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The bad side of the standing rock protests: some people are itching for a fight

November 3, 2016 8 comments

Earlier today I posted about a prayer circle I had the opportunity to witness while visiting the Sacred Stone Camp near Cannon Ball, ND. I believe prayer circles are a brilliant way for the water protectors to stay focused on their goals, while also protesting in peaceful manner. That is the good side of what I was able to see while visiting Cannon Ball. Now it is time for a post highlighting a bad side of what I saw and where I think that could lead.

This post will be different from what I normally do on this site. I will share three short experiences and tie them all together at the end. Before going on I will mention that even though I am sharing an experience from the water protector side of the barricade, the overall fear of violence I have applies equally to both sides. I’ll also note this post is much longer than I intended. But I think it is an important post to get published.

The first story I will share happened while I was witnessing the prayer circle. Perhaps witnessing is the wrong term. At this point I was done taking pictures and was standing with others in the circle and listening to the prayers/stories from women in the circle. I personally am not a spiritual person, but I did feel a lot of empathy for the water protectors cause as I listened to their prayers/stories.

About half way through the duration of the prayer circle there was a SUV that pulled up just to the south of the circle. Technically vehicles were blocked off by cones from coming this way, but a few other vehicles had been parked here as well. The driver of the vehicle was a man in camouflage jacket (it looked similar to the Goretex jacket that had just started to be deployed when I was in the Army). This man did not join the prayer circle. In fact he almost seemed to outright avoid the circle, even though I believe others from his vehicle did join the circle. The man brought out a native american tool of some type. I am not sure what it is for sure, at first I thought it was some sort of ornate peace pipe. It was very colorful and had feathers hanging off of it. As he proceeded to walk north towards the bridge he carried it as if it were a club; and from that time on it continued to look like a club to me, primarily because of the way he was wielding it. After he was on the north side of the prayer circle he held up what I now thought of as a club and let out what appeared to be a loud war cry towards law enforcement on the other side of the bridge. It actually seemed very out-of-place with the prayer circle going on. But I didn’t think too much of it, mostly because I was trying to hear the prayers in the circle over the wind.

The next short story I have is from just after the prayer circle. It was at this time I realized my bad knee couldn’t stand much longer so I was going to head back to my pickup and start the journey back to Aberdeen. Before doing so I took a few more pictures of the bridge from this vantage point on the state highway. I never did use any of the pictures, mostly because there were still a dozen or so people from the prayer circle standing directly in my shot. This series of pictures just never turned out to be good enough pictures to use in one of my posts. Just today when I was going through the pictures I would use for the prayer circle post I noticed something. On the very right side of a picture taken with my wide-angle lens was the man who previously did the war cry. He was obviously staring right at me in the picture and had a look as if I was somehow wronging him. Actually a friend of mine that looked at the picture today said he has a “what the f*ck are you pointing that camera at” look. But like I said, I didn’t realize I had taken a picture of him at the time, this was with a wide-angle lens, and would not have been pointing at him anyway since he was at the very edge of the picture.

In my post about the prayer circle I mentioned camp security had come out to let us know we were not supposed to be there. That was quite alright with me since I had planned on leaving anyhow. I did end up talking with someone for about another fifteen minutes, but then I headed back towards camp so I could get in the truck and head out.

Now I am at the front gate of Sacred Stone Camp. It is here I ended up taking a picture of an ambulance leaving the gate, which was in my post of Sacred Stone Camp pictures from yesterday. I also tried to take a picture of the flags going down the middle of the camp from outside the camp, but wasn’t able to get a picture I was happy with.

Before going on I should note I came into this knowing I wouldn’t take pictures inside the camp. Simply put I wasn’t sure of the legal ramifications of doing so. I knew I was OK taking pictures outside the camp, because that was out on a public highway. Inside the camp is a little bit more foggy. Technically the land is owned by the Army Corp of Engineers. But the land currently has a settlement and is clearly fenced off, making it unclear if I was legally OK to take pictures in the camp without permission and/or having subjects of pictures sign release statements. Because I didn’t even want to deal with that headache I decided the pictures I had taken outside the camp was sufficient for my needs.

