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From Bhopal to BP

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Posted on Jun 21, 2010
AP / Prakash Hatvalne

Elderly survivors hold posters as they wait for the verdict at the Bhopal court in India. The court earlier this month convicted seven former senior employees of Union Carbide’s Indian subsidiary of “death by negligence” for their roles in the 1984 tragedy that left thousands dead in Bhopal after toxic gas escaped from a pesticide plant.

By T.L. Caswell

In the predawn hours of a December day 26 years ago a poison crept through a city of more than 650,000 souls, and soon many who inhaled the gas were dead. In addition to those who died directly from the fumes, others were fatally trampled in the panic that swept the area.

The estimates of the number who perished vary widely. One official source put initial deaths at nearly 3,000 and subsequent deaths at nearly 15,000; permanent disabilities were set at 50,000.

The toxin that attacked Bhopal, India, on that morning in 1984 was released accidentally from a pesticide plant owned by an Indian subsidiary of Union Carbide. Roughly 40 metric tons of a lethal chemical wafted into sleeping homes to be breathed by perhaps half a million people. The discharge occurred after water entered a tank of methyl isocyanate and created a runaway reaction that raised the temperature within the container to nearly 400 degrees Fahrenheit.

From time to time some element of the calamity’s aftermath was reported in the Western press, but before long the accident was mostly forgotten—but certainly not by the thousands who had been blinded or afflicted with cancer, respiratory ailments, neurological conditions or other medical troubles. Other people’s problems, especially when they occur in the faraway Third World, tend to have a short stay in the higher parts of our brains, chock-full of our own troubles big and small.

I had not thought about the Bhopal disaster for years before I saw a June 7 article in the Los Angeles Times headed “7 guilty in 1984 Bhopal disaster.”

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The piece said those convicted were former executives of the Union Carbide subsidiary involved in the tragedy and that the men, all Indian nationals, had been sentenced to two-year prison terms after being found guilty of negligence. The second paragraph: “The trial represented the first criminal convictions in one of the world’s worst industrial disasters. But victims and activists declared the sentences wholly inadequate.”

The Indian press and others were vitriolic in denouncing the lateness and lightness of the sentences. The convicted men—released on bail bonds of $530 and expected to appeal the verdict—each were ordered to pay a whopping $2,100 fine, and Union Carbide India was assessed the breathtaking penalty of $10,600.

Indian officials shouldn’t be planning to spend that $10,600 just yet. The fine—tiny though it is, even allowing for differences in economic standards—may never be paid. The Times observed: “… Michigan-based Dow Chemical Co. acquired Union Carbide, the parent company, in 2001 and has denied any inherited responsibility for the incident or its aftermath.”

In 1989 Union Carbide did accept a $470 million out-of-court settlement, but that gave many victims and other survivors only about $500 each; these folks probably counted themselves as lucky, for others who suffered ended up with zero, zilch and zip.

The big fish associated with what some writers have called “the Bhopal massacre” continues to swim free. Warren Anderson, who was chairman and chief executive of the Union Carbide corporation in 1984, was arrested at the Bhopal Airport several days after the accident and was quickly released on bail. He promptly fled back to the United States. Some years afterward, Bhopal authorities charged him with manslaughter, and later he was declared a fugitive.

U.S. authorities were in no hurry to extradite the now 89-year-old Anderson, who turned out to be not too difficult to find. In 2002 Greenpeace reported that it had visited him at his home. In a Greenpeace website article headlined “Carbide criminal found,” the organization said:

Warren Anderson, former Union Carbide CEO at the time of the world’s worst industrial disaster in Bhopal, India in 1984, has been found living a life of luxury in New York State. He is wanted in India to face charges of culpable homicide over the deaths of 20,000 people since the disaster.

Anderson has been hiding in the US since an explosion at his company’s plant in Bhopal, India, caused the immediate deaths of thousands of people and has resulted in life long suffering for almost 120,000 survivors.

We paid Anderson a visit at his US home and handed him an arrest warrant. He was tracked down in a matter of weeks by a UK newspaper [that was working with Greenpeace]. He has been facing charges of culpable homicide and an extradition order from the government of India for the past eleven years. He has never appeared in court to face charges for crimes in Bhopal or even to explain why his company did not apply the same safety standards at its plant in India that it operated at a sister plant in the US state of West Virginia.

Week before last, U.S. Rep. Frank Pallone Jr., D-N.J., renewed his call for the extradition of Anderson, saying: “All those responsible for this disaster, including the former chairman of Union Carbide Warren Anderson, should stand trial in India and receive punishment that reflects the devastation and pain they have caused for thousands of people. Warren Anderson absolutely deserves to be extradited from the U.S. and punished for the full extent of his crimes.”


