbled into the line of fire at Standing Rock? Imagine you're just walking with your headphones on, oblivious to the world around you when--bam!--you're hit with a rubber bullet or water cannon from the police or--smash!--you're nailed by a prayer or protest chant from a water protector.

5) This is a really great dialogue. Let's keep having it while we finish building the pipeline

Democracy is great, as long as it doesn't get in the way of actual decisions being made. That's why the Army Corps is proposing moving the camps to a "free speech zone" on the other side of the Cannonball River. It's a win-win: you get to protest, and we get the pipeline.

Who knows, if this works, maybe we can expand the same method to other issues that are so bitterly dividing the country. We could set up specially designated "no hate crime zones" and "police don't kill unarmed people zones."

Of course, over time we'll keep taking more land from these areas as we see fit. When that happens, we hope that you'll understand and respect this as a vital part of our way of life.

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