The abuses at Standing Rock must be seen for what they are: war crimes against a sovereign nation. When what is left of the land that has belonged to the indigenous tribes from time immemorial is stolen to build a pipeline that will poison their water, when the earth that cradles the bones of their ancestors is torn apart, when people who have already been demonized and marginalized are beaten, imprisoned, strip-searched, left naked in jail overnight, and waterboarded, the charge of war crimes is not hyperbole. The desecration of the land is cultural genocide, and the poisoning of the earth may amount to a physical genocide, even geocide. At Standing Rock, the continued allowance of the abuse of the people for standing up for life in the way of corporate profit definitively shows that the United States has never repented of the rapacious near-extermination of indigenous tribes that casts a demonic shadow over our existence. History is shamefully repeating itself, and putting lie to the myth of American moral exceptionalism that deceives so many.
When our government allows this abuse of its own citizens, it shines an exposing light on the deception of “humanitarian intervention.” A nation that allows for the arrest of citizens protecting their land and water has no moral high ground from which to bring “humanitarian” solutions – in the form of bomb and drone strikes – to other nations. And recent articles from Robert F. Kennedy Jr., among others, show that our war in Syria, like that being waged against the people of Standing Rock, is not for humanitarian purposes, but once again for an oil pipeline.
In his article, “Syria: Another Pipeline War,” Kennedy shows how the CIA, from its inception, has ousted democratically-elected governments throughout the Middle East when leaders have stood up to United States interests. There are undeniable grievances against Bashar al-Assad, but it was when he rejected a U.S.-backed pipeline from Qatar through Turkey that the United States sought to depose him. Instead of the Qatari pipeline, Assad favors a pipeline through Iran, backed by Russia. These pipeline battles are a significant source of the tension between the United States and Russia playing out in Syria, to the detriment of the Syrian people. And the whole world is endangered by strained relations between its largest nuclear powers.
At Standing Rock, the lengths to which our government will go for oil are being exposed on our own soil. Oil and its products – not just energy, but wealth and power – have far more influence over American policy than human needs abroad and even human needs at home. The pretense of humanitarian concern that presides over discourse on the wars in Iraq and Syria obscures the true motivations of profit and regional dominance. But as Standing Rock makes clear, our government will subordinate the will and safety of the people, even the law of the land (as treaties and ordinances are violated), to the deadly convergence of profit and power.
In these wars for oil, selfish mimetic desire consumes the conscience. Those who have built an identity around wealth and power desire more wealth and power, and in their pursuit, they deafen their ears to the cries of those upon whom they trample. Yet oil addiction affects not only the elite, but all of us. Oil fuels our desires – for cars and other products, but also for the mobility and freedom that comes with them. And as long as so much of our economy is based on limited commodities like fossil fuels, the acquisition of some will be at the expense of others, and always to the detriment of our planet. Addiction to fossil fuels is killing the earth and her children, through the instant blast of the bomb or the slow poisoning of air and water. As long as our desires and the desires of our power-hungry nation focus inward, on acquiring commodities and control, we will keep fueling these mimetic cycles to our peril.
But we can’t stop there. As we raise our voices against destroying land for oil and the destruction of land by oil in the US, we must also recognize the destruction for profit and power occurring around the world in our name. We must rise in protection of the land and people from Standing Rock to Syria, from Iowa to Iraq.
But even railing against the destruction of land and people for profit is not, in itself, enough. We need to wean ourselves from dependency on fossil fuels, but, moreover, we need to retrain the nature of our desires. Living on the limited resources of oil and natural gas is unsustainable, and it undergirds a lifestyle based on scarcity, which inevitably pits people against one another. Understanding that our Mother Earth has enough for all of us as long as we share and care for each other is the key to transforming rivalry into mutuality, competition into cooperation. The sun can supply the earth’s energy needs in abundance. And if no one can have a monopoly on that for which we are all dependent, how might relationships be reoriented?
Of course, changing our energy policy alone cannot bring peace. But when we realize that our needs need not be in conflict with those of the Standing Rock Sioux tribe, when we drop the pretenses for our wars and recognize that our interests are not served by the destruction of other lands and lives, then we can begin to live in harmony, not rivalry, with one another. Our deadly addiction to oil is reflective of our deadly addiction to imposing ourselves over and against others, and over and against our earth. When we understand that true power – the ability to create positive change — is found not in domination but in reflecting the Love in which we were created and living in the interconnected web of life that unites us, we can take the steps necessary to come together and nurse our Mother Earth back to health.
Image: Screenshot from Youtube: “A Shameful Moment for This Country”: Report Back on Militarized Police Raid of DAPL Resistance Camp” by Democracy Now!
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