The words of Chairman Anderson

Now that the Indian government has asked the United States to extradite Warren Anderson, it may help journalists to have a library of quotes from the man who headed the company responsible for the world's worst industrial disaster. This collection is by no means exhaustive and we will constantly add to it.

Anderson direct quotes are in Carbide blue. Our best honest reconstructions of missing words in red italics and are based on the context in the quoted source. (Comments to throw light on some gnomic pronouncements in round brackets).

This collection of Anderson quotes is arranged by date. It runs from 1984 to 1986, the year Anderson retired as Chairman of Union Carbide. If you have a verified Anderson quote that is not here, please send it to us. We will need a source and date.

We will make another version of this collection, organised by subject/theme.

Dec 4-8,1984 the Andersons talking about his trip to Bhopal immediately post-disaster

(Source: Jan 21, 1985, US World & News Report)

Warren: ''Nobody knew the extent of the injuries. Communications were very difficult. Somebody had to assess the requirements, make things happen right away. It seemed the obvious place to be was over there. I was interested in putting forth some kind of compensation plan. If we didn't do something quickly, it would drag on.''

(Source: May 19, 1985, in the New York Times)

Warren: ''I sort of felt that if I were over there I could make judgments and decisions on the spot.''
Lillian: ''I was afraid for him stepping off the plane in Bhopal. It was all so public.''
Warren: ''When trucks go over bumps and big noises occur outside in the middle of the night, you sort of jump a couple of feet and you sort of settle back down again.''
Warren: "We were talking about generous numbers, by anybody's standards.'' (Of his meeting with Indian Carbide chief Keshav Mahindra to discuss a settement offer)

December 7, 1984 A.M. Cycle

"My only concern at this moment is with the grief of these people and with the tragedy that has occurred."

"I have grown up with the chemical industry, and it's been a wonderful thing about chemicals that you can take toxic materials and make them into great and valuable things. We've had a very good safety record."

"It's better to take off now and figure out
[what would happen] when you get there than to sit around here and waste time worrying about it."

December 11, 1984 The New York Times

Mr. Anderson was asked repeatedly during the news conference today whether he would return to India to stand trial if he were formally indicted. He did not respond directly, saying that he expected the question to become ''moot'' when the Indian authorities investigated the accident at Bhopal more fully.Pressed for a more direct comment on whether he would return to India, Mr. Anderson said, ''I would consider it, yes, certainly.''

''There are a lot of questions I can't answer because I could not talk to anybody over there.'' (The Indian CBI did not allow him access to Union Carbide India officials.)

"[I do not feel personal reponsibility for the tragedy in Bhopal. It will leave a]
stigma for years to come [on Union Carbide]."

''For the the rest of my career, I know that I will be judged on how this affair is handled.''
(He was 63 when he said this, in 1984.

''We don't want to get into an asbestos kind of issue that drags on for years and nobody gets satisfaction.''

''I am confident that the victims can be compensated without an adverse effect on the financial structure of Union Carbide.''


''There is a psychological factor. Many people there would be very concerned if we started up again.''
(Re restarting of Sevin process to use up remaining MIC in Bhopal)



December 15, 1984 The Associated Press

Representative Henry Waxman, Democrat-California: "In fact you really don't know what you are putting into the atmosphere and what effect it has."
Anderson: "A good point."

"We don't have zero discharge capability at this time, but I'm sure there are emissions coming from the [Institute, West Virginia] plant from time to time that are controllable and are not harmful."


"We won't resume production [at Institute] until we know what happened and until we are certain we can produce it safely."

"[Bhopal] has shaken the world. [It's] time, whatever your position, that the industry is re-evaluated."



December 24,1984 Time Magazine

"Union Carbide has a moral responsibility in this matter, and we are not ducking it."



December 24,1984 Business Week

"As the day went on, and that number crept up and up, I almost felt that if I'd go back to sleep and wake up all this would disappear. It's a shattering experience."


"[We will pay fair compensation. But a decision on compensation]
should be reached quickly. I don't want this turning into an asbestosis-type thing where no one gets paid after years of litigation."

