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September, 2002

Bush Pushes To Exonerate Dow Chemical
For 28,000 Dead In Bhopal
Edited By Stephenie Hendricks

On August 15, Diane Wilson will be on day 29 of her hunger strike in Seadrift, Texas, against Union Carbide (Dow Chemical), to bring attention to the situation now in Bhopal, India, where courts are hearing arguments by that company to drop reparations to the victims of the 1984 chemical spill that killed 8,000 outright, 20,000 total, leaving over 200,000 with chronic health problems including cancer. George Bush has sent an emissary to pressure India Courts into dropping charges.

Diane has had her own experience with this company. As a fourth generation shrimp fisherwoman in the Gulf of Texas, she noticed the shrimp and other sea life dying, and noticed the fishermen were also getting sick. Then she noticed the dioxin flume from Union Carbide pouring into the Gulf. After getting nowhere with "proper channels" she sunk her boat on top of the flume to seal it up (only to have it towed away by the Coast Guard).

Says Diane, "I have been battling the huge chemical corporations (Union Carbide/Dow, Alcoa, BP Chemical, Dupont, Formosa Plastics, Carbon Graphite) that made our county, Calhoun, the top number one county in the nation for toxic disposal since l989. I am founder of Calhoun County Resource Watch, a non-profit environmental group.

Most of my members are Anglo, Vietnamese, and Hispanic commercial fishermen. To fight for the bays of our hometown, I have been on four hunger strikes, two that were over 30 days, and attempted to sink my own 42 feet shrimp boat on top of an illegal discharge that was killing the bay while surrounded by three boatloads of US Coast Guard."

"I have won zero discharge agreements from two of the companies, Formosa Plastics and Alcoa and had zero discharge resolutions passed by both the Calhoun County Commissioners Court and Seadrift city council. The Oil Chemical and Atomic Workers (OCAW) Union also passed a national resolution for zero discharge."

For this work, Diane has won numerous environmental awards, and been featured on 48 Hours and Lifetime TV. A children's book, Nobody Particular by Molly Bangs tells the story of her battle. She recently wrote her own account of her struggle against the polluters. The Seadrifter: A Tale of an Unreasonable Woman.

With significant trends demanding corporate accountability, and more people are getting fed up with pollution, Diane is generating support around the world. US military and corporate presence overseas often means environmental destruction which creates resentment and anger toward America. Diane is assisting with national security by showing these people that not all Americans are callous when it comes to disaster caused in their country by one of our corporations.

More than fifty members of the Tamilnadu Women's Collective in India have joined the hunger strike, with women taking different days to fast.

Three organic gardeners from Maine, USA, are fasting each Wednesday between now and 27 August. In New York, environmental campaigner Bianca Jagger said: "It is unconscionable that after nearly 18 years, Union Carbide and its CEO Warren Anderson have not had to face charges. How has Union Carbide Corporation managed to escape with total impunity? How has Mr. Anderson managed to avoid extradition for the 11 years in which he and his Corporation have been thumbing their noses at the Bhopal Court, thus breaking the legally-binding undertaking they gave to a US court? Why does the Indian government now seek to reward him by diluting the charges against him? Would this have happened if 8,000 people had been gassed to death in the US or the UK on one single night? Why is human life in developing countries so devalued? What answers shall we give them? Should we hold up our hands and talk about the importance of multinational investment in India? Or legal technicalities? Should we say that when President Bush talks about corporate accountability, he specifically excludes Union Carbide and its new owners Dow Chemicals?

"What happened in 1984 was an unspeakable tragedy, what has happened since is a travesty of justice, an abuse of fundamental human rights on a contemptuous scale," Diane emphasizes. "It cannot be allowed to continue. Whether or not the Indian government has its way on Wednesday, the fight for justice must go on. I call upon decent people all round the world who believe in fairness and justice to join us in supporting the poor, the helpless, and the abused gas survivors of Bhopal."

French writer Dominique Lapierre, Spanish author Javier Moro, are fasting in solidarity with the Diane and the survivors of Bhopal. In Venice, Italy, Deputy Mayor Gianfranco Bettin and members of his team went on hunger strike between 13 to 17 July in sympathy and solidarity with the hunger strikers in New Delhi.

In Venice, California Environmental activist Jodie Evans is rousing members of her group, Bad Babes and their Buddies which she described as "a group of women educated in non-violent direct action available to the greater community." Jodie is with Diane Wilson now outside Dow's gates in Seadrift.

Diane, with her Texas drawl, simple no nonsense manner and open heart, sits in her pick-up truck enduring a hunger fast in one of the smelliest, ugliest industrial places in our country... Seadrift, Texas, making friends with Dow/Union Carbide employees who have started to wave each day as they go to work.

Diane says: "My life as a fisherwoman has taught me one thing, that there are no seas with lines and divisions. So similarly if there is a border that separates me as an American from the anguish and sorrow of my sisters and brothers in Bhopal and their fight for justice, then that line is a false and lying one. All the great religions teach that we are one. One woman's pain is a pain to all. An injustice to one is an injustice to all. Bhopal is a symbol of the unfinished business of justice that lies before all mankind and the struggle should never be abandoned."

 

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