When I got inside the camp I did decide to take one picture. That picture would be of the flags going down the middle of the camp. I think it is a cool sight to see all of the tribal flags on display. And I figured since it was a road I could follow the same photographer guideline I always follow when taking pictures in public.

Below is the picture I took.

Flags on either side of the road going into the the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

Flags on either side of the road going into the Sacred Stone Camp. Photo by Ken Santema 10/30/16.

The front gate was getting pretty busy at this time. It was around noon on Sunday and a lot of people were starting to arrive at the camp. In order to get this picture I jumped out right in front of the gate, clicked a few pics, and jumped back. I did that hurriedly in order to avoid being run over. Technically there was a small lull in traffic at this point, but I really didn’t want to trust anyone turning into the camp would stop before running me over.

After I got the picture I started walking towards my truck and was looking at my cameras viewfinder to see if I got the picture I wanted. It is at that time I heard shouts behind me from two different sources. At the time I wasn’t sure where the second shout was coming from, but the first shout was from tribal security. The tribal security guard ran up to me and asked what I was taking pictures of. I replied I was just trying to get a picture of the center of camp and showed him the picture I had just taken. He then asked where my press pass was. Press pass? I didn’t realize there was a press pass for the camp and informed him of that. He asked if I would go up the hill on the west side of the camp and get a press pass at the media tent. I told him I would and we parted ways. The camp security guard was courteous the whole time.

As I started walking towards the media tent I once again heard a shout from behind me, this time from the other source I couldn’t pinpoint earlier. About twenty feet behind me was a SUV with a guy that had jumped out and was yelling at me. He said “are you taking pictures of my license plate?” and “why are you taking pictures of my license plate” repeatedly. He was also walking towards me like he was looking for a fight. I then calmly replied that I was simply trying to get a picture of the flags. I repeated this three times as he approached me. Finally, when he was about ten feet away he gave up, mumbled something, and stormed back into his SUV and took off.

I don’t know if he just decided to give up because I wasn’t willing to have a shouting match with him. Or maybe he noticed I turned on the record feature of the camera around my neck and had unscrewed my mono-pod until it was almost off the camera (always have a plan when in a situation you think might be dangerous). Whether he gave up because I wasn’t playing his game, or gave up because he noticed I would be able to defend myself really doesn’t matter to me. What mattered to me at the time is that he went away. It was also at this time I realized this was the same man that had done what appeared to be a war cry towards law enforcement earlier.

It wasn’t until looking at the pictures today that I noticed the pictures I took of the flags does have his vehicle going down that very same road in the center camp. In fact when I looked at the picture I noticed his reverse lights were on. I do remember seeing a vehicle turn onto the road with the flags and driving straight through the flags when I went to take the picture. That means he had to have hit reverse as soon as I hustled in front of the gate to take this picture. It might have taken me ten seconds at most to get into the middle of the gate and take the picture. This guy was waiting for something like this to happen and must have hit reverse as soon as he seen me in the gate.

Now why did I share these encounters with this man? Because I fear it is people like him that will cause what people will call a modern Wounded Knee. There is a lot of emotion and tension that builds up in situations such as this. Some people are able to channel that emotion and tension in various ways, such as prayer circles or socializing. But some people are not able to channel that negative energy away, in fact they seem to be looking for any excuse to make the enemy pay. In this case I believe the man in question was trying to make me the enemy.

I believe the small majority of people such as the man from my stories will cause a true battle to happen during one of the protests. I also believe some of those in this small minority of angry people will purposely do something to force law enforcement to react with extreme prejudice. I also feel there is also at least one, if not more, of the law enforcement officers holding the line that would love nothing more than to end this conflict with a battle. I don’t think most law enforcement officers want that, but I am quite sure there is at least one who does want a true conflict/battle. All this situation needs to become a modern Wounded Knee is for one of the angry protesters that wants a battle to do something stupid and antagonize the law enforcement officer on the other end who also happens to want a battle. Once something starts things can become chaotic very fast, and law enforcement officers will be forced to protect themselves; especially if the other side has weapons (the camp says no weapons are allowed, but they can’t really be sure).