"I met with [other Carbide executives] for an hour and a half before coming here, and in our judgment we will be a viable company." (This comment was made the day after his return from India and quoted later)

"[Union Carbide India Ltd] operated as a separate company. . . Under the best of circumstances to find out what went wrong is not easy. When you complicate that with all the furor, you are talking weeks to sort this out."

"We have a stigma. We can't avoid it."

"[In terms of equipment, safety, and skilled personnel, there was]
nothing left to be desired [at the Bhopal plant]. There's no criminal responsibility here."

"The balance of my professional career will be associated with having to sort out this incident. Maybe some benefits will come out of this -- in terms of how people do things in other parts of the world."

 

January 21,1985 U.S. News & World Report

''It never occurred to anyone that this would happen I didn't want to get in the Guinness Book of World Records for the worst industrial accident in history."

"Nobody knew the extent of the injuries. Communications were very difficult. Somebody had to assess the requirements, make things happen right away. It seemed the obvious place to be was over there."

"I was interested in putting forth some kind of compensation plan. If we didn't do something quickly, it would drag on.''

''We sat there figuring out how to cope. There were only two lines into Bhopal. Both were jammed. We couldn't reach anybody.''
(At his meeting with Keshub Mahindra in the Taj Hotel, Bombay)

''It was important to the way we run our business. It indicated to our 100,000 employes around the world that they weren't sitting at the end of a string, dangling.'' (On his India trip)

On Carbide generally: ''We were beginning to see the light at the end of the tunnel.''

On the Bhopal plant: "We were looking to see if other manufacturers could utilize or take over our facilities, but we hadn't gotten very far down that road."

''It boggles my mind. The chemical industry is one of the safest industries, and we were at the head of the list.''

''The Indians are very technically capable, but for safety procedures, U.S. multinationals should insist on having American employes as well as local nationals."

''Perhaps I'm a Pollyanna, but maybe it was good it was Union Carbide.''

 

February 24, 1985, The Washington Post

"[Union Carbide has accepted]
moral responsibility [for Bhopal.] Our image has been hurt. [But our handling of the problem has been a] textbook example of crisis management."

"When all this is over, I don't think anyone will accuse Union Carbide of stonewalling or running away from the issue." (Rather ironic in view of their 11 year refusal to attend the court in Bhopal)


March 27 1985, The Washington Post

Carbide Chairman Warren Anderson told the congressional panel* yesterday that the company had "no evidence whatsoever that sabotage was behind" the Bhopal incident.
*House Health & Environment Subcommittee - Henry Waxman

 

April 1 1985 Time Magazine

"That plant should not have been operating."

"Safety is the responsibility of the people who operate our plants. You can't be there day in and day out."


May 19 1985, New York Times

([WARREN M. ANDERSON, the chairman of the Union Carbide Corporation, has not taken his wife Lillian out to dinner much in the past five months.)

''I kind of felt that if somebody caught me laughing over in the corner over something, they might not think it was appropriate.''

''I couldn't comprehend it. We thought it couldn't be that bad, that when the next call comes through it will be better, not worse.''

''We had this frustrating problem of being able to see on television what was going on in Bhopal and unable to get a line through to find anything directly ourselves.''

''It must be like when someone loses a son or a daughter. You wake up in the morning thinking, can it possibly have occurred? And then you know it has and you know it's something you're going to have to struggle with for a long time.''

''Flying a flag at half mast may make you feel a little better, but it doesn't get rid of the problem."
''You try real hard to build yourself up by saying, we're going to learn something from this, we'll be a better company or a better industry or a better country as a result. You're going to do those things. But you know it doesn't make that much difference. That is, the disaster still happened and you can't get away from it.''
(Union Carbide flags flew at half mast after the disaster)

"[My favorite Chinese proverb: 'Leader is best when people barely know he exists.']"

''Those kinds of things are almost impossible to do as long as you have Bhopal hanging over your head.'' (Of Carbide's continuing acquisitions policy)

''I sort of felt that if I were over there I could make judgments and decisions on the spot.''


