North Dakota Veterans Place Private Corporations Ahead Of Citizens
Morton County Sheriff’s Department recorded a video statement by North Dakota veteran, Raymond Morrell (who is not part of Veterans Stand For Standing Rock, the self-deployed contingent of veterans going to provide support to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe). In it, they pressed him to explain what they feel is wrong about veterans coming to Standing Rock to be allies to the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe who object to the Dakota Access Pipeline that is being constructed on territory that forms part of the unceded Sioux land supposedly protected by the 1851 and 1868 Fort Larimie Treaties.
Mr Morrell said:
“Having veterans that come in from out of state that don’t understand that relationship that we have, that we served together, we fight together, we die together. They are imposing their misunderstandings and, quite possibly their disgruntlement with our federal government, into a relationship that has been ongoing for generations within the state of North Dakota.”
Are Veterans Stand For Standing Rock Unwelcome Outsiders?
Fortunately for Raymond Morrell, and for North Dakotans more widely, a letter has been prepared by “outside agitators” to respond to this:
“My dear fellow Veterans,
I think I should indicate why I am here in North Dakota, since you have been influenced by the view which argues against “outsiders coming in.” I have the honor of serving as a co-founder of Veterans Stand For Standing Rock, an organisation operating in every state…Frequently we share personnel, educational and financial resources with our allies. Several months ago the Standing Rock Sioux Tribe asked us to be on call to engage in a non-violent direct-action programme if such were deemed necessary. We readily consented, and when the hour came we will live up to our promise. So I, along with numerous veterans, are here because we were invited here. We are here because we have organisational ties here.
But more basically, we are in North Dakota because injustice is here. Just as the prophets of the eight century B.C. left their villages and carried their “thus saith the Lord” far beyond the boundaries of their hometowns, and just as the Apostle Paul left his village of Tarsus and carried the gospel of Jesus Christ to the far corners of the Greco-Roman world, so are we compelled to carry the gospel of freedom beyond our own hometowns. Like Paul, we must constantly respond to the Macedonian call for aid.
Moreover, we are cognizant of the interrelatedness of all communities and states. I cannot sit idly by in Baltimore and not be concerned about what happens in North Dakota. Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly affects all indirectly. Never again can we afford to live with the narrow, provincial “outside agitator” idea. Anyone who lives inside the United States can never be considered an outsider anywhere within its bounds.
You deplore the demonstrations taking place in Standing Rock. But your statement, I am sorry to say, fails to express a similar concern for the conditions that brought about the demonstrations. I am sure that none of you would want to rest content with the superficial kind of social analysis that deals merely with effects and does not grapple with underlying causes. It is unfortunate that demonstrations are taking place in Standing Rock, but it is even more unfortunate that the city’s white power structure left the Native American community with no alternative.
In any nonviolent campaign there are four basic steps: collection of the facts to determine whether injustices exist; negotiation; self-purification; and direct action. We have gone through all these steps in Standing Rock. There can be no gainsaying the fact that racial injustice engulfs this community. North Dakota is probably one of the most segregated states in the United States right now. Its ugly record of police brutality is widely known. Native Americans have experienced grossly unjust treatment in the courts. There has been a copious catalogue of uninvestigated examples of police brutality. These are the hard, brutal facts of the case. On the basis of these conditions, Native American leaders sought to negotiate with the city fathers. But the latter consistently refused to engage in good faith negotiation.
We know through painful experience that freedom is never voluntarily given by the oppressor; it must be demanded by the oppressed. Frankly, I have yet to engage in a direct-action campaign that was “well timed” in the view of those who have not suffered unduly from the disease of racism. For years now I have heard the word “Wait!” It rings in the ear of every Native American with piercing familiarity. This “Wait” has almost always meant “Never.” We must come to see, with one of our distinguished jurists, that “justice too long delayed is justice denied.”"
Changes to the original letter have been made by me (as are all emphases), in order to clearly connect the arguments of this letter with Veterans Stand For Standing Rock and the Standing Rock Sioux (and any inaccuracy of sentiment in this essay with regard to their specific positions is mine and mine alone – I am sure they would want to emphasize other religious and cultural history, for example).
But all the substantive arguments made in that letter were set forth over half a century ago – on April 16th, 1963. By Martin Luther King Jr. It is from his Letter From Birmingham Jail.
Are we still saying “Wait” fifty-three years later? If so, it is hard to believe that request is based on a genuine desire to resolve this situation in a just manner.
Perhaps the North Dakota veterans who oppose their military brothers coming to serve for and protect the Native Americans who reside within the state ought to spend a little time learning about the history of systemic and systematic oppression in their country. Maybe then they would understand better why Veterans Stand For Standing Rock feel compelled by oath to lay their bodies on the line for the Sioux Nation; reaffirming that water is life, instead of dying for oil.
Why Are North Dakota Veterans Suddenly Requesting Veterans Stand For Standing Rock Should Stand Down?
It is unclear what specifically has motivated North Dakota veterans to make public statements regarding the self-deployment of Veterans Stand For Standing Rock. It may be a simple reaction to the increasing publicity that Veterans Stand For Standing Rock have received, first through social media sharing and independent media, and then latterly by big media companies in the US and UK. As their GoFundMe page has rapidly approached $1,000,000 in crowd-funded donations, the media has understandably paid more attention to their operation.
Or, it might be that they responded to “a relationship that has been ongoing for generations within the state of North Dakota,” that lends uncritical support to Morton County Sheriff’s Department and Cass County Sheriff’s Department. Given the footage quoted in this essay was produced by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, and the one other public statement was published by Cass County Sheriff’s Department, this would be an entirely plausible conclusion to reach.
