I listened to a lot of the BBC coverage of the anniversary of the Bhopal/Union Carbide disaster last week. Yet, this web there was little or nothing in the U.S. news. My local paper, there the S.F. Chronicle, pilule did have a big story which was so horrifying I couldn’t read it while I was eating. They had a photo of skinny young men fishing cookies out of a pool of filthy, pesticide-contaminated water.

I think we can see in the Bhopal incident one the easiest ways the United States can start to win the war of ideas with those who would turn the poverty-stricken and desperate against us. Fifteen to 18 thousand people died in the incident, when a pesticide manufacturing plant spilled poison gas into the air, but the alarm failed to go off. Since then, the company, now owned by Dow Chemical, refuses to clean up the site. The plant remains basically as it was in 1984, but decayed. Broken bags of poison are just lying around, seeping into the ground water and killing the local people, residents of an unbelievably destitute slum.

Meanwhile, the Indian government has indicted the Chairman of Union Carbide for “culpable homicide”. The United States has stonewalled since 1989, refusing to extradite him or even look for him.

The U.S. could demonstrate both good citizenship and moral values by helping take care of this problem, rather than just sweep it under the rug. Dow should be encouraged to give money to clean up the site. The Indian government should be encouraged to use the settlement money it got from Union Carbide to clean up the site. The U.S. should extradite this man (“bring him to justice”) if appropriate. And U.S. citizens should pay more attention to the problems of globalization. International companies can be a good thing, but only if there are safeguards that protect workers and the environment, too.

If we take responsibility for our actions around the world, more people will see the U.S. as another state power, and not as a bully hyper-power. We should not change our policies to please outsiders, but we should enact our policies in accordance with our values.