Lillian: ''I was afraid for him stepping off the plane in Bhopal. It was all so public.''
Warren: ''When trucks go over bumps and big noises occur outside in the middle of the night, you sort of jump a couple of feet and you sort of settle back down again.''

"We were talking about generous numbers, by anybody's standards.''
(Of his discussions with Keshub Mahindra, UCIL's head in India, about immediate relief and a permanent settlement)

''At hearings and at meetings that I've been to, there have been other members of the chemical industry there too, stating their piece or giving their testimony. It has been helpful that other people have taken on some burdens.''

"A grown man hiding in a hotel room.''
(Of his personal ordeal, he hid out for a week in a Stamford hotel with his wife and mother-in-law.)

''If you listen to your lawyers you would lock yourself up in a room someplace. If you listen to the public relations people they would have you answer everything. I would be on every TV program.
[You constantly risk upsetting one group while satisfying another.]"

'We have a lot to prove and the world is watching.''


''[Union Carbide] is very much like a family where when there is a problem you close ranks.''

''I think everybody is going to seriously question the degree of control that you have [over foreign subsidiaries. American companies will demand more control than they have now, including the right to do safety audits at any time. The alternative is that] you just will not make that investment.''

''Maybe I wish to be remembered for resolving an issue like Bhopal. Not many people have the chance to be in the middle of a mess like this one and come out of it. So, if you can come out in a positive way, look back on it and say, yes, I know it was a terrible tragedy, but some benefits accrued, and here's what they are - that's not bad.''



August 16, 1985 The MacNeil/Lehrer NewsHour

WARREN ANDERSON, chairman, Union Carbide: "The game that we have to play now, and this is something the community has to understand, is I think you pull the cord first and then you apologize later that it was unnecessary, rather than not pulling the cord first and then apologizing that you didn't pull the cord. We have a lot of work to do, and I'm talking not just Carbide but the local community, to understand what goes on in these plants and what precautions are necessary. We'd rather be accused of crying wolf, is what I'm saying, than we would be accused of saying -- not doing the proper thing at the proper time."

Ever since the Bhopal tragedy the chairman of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, has been unavailable for interview. So tonight we have an extended excerpt of a press conference this morning where Anderson tried to deflect criticism of the company's handling of the latest incident. He was asked specifically about a report in the Los Angeles Times that the gas leak contained a large amount of a suspected carcinogen, methylene chloride.

1st REPORTER: Was the cloud in fact primarily composed of methylene chloride, and if so, why were we told it was aldicarb oxime?

WARREN ANDERSON, chairman, Union Carbide: See now, I didn't tell you that's what it was. And this information comes from people trying to be as helpful and as up front as they know how. And we tell you everything that was in that tank when the incident occurred. And there was methylene chloride in that tank as a solvent, and there was aldicarb oxime. The details of what came out of that tank may have nothing to do with what was in the tank, in terms of boiling points and vapor pressures and condensation and etcetera. That work is under way, and you'll get that information. So in some ways we hurt ourselves, and so does the industry in these instances, where you try, because you want to be up front and as outspoken as you know how, and you make statements that in retrospect they're not lies; they're the best judgment you had at the time, but in retrospect prove not to be the fact. So we'll have -- yes.

1st REPORTER: [unintelligible] don't you think it will be rather discomforting for the public to realize that five days after we were standing here and saying you cannot tell the public. What were contents?

Mr. ANDERSON: Of course it's disconcerting. Instantaneous evaluation is not possible in this game. And the problems that are caused by instantaneous evaluations are to me something we could do without. What we do to the community is scare them unnecessarily when we make judgments before we have facts. And I think everybody has an obligation -- I'm talking about you all too -- to not look for what might be a headline, but stick with the facts, not conjecture. I've learned, as I told you, in dealing with Bhopal, that once you try to get out in front of what you know, it's a very dangerous game to play.

2nd REPORTER: With 20/20 hindsight, would you have taken a highly toxic substance like aldicarb oxime, an insolvent, and put it in a multipurpose tank that an EPA official has described as jury-rigged, that clearly couldn't withstand the pressure?

