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Napalm: Student Power Crushes Dow

For the past five generations, Dow Chemical, a $35 billion company and the world’s largest chemicals producer, has been proud to profit from human suffering and misery. Only once in its corporate life has Dow’s immoral profiteering been seriously challenged, and it wasn’t lawyers or governments behind the challenge. It was a mass student movement, conceived and built during the Vietnam War, that forced Dow to end its production of Napalm for the US military. How did they do it?

Moral Outrage Today
Student Power Dow Shalt Not Kill (1967)
Dow Tarnished  

Moral Outrage

Dow Chemical developed napalm-b in 1965, in collaboration with the U.S. Air Force. (1) A petroleum jelly which burns at excess of 2200 degrees Fahrenheit, Dow Napalm B sticks to whatever it splatters on. When this is human flesh, the napalm continues to burn downwards into the body, flameless, feeding on fat and other tissue.

Kim Phuk, a 9-year-old child burned by napalm

A Vietnam veteran is attributed with this perverse but technically illuminating quote about the development of Napalm: "We sure are pleased with those backroom boys at Dow. The original product wasn't so hot - if the gooks [Vietnamese] were quick they could scrape it off. So the boys started adding polystyrene - now it sticks like shit to a blanket. But then if the gooks jumped under water it stopped burning, so they started adding Willie Peter (white phosphorus) so's to make it burn better. It'll burn under water now. And just one drop is enough; it'll keep on burning right down to the bone so they die anyway from phosphorus poisoning." (2)


May 1966 - Stanford Coalition for Peace in Vietnam protests outside Dow plant in Torrance, CA, where napalm is made. Women Strike for Peace obstructs napalm shipments out of San Jose. Protests outside Dow’s Rockefeller Center Sales offices in New York.

August 9, 1966 - University of Michigan students from Students for a Democratic Society (SDS) and the Voice Political Party picketed Dow Chemical's headquarters in Midland, MI, demanding that it end the production of napalm on the grounds that it causes "some of the war's most horrible suffering."

Oct. 10, 1966 – Students at the University of California, Berkeley protest against Dow recruiters, citing Dow’s production of napalm as immoral.

1967 - Students at the University of Maine organize a sit-in at East Annex where Dow Chemical was holding job interviews.

1967 - Students at Marquette University picket Dow recruiters.

1967 - University of California, Los Angeles students protest Dow and other war-related companies.

Feb. 1967 - Students for a Democratic Society at Northeastern University stages a sit-in against student recruiting by Dow Chemical Corporation.

February, 1967 - University of Wisconsin, Madison, students surround the buildings where Dow placement interviews were being held. Three arrests spur protests the next day; demonstrators blockaded the offices of the Chancellor and Dean of Student Affairs, demanding that the charges are dropped and Dow banned from campus as long as it made napalm.

Spring 1967 - Students at the University of Chicago protest against recruiters from “pro-Vietnam” companies, including Dow Chemical, the maker of napalm.

Fall 1967 - Students at Boston University sit-in to prevent Dow Chemical (makers of weapons of war) representatives from holding recruitment meetings with students.

Fall 1967 - 47 University of Illinois students are disciplined after taking part in a sit-in to protest Dow recruitment on campus.

Oct. 1967 - Students at the University of Minnesota occupy Johnston Hall to block access to Dow recruiters.

Oct. 18, 1967 - Hundreds of students sit-in to prevent Dow recruitment at the University of Wisconsin, leading to a tense standoff between students and the police. When students refused orders to disperse, the police resorted to their clubs, and bludgeoned their way into the building. 47 students and 14 policemen were left injured and 71 students were arrested.

Oct. 25, 1967 - 200 Harvard University students barricade a recruiter from napalm-maker Dow Chemical in Mallinckrodt Lab for seven hours, until faculty ''worked out conditions for his release."

Oct. 30, 1967 - After 2 hours of trying to speak with a Dow recruiter, 50 students from the University of Indiana entered the room peacefully and sat-in without blocking the office. Police arrested 40; the remaining ten were clubbed and denied medical attention. Faculty members raised $9,000 to bail out the students.

Oct. 30, 1967 - 100 students and faculty members at the University of Connecticut prevented a Dow recruiter from giving interviews by blocking the hallway.

Nov. 6, 1967 - More than 70 students at MIT organize a protest against the visit of a Dow recruiter. Although the protestors do not block access to the interview room, they styme recruitment by signing up for interviews themselves.

