Often we don’t like the truth but that doesn’t change it.
There were so many of us who were so hopeful Obama would show a new and moral side to American politics but yet again those hopes have already been dashed. So soon as well and so totally. Having originally seemingly been allowing the business community to try to sort the problems of the oil leak (though they are huge) he now steps in arguing forcefully that BP must pay NOW for absolutely everything. Even to the extent that shareholders should have their dividends stopped as Obama says the richest nation on earth has a prior call. And he wants an ‘Escrow Fund’ to be set up “to compensate individuals and businesses who have suffered” and now calls it “a new 9/11”. Isn’t that a gross insult to those who suffered 9/11? It seems Obama is now overreacting having been seen to have under reacted initially, so now there is a need to be seen to be extremely strong even if the reaction is wrong. In the US the politicians are vying with each other to show who is the toughest.
Anyway, if that is how the US normally operates that could be fair but they must be consistent. So are they?
Unfortunately for America and Obama, we have recently passed the 25th anniversary of the accident in Bhopal in India. For those who don’t know, the American Union Carbide had a pesticide manufacturing plant in Bhopal and on 2nd December 1984 there was a massive explosion and a huge release of methyl isocyanate. Hugely toxic chemicals continued leaching into the groundwater and after 25 years they still do though nobody has bothered to determine how toxic they are now. Thousands of people died even in the first week or two and in total many estimate the death toll to now be over 15,000. The water in the area is totally unsafe and all drinking water still has to be locally imported. After 25 years. So if the Gulf oil disaster is an apocalypse – what was Bhopal?
Did the US president fly there to see what could and should be done? Did Union Carbide race to deal with the problem and help the people? Unfortunately you won’t need me to answer that. Union Carbide took the profit and the Indians paid with their lives and their environment. Does that remind you of a more recent Banking position? Didn’t the banks get bailed out and the following year still reward all those who screwed up the global economies. Take the profit and suffer no consequences.
But Union Carbide was taken over by Dow Chemicals (another American chemical giant) so have there been any attempts by the US Corporations to help or sort out how many have died? No. And we must compare this to the 11 people dying in the Gulf tragedy and some fish, pelicans, oysters and others being killed.
The ratio of human death is about 1,300:1 but if Obama can insist BP pays now for all the possible damage to be repaired, presumably Union Carbide and Dow have at least paid reparations to those in Bhopal. So have they? You guessed it. No.
After 25 years they are still arguing against financial compensation and it is still going through the courts in both Manhattan and Bhopal. Presumably the plan is to so delay compensation that everybody will be dead with nobody left to compensate. Tragic also that so much money will have been spent on the already very rich legal profession while the poor wait, grow poorer, and die in splendid isolation.
So what price Bhopal if the Gulf oil spill is $34B? At the 1300:1 ration Bhopal would be worth $44T. Would you like to place a value on it?
I don’t believe I even have to state a position or argue a case as each person who reads this will be able to decide for themselves. But could there be an incredibly late partial remedy? Let’s try this:
BP makes payment – not to America but to Bhopal. And America pays to sort out the Gulf problem just as all regions suffering such an environmental disaster have always had to. We cannot selectively sort out environmental issues. Or alternatively Obama now insists Dow Chemicals pays this massive reparation to Bhopal. One or the other has to be fair.
When the rest of the world notices these moral and political inconsistencies, the integrity of the US is not just called into question – it bombs. So many Americans don’t understand why they are not much loved around the world so maybe this helps a little.