Mr. ANDERSON: The issue of what happened, why it happened, should it have happened and what would you do with 20/20 hindsight is going to be answered, and it's going to be answered quickly. When you talk about a terribly toxic material, relatively speaking, aldicarb oxime is less toxic than ammonia; it's about the same toxicity as kerosene smoke -- that's a fact; and therefore you say, your statement to begin with, "Would you take a highly toxic material like this?" needs some qualifications too. The answer to what you do and how you do it in a plant is the issue that we're going to get at and we're going to address and we're going to do whatever has to be done to make us feel and the community feel confident.

3rd REPORTER: What is the priority for Union Carbide? Is it getting the workers first, or what is -- how does the community fit into your plans?

Mr. ANDERSON: We make this deal with this community, that whatever we do we tell them what we do, so that they fully understand that if changes have occurred, we'll let them know. There's a big issue in this whole evacuation plan and program, is, who has responsibility for what, who makes what decision, who activates what program? This needs sorting out. Those things are going on now, those evaluations. Whatever we do that changes -- and I'm telling you we're putting -- we'd rather be accused of crying wolf, is what I'm saying, than we would be accused of saying -- not doing the proper thing at the proper time.

4th REPORTER: Why did it take this incident to form this kind of policy? Why wasn't that the policy at Carbide prior to this incident?

Mr. ANDERSON: When you have 24-hour day, seven-day-a-week shift operations there are a lot of people involved. And I don't know how it is in your profession, but when we say we have a worry and I want you to respond, and we have good people who have good judgment and they use their judgment, we're taking that judgment away, and we're saying that whatever happens in your plant, if it has this potential, you pull the plug.

4th REPORTER: We were told that the computer you have is among the bottom-of-the-line computers and that you're lacking a lot of critical programs.

Mr. ANDERSON: Don't get into the issue of bottom of the line, top of the line, etcetera, etcetera. There are lots of chemical plants that don't even have one of these things.

4th REPORTER: Well, not all chemical plants are operated by companies which operated a plant around which 2,000 people were killed --

Mr. ANDERSON: No, well, see now, now you're talking about something that is unrelated, really, to what happened here over this past week.

4th REPORTER: [unintelligible]

Mr. ANDERSON: I understand that. So we do have the equipment. That equipment was placed on order before Bhopal. That's a fact. And we're using it and we're working with it and it can be programmed, and what we did in our priorities is program the three most toxic products that we have at Institute. That was the chlorine, the phosgene and the MIC.

5th REPORTER: Mr. Anderson, is there anything you can say about the health consequences of the release at Institute? We keep getting conflicting reports about how toxic all that stuff was. Do you know how much came out?

Mr. ANDERSON: Those answers will be coming out, as I say, this coming week. I don't want to speculate. I've learned my lesson in terms of speculation. You try to give information to the best of your ability, and it turns out later on that maybe there was an unusual occurrence and something was different than you thought and you get accused of lying.

MacNEIL: That was the chairman of Union Carbide, Warren Anderson, at a press conference this morning. Judy?


August 17, 1985, The Financial Times (London)

"We would rather be accused of crying wolf than we would be of not doing the proper thing at the proper time . . . The game we have to play now is to pull the cord first and apologise later if necessary, rather than not pulling the cord first and apologising later for not pulling the cord."
(re decision that in future Carbide would sound alarms at slightest worry, a decision triggered by leak of aldicarb oxime at Institute, not Bhopal]



August 19, 1985 UPI

''We'd rather be accused of crying wolf."

 

August 26, 1985, Time Magazine

"We'd rather be accused of crying wolf than be accused of not doing the proper thing at the proper time."

 

September 15, 1985, Houston Chronicle

"This is a short-term program. [If the moves do not achieve the company's goal of increased profitability in 1986] . . . We'll cut some more."(On Carbide's post Bhopal restructuring)


"I'm going to clean up the shop. It's going to happen before I leave."

December 1 1985, Sunday The Times, London

Warren Anderson said reports of the suffering in Bhopal had been exaggerated. As to the recent leak at his West Virginia plant, "I think if we had a release of Arpege (perfume) at the plant, 185 people would go to hospital."