Nov. 8, 1967 - The University of Rochester chapter of Students for a Democratic Society organizes a sit-in to block Dow Chemical recruitment; More than 100 students and several faculty members participate.

November 29, 1967 - More than 200 students at New York University occupy the University Placement Services Office, forcing Dow Chemical, the producers of napalm, to call off scheduled interviews. Students carried signs reading "Dow Deforms Children" and "Dow Deals Death".

Dec. 4, 1967 - Dozens of University of Iowa students picketed, fasted, and burned 10 dolls to protest Dow recruiting on campus.

December 6, 1967 - 150 students sat-in at the Brandeis University Administration Building while 500 picketed, ignited dummies with napalm and paraded to tape-recorded war sounds outside. Brandeis agreed to the student demands, barring Dow Chemical recruiters from campus.

1968 - Oberlin College students petition the Board of Trustees to liquidate College investments in Dow due to war profiteering.

1968 - When Dow Chemical recruiters came to the University of Wisconsin-River Falls, they were greeted with a three-hour protest against their company as a producer of napalm.

1968 - Students protest against Dow Chemical at Iowa State University.

Jan. 12, 1968 - Protest organized against visit by Dow Chemical recruiters to Holy Cross. Spokesman for the Student Action Committee condemns Dow for the "immoral production of napalm."

Feb. 21, 1968 - Students at Wisconsin State University, La Crosse stage a protest against Dow during a recruitment visit; collecting petition signatures, students march to the interview conference room and tape the petition to the door.

Feb. 22, 1968 - Students, faculty and a Dow representative participated in an open forum at the University of Michigan on the moral responsibilities of Napalm production. Prof. Richard Mann of the literary college questioned Dow's moral judgment: "If the government starts pouring napalm down babies' throats, when does Dow say 'That's not what we had in mind?'" Paul Harsha, speaking for Dow, replied "We don't think we've arrived at the answer to that." He conceded that although Dow would supply napalm for a war against France or Canada, use ofthe chemical on American citizens, even in a civil war, would be "unthinkable."

March 6, 1968 - More than 500 New York University students demonstrate against the reappearance of Dow Chemical Company recruiters on campus.

March 12, 1968 - More than 100 students at Syracuse University barricaded the administration building with benches, rope and wire to protest Dow recruitment on campus. Several university officials were blocked from their offices.

Spring 1968 - Students at Stanford University organize a sit-in at the Student Union (now Old Union) and demand that the college change recruitment policy to disallow recruiters from Dow Chemical on campus. For the first time in Stanford’s history, the faculty vote not to support the administration, and the policy is changed.

May 8, 1968 - Over 400 protestors, including several hundred students, protested Dow's manufacture of napalm at their annual shareholder's meeting in Midland.

Nov. 1968 - Students at Notre Dame organize a large-scale demonstration during several days of Dow recruitment interviews.

1969 - Students at the University of Washington occupy the Loew Hall Placement Center to block recruitment interviews by Dow Chemical.

1969 – Students at the University of Manitoba throw chains and locks across the doors and sit in to block the recruiters from Dow Chemical.

1969 - Forty students and some faculty at the University of Saskatchewan picket Dow Chemical at the Student Placement Office.

February, 1969 - Students at Rutgers University stage a sit-in at the Newark campus in protest against University complicity with Dow and the war effort.

March 22, 1969 – nine activists, including two members of the clergy, break into the Dow Offices in Washington, burn files with homemade napalm, and are arrested. The “D.C. 9” are charged with three federal felony counts - burglary, and two counts of property destruction.

May 7, 1969 - 250 protestors including students and religious leaders attended the annual Dow shareholder's meeting to protest the continued production of napalm. Rev. John Bailey called Dow Chemical a "merchant of death" while Father O'Rourke told the shareholders that "We must stop your company" because of its "exultation of profit and property over people."

Nov. 7, 1969 – The “Beaver 55” invade Dow Chemical’s data center in Midland, Michigan, erasing magnetic tapes filled with biological and chemical research.

Nov. 7, 1969 – Dow’s Washington offices are vandalized, with files strewn and ink and chemicals splashed around. A short statement left in the office said it was wrong to "put profit before people," and invoked support for the Beaver 55 and the D.C. 9.

Nov. 18, 1969 - Police in riot gear break up a peaceful protest against Dow recruiters at Notre Dame. The students suspended and expelled, the "Notre Dame Ten," are supported by faculty; Professor Charles McCarthy resigns in protest. "These protests were about us as individuals confronting the University and administration about its moral pretensions," said Mark Mahoney, one of the "Notre Dame Ten." "It was a big deal for those folks who were involved because we made a very deliberate choice."

