The Federation and Cardassian War
As the heroes of the Resistance struggled through the years, many Bajorans could not help but look upward and pray to the Prophets that a mighty force from sky - namely, the United Federation of Planets - might come down and rid the world overnight of the blight of the Occupation force.
And as the years turned to decades and a new generation of Bajorans was born never knowing of life before the Occupation, many people developed a strong bitterness toward the Federation for their lack of assistance. And when the Cardassians finally left the planet in the Terran year 2369, many Bajorans subsequently rose up in strong opposition of any agreements with the Federation. A particular sore spot for many Bajorans was the decision by their planet's governing officials to allow Starfleet to jointly command Terok Nor, which was renamed by the Federation as Deep Space Nine.
It's easy to point a finger at Federation officials, sitting comfortably in their offices 50 light-years away, and blame them for the deaths of millions who might have lived if only a few warships could have been sent to defend Bajor. It's just as easy to attack the Federation for turning a blind eye toward the repression, destruction and torment laid down by the Cardassians against a beautiful world and a peaceful society.
But the issues surrounding such a decision for the diplomatic empire were more complex than many people may have understood.
The Border Wars
A fierce era of hostilities, commonly known to Starfleet officers as "The Border Wars," broke out between the Cardassian Empire and the Federation within a few years of the Cardassian annexation of Bajor.
Cardassian actions during the conflict often revealed them as a foe not to be trusted. Jean-Luc Picard, captain of the USS Stargazer until 2355, remembered approaching the Cardassians in peace only to be met by force.
"I'd been sent to make preliminary overtures to a truce," he recalled years later. "I lowered my shields as a gesture of good will. But the Cardassians weren't impressed. They took out most of my weapons and damaged the impulse engines before I could regroup and run."
Miles O'Brien, tactical officer of the USS Rutledge during the Cardassian-Federation conflict, joined his captain, Ben Maxwell, and other members of his crew in a brutal battle against an invading force on Setlik III in the Terran year 2347. Maxwell's family, along with about a hundred other civilians, were killed in a Cardassian sneak attack against the peaceful outpost only a day before the Rutledge could arrive to help.
"The only people left alive were in an outlying district of the settlement," said O'Brien, who led two dozen men against the Barrica encampment, driving out an entire Cardassian regiment. "I was sent there, with a squad, to reinforce them. Cardassians were advancing on us, moving through the streets, destroying, killing... I was with a group of women and children when two Cardassian soldiers burst in. I stunned the one, but the other jumped me. We struggled... One of the women threw me a phaser and I fired. The phaser was set at maximum. The man just incinerated there, before my eyes. I'd never killed anything before. When I was a kid I would worry about having to swat a mosquito. It's not (the Cardassians) I hate. I hate what I became because of (them)."
Glinn Daro, a Cardassian officer, later claimed the attack against Setlik III "was a terrible mistake. We were told the outpost was to be the launching place for a massive attack against us."
The conflict between the two empires was settled through an uneasy truce in 2366. A year later, an official armistice was forged through the negotiations of Edward Jellico, commanding officer of the Starfleet vessel USS Cairo.
One part of the agreement, the Selonis Convention, granted rights to prisoners of war taken by either side - but it only applied if the prisoners were officially acting under the authorization of their government. Federation officers captured on "unofficial" missions into Cardassian territory found themselves with little or no rights, with their lives and well being completely subject to the whims of their captors.
Although he helped create the agreement between the two empires, Jellico later admitted he had his own strong feelings about his former adversaries.
"Cardassians are like timber wolves," Jellico said. "Predators, bold in large numbers, cautious by themselves and with an instinctive need to establish a dominant position in any social gathering."
Shortly following the 2367 armistice, negotiations for a treaty were begun and lasted for three years. Eventually, the treaty established new boundaries between Federation and Cardassian space and created a Demilitarized Zone between the borders.
Despite the formal peace, strong bitterness and lack of trust lingered, remaining unresolved due to repeated acts of treachery by members of the Cardassian military and secret-information service, known as the Obsidian Order.
About a year after the truce was signed, Maxwell uncovered a plot by the Cardassians to build up weapons near the Federation border. But Federation officials had no desire to enter into another prolonged conflict, and Starfleet stripped Maxwell of his command rather than confront the Cardassians with the information.
Although the war had officially ended, its aftereffects continued to cause the death of innocent life. On Stardate 45587.3 (during the Terran year 2368), the transport ship Denver struck a gravitic mine left over from the Cardassian war. Sustaining heavy damage, the ship crashed landed on a planet in the Mericor system. Along with a standard 23-person crew complement, the Denver was transporting 517 colonists to the Beloti sector.
Throughout the Bajoran Occupation, which began in the Terran year 2318, Resistance fighters kept their aggression focused on the Cardassian oppressors and never let it spill out against other races - despite a strong sense of frustration and anger by many Bajorans against the Federation's lack of intervention.
