To the Editor:
At time when Americans have just caught sight of the tip of the iceberg of corporate malfeasance on Wall Street, it's a bracing exercise to pry our eyes from the balance sheet and glance at what's happening in the far reaches of our global empire where, when people lose out to corrupt corporate management, they pay not merely with their life savings, but with their very lives.
Remember that at the Bhopal insecticide plant run by Union Carbide in the 1980s, emergency alert systems were deliberately turned off as part of cost-cutting measures meant to protect the bottom line.
Nearly 18 years later, the death toll from the largest industrial catastrophe in history stands at 20,000. And it is not over yet.
Now, under pressure from the Union Carbide Corporation, and its parent, the Dow Chemical Corporation, the Indian government is seeking to use part of the Bhopal disaster victim reparations fund to clean up the contaminated soil and water of the region – a financial burden that ought to be borne not by the surviving, disease-ridden victims, but by Union Carbide and Dow. Moreover, as a sweetener to its Hindu voter base, the government wishes to stretch the limited reparations fund to include several districts, populated predominately by Hindus, which are thought never to have been exposed to the toxic clouds.
Finally, and in a spirit wholly subservient to Wall Street hubris, it seems clear that the Indian authorities will succeed in diluting or dismissing the culpable homicide charges against Warren Anderson, former CEO of Union Carbide.
What started as a case of sensational corporate negligence far removed from the American public's eye has evolved into a case of election manipulation and government corruption encouraged by unbridled corporate power – a destructive force that Americans have only just begun to examine critically.