Pressure continues to grow on Lord Coe and LOCOG (the London Organising Committee of the Olympic and Paralympic Games) to rethink their acceptance of sponsorship from Dow Chemicals for next year’s Olympic games.
Much of the criticism of Dow focuses on the activities of Union Carbide in Bhopal , a company Dow subsequently acquired, and the toxic gas leak which killed 15,000 people and affected 100,000 more back in 1984, many of whom still suffer with the effects of that poisoning today.
Bhopal was a terrible accident, for which Dow have yet to meet their obligations to the victims. But as Len Alidis of the British-Vietnam Friendship Society points out in a letter to me, what Dow did in Vietnam was even worse, and quite deliberate.
Between 1961 and 1971, Dow was one of two companies to help supply 21 million gallons of Agent Orange to the US military to defoliate the Vietnamese jungles. Agent Orange got its name from the 55-gallon drums it is shipped in and that were marked with an orange stripe. It got its reputation from the havoc and destruction it wreaked among the Vietnamese countryside and population. Entire forests and lakes were poisoned and the food chain contaminated. The Guardian report that half a million people died, and 650,000 people are still suffering as a result of as a result of chemical poisoning due to Agent Orange and similar weapons. Dow refuses to accept responsibility or make any compensation to these tragic victims.
Dow were also responsible for the production of another infamous weapon used in the war, Naplam B. This was a petroleum based jelly which ‘burned at 1,000 degrees F, stuck to human flesh and was designed to burn downwards into the body, flameless, feeding on fat and other tissue’. By 1966, Dow was supplying 4,550 tons of napalm per month to be dropped onto Vietnam.
As the Olympics come ever nearer, we can expect many wonderful images of children participating in the build up to the games. But as the controversy of Dow Chemical sponsorship also builds, perhaps one of those image we should remember is that of Kim Phuc, the little Vietnamese girl running naked, screaming in pain and ‘soaked and burning in an invisible flame of napalm’.
It is simply morally wrong that the London Olympics should accept Dow Chemical’s blood money. Along with the leaders of all of the political parties on Tower Hamlets council, except for the Conservative Party, I have written to protest in the strongest possible fashion to Lord Coe. We demand that Lord Coe and LOCOG show some moral backbone, and suspend the sponsorship deal with Dow Chemicals immediately.
Your support in this campaign is vital too.