It is possible this man became more enraged because of pure coincidence by my shooting pictures where he happened to be. But this mans anger seemed to go very much beyond anything I was doing. Back in my days as a bouncer and my time in the service I remember seeing men like this, and they are a danger to those around them when given the opportunity to release their anger in a very physical manner. Actually it is for that reason I probably won’t visit any of the Standing Rock camps again in the future.

For the sake of keeping this protest peaceful I hope leadership at the camps are actively seeking out these angry individuals and finding ways to re-channel that negative energy. I don’t think kicking these people out of the camp would work, because there are multiple camps. But I do think a good leader can find ways to help these angry individuals. Hopefully those leaders can do something before something truly terrible happens.

PS. There is a small postscript to this story. I did make it up the hill to the media tent. Unfortunately there was something important going on in the tent and I had to wait to get my pass.  I waited for twenty minutes. By that time I decided between my hurting knee and wish to get back to my family overrode the need to get a press pass. I walked back down the hill and drove back home. Unfortunately I never did get a press pass, so I never was able to get a briefing about what is OK to photograph at the camp. If I go back, which I doubt at this time, I will ensure I hit the media tent right away. If I did break any rules the camp has set up I apologize, I really didn’t know there was a requirement to get a press pass; and apparently some of the other photographers I seen there without press passes didn’t realize it either.

Categories: War Tags:

Meet the new boss, same as the old boss

September 24, 2014 3 comments
Bush-Obama Image Source Unknown

Bush-Obama
Image Source Unknown

Update: An astute reader noted I had already used this blog title two years ago. I guess that just shows my consistency on the topic. 

A periodically recurring theme on this blog is how there is little, if any, true difference between President George W Bush and President Obama; at least from a libertarian viewpoint. A couple months ago I noted the lies leading into the Iraq war and the lies leading into the current war against Syria ISIS were basically the same. It would be hard to imagine Obama could do anything to make an anit-war libertarian such as myself believe Obama could become even more Bush-like. I guess I should know better than to underestimate President Obama. He found a way to make himself completely indistinguishable from Bush.

Here are a few lines from President Obama’s speech to the UN General Assembly (via Buzzfeed):

There can be no reasoning — no negotiation — with this brand of evil.

The only language understood by killers like this is the language of force.

No god condones this terror.

Wow, those lines sound like they were spoken by President Bush himself. Yet sadly they came instead from Nobel Peace recipient President Barack Obama.

To give a comparison, here are a few quotes from President GW on Wikiquotes:

My administration has a job to do and we’re going to do it. We will rid the world of the evil-doers.

The search is underway for those who are behind these evil acts. I’ve directed the full resources for our intelligence and law enforcement communities to find those responsible and bring them to justice. We will make no distinction between the terrorists who committed these acts and those who harbor them.

States like these, and their terrorist allies, constitute an axis of evil, arming to threaten the peace of the world.

Nope, I don’t see a difference between the two. Too bad the US didn’t have at least one major party that opposed war and foreign interventionism. Going past the two big parties, I am happy to note the Libertarian Party has come out against Obama’s new war. Perhaps in the 2014 election more voters should be looking at independent and third-party candidates, especially if they are against war.

PS. I think I forgot to post this last week. Here is the latest video from Remy, which happens to be about the ISIS crisis:

PPS. OK, since Obama is going to create more wounded veterans with his new war it might be appropriate to show this video as well:

PPPS. Oh yeah, the title of this post:

Categories: War Tags: , ,

Obama’s war drum is troubling

September 10, 2014 1 comment

IMPERIALISM_means_warI just got done watching President Obama’s remarks about ISIL. This will be a short post, there will be plenty of time for more in-depth posts. While addressing the nation he basically set out his strategy to Degrade and Destroy ISIL (he has his own catch phrase like “shock and awe”, remember that one?). Basically he wanted to let it be known he will be working with a coalition of countries to accomplish his goals.

