Wednesday, December 01, 2004

Bhopal and Napalm: The Dow Campaign Redux

I haven't bought a roll of Saran wrap for over forty years, a pathetic expression of my rage at the company (Dow Chemical) that manufactured napalm during the war in Viet-Nam. Now a new student movement against Dow-Carbide is taking shape over their refusal to take responsibility for the mess left behind by the Bhopal catastrophe whose twentieth anniversary is Friday (December 3). There is likely to be a spate of stories on the newswires as the day approaches. Here is one that appeared recently (Boston Globe). If you don't remember or don't know (because a whole generation has grown up since that terrible day), do yourself a favor and read it or something like it. It can happen again. And it can even happen here.

But mainly I want to direct you to the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal. If you want to get involved this is a good place to start. There is also a petition you can sign. Here it is:
I support the struggle for justice of the people of Bhopal.

More than 20,000 innocent people have already died and 120,000 are suffering today from health effects (see related to their gas exposure. It was Union Carbide’s cost-cutting that turned Bhopal into a gas chamber (see and it’s the responsibility of Carbide’s new owner, Dow Chemical, to resolve the outstanding legal and moral obligations it has in Bhopal (see

1. There was no siren and no warning--people woke with the gases already in their faces, filling their mouths, noses and lungs with excruciating pain.
2. NONE of safety systems were functioning on the night of the disaster—six in all.
3. Union Carbide under-invested in an inherently hazardous facility located in a crowded neighborhood, used admittedly unproven designs, stored lethal MIC in reckless quantities, dismantled safety systems and cut down on safety staff and training in an effort to cut costs.
4. Union Carbide and its new owner, Dow Chemical, continue to blame the disaster on a fictitious and unnamed worker, and deny their own negligence.
5. In the wake of the disaster, Carbide claimed that the gas was harmless, when it knew it was lethal (as described in its own manuals).
6. Dow-Carbide refuses to share all its medical information about the health effects of the gas it released, MIC--information that doctors could use to save lives--claiming the information is a “trade secret”.
7. Union Carbide fled India and abandoned its Bhopal plant, leaving thousands of tons of dangerous chemicals behind, which are now poisoning the water of the same people Carbide first poisoned 20 years ago. As more people grow sick, Dow-Carbide still refuses to clean up its pollution in Bhopal.
8. The Union Carbide Corporation, charged criminally with “culpable homicide” in the wake of the disaster, has refused to appear in court or stand trial. Union Carbide is now an international fugitive from justice, considered an “absconder” under Indian law.

Bhopal remains one of the world's worst examples of corporate crime, but the people of Bhopal continue to persevere in their call for justice. I’m joining Bhopal’s survivors by calling on Dow to:

1. Face Trial: Ensure that prime accused Warren Anderson, former chairman of Union Carbide ceases absconding from criminal justice in India and the authorized representatives of the company [Dow-Union Carbide] face trial in the Bhopal criminal court.

2. Provide Long Term Health Care: Assume responsibility for the continuing and long term health consequences among the exposed persons and potentially their future generations. This includes medical care, health monitoring and necessary research studies. The company must provide all information on the leaked gases and their medical consequences.

3. Clean Up The Poison: Remove the contamination of the ground water and soil in and around the abandoned Union Carbide factory in Bhopal. Provide for supply of safe drinking water to the community.

4. Provide Economic and Social Support: Dow must provide income opportunities to victims who can not pursue their usual trade as a result of exposure-induced illnesses and income support to families rendered destitute due to death or incapacitation of the breadwinner of the family.

I may also become involved in the campaign by visiting,, and
You can sign at the link above.

Napalm, new and improved:

Meanwhile, there are persistent reports from Middle East sources (two examples here and here) that the US is again using napalm. Michael Wright from the School of Chemistry at the University of Bristol explains the ingredients:
Napalm was first developed in 1942 by Harvard researchers cooperating with the U.S. army and used in bombs and flame throwers by mixing a powdered aluminium soap of naphthalene with palmitate (hence napalm). On their own, naphthalene and palmitate are relatively harmless substances. Napalm itself, is a jelly obtained from the salts of aluminium, palmitic or other fatty acids, and naphthenic acids.

Napalm is the most controversial weapon of war used in WWII and the vietnam war. During World War I, both Germany and the U.S. used an early form of napalm in combat flamethrowers, but the substance burned out too quickly to be very effective at igniting targets. Napalm was a big hit with the allied forces, who used it extensively in World War II in flamethrowers and fire bombs. Military records indicate that about half of the bombs that rained on Dresden, creating that city's notorious firestorm, were napalm bombs.
What is being used in Iraq is almost certainly not the old napalm but its modern (new improved) version, the Mark 77 Firebomb, made up of polystyrene (46 parts), gasoline (33 parts) and benzene (21 parts). Avila on DailyKos alerted us to its reported use in Fallujah on November 21. Anyone who has ever visited or worked in a burn unit will be properly horrified.

So who manufactures the new napalm? Lockheed-Martin. Why am I not surprised?

Clarification/request: Since the above was written I have had hesitations about the attribution of Lockheed as manufacturer of the Mark 77 (could I have missed the Spinner link was a spoof? Possibly. But the attribution to Lockheed was just so believable). Anyway, I would be grateful to any reader who has solid information on who manufactures the Mark 77.

More on manufacturer of modern "napalm": Thanks to Avila (see link just above) it turns out that the maker of the Mark 77 firebomb is none other than you, dear reader (that is if you are an American taxpayer). The Mark 77 is reported to be produced at the Rock Island Arsenal (RIA) in the quad cities area of northwestern Illinois. According to the Arsenal website, it is "the largest government-owned weapons manufacturing arsenal in the western world." RIA provides
manufacturing, logistics, and base support services for the Armed Forces. The Arsenal is an active U.S. Army factory, which manufactures ordnance and equipment for the Armed Forces. Some of the Arsenal's most successful manufactured products include the M198 and M119 Towed Howitzers, and the M1A1 Gun Mount.

Noted for its expertise in the manufacture of weapons and weapon components, every phase of development and production is available from prototype to full-scale production of major items, spare parts, and repair items. Product items range from artillery gun mounts and recoil mechanisms to aircraft weapons sub-systems. Items manufactured at RIA include artillery, gun mounts, recoil mechanisms, small arms, aircraft weapons sub- system, grenade launchers, weapons simulators, and a host of associated components. These include: Gun Mount M178 for M109A1/M109A2 Self-Propelled Howitzer; Gun Mount M182 for M109A5/M109A6 Self-Propelled Howitzer (RCMAS); M119 Towed Howitzer, 105mm; Spare Parts for M198 Towed Howitzer, 155mm; M242 barrel for Bradley vehicles; and 120mm Gun Mount for M1A1 Abrams Tank.

About 250 military and 6,000 civilians work at the RIA. Rock Island Arsenal, known world-wide as a leader in excellence, provides essential production capability for artillery/gun mounts, equipment integration, spare parts, and other equipment for the Armed Forces, as well as the assembly of tools, sets, kits and outfits that support equipment in the field. Through new business avenues, the Arsenal can also partner with some non-military entities to assist and advance manufacturing technologies in the private sector.