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Gabbard fought for freedom at Standing Rock

December 7, 2016 - 12:05am

Happily the opponents of the Dakota Access Pipeline have won a major victory for the rights of Native Americans and protection of the environment.

On Sunday the Army Corps of Engineers denied the easement needed for the pipeline to cross Lake Oahe, effectively stopping the project, at least for now. They did not make this decision out of the goodness of their hearts but thanks to the enormous pressure of thousands of Native American and other activists non-violently occupying the land for many months and the support they received from around the world. Perhaps the straw that broke the government’s back was the outpouring of military veterans, eager to support the protesters who appropriately call themselves “water protectors.”

The veterans group, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, also pointed out that Native Americans have served in the military in larger percentage than any other group in America. One outspoken vet has been Wes Clark Jr., the son of retired U.S. Army General Wesley Clark Sr. Another is our own Representative, Tulsi Gabbard. In a well-publicized effort, Veterans Stand for Standing Rock, announced their peaceful deployment in support of the Native Americans to Cannon Ball North Dakota. Perhaps the prospect of the publicity that would ensue from the violent arrests of thousands of veterans of Afghanistan and Iraq had something to do with the Corps’ decision to deny the pipeline’s easement, just one day after the deployment began.

I pay tribute to these veterans for supporting Native American efforts to protect their water from pollution, their sacred sites from desecration and the entire planet from global warming. I disagree with a recent letter to the editor critical of Rep. Tulsi Gabbard for not adhering to “her job description” and going on “a personal crusade” to Standing Rock, North Dakota.

As an elected federal official, as well as a current member of the Hawaii Army National Guard, Gabbard swore an oath to protect and defend the Constitution of the United States of America against all enemies, foreign and domestic. So she’s probably taken that oath at least twice, once for each job. I believe she’s repeatedly demonstrated she takes that oath seriously. And that word, “domestic” is not there by accident or afterthought.

In this instance specifically, Article IV of The Constitution of the United States of America states, “This Constitution, and the Laws of the United States which shall be made in Pursuance thereof; and all Treaties made, or which shall be made, under the Authority of the United States, shall be the supreme Law of the Land; and the Judges in every State shall be bound thereby, any Thing in the Constitution or Laws of any State to the Contrary notwithstanding.”

The Standing Rock Sioux and their compatriots have been, among other things, protesting direct violations by federal, state and local governments of treaties between the Sioux Nation and the government of the United States. President Obama, in doing absolutely nothing for months to stop these violations or the violence against completely non-violent, unarmed American citizens exercising their Constitutionally guaranteed rights to assembly and free speech, clearly violated his own oath to defend the Constitution, most egregiously the First, Fourth and Fifth amendments.

The First Amendment specifically prohibits “abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.” The Fourth and Fifth amendments prohibit the violence, unwarranted or trumped up arrests and inhumane detention of the demonstrators which continued for month after month until Dec. 4, when the Army Corps of Engineers finally appears to have backed down.

Contrary to the letter’s assertion, Rep. Gabbard was carrying out the very highest duty we elected her for: defending the Constitution and the rights of every American citizen there under. Not only that, but she was willing to put herself in harm’s way in the bitter sub-freezing cold, possibly facing the same water cannons, rubber bullets, concussion grenades, tear gas, and attack dogs that have been deployed without provocation by the heavily overarmed and unnecessarily militarized police against the water protectors.

Over the past weeks, several hundred demonstrators have been injured, some very seriously, including one facing the amputation of her arm from a concussion grenade. I admire Rep. Gabbard for her motives, honor, courage and integrity in standing with the many thousands of others gathered at Standing Rock in what is clearly a fight for freedom, a fight against fascism, and an urgent fight to save the planet from apocalyptic climate catastrophe.

Jake Jacobs is a 747 pilot for a worldwide cargo company who lives in Kailua-Kona and writes a monthly opinion column for West Hawaii Today.

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