(Commented the Times, This might be wise. Anyone who has seen the human damage caused by the 'merely irritating' MIC gas in Bhopal would run from a leaking Union Carbide plant even if it were apparently leaking Dom Perignon and dollar bills.)

 

December 1 1985, Sunday Washington Post

"We haven't changed our attitude or wavered at all. I've always felt that settlement is the way to go. But when you're in litigation, you're in a different arena. . . . This is what's so sad. If you go the litigation route, you know you're talking about six, seven, eight, nine years."

"[We remain willing to]
sit down any time, any place [to negotiate an overall settlement but it is up to the Indian government of Rajiv Gandhi to adopt a less] antagonistic [stand]. The ball is in their court."

 

December 3 1985, The New York Times

''Those first two months were tough, tough, tough. But my health is good. My blood pressure improved. I used to spend 100 percent of my time on Bhopal. Now it's maybe 10 percent.''
''The Indian Government has been antagonistic from the word go. Our position hasn't changed; we want to get relief where it is needed. Their position hasn't changed either; they are still antagonistic."


''GAF has been a boon to us.''
(re GAF's take-over bid)

"Whatever the takeover threat is, I don't know. Whatever Sam Heyman is up to, doesn't shake me. After all, anybody who has been through Bhopal is hard to shake up.''

''We've smashed out a whole level of management. Some people don't like it, but as you move people out, younger people move in.''

''As you get closer to Jan. 3, maybe, just maybe, something will happen.''
(re settlement)

''Out of events like this we learn to do things differently.'' (Comment: only the PR changed)

 

Sept 4, 1986, Houston Chronicle

"If the OSHA (Occupational Safety and Health Administration) report on Institute is an opening salvo for a basic attack on our industry, the message is - when the attack comes, forget about fairness.
"[We tried to] hold hands [with the OSHA inspectors and] go through this thing together."


"These people spent five months in our plant, then they sandbagged us."
(OSHA a week earlier had cited Union Carbide for 221 safety violations, including 130 allegedly "willful" violations. Fines from the citations total an agency record $1.37 million. OSHA inspectors converged on the Institute plant last September, a month after a poison gas leak sent six workers and 129 residents to Kanawha Valley hospitals.)

"[Never in history has a Labor secretary announced such violations on television]. Why he chose to do that, I don't know."

"God knows, Union Carbide is not perfect, but we are more than concerned about safety. We know people are frightened and we are responding. If government agencies take up the role of chief antagonist it could hurt what we are trying to achieve."

 

Quoted in Class Action complaint against Anderson

"Well, that’s always a potential and you have to worry about it. That’s why you need the redundancy… Built into the safety system are a whole series of capabilities that can take care of whatever inadvertent action or co-mission has taken place so you’re not all dependent on just one item to either make it safe or make it unsafe."


"We had operated it safely for seven years. It never entered my mind that such a thing could happen."
(testimony to Waxman committee)

"Suppose we were a 40 percent owned company or 35 percent owned company, raises some inquiries on our part, do we want to participate around the world where you have less than absolute control?" (tTestimony to Waxman committee)

"I am telling you if I knew personally of any location in the corporate world of Union Carbide that had an unsafe operation it would be shut down." (Waxman)

"Somebody has to say that our safety standards in the US are identical to that in India or in Brazil or some place else. And that what they do here we have been doing for years: same equipment, same design, same everything."

'We think we will find out that we can operate Institute, West Virginia., without any concern by the people in the community that something will go awry. We did it
(produced MIC) for 17 years and we can do it for another 17 years…"

ANDERSON: I didn't know. Appropriate people in the organization should have known. It's very difficult for me to know everything that's going on everywhere. So we have an organizational system that picks these things up, and where that chain was broken was at the India plant. We did not know in Union Carbide that this was in fact going on, and what I just mentioned earlier, our speed-up of audits, our intensification of training programs, etcetera, we say that'll never happen again.

REPORTER: Sir, you said "their plant," "their people." Did they lie to you about safety conditions there? Did they --

Mr. ANDERSON: No, we have no reason to believe that anybody lied to us.