#VeteransForStandingRock Has Been a Huge, Embarrassing Failure


A veteran works to clear snow from inside of a large sleeping tent inside of the Oceti Sakowin camp as "water protectors" continue to demonstrate against plans to pass the Dakota Access pipeline near the Standing Rock Indian Reservation, near Cannon Ball, North Dakota, U.S., December 3, 2016. REUTERS/Lucas Jackson

For weeks in November we here in North Dakota were inundated with news about thousands of veterans coming to North Dakota to support the #NoDAPL protesters. The effort – organized by Wesley Clark, Jr. – seems to have done more harm than good. The veterans who came to North Dakota have found themselves abandoned by Clark, with little in the way of shelter or supplies in the middle of a good old fashioned prairie blizzard.

Also, there is some question about what happened to millions of dollars donated to support the veterans and their mission to North Dakota.

Social media is being flooded with messages from veterans like this one:


And this one:


The conditions the veterans were met with were brutal:


The vets are definitely feeling disillusioned:


As you can see from these messages, the hashtag #wheresthemoneywes has become a thing.


I don’t agree with the motivations these veterans had for coming to North Dakota to join Standing Rock. I think the cause is misguided, and the tactics inappropriate. But I feel bad that they got burned by Clark and others.

Michael A. Wood, Jr., who organized the trip along with Clark, has been blaming a bank for locking down funds for the trip on his social media accounts, but as I write this there haven’t been any updates on the money for nearly 24 hours.

Yesterday Clark, doing his best impression of a gravelly-voiced military leader while comfortably ensconced in a hotel room, attempted to explain what was happening in a Facebook video. He declares the trip a success, claiming the veterans stopped an attack on protesters and probably prompted the Obama administration to deny the easement for the pipeline. Which are ridiculous claims because a) law enforcement has never attacked the protesters, only responding when protesters do illegal/violent things and b) the Obama administration’s political machinations on the easement had little to do with Clark and his ill-advised “operation.”


Clark also blamed the disorganization on the number of veterans who showed up, saying they had expected maybe 1,500 and got something like 4,000. Which is a number that doesn’t pass the smell test.

Yesterday I interviewed Lt. Tom Iverson of the ND Highway Patrol (podcast) who said they were estimating some 4,000 to 6,000 protesters total in the last couple of days. If we’re to believe Clark, nearly all of them would have been the veterans he called to North Dakota.

But we probably shouldn’t believe Mr. Clark. He doesn’t have a very good track record.

Clark and his fellow activists, through hubris and incompetence, put a lot of people in danger and probably did more harm to the protest camp than good. Because the veterans showed up ill-prepared, because they didn’t have adequate shelter or resources or equipment, they took up space in shelters and hotel rooms which could have gone to others who needed it.

They were a burden on the scarce resources available to people in a bad situation.

And it’s not like they didn’t have warning. For weeks now the State of North Dakota and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has been warning about impending winter weather, but those warnings largely went unheeded.

Regardless, let’s hope Clark and his fellow activists apologize and go home.