32nd anniversary of Bhopal chemical explosion: still no justice

Bhopal child (Danish Siddiqui:Reuters) Dec 3 2016

Reposting this from two years ago on what is now the 32nd anniversary of the 1984 Union Carbide toxic chemical explosion in Bhopal, India. We don’t just commemorate that event because the catastrophe is ongoing & so is the unremitting struggle of Bhopal activists for justice.

We stand in solidarity with those activists & honor them for persevering against insuperable odds. Some may think them fools & martyrs but it is through such conviction & commitment that justice will be won. It is one of the most significant environmental & human rights struggles, not just in India but in the world.
Today is the 30th anniversary of the 1984 Union Carbide catastrophe in Bhopal, India. US-owned Dow Chemical is now the owner of Union Carbide whose neglect of equipment & safety maintenance to save money caused the pesticide plant to leak the toxic chemical Methyl isocyanate, an ingredient in pesticides. The explosion killed an estimated 25,000, injured half a million, & permanently contaminated the environment & water supply, which has created new generations of children suffering chemically-induced illness & neurological disabilities.

The petitions to Union Carbide by victims & human rights groups received little help from the Indian government since it is collusive in this criminal travesty. In June 2010, an Indian court indicted seven former managers at Union Carbide for negligence & sentenced them to two years in jail & a fine of $2,100–a sentence that makes a slap on the wrist look draconian. Despite public outrage in India, the Supreme Court upheld corporate impunity & turned down an appeal for harsher sentences.

It’s not yet clear how civil & criminal litigation against Dow/Union Carbide will proceed since in June 2012 a US court absolved the company of all liability in the Bhopal disaster which means they are not liable for compensation, remediation or pollution-related claims. It’s not certain that legal appeals are exhausted. But what a surprise that a US court beholden to corporations rejected the appeals of victims of one of the worst chemical catastrophes ever.

As of now, Dow refuses compensation to the second & third generation of victims, many seriously disfigured & disabled, & poor families are forced to care for them with little assistance. Dow refuses to contain chemical efflux from that explosion which for now 30 years has poisoned the underground water reservoirs. The 50,000 people who still live in the area due to extreme poverty are forced to use the contaminated water for cooking, laundry, & bathing.

Dow will forever stand indicted but that is not sufficient. Justice is demanded & the survivors of Bhopal continue to fight. This is an instance when human solidarity means the difference between unimaginable & unmitigated human suffering & just a bit of justice & relief. Veterans of the anti-Vietnam War movement will remember that Monsanto & Dow were the manufacturers of Agent Orange, the herbicide that caused numerous health problems & death among US veterans & their offspring & continuing, catastrophic health problems for the people of Vietnam. Dioxin was the primary toxic agent in Agent Orange & at the time it was used in Vietnam was known to be life-threatening & was banned in several countries. At a certain point, solidarity becomes a matter of survival & is entirely reciprocal.

This little girl suffers from hearing & speech disorders. She is at a rehab center supported by Bhopal Medical Appeal (a UK charity) for children born with disabilities. The center only treats families they believe have been affected by the Union Carbide catastrophe. In reporting on the anniversary, news reports say “There has, however, been no long-term epidemiological research which conclusively proves that birth defects are directly related to the drinking of the contaminated water.” Apparently its red color is not persuasive of contamination. So the people of Bhopal should invite the editors of such rubbish for a little water tasting event.

(Photo by Danish Siddiqui/Reuters)

The mayor of McAllen told local news the city ranks #1 for safety in Texas & #7 in the US. There are tens of thousands of undocumented immigrants living here & it also ranks as one of the poorest regions in the country. How do you say “stuff it, Trump!”?

When the ghost haunting my machine ate up my post on Obama’s Syrian policies, I didn’t intentionally try to compensate my frustration with sheer tonnage of words. But it is a long one.

It’s a complicated war, very different from Iraq in 2003 & Libya in 2011, & now because of ISIS & US intervention has become partially integrated with the war in Iraq–though it is still a distinct war between dictatorship & popular revolution. It’s a hell of a mess & it is intentionally confusing in order to divide antiwar forces & minimize opposition.

