U.S. Navy veteran, Petty Officer 1st Class Kash Jackson, came to North Dakota with one imperative in mind — to uphold the Constitution by protecting the American citizens he swore to defend, who are currently embroiled in a struggle with overly militarized police acting on behalf of a twisted corporate-government alliance insisting on constructing the Dakota Access Pipeline.
Hoisting an inverted American flag as he led, in uniform, a group of Native American water protectors marching defiantly against government-backed industry profiteering, Jackson had a carefully-considered message about patriotic duty everyone must hear:
“Our greatest enemies are not overseas,” he told a reporter for The Young Turks, “our greatest enemies are right here.”
Indeed, images of police — better armed for combat in Syria or Iraq or Afghanistan than any of the thousands of servicemen and women in active combat — using brutal if nonlethal tactics against wholly unarmed Standing Rock Sioux water protectors and their supporters, have finally made the rounds on corporate media, much to the unsurprising consternation of the American public.
Jackson, however, couldn’t believe his eyes, and — as a former servicemember — saw an indispensable need to defend water protectors from the tyranny of a government run amok with power, acting solely to bolster corporate greed.
In short, the life and property of citizens are at risk based on the actions of State agents — various law enforcement and private, corporate-hired security mercenaries — and thus demand the protection of U.S. military personnel sworn to defend them.
As a veteran, Jackson is asked by The Young Turks reporter, “Have you ever seen, domestically, such force used against unarmed people, peaceful people, to protect an inanimate object [the Dakota Access Pipeline]?”
Obviously grasping the gravity of the situation unfolding in North Dakota, he replies,
“No, I’ve never witnessed this caliber of militarization against people — I mean, I’ve … we’ve seen it throughout history, through the Civil Rights era, through Ferguson — there’s been multiple times in our nation’s history where we’ve utilized force like this against people … who were peaceful. Most of which I saw during the Civil Rights Movement.”
Historians, advocates, and activists have, indeed, likened the multifaceted issues stemming from increasingly unscrupulous actions by law enforcement agencies untrained in the military surplus jackpot items the government willingly provides to a new era — a nascent, if circular moment — in the struggle for civil rights.
Ferguson, Missouri, and the tremendously controversial fatal shooting by Officer Darren Wilson of unarmed teen, Michael Brown — though decidedly not the first questionable police shooting of an unarmed person of color — abruptly snapped to public consciousness that something, indeed, has gone terribly awry in the United States.
More than two years hence, rather than sweeping reform of American policing, we stand amidst a widening epidemic of State-perpetrated violence against the public — and its parallel, nearly wholesale impunity from punishment.
Native Americans and Indigenous Peoples from well over 200 tribes and nations — from all over the globe — have an inherent and long-standing comprehension of that struggle, particularly as it plays out in Cannon Ball, North Dakota, in opposing yet another potentially dangerous oil pipeline.
As the reporter notes of intense and likely illegal surveillance efforts, in prefacing a question for Jackson, “it seems like the police can … break laws, you know, freely, and there’s no consequences. They’re flying overhead without lights, they’re standing on Army Corps [of Engineers] land, they are standing on top of land [where] ancestors are buried, why do you think the police are doing this in such force?”
“Because we’ve allowed it in this country,” the Navy vet immediately responds, “and that’s why it’s occurring. The government and Big Business continues to exploit the citizens of this country, to exploit its resources … and it’s because we, as citizens, have been apathetic to what’s going on all around us. We’re distracted by so many things occurring in this country that don’t mean anything. The World Series is super important — but what’s more important — a baseball, or people?
You know, people are more important. If we as a nation don’t stand together, united, then our government will continue to do what they’re doing here in Standing Rock.
Beyond the militaristic, over-the-top crackdown on water protectors and activists at several encampments attempting to block the pipeline, the U.S. government has undertaken a considerable effort to ensure Dakota Access construction will continue unimpeded.
In addition to the appalling presence of police from at least five states, private security mercenaries, and federal agents, Energy Transfer Partners — the industry collective overseeing pipeline construction — and financially motivated politicians have even re-written a decades-old ban on the export of unrefined crude to guarantee the surety of its completion.
Under this suffocating weight — and centuries of exploitation — opposition continues.
Asked if he considers the militarized force against unarmed water protectors — citizens — a battle against corporate profiteering, Jackson intoned,
Whether or not it’s about greed, I don’t entirely know. What I do know, is what’s right in front of my face; and, whenever I see the military-style tactics utilized on peaceful people, that is a complete abridgement of First Amendment rights — the ability to express yourself freely without being … I mean, I shouldn’t be intimidated or scared.
You know, even for me to stand here the way that I do, in my uniform, people will frown upon that. I’ll be attacked personally for this. And … it makes me concerned for what could happen. But, if I don’t … I think Martin Luther King, Jr., had said it … ‘an injustice anywhere, is a threat to justice everywhere.’ And this is an injustice. And I’m not going to stand by, as a retired servicemember, who swore to protect the Constitution and their rights, their constitutional rights — so, I’m here to continue to protect those for them, like I swore to do for twenty years.
Further, the veteran expounds on the process of legislative debate happening behind “closed doors” as a means to exclude the public from the process, as if politicians and legislators indeed have plenty to hide.
That’s what’s occurring in this country, is that … Big Business is in bed with our government. There’s no secret about that. And the government profiting off of stealing and destroying our constitutional rights has to stop. And we, as American people, have to be willing. Standing Rock wasn’t necessarily my fight, so to speak; but what is my fight is that these are human beings — these are people — these are citizens of this country that I swore to protect.
And I’m going to stand alongside of them and fight with them because I see what’s occurring here. Right before my eyes. There’s no better way for me to know and understand what’s occurring here than to get in my truck and drive over here.
As for President Obama’s continued virtual stonewalling, and refusal to take more than a tissue-thin stance about the militarized police response to peaceful civil disobedience the rest of the planet has the integrity to denounce, Jackson adds,
… as a Commander-in-Chief of this country, he has a responsibility. He swore an oath for that Constitution the same as I did … and too many people, veterans included, servicemembers included, they have forgotten about that other piece” — the vow to defend against “all enemies, foreign and domestic,” and we always point our eyes outward from our borders; but we never look inward.
Our greatest enemies are not overseas — our greatest enemies are right here.
The shame of the current and coming administrations is the willful blindness — the complicity — in ignoring and permitting paranoia about dissent to supplant the open debate and criticism of failed policy and legislation.
As we witness the failed fruits of rampant hegemony and imperialism, this military veteran’s words, and inverted flag distress signal, couldn’t be more crucial a reminder of what true patriotism — an actual defense of liberty — must entail.
Image Credit: screen shot, The Young Turks