It is true that Starfleet never publicly launched a campaign into Cardassian territory to attempt to liberate Bajor. But to the Federation's credit, its officials never openly attempted to exploit the Bajoran situation, unlike some less compassionate races. The Valerians, for example, were known to sell weapons-grade dolamide to Cardassian forces during the Occupation to create weapons used against the Resistance. Even after the withdrawal, the Valerians were suspected of continuing the trade, leading to hostile feelings by many Bajorans.
Despite the public expressions of sympathy officially expressed by the Federation regarding the Bajoran's plight, the Cardassian government attempted at least once to trick Starfleet personnel into helping root out some of the more elusive Bajoran freedom fighters. Of note is the Valo System incident, which began on Stardate 45076.3 (during the Terran year 2367) with an attack against a Federation colony on Solarion IV. It almost ended with the Federation-assisted murder of the leaders of a Bajoran Resistance cell.
Starfleet Admiral Kennelly served as a shining example of the type of person who kept the Federation from ever coming to Bajor's aid.
While Kennelly openly claimed to support the efforts of Resistance fighters and to have "great sympathy for their cause," he was quick to swallow Cardassian claims that the strike against Solarion IV was carried out by Bajorans seeking attention through terrorism.
Spinning a web of lies was only a means to an end for people like Kennelly. He claimed to Bajorans that the Federation was trying to end the atrocities of the Occupation and would "immediately begin to address this issue with the Cardassians quietly, behind the scenes, using every legitimate means." In an effort to uncover a Resistance leader named Orta (who had been pointed by Cardassians to be the likely instigator of the attack), Kennelly falsely promised to give him and the other members of his cell gifts of weapons and supplies in exchange for their cooperation. He simultaneously claimed to other Starfleet officers that he wanted the Resistance cell's members to be safely escorted to a resettlement camp.
In reality, Kennelly felt that Bajoran freedom fighters should be exterminated or put "back on the reservation," in his own words.
Lack of Understanding
Not all Federation officials shared Kennelly's views. Nonetheless, it was difficult for many Federation citizens, isolated from the realities of the Cardassian occupation, to understand why the members of such a peaceful society as Bajor would seek to harm their new rulers.
Such confusion was exemplified by a conversation between Picard, who was sent as captain of the USS Enterprise to investigate the Solarion IV incident, and Keeve Falor, an ad-hoc leader of the Bajoran resettlement camp on Valo II.
"We are not a violent race -- just passionate about our cause," Keeve explained to Picard. "And that passion has led some to take up arms. Don't misunderstand. I for one believe the raid on the Federation outpost was poor judgment. You are innocent bystanders, and I cannot condone violence against those who are not our enemies."
When asked why Bajorans looked at Federation officials with suspicion, Keeve answered, "Because you are innocent bystanders. You were innocent bystanders for decades as the Cardassians took our homes, as they violated and tortured our people in the most hideous ways imaginable, as we were forced to flee."
Picard responded, "We were saddened by those events, but they occurred within the designated borders of the Cardassian Empire."
But his explanation drew little sympathy from Keeve, who retorted, " ... and the Federation is pledged not to interfere in the internal affairs of others. How convenient it must be for you to turn a deaf ear to those who suffer behind a line on a map."
"We have had our own problems with the Cardassians," Picard answered. "Now that there is a treaty, we are in a position to help. Your people have been forced to resettle all over the quadrant. We can make a legitimate case with the Cardassians that this is no longer an isolated problem. We will work diplomatically on your behalf, but first the terrorist attacks must end."
Keeve ended the conversation by attempting to make Picard realize the gulf between the safety of a starship and the reality of life for a refugee. "We live in different universes, you and I," said Keeve. "Yours is about diplomacy, politics, strategy. Mine is about blankets. If we were to exchange places for a night, you would better understand."
Keeve eventually decided to trust Picard and revealed that the third moon of Valo I, covered in a crust made of sensor-blocking minerals, was the base for Orta's Resistance cell.
Kennelly's plans to betray the Resistance cell were foiled through the shrewd thinking of Ensign Ro Laren, a Bajoran crewmember who had ironically been assigned by the admiral himself to help Picard find Orta. Ro eventually realized that although the admiral pretended to be her benefactor, he was anything but a boon for her people.
Under orders from Kennelly, Picard escorted one of Orta's ships back to Valo III. Tipped off by Kennelly ahead of time, several Cardassian warships crossed into neutral territory and demanded that Picard turn the freedom fighters over to them for execution. After Picard refused, Kennelly demanded that he withdraw from the small vessel, which was quickly destroyed by the Cardassians.
It was later revealed that, following a idea proposed by Ro and endorsed by Picard, the Bajoran ship was empty and had been guided from the ground by remote control, allowing Kennelly to be exposed without risking harm to Orta or his followers.
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