People don’t have to know where these countries are on a map; they don’t have to know the culture or cuisine & don’t have to have traveled there or speak the language to oppose the bombing of civilians by any military for any reason.

It is never going to happen that bombers & special forces are the agents of human emancipation from dictatorship. That is absolutely excluded. If you find yourself cheering for the slaughter in east Aleppo you should hang your head in shame.

Madeleine Albright & Stephen Hadley task force on Syria

Albright and Hadley Dec 1 2016

This is the notorious international serial killer Madeleine Albright & Stephen Hadley, a former National Security Advisor for George Bush who was considered as Trump’s Secretary of Defense. It’s even worse than seeing dead people.

In June 2015, the Atlantic Council, an establishment think tank, commissioned a bipartisan task force headed by these two corpses to formulate a strategy for Syria & the Middle East. Disputes over Syrian policy have been evident for a while, at the highest levels of government. It’s a complicated war because of all the opposing military forces involved–Russia, Iran, Hezbollah, militias from abroad, al-Qaeda, & ISIS. The US is not calling all the shots & those who formulate policy disagree on how the US can triumph politically & militarily.

The bipartisan task force was intended to broker the differences rather than have them erupt publicly. Its job is to make it appear the US knows what it is doing in Syria, without eliminating the widespread confusion about what it is up to & hopefully reduce opportunities for popular opposition to US intervention.

The most prominent figures formally associated with the Atlantic Council include: Henry Kissinger, Lawrence Summers, Rupert Murdoch, Zbigniew Brzezinski, Charles Hagel, Brent Scowcroft, Madeleine Albright, James Baker, Frank Carlucci, Robert Gates, Leon Panetta, Colin Powell, George Schultz, Condoleezza Rice, William Webster. Most of us probably hoped they were all dead by now. But you don’t get more bipartisan than that.

Albright & Hadley released the task force report yesterday & are already out peddling its proposals. The report is politically important & contains useful information but it is written by policy makers accustomed to dissembling, outright lying, & withholding information about US military policy. It is far from a full disclosure document to be read as scripture.

The task force concludes that the US, without deploying ground troops in Syria, must conduct more aggressive military operations, including more bombing, more standoff weapons (cruise missiles, glide bombs, ballistic missiles), more extensive covert operations, more training & arming of militias, more recruitment & reliance on mercenaries. There is no call for a US-imposed No Fly Zone.

Media reports say it calls for military action against Syrian targets but it is actually equivocal. It doesn’t call for direct US military action against Syrian aircraft, air fields, & weapons stores because Russia’s presence precludes that. But it suggests the US employ airpower, standoff weapons, & covert measures to support “opposition forces” armed & trained by the US to threaten Syrian targets.

The report clearly says that regime-change in Syria is not an immediate option because of Russia, but remains a longterm objective. The evident expectation is that the conflict will be prolonged, so longterm becomes years & possibly decades.

It’s curious that some analysts call the report a rebuke of Obama’s “limited military strategy” because for the past six years of US intervention in Syria, most have been unable to elaborate that strategy. Obama’s secretive policies mean that most analysis remains speculative – based on infrequent leaks, complaints by the Russian defense ministry, statements by officials in other governments, reckless comments by former US officials, & rarely statements by US officials. The less known, the less popular opposition.

People are confused about the US role in Syria because it is a secret covert war coordinated by the CIA & special forces in collaboration with Saudi Arabia & other regimes. Obama gave a secret order to the CIA in 2013 to arm Syrian militias which wasn’t reported in the media (the NY Times) until January 2016–long after it was common knowledge. The report said Saudi Arabia bankrolls weaponry (supplied by the US & UK) & the CIA trains, organizes, & supports the militias. How big are these joint operations? What kind of weapons are supplied? Who are these militias getting trained? Syrians opposed to Assad, right-wing extremists, mercenaries, or foreign nationals?

How does the US “support” these militias? Do they coordinate with US special forces & mercenaries? Does the US provide them with air cover? And again, what operations are they involved in? Who are they fighting once they’re trained & equipped? Assadists claim they’re holding civilians hostage in cities, like in east Aleppo. The US claims they’re fighting Daesh/ISIS, but where?

