UNTIL ALL ACHIEVE WELL-BEING

Welcome to the Sunday, November 21, 2004 issue of this Peace&Justice action email!

In this issue we revisit Bhopal 20 years after the devastating gas leak. Secondly is an action for US citizens regarding Darfur, and for Canadians regarding Missile Defence. Finally for anyone interested (and there are no further actions so you can tune out of that point), for those suffering US post-election blues (and this email presumes a diverse audience whereby not everyone may feel that way), I wish to share a ray of hope. . . and then give two brief reflections.

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BHOPLA, INDIA -- 20 YEARS LATER

Twenty years ago on December 3rd, in Bhopal, India, a Union Carbide plant gas leak occurred, killing over 3,000 people at the time and exposing thousands of others to permanently crippling conditions. There is a strong movement that feels justice wasn't done and finds that even now people suffer from contaminated water from the site. There are two possible actions you can take, depending on how you wish to respond to the murky scenarios being painted by each side.

The first action is the more straightforward one. The Indian government was ordered by its Supreme Court to supply clean water to the area around Bhopal. For those aware of the long-term damage, especially to young children, that can occur from heavy metals (such as mercury) in a water supply, I find it appalling that this could still be an issue after 20 years, regardless of responsibility or cause. The Indian government is supplying some water, but not nearly what it is required to do. If you wish you can sign the following petition:

Petition to Indian Govt for clean water as mandated by courts:
    http://bhopal.aidindia.org/waterwebfax.htm

The second action involves another petition below plus other activities. There are two clear sides to the status of the Bhopal disaster (see background links below for both sides). Dow Chemical, which bought Union Carbide, feels that it acted well, compensated well, and has carried out all legal responsibilities. It feels that all evidence, independently confirmed, leads to the conclusion that the gas leak was a case of sabotage. In addition to building a hospital, they gave $470 million in compensation, as agreed to by the Supreme Court of India.

The Bhopal survivors and supporters say the toxic mess is still there, that compensation has been lacking, and that during the original crisis the plant had inadequate safeguards (all six failed; there were no sirens, warnings, etc) and should never have been located in such densely populated area. They further feel that Union Carbide chose a quick exit strategy of offering money and then they cut and ran.

I am not in a position to investigate further. It seems that the leak was likely due to sabotage, that the plant didn't have adequate safeguards, that the settlement of $470 million plus hospital seems a sizable sum and fulfilled legal obligations, but that Dow fails in a moral obligation to follow-through to ensure that the compensation gets to the victims and that all harm due to their plant is rectified. So in the end I give the following petition for those who do feel more strongly about the issue (although Ihave some trouble with the language and it can't be edited); In addition there is a range of 20 other activities; regardless, this is a tragedy that has not ended and should be remembered.

Action: A very pointed Petition to DOW:
    http://www.petitiononline.com/bhopal/

Some basic info and 20 Other Activities you can do on Dec 3:
    http://www.corpwatch.org/article.php?id=11567

Background: Bhopal view of timeline:
    http://indiatogether.org/campaigns/bhopal/timeline.htm

Background: Other Bhopal-side links:
    http://bhopal.aidindia.org/links.htm

Background: Dow - Union Carbide info. and timeline:
    http://www.bhopal.com/

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US CITIZENS - REINFORCE ACTION ON DARFUR

Prior to the US election there was a commitment to assist the situation in Darfur. The following link can be used to send a petition to reinforce that commitment, now that the election dust has settled. You may want to edit it to suit your perspective, as it mentions a very general "faith" motivation, and this email goes out to a list that includes both religious and non-religious people.

Petition:     http://faithfulamerica.kintera.org/sudansanctions

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CANADA: URGE PUBLIC HEARINGS ON MISSILE DEFENCE

An issue that has resurfaced is whether Canada should join the US missile defense system. For me the first step remains a public dialogue on exactly what is involved. On the one hand, we have had a NORAD alliance for decades with the US, something that likely is in need of review or overhaul. On the other hand, for many people, behind the Missile Defence talk, lurks a slippery slop towards the militarization of space. If you are unsure what exactly is involved, then hera is an opportunity to voice support for a suitable forum.

To Sign the petition:
    http://www.ceasefire.ca/letter_hearings.cfm

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POST U.S. ELECTION - THERE ARE ANCHORS THAT REMAIN

In the last email I mentioned that certain dynamics related to American security and immigration changes were being viewed by some Americans as going well beyond reasonable limits and into an area that could change the ethos of a nation. Not to downplay such dynamics, I nonetheless did recently find a judgment that gave me heart that there remain people anchored to the best of what the US stands for, and I want to pass it on:

The judgment related to protests at the former School of the Americas, though whether you support or distain the school is not the issue. The judge struck down an attempt to enforce tighter controls on the protestors. The judge stated:

"We cannot simply suspend or restrict civil liberties until the War of Terror is over, because the War on Terror is unlikely ever to be truly over," Judge Gerald Tjoflat wrote for the three-member court. "Sept. 11, 2001, already a day of immeasurable tragedy, cannot be the day liberty perished in this country."

Here is the link to the fuller story if interested:
    http://www.soaw.org/new/newswire_detail.php?id=539

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POST U.S. ELECTION - TWO BRIEF PERSONAL REFLECTIONS

1. Remembering that this email views things in light of "the well-being of all", there was a moment in President Bush's first term - April 18, 2002 - that gave me the greatest hope for maximizing such an outcome. Bush spoke of the need for a Marshall Plan for Afghanistan. To be clear a "Marshall Plan" is a massive, comprehensive plan to restore people that have been ravaged by war, working with the people to do it. The World War II effort to restore Europe cost in today's terms around $100 billion. Of note, the ideas and plans for it were percolating in 1943, long before the war ended.

It remains my most bitter disappointment that Bush never followed through with his rhetoric, but in my opinion only gave Afghanistan enough support to keep it from collapsing while he turned his attention to Iraq. A fully engaged effort to rebuild Afghanistan could have been a signal to the whole world that US policy can be of true benefit to world moderates (those who have a basic sense of well-being for their people). I am not dismissing the elections there, but find it delusional to be particularly euphoric about them - women in the polling booths could have briefly defied their husbands, and people in many parts may have briefly defied their warlords, but little else has changed, except the production of poppies for the drug trade has risen dramatically. My point is not that progress has completely failed but that the golden moment to seize a grand opportunity slipped away. It would not only have benefited Afghans, but would have been a key complementary resource to address terrorism - a change in perception can erode a power base. To me, true leadership was lacking.

2. I was heartened to encounter something of growing potential - fact-checking. My favourite was FactCheck.org, a non-partisan group (see sample: http://www.factcheck.org/article285m.html) from U. of Penn, although I even noted a few attempts with one of the TV networks. Contrasted with the appalling amount of money each candidate spent (was it $600 million each??), way too much of which was spent perpetuating distortions, I hope serious work will be done to reform the dynamics. In the world of instant communications, no one should be able to voice a distortion a second time and still be considered credible. If the US is "the defender of democracy" then it seems that such defense needs to be on guard internally as well (and the same reform goes for Canada and others).


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Rod Downing
rdowning@istar.ca.

Surrey BC Canada
(604) 535-6550