To meet those goals he has ordered air strikes against ISIL a month ago. He also noted troops will be sent, but they won’t be involved in the fight? Does anyone truly believe that any boots on the ground in Iraq would be kept out of the battle? Similar political lines have been used by more than one President…

A very troubling part of Obama’s speech was to commit to chasing ISIL everywhere. He made it sound unilateral and as if he doesn’t care what country he has to bomb. Does that mean that the Obama administration will continue to bomb people (many of whom are innocent) in other countries with unmanned drones? This move by Obama cannot be called “Bushes fault”. This is a war Obama is going to have to own.

Another troubling talking point from Obama was that he “welcomes support” from Congress. But then goes on to say he does not require authority from Congress to act. The Obama administration over the years has said the other side is unwilling to meet half way on anything. It is hard to meet half way with a President that believes he can do anything he wants without Congressional authority.

Finally, I have a question for many of those on the left that I marched alongside protesting GW Bush’s war in Iraq. Will you continue to stand up for your beliefs against war? Or will you continue to believe what Obama says?

Categories: War Tags: , ,

Yes, Obama is just like Bush when it comes to Iraq lies

July 2, 2014 5 comments
Bush-Obama Image Source Unknown

Bush-Obama
Image Source Unknown

One thing that gets tiring from a libertarian point of view is the bi-partisan support for interventionism overseas. Just as tiring is the bi-partisan bickering where the two sides say it is the lies of the other side that are worse. Personally I wish both sides would grow up, look at each political leader individually, and without regards to party. But that is of course unlikely to happen any times soon…  Which brings up today’s topics: Iraq War lies!

During the Bush years as a libertarian I was more than happy to speak (and join protest marches) against the Iraq War. And who can forget the 935 ‘false statements’ made by the Bush administration as reported by CNN. True, many of those ‘false statements’ were perhaps over-stated by CNN. But the majority of them stand as lies. Those were the good old days when I knew as a libertarian at least one of the big parties was anti-war!

Now lets fast forward to the Obama administration. Obama has already proved he just as war-hawkish as Bush by his handling of Syria. But now he has taken his “if you like your plan you can keep it” lies over to foreign policy. The Obama administration however is getting smarter about its lies. This time it’s repeating the same line in hope that nobody notices the President is doubling the troops sent to Iraq.

This from two weeks ago via the Washington Post:

Obama said he would send up to 300 additional U.S. Special Operations troops to better assess the situation on the ground, where forces of the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) have moved ever nearer to Baghdad, and to determine “how we can best train, advise and support Iraqi security forces going forward.”

It was promised by the Obama administration that these 300 “advisers” were not combat troops.

Now we have this from this week via CBS:

WASHINGTON – The U.S. is sending another 300 troops to Iraq to beef up security at the U.S. Embassy and elsewhere in the Baghdad area to protect U.S. citizens and property, officials said Monday.

The new injection of manpower brings the total number of U.S. personnel sent to Iraq to deal with the recent crisis to approximately 800.

Is that the key for Obama to keep the anti-war portion of his party happy? Use the same line a couple of weeks apart and hope nobody notices that these are two separate occurrences of 300 ‘advisers’ being sent? Apparently it works, since I’m seeing very little resistance to this move from the left-leaning media sources. Nobody seems to be calling him out on his promise of keeping boots out of this conflict.

Most of the resistance I’ve seen from the left-leaning sources have been attacking Bush for what Obama is doing. That line is getting old. Yes, Bush was wrong and told many lies getting us into a bad war. But that doesn’t excuse Obama doing the same thing. Things are eerily similar to 2002 right now. I have one question: If Obama gets us into another full-scale war will it continued to be called Bush’s War? I think by that time we can call it the Bush/Obama War.

