Army Corps of Engineers March On
When my light infantry brigade was based in Tay Ninh in 1966, we shared a bunker line with PhilCAG, Philippine Civil Assistance Group. The main job of this civil engineering unit was to build roads in this western province of Vietnam near the Cambodian border. If my platoon or company was not out in the boonies on an extended mission or otherwise engaged in protecting the camp itself—e.g., patrolling or manning the bunker line—we would assist PhilCAG by riding shotgun in their dump trucks and setting up a protective perimeter around their excavation site.
In the midst of wartime devastation of that beautiful land these guys were actually building something. I mention this because it is the only experience I have with military civil engineers, a very positive experience. So I can easily and readily transfer that sense of good will to U.S. military civil engineers. I can also attest to their bravery, as their work brings them to the enigmatic front lines which exposes them to imminent danger.
After the Japanese bombing of Pearl Harbor in 1941 the U.S. Navy created the Navy Construction Battalion. They soon shortened their name to “CB” which morphed into the nickname “Seabee.” Which brings us back to …
The Dakota Access Pipeline
Earlier this week the Army Deputy Assistant Secretary, Paul Cramer, announced in a letter to the House (of Representatives) Natural Resources Committee that the service—i.e., the Army Corps of Engineers—planned to allow Energy Transfer Partners to build a section of pipeline through Sioux territory without conducting an environmental impact study.
The previous administration granted a stay of this polarizing project back in December in order to allow time for the conduct of such a study. The current administration obliterated that stay via Executive Order. The Army’s Acting Secretary, Robert Speer, said, “… another study on the project’s possible environmental impact was unnecessary …”
Checked, Not Balanced
Drilling down the Corps’ official website, one finds a description of its Environmental Advisory Board.
The Environmental Advisory Board (EAB) was created … in 1970 as a means for the Chief to gain outside, expert and independent advice on environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.… We intend to … use the Board as a vehicle of communication to reach out and build partnerships, understandings and cooperation with the environmental community, and public at large. Environmental concerns have never been more important. We see the EAB playing a key role in contributing to enhanced mutual understanding and confidence between the Corps and both the general public and the conservation community.
Further down the webpage is the EAB’s Charter Purpose:
Advise Chief of Engineers by providing independent advice and recommendations on matters relating to environmental issues facing the Corps of Engineers.
So, what’s the hurry? The Huffington Post’s Michael McLaughlin summarizes the Standing Rock Sioux’ argument against the project. It
- threatens the water source for their reservation
- disturbs sacred ground, and
- violates a 19th century treaty with the federal government
If this fight is now over, we, the American people, lose. Respect for indigenous people disintegrates. Civilian control—the executive branch—over our distinguished military—the Army Corps of Engineers, in this case—devolves into dictatorial mockery. Treaties—our sacred word as a nation—become meaningless. And so one may sadly ask:
What have we become?
[I write about politics because of the direct link I see between the words and actions of politicians and Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. America’s political class manipulates our military as though they were pawns in a global game of chess. To them, PTSD is merely an unfortunate cost of war.]