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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, June 23, 2010 at 2:29 pm Link to this comment

Oops. Here’s the proper link:

“Even more oil was gushing into the Gulf of Mexico on Wednesday after an
undersea robot bumped a venting system, forcing BP to remove the cap that had
been containing some of the crude.”


http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/37841204/ns/disaster_in_the_gulf/

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Ed Harges's avatar

By Ed Harges, June 23, 2010 at 2:28 pm Link to this comment

Um, meanwhile, in America, there’s fresh bad news from the Gulf of Mexico.

The oil is gushing suddenly at a higher rate than ever. A robotic sub damaged a
vent on the containment cap, which forced BP to remove the containment cap
completely.

Remember when they were putting this latest cap on, and they warned that in
order to do so, they’d have to snip off the top of the well, temporarily increasing
the spill rate? Well, now the containment cap is off, and that higher spill rate is
the new normal.

http://www.latimes.com/news/nationworld/nation/la-fg-mcchrystal-fired-
20100624,0,5630483.story

Meanwhile, there’s a new tropical disturbance in the Caribbean that has a
“medium” chance of developing into a cyclone over the next 48 hours,
according to the National Hurricane Center:

http://www.nhc.noaa.gov/

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, June 23, 2010 at 7:46 am Link to this comment

BR 549 - “Obama is too busy playing the part of a prostitute, stroking his clients and
doing anything that makes them feel good. Beside spreading his disease from
one client to the next, he contaminates the doorknobs of every aspect of American law that he opens the door to…....”

Bravo!

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, June 23, 2010 at 6:48 am Link to this comment

Re:  tedmurphy41, June 23 at 10:14 am

The government was never even going to give the appearance of due diligence;
to do even that would mean that some moral or ethical boundary might have
been bridged, at least enough to support a facade of giving a shit. In their
mind, no harm to the corporations, no foul.

What’s been happening for decades is the gradual erosion of the connection of
each of our citizens to their fellows and also their country and Constitution.
That has led to a massive loss in individual and collective integrity; nowhere
more blatant than in our legislature and the White House.

It isn’t just Obama. As much as I might criticize him, he is just one small peonic
cog in a massive broken wheel. On his death bed, he will have so much on his
conscience; too much for one man to purge in any one lifetime. I voted for him
(after his and McCain’s minions ran Ron Paul off the stage) and now I feel sorry
for him. When he tilts his head back trying to look authoritative, it’s just a ruse
to mask his knowing that he has screwed so many people and killed so many of
our troops. Like the Clintons and the Bushes, he has so much blood on his
hands that was illegitimately drawn.

If a man has no integrity, he has nothing.

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By tedmurphy41, June 23, 2010 at 6:14 am Link to this comment

It’s one thing putting executives on trial and another thing getting real justice, which never really happened in the Bhopal case, and how long did it take to get there?

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BR549's avatar

By BR549, June 23, 2010 at 5:38 am Link to this comment

Obama is too busy playing the part of a prostitute, stroking his clients and
doing anything that makes them feel good. Beside spreading his disease from
one client to the next, he contaminates the doorknobs of every aspect of
American law that he opens the door to.

Sooner or later, all these emaciated crack-whores are found in a garbage bag
by the side of the road or in a dumpster somewhere. It’s just a matter of time.
Whether it’s literal or figurative, the point is that these people sold their soul to
the devil a long time ago when they lost any touch with any integrity they
might have had.

Obama will be doing everything he can to give lip service for prosecution of BP
execs, but in the end, the execs will get a “Get Out Of Jail Free” card and some
middle management schmucks will get pilloried by the MSM.

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By rollzone, June 22, 2010 at 2:16 pm Link to this comment

hello. you may as well compare crisis BP to the 2012
Mayan end of the world as we know it. perhaps that
will help take the edge off the public outcry. how do
you garner sympathy for globalists? tough assignment
...as long as they are operating under American
standards and regulations, while within American
jurisprudence, and are held accountable for mistakes
without cost containment- capitalism rocks. if
globalists pick what global law they want to adhere
to- i send them packing with the steel toe of my
boot. any comparisons -to an unprecedented
catastrophic environmental disaster still unfolding;
is ludicrous, and a desperate attempt by public
relations to cap the flow of outrage by damages:
better than they could stop the oil. keep putting the
money into the account. the damages have only begun.