Personally I think it is time to cut our losses and completely pull out of Iraq. That includes the embassy. Why keep personnel and combat troops advisers in harm’s way for a war we should not even be involved in. I won’t even bother elaborating on that thought. Partisan politicians on both sides of the political spectrum will always listen to the war-hawks. Oh well, maybe I can look forward to having anti-war allies on the left again when we have a Republican President.

Categories: Obama, War Tags: , , ,

US House votes to keep Guantanamo Bay open for another year

June 21, 2014 5 comments

johnny_automatic_State_penitentiary_I’ve been looking through the amendments added to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act of 2015 (HR 4870). Earlier today I noted that South Dakota’s Representative Kristi Noem voted on the side of civil liberties by defunding illegal NSA activities. I applaud her for that vote. Now it is time to look at another amendment to the defense appropriations act she voted for that I feel is bad.

Rep Cotton (R-AR) submitted an amendment (905) that basically prevents President Obama from transferring prisoners from Guantanamo Bay for one year. This amendment was offered by Rep Cotton as a response to Obama unilaterally choosing to swap Sgt Bergdahl for Guantanamo Bay prisoners. That act from Obama was technically illegal because the NDAA requires the President to give a thirty-day notice to Congress before such transfers can happen.

I call bullshit on Rep Cotton’s reason for submitting this amendment.

Back when campaigning for this first term the closure of Guantanamo Bay was one of Obama’s biggest campaign promises. A promise he has failed to accomplish. There appears to be two very large reasons Obama has failed to keep this promise:

  1. Congressional war hawks in both parties do not want Guantanamo Bay closed. Rep Cotton is among those who will do anything possible to keep Obama from closing Guantanamo Bay.
  2. Obama has never really tried to close Guantanamo Bay. It is true that Obama has raised Guantanamo Bay as a talking point many times over the years. Yet he has failed to ever try using his political power to accomplish this goal. Now this late into his second term Obama simply doesn’t have the political power to make such a change actually happen.

Rep Cotton is using the current Obama Bergdahl scandal as political cover in a means to keeping Guantanamo Bay open. The Obama administration in turn is playing political games by saying this amendment would actually be unconstitutional because it would diminish the President’s power as Commander-in-Chief. Both Congressional war hawks and the White House are content with this battle because it keeps focus away from the debate that should actually be happening: should Guantanamo Bay be closed.

Personally I think Guantanamo Bay is the antithesis of what American is meant to stand for. The indefinite detaining of people without any true means of due process goes against the principles this country was founded upon. Ironically some of the very same politicians I hear talk about “natural-born rights” are also the same the politicians that support the existence of Guantanamo Bay. If someone believes in natural-born rights it has to be for EVERYONE; and not just for people who are born in the United States. Allowing the government to arbitrarily choose who gets natural-born rights and who doesn’t has the endgame effect of reducing the potential liberties for all people; including US citizens. Government officials have often claimed Guantanamo Bay is important because our Constitution and laws do not apply there. The very fact that claim is made in support of Guantanamo Bay should actually be the reason to show why it should not exist. Our morals should not disappear when we leave our national border!

Are the people in Guantanamo Bay bad? Most likely they are. But it is time to stop pretending we as a country have the right to detain people indefinitely in an ambiguous and unwinnable “War on Terror”. I don’t know what should be done with the prisoners that currently ‘reside’ in Guantanamo Bay; but I most certainly believe the current solution is NOT Constitutional or morally acceptable. It is time for Congress and the White House to actually try looking for an answer to removing this morally bankrupt detainment center from our country.

Back to Cotton’s amendment. The amendment passed 230-184 along highly partisan lines. Yet it is important to remember the vote was only among party lines because the Democrats voting knew it would pass not matter what they voted. If there were too many Republicans parting from leadership in this vote there is no doubt more war hawks from the Democrat side would have stepped up and ensured the amendments passage.

I don’t really think the amendment will make it through the Senate. But it doesn’t have to. Debate will take place about the amendment. Reid will accuse Republicans of playing political games. McConnel will accuse Reid of being a dictator. In the end the amendment will be dropped. That will be a case of Reid and McConnel showing modern-day bi-partisanship: both parties arguing over political games to keep attention away from the real issue.