Spring 1972 - Direct Action at the University of Texas, Austin organizes demonstrations against recruiters from corporations supplying the war effort, including Dow Chemical.

In "Medical Problems of South Vietnam," four American physicians wrote: "Napalm is a highly sticky inflammable jelly which clings to anything it touches and burns with such heat that all oxygen in the area is exhausted within moments. Death is either by roasting or by suffocation. Napalm wounds are often fatal (estimates are 90 percent). Those who survive face a living death. The victims are frequently children." (3)

"One never forgets the bewildered eyes of the silent, suffering, napalm-burned child."
- Dr. Richard E Perry, 1967

Dr. Richard E. Perry, an American physician, wrote in Redbook in January 1967, on his return from Vietnam: "I have been an orthopedic surgeon for a good number of years, with rather a wide range of medical experience. But nothing could have prepared me for my encounters with Vietnamese women and children burned by napalm. It was shocking and sickening, even for a physician, to see and smell the blackened flesh." (4) By 1966, Dow was supplying 4550 tons of napalm per month to be dropped onto Vietnam. (5)

However Dow's President at the time, Herbert D. Doan, described Napalm as "a good weapon for saving lives," claiming further that "It is a strategic weapon essential to the pursuit of the tactic we are engaged in without exorbitant loss of American lives." Novelist Robert Crichton, writing in the New York Review of Books, could have been responding directly to Doan when he wrote that “the justification for this behavior . . .lies in the words 'saving American lives.' Any action can be condoned, any excess tolerated, any injustice justified, if it can be made to fit this formula. The excessive valuation on American life, over any other life, accounts for the weapons and tactics we feel entitled to use."

Rutgers University, 1969

Five years after Doan reaffirmed his company's commitment to Napalm, on a June morning in 1972, an American air force plane dropped several thin 120 gallon canisters of Dow-brand Napalm B onto the Vietnamese village of Trang Bang. Kim Phuk was there, and she was set on fire. Napalm covered her back, it burned through her clothes, it burned deep into a third of her body. She was nine years old.

As the Jesuit Daniel Berrigan said 30 years ago when he and his brother and seven others broke into an unoccupied draft office and poured homemade napalm onto U.S. draft files: "Forgive us dear friends, for the crime of burning paper instead of children."

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Student Power

Students were outraged that Dow would continue to manufacture and profit from such a repugnant product. They began to challenge Dow and its presence at their colleges and universities, and Dow recruiters, research, speakers, and investments were all protested. Across the country, Dow became a moral outcast.

University of Saskatchewan, 1969

The first protests took place in 1966. The Stanford Coalition for Peace in Vietnam (SCPV) led a protest at the Dow Plant in Torrance, California, where Dow produced napalm. (6) And in late May four Women Strike for Peace "housewives" were arrested after they tried to block napalm shipments out of San Jose; another group obstructed the loading of a barge with the napalm for shipment. Both groups were arrested and sentenced. (7) In May protests also engulfed Dow’s Rockefeller Center sales office in New York City. They foreshadowed the movement to come.

In 1967, protests against Dow erupted on campuses nationwide. By December of 1967, more than 500 student protests had been staged against Dow, including 119 against Dow recruiters. (8) When Dow Chemical Co. recruiters visited the University of Wisconsin, Madison, in February of 1967, students surrounded the buildings where placement interviews were being held. Three arrests spurred protests the next day; students blockaded the offices of the Chancellor and Dean of Student Affairs, demanding that the charges be dropped and Dow banned from campus as long as it made napalm. Tense negotiations resolved the standoff, and the charges were dropped.

Dow’s next visit to Madison, on Oct. 18, 1967, famously ended in a brutal confrontation. Hundreds of students blockaded the room where interviews were to be held, leading to a tense standoff between students and the police. When students refused orders to disperse, the police resorted to their clubs, and bludgeoned their way into the building. 47 students and 14 policemen were left injured and 71 students were arrested. (Read more in this excellent three-part series from the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel).

"Our problem is not a lack of foresight," Andy Good, a University of Wisconsin student senator, told students following an October confrontation with Dow recruiters and police. "Nor is it whether or not Dow should come onto campus. Our problem is allowing a company that produces a compound of polystyrene and other organic materials that reacts with human skin to melt people's faces onto their chests." (9)

In its February 10, 1969 issue, Business Week reported, “Not long ago, Jack Jones, Jr., a reformed newspaperman (Daily Oklahoman, Toledo Blade) bailed out of a back window on a California campus to escape a howling mob of students battering down the door. With him were three frightened IBM recruiters and Hans Beetz, a Dow Chemical Co. lab administrator. Jones, the West Coast public relations representative for Dow, made tracks with Beetz for their car, where the students caught up with them and rocked the locked car until the beleaguered Dow representatives' teeth rattled.”