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By tazdelaney, June 22, 2010 at 12:10 pm Link to this comment

just today, i read at democracynow that the govt of india has once again sought to extradite UnionCarbide’s CEO at the time of bhopal. he had fled india after posting bail. all attempts to extradite him have failed. i think we can pretty much assume this one will fail too.

imagine if say, a company based in india caused 15,000 deaths here in america due to criminal negligence; also severely damaging the health of half a million more and causing a generation of birth defects… then fought makingany payments for these deaths and suffering while the CEO was rushed back to india… the US would threaten embargoes and sanctions until payments were made and the CEO extradited. but america protects its terrorists and corporate criminals to the hilt. The govt of india should do exactly that and declare economic war on the US and evict all of the US government’s officials from india. they should turn the ‘terrorist’ tables on teh US and declare to the UN that the US is harboring known terrorists and those with massive crimes against humanity. that might, just might, get the US’ attention.

i think of posada, an anti-castro cuban working for the CIA who bombed a cuban jetliner, killing all. but will the US extradite this terrorist to cuba for trial? under no circumstance.

if a team of bhopalese were to get into america and execute the UC CEO; they would be loudly denounced as terrorists. but as jefferson said, “if the people cannot gain justice through their courts; they must and will find other means.”

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By gerard, June 22, 2010 at 9:51 am Link to this comment

As long as corporate laws are not changed, corporate crime will continue unabated and unpunished. The law says corporations are supposed to maximize profits for their investors.  Period.  Almost no restrictions. No controls. No limits on method, degree, time, place. Just maximize profits.
  Rescind the law that says corporations are “persons”—a complete fabrication.  Put limits on what they can do and how they can do it.  Then enforce those laws.
Support current challenges against the recent Supreme Court ruling that allows unlimited corporate contributions to political campaigns—a death knell to democracy.
  All the post-mortem belly-aching in the world isn’t going to bring about the necessary changes.  Put your money where your mouth is and support organizations working for these necessary changes.
  Google “Changing Corporate Law” to get started.

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By balkas, June 22, 2010 at 9:02 am Link to this comment

We live in lawlessness; i.e., under THEIR laws. THEIR laws= a diktat.

Not only that THEY [criminals] write the diktats or ‘laws’, THEY, and only THEY, also interpret THEIR ‘laws’.

But before that u must first own army echelons, cia-fbi-police-banks; then, it matters not a tad who writes ‘laws’ or interprets them.

The tanks, artillery, guns, jets, helis, warships soley decide what the interpretation wld be.

This simplicity cannot be, methinks, simplified, but will be complexified to the degree that no one wld be any wiser for it. Also spricht bozhidarevski, der mann who finished last in his class! danke, grazia!

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G.Anderson's avatar

By G.Anderson, June 22, 2010 at 6:49 am Link to this comment

When are the people of this country going to finally get it? I’ve given up on the media.

No, this class of crminal is above the law. Because they own this country and it’s laws. Which has been demostrated by the fact that the US government refuses to allow Warren Anderson’s extradition to India to stand trial.

He’s publicly admitted to removing the safety controls from the Bhopal plant. He’s not swimming here freely because his lucky, or just happened to avoid scrutiny. It’s because our plutocratic government refuses to extradite. They protect their own.

Nothing will happen to BP, that 20 billion dollar fund is chump change to them. They will probably avoid liability anyway by going bankrupt.

Even if somehow we avoid an Extinction Level Event with the Gulf Disaster, it’s only a question of time, until millions die, from some F’UP, by the Plutocracy.

As it is now, millions are dying in slow motion, from the poisoned food we eat, the water full of Herbacides, the die off of birds, bats, honeybees, Frogs, Even though they know full well what they are doing.

There are many possible candidates for our demise, Mad Cow disease or a variation caused by GMO’s that have never been evaluated for safety, a catastrophic poisioning of medication imported from some un inspected manufacturer overseas, a catastrophic out break of E-Coli from some imported vegtable, a catastrophic crop failure caused by a glyphosate resistant pathogen - which is happening on a small scale right now, or the melt down of the Z-Machine, or the LHC. 

The plutocracy, is immune to the law, immune from public recourse, because they own the law, they own the government. Ownership has privledges.

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By grumpynyker, June 22, 2010 at 5:57 am Link to this comment
(Unregistered commenter)

Damn shame the executives weren’t tried in China;
would’ve been executed by now.  Here’s a thought, send
all of our war criminals, corrupt executives,
neocons/zionists for trial.  I would suggest Japan, but
seppuko is on the individual.

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By Earthling, June 22, 2010 at 4:12 am Link to this comment

Dream on!
We will exact against the BP criminals the same punishment we exacted against Bush and Cheney….
Be that as it may, we’re like the addict screaming “Unfair!” at our dealer.

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