Unfortunately in South Dakota our lone Representative Kristi Noem decided to be part of this political straw-man battle; instead of actually standing up for what is right and arguing about whether Guantanamo Bay should remain open. Maybe I was expecting too much to think that DC Republicans care about little things like natural-born rights……

Here is the actual text of Cotton’s amendment for those interested. Basically if passed it would prevent the President from transferring prisoners until the next defense appropriations bill is passed in 2016.

At the end of the bill (before the short title) insert the following:
Sec. __. None of the funds appropriated or otherwise made available by this Act may be used to transfer or release any individual detained at United States Naval Station, Guantanamo Bay, Cuba to the individual’s country of origin or to any other foreign country.

Rice and Carney both pushing for Obama’s War in Syria

September 9, 2013 1 comment

explosionThis morning National Security Adviser Susan Rice gave remarks in regards to attacking Syria. Following this speech was White House Press Secretary Jay Carney giving the administrations updates on Syria. Both were pushing hard for military action in Syria.

At the heart of Susan Rice’s speech was the old “for the children” tactic. Rice multiple times mentioned the hundreds of innocent children that were killed by the Assad administration using chemical weapons. There was no mention of the hundreds (possibly thousands) of children that were killed by more ‘conventional’ means in the Syrian Civil War. Like most Americans I believe it is an outrage for innocent children to be killed. However not everyone agrees with Rice (and Obama) that killing more Syrians, including children, with military strikes is the best answer. Killing more children in the name of “for the children” just seems morally vacant.

Another noteworthy portion of her speech was the mention of “energy security”. Wow! Does anyone but me remember the Bush administration being attacked by the left (and libertarians like me) for going to war for oil? Here we have the National Security Adviser actually saying the oil in the region is part of why we are getting involved. Will the same crowd that was against the Iraq war oppose action in Syria for the same reason? I would like to think they will. However, so far most of that crowd appears to be quiet right now.

The rest of the Rice speech is not worth mentioning. It was normal Obama administration war hawk talking points. As a side note, I noticed many people in my twitter feed took notice of the fact that Susan Rice was giving these remarks  just shy of the 1 year anniversary of the Benghazi attacks.

Carney in his daily presser was much more hawkish. He indirectly made the case that over the last two years the US has exhausted all non-military options with Syria. This includes a proposal by Russia to put Syria’s chemical weapons under international control. Carney made the case that the Assad administration cannot be trusted. Ironically Carney also indirectly made the case that we should ignore the UN because Syria is ignoring the UN. Really? So much for United States taking the moral high road. To add insult, Carney also mirrored Obama in saying that Congressional approval was not necessary to strike Syria…

If the Republicans don’t mess up in the next few months I could see Syria becoming an election-killer for Democrats in 2014. Who knows, this might provide an opportunity for more libertarian-leaning legislators to reside in DC. No matter what happens, it seems the Obama administration is intent on going to war with Syria (with or without congressional approval or public support).

Categories: Obama, War Tags: , , , ,

Rally against war with Syria tomorrow in Sioux Falls

September 6, 2013 3 comments

20130831_114557This last Saturday a protest against possible War with Syria was held. The crowd was small but very adamant of their position. I am proud to have been part of the event. Tomorrow (Saturday, Sept 7) another rally against possible war in Syria will be held. See the Facebook Event for time and location information.

In addition to the rally I would urge people to contact their representatives in DC. A week ago President Obama planned to take action against Syria without congressional approval; shortly after he caved to pressure and decided to ask for Congressional authorization (perhaps Senator Obama reminded him of that little thing called the Constitution). I would like to think the world-wide Rally’s against War in Syria had some part in his decision. By focusing on legislators in DC we may get similar results and avoid a path that will only lead to more bloodshed.

For those living in South Dakota, here are some ways to contact our legislators and let them know War with Syria is not wanted:

Please join the Rally against War in Syria tomorrow and/or contact our elected officials. Public pressure can and does make a difference!

Categories: War Tags: , , ,
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