The story went on to say that "The situation is such that Dow recruiters are at least mentally prepared for trouble. In fact, one of them, W. L. Hendershot, was once locked in a room so long by University of Wisconsin [Madison] students that he now packs a sandwich for emergency rations in his briefcase. The current imprisonment record is held by Dr. Frederick C. Leavitt, a Dow researcher who like many of his colleagues makes several recruiting trips a year. He was once cornered in a conference room for seven hours by 200 Harvard students."

In May 1968, University of Michigan students organized a march on Dow's world headquarters in Midland to demand an end to napalm production. (10) Protests also marred the 1969 Dow shareholder’s meeting. By this time, concerned citizens were organizing boycotts of Dow products and churches and other organizations were divesting Dow stock. In January 1969, the Union Theological Seminary divested itself of 6,000 shares because they believed that Dow symbolized “a kind of warfare that is morally repellant.” (11) Five months later, the Massachusetts Conference of the United Church of Christ sold its shares in Dow at a $15,000 loss because of its manufacture of napalm. (12)

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Dow Tarnished

NYU, 1968

The student movement soiled Dow’s reputation and its share price slumped. Dow’s chairman of the board, Carl Gerstacker, confessed to the New York Times in November 1967 that Dow had been hurt by the protests. (13) Consumer boycotts, time spent answering questions about Napalm, and divestment had damaged the company, he explained. About a month later, President Herbert D. Doan said he was worried the protests were costing Dow the creative minds which might invent "the next great thing." (14) In that same year, the Board of Directors held a meeting to discuss the ethics and morality of Napalm production. (15)

By November 1969, Dow declared that it would stop manufacturing Napalm for the United States government. Dow’s Chairman of the Board, Carl Gerstacker, explained, “We may have lost some recruits that we really would have wanted, we may have lost some sales that we otherwise would have had, we may have lost some stockholders that would otherwise have purchased our stock. The number of Dow shareholders dropped from 95,000 to 90,000 during the Napalm demonstrations although only a couple dozen stockholders specifically informed us that they were selling because of Napalm. We suspect a good many of the 5,000 we lost reacted at least in part to the Napalm stories, but we have no way of determining just how many.” (16) It took Dow more than a decade to rebuild its corporate name.

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Dow is afraid of you.

Though years have passed and Dow carries on, reaping more profit than ever before from its chemical violence – it fears you. Thirty years ago, the power of student protest and moral outrage tarnished Dow, forcing it to abandon one of its key products and forsake a lucrative contract with the US Government. Today, students are again uniting to demand that Dow’s immoral profiteering from human suffering and slaughter must end.

Join us.

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Dow Shalt Not Kill by Howard Zinn (1967)

The doctrine that the "civil liberties" of corporations are violated by regulatory laws was predominant in this country during the age of the "Robber Barons," and was constitutionally sanctioned for about fifty years, until 1938. Then, a sharply-worded opinion by Justice Black (Connecticut General Life Insurance Co. v. Johnson) declared that corporations should no longer be considered "persons" to be protected by the due process clause of the 14th Amendment. It soon became established in constitutional law that the regulation of business was not a deprivation of a civil liberty, that what is known as "substantive due process" would apply only to cases where real persons were being deprived of their rights of free expression. Today, it is well-established constitutionally that the U.S. government could make illegal the manufacture of napalm, and charge any persons recruiting for a napalm-manufacturing company with conspiring to violate the law.

MIT, 1967

But there is no such law. Indeed, the government itself has ordered the napalm manufactured by Dow, and is using it to burn and kill Vietnamese peasants. Should private citizens (students and faculty-in this instance) act themselves, by physical interposition, against Dow Chemical's business activities?

To do so would be to "take the law into your own hands." That is exactly what civil disobedience is: the temporary taking of the law into one's own hands, in order to declare what the law should be. It is a declaration that there is an incongruence between the law and humane values, and that sometimes this can only be publicized by breaking the law.

Civil disobedience can take two forms: violating a law which is obnoxious; or symbolically enacting a law which is urgently needed. When Negroes sat-in at lunch counters, they were engaging in both forms: they violated state laws on segregation and trespassing; they were also symbolically enacting a public accommodations law even before it was written into the Civil Rights Act of 1964.