The video cited in this essay forms part of a series of YouTube propaganda videos produced by Morton County Sheriff’s Department, that I began reporting on yesterday. As with that previous example (which proclaimed “Protestors Harass Female Officers” but could only prove that four unidentifiable individuals, who may or may not have been Water Protectors, were throwing snowballs, hardly comparable to the military-level weaponry used by law enforcement against peaceful Water Protectors), the video statement by a North Dakota military veteran is also bookended with the following graphics:
North Dakota Veterans Prioritise “Private Corporations” While South Dakota Veterans Prioritise The People
KXLY4, a local news channel, has been reporting since 28th November that a contingent of veterans and concerned citizens from Spokane, South Dakota will be present alongside Veterans Stand For Standing Rock (it is unclear whether they are affiliated with VSR or are acting independently of them).
The North Dakota Veterans Co-ordinating Council [NDVCC] held a press conference that was published to Facebook by Cass County Sheriff’s Office (Fargo, North Dakota), although it is unclear who organized this event, who recorded it, or where it was held (Cass County Sheriff’s Office did not deign to include such factual information alongside their video). The NDVCC are opposed to Veterans Stand For Standing Rock's operation to support the Sioux Nation. The North Dakota Veterans Co-ordinating Council issued a press statement that claims a group they name as “Veterans Stand for Standing Rock” has “reached out to veterans and Veteran Service Organizations in ND [North Dakota] to obtain their support and assist in recruitment of veterans to the protest. The VSSR plans to assemble in platoons and company formations at the front line.”
I have contacted Veterans Stand For Standing Rock for confirmation that it was their organization specifically that made contact with NDVCC, and shall update this report accordingly once I have that information.
While it appears that the North Dakota veterans who have spoken out publicly to condemn Veterans Stand For Standing Rock have done so at the behest of local law enforcement officers who are seeking to create a narrative that isn’t compatible with the available evidence from the ground, NDVCC have been unequivocal in coming to the support of their local officials.
The NDVCC Press Statement - Analysed
Their press statement contends that:
“Assaulting our law enforcement officers is not the military manner in which our veterans behave and not the kind of assembly and actions veterans should be a part of.”
This neatly ignores the clearly stated (and repeated) fact that Veterans Stand For Standing Rock have organised themselves to operate nonviolently, as have the Standing Rock Sioux and all those who reside at the Oceti Sakowin camp as allies to the Standing Rock Sioux. Just as neatly, it ignores the assaults by local law enforcement upon peaceful protestors, for which there is abundant video evidence.
Just as has been the case with Morton County Sheriff’s Department, Cass County Sheriff’s Department, and Governor Dalrymple, the local military and police officials and veterans appear to have complete disregard for stated facts, or video evidence, preferring instead to construct a narrative that is directly incompatible with these things. They are so heavily biased against the available factual evidence that they simply cannot be considered a reliable source of information at all.
Their statement continues:
“It is degrading to a veteran to see the American Flag desecrated, improperly displayed and disrespected. This has been happening daily at the DAPL protest sites.”
Now, if this were indeed accurate, the Standing Rock Sioux and their allies would have used up so many American Flags that I doubt they’d have continued to receive funding support for their basic amenities. I would also expect there to be copious amounts of video evidence from the police of flags being desecrated. I have looked for but haven’t found any such evidence, presumably because it simply does not exist. Additionally, it is a grand generalization for NDVCC to be making about what all veterans do and do not feel about seeing their flag either desecrated, improperly displayed, or disrespected. It is plainly a false proposition on the part of NDVCC. They are lying when they boldly make this claim, since they are aware of the counter-factual evidence against it.
Fundamentally, it is utterly perverse of the NDVCC to have expressed such concern for “improperly displayed” American Flags (by which they mean those flown upside down at Standing Rock), and yet expressed no concern at all for the victims of torture tactics and military weaponry deployed by police to ‘quell’ peaceful demonstrations. Morton County Sheriff’s Department themselves state that, “Many of the people here are peaceful and prayerful,” which then raises the question why those very same people have been assaulted by the police?
The NDVCC press release continues:
“Standing by those who conduct or have conducted this type of behavior cannot instill a good image on our veterans or our veteran community.”
I would wholeheartedly agree with this statement, if only it pertained to criticizing those who stand in support of law enforcement officers using peaceful protestors as target practice, instead of pertaining to people hanging flags upside down as their 1st Amendment rights permit them to do.
The NDVCC appear more concerned with a strip of cloth than with the people it is supposed to represent. For the latter, they appear to have no concern at all. But, as noted at the start of this essay, the NDVCC and their local insider veterans form part of “a relationship that has been ongoing for generations within the state of North Dakota”
Perhaps that explains their repulsion towards ‘outsiders’ be they defined as those coming from out of state, or those who are truly indigenous to the land. But there is, of course, one set of outsiders whom the NDVCC are welcoming towards, and that is those from the “private corporations” who top their list of those who the NDVCC complain have suffered, “millions of dollars in damages to vehicles, equipment, property, and livestock owned by” them.
This alleged damage, and the policing costs sanctioned by the state of North Dakota form the basis of the NDVCC opposition to both the nonviolent Standing Rock Sioux and the nonviolent Veterans Stand For Standing Rock operation. It seems that, among the veterans of North Dakota at least, there is a dollar price on life, and an extremely cheap one at that.