Obama has repeatedly told us there are no US ‘boots on the ground’ in Syria. It’s nearly impossible to tell how many, but we know from media reports that hundreds of special forces have been deployed. That doesn’t include thousands of CIA operatives & mercenaries. What the hell are they doing? They certainly are not trying to remove Assad, so what are they up to?

Due to restrictions on journalists entering Syria (except for Assad propagandists like Eva Bartlett & Vanessa Beeley) reliable investigative reporting is rare. What we know most reliably comes from activists & networks within Syria & from exiled Syrians.

The details will not be made more public. This is a secret war in order to confuse & divide antiwar forces & minimize international opposition. It’s gonna stay that way.

What is clear is that the US intends to expand military operations in Syria & is in the Middle East for the long haul. It’s a hell of a time for the international antiwar movement to fall apart.

Kofi Annan & his phony commission on Rohingya genocide

Kofi Annan  Photo by Rodger Bosch for Africa Progress Panel

Kofi Annan, former UN Secretary-General, arrived in Myanmar yesterday as head of the 9-member commission appointed by Aung San Suu Kyi last August. Media reports said he was going to visit Arakan state “to probe reports of abuse against the Rohingya Muslims” but that’s not what he said & not what he’s going to do. He said on his FB wall that he is going to visit with community leaders in the state “to better understand the challenges they face.”

Media have just got this Annan commission thing all wrong. They continue–as late as yesterday–to report that Suu Kyi appointed the advisory commission “to propose solutions to the sectarian conflict between the Buddhist majority & Rohingya.” That is not what Annan told reporters after his first & until yesterday only one-day visit to Arakan state in September. At a press conference following that visit, he told reporters, “We are not here to do a human rights investigation or to write a human rights report.” As a diplomat, he’s used to talking out of both sides of his ass, but how clear can you get?

Annan told reporters that the commission will write an “impartial report” with recommendations “to reduce tension & support development” in Arakan state. How can even a whitewash commission do that when Myanmar & Suu Kyi stand accused before the world of genocide, including by the head of the UN refugee agency (UNHCR) at the Bangladesh-Myanmar border? When there are satellite images of entire Rohingya villages torched by the Burmese military & credible reports of mass rape, torture, arrests, injuries, executions, & when over 40,000 Rohingya have fled for their lives to Bangladesh? How does one remain “impartial” in the face of genocide?

After his first whirlwind visit in September, a reporter asked Annan, “Did any of you witness anything you would describe as oppression?” Annan answered, “Personally, I did not see it there.” There were then an estimated 150,000 Rohingya in Arakan state living in 67 concentration camps since the 2012 genocidal assault by the military. If our man Annan didn’t see those camps or ask to interview residents, it’s because he’s commissioned–& likely with a hefty remuneration–to play the dunce, to see no evil, hear no evil, cover for the Suu Kyi & junta genocide.

This time, arriving after two months of genocide, it will be difficult to pretend he doesn’t see those torched villages or the thousands gathered at the border with Bangladesh trying to flee. We await with anticipation to see how this “impartial” witness to genocide will play it. Expect the worst from a man who sold his soul a long time ago.

End the genocide of Rohingya Muslims. Full human, democratic, citizenship rights in Myanmar. Full refugee rights for Rohingya forced to flee.

(Photo Annan by Rodger Bosch for Africa Progress Panel)

Khurran Parvez released from police custody

Khurram Parvez
The Jammu Kashmir Coalition of Civil Society (JKCCS) announced that Khurram Parvez has been released from police custody in Jammu:

“He was set at liberty after 76 days of incarceration, following the quashing of his preventive detention by the High Court of Jammu & Kashmir, on 25th November 2016. He is in good health & spirits. He expresses his overwhelming gratitude to the local & international solidarity campaign for his release.

The struggle for the release of Khurram Parvez is a part of the larger struggle against unlawful detentions, state impunity & the use of repressive laws such as PSA in J&K. JKCCS reiterates its commitment to the struggle for truth, justice & the rights of all people of Jammu & Kashmir.”

There is no question that without the international defense of Khurram Parvez & the role of social media in making his defense public & international, he would still be indefinitely detained.

This is an important victory for human rights in Kashmir where he will continue his work against the illegal detention of thousands & the forcible disappearance of tens of thousands around the world.