To the Editor:
President-designate Fleming's speech at MSU indicates that we are getting rid of one corporate-liberal hypocrite only to be saddled with another. Fleming actually had the nerve to claim that the University's "guarantee" of freedom of speech gives Dow Chemical the right to recruit on campus. By the same logic, the mafia must be allowed to recruit gunmen on campus, and the Nazis had the right to recruit mass executioners at German universities - all in the name of freedom of speech. Such absurd conclusions stem from two fallacies: one, Fleming's failure to distinguish exchange of ideas from conspiracy to commit murder; second, Fleming's claim that economic freedom is part of freedom of speech.

Freedom of speech is the freedom to exchange ideas. It includes the right to argue in defense of genocide, but it does not include the right to organize machinery for genocide.

I will defend Dow's right to explain and defend genocide, but I will not allow Dow to use this campus in its perpetration of war crimes. Dow recruiters had best be prepared for resistence appropriate to the magnitude of their crimes.

Steve Schlosser, Grad
The Michigan Daily Dec. 6, 1967

Most of us, I assume, would support civil disobedience under some circumstances: we would commend those who defied the Fugitive Slave Act by harboring a Negro slave, and those who symbolically enacted emancipation by trying to prevent soldiers in Boston from returning Anthony Burns to his master. Otherwise, to declare that the law in all circumstances is to be obeyed, is to suppress the very spirit of democracy, to surrender individual conscience to an omnipotent state. Thus, the issue becomes: under what circumstances is civil disobedience justified and is the Dow Chemical situation one of those circumstances?

It seems to me there are two essential conditions for the right to civil disobedience. One is that the human value at stake must involve fundamental rights, like life, health, and liberty. There is no real cause, for instance, to disobey a traffic light because it is inconveniently long. But human slavery, or racism, or war-these are overwhelmingly important. Thus, the argument "what if everyone disobeyed the law every time it displeased them" falls before the observable fact that those who engage in civil disobedience are almost always law-abiding citizens who on certain very important issues deliberately, openly, temporarily violate the law to communicate a vital message to their fellow citizens.

What of Dow Chemical and napalm? Four American physicians, in a report, "Medical Problems of South Vietnam," have written: "Napalm is a highly sticky inflammable jelly which clings to anything it touches and burns with such heat that all oxygen in the area is exhausted within moments. Death is either by roasting or by suffocation. Napalm wounds are often fatal (estimates are 90 percent). Those who survive face a living death. The victims are frequently children." Napalm is dropped daily on the villages, the forests, the people of Vietnam by American bombers; the saturation bombing of that tiny country is one of the cruelest acts perpetrated by any nation in modern history; it ranks with the destruction of Lidice by the Germans, the crushing of the Hungarian rebellion by the Russians, or the recent mass slaughter in Indonesia. Dr. Richard E. Perry, an American physician, wrote in Redbook in January 1967, on his return from Vietnam: "I have been an orthopedic surgeon for a good number of years, with rather a wide range of medical experience. But nothing could have prepared me for my encounters with Vietnamese women and children burned by napalm. It was shocking and sickening, even for a physician, to see and smell the blackened flesh."

University of Wisconsin, October 1967

We are not, then, dealing with trivialities, but with monstrous deeds. This fact somehow becomes lost in the bland, reasoned talk of businessmen and university officials, who speak as if Dow were just another business firm, recruiting for some innocuous purpose, making radios or toothpaste. The root issue, it should be clear, is not simply napalm; it is the Vietnam war as a whole, in which a far-off country is being systematically destroyed, and its population decimated, by the greatest military power on earth. The war itself is the object of the civil disobedience; the use of napalm is one particularly bestial tactic in this war.

This brings us to the second condition for civil disobedience: the inadequacy of legal channels for redressing the grievance. This is manifestly true in the case of the Vietnam war, which is being waged completely outside the American constitutional process, by the President and a handful of advisers. Congress is troubled, but follows sheep-like what the White House decrees. The Supreme Court, by tradition, leaves foreign policy questions to the "political" branches of government (the President and Congress) but recently one of its more conservative members, Justice Potter Stewart, said that perhaps the Court should review the constitutionality of the war. This, after 100,000 American casualties! Citizens have taken to the auditoriums and to the streets precisely because they have no other way to protest; yet both President and Vice-President declare with the brazenness of petty dictators that no civic outcry will change their policy. If ever there was an issue which called for civil disobedience, it is this run-away war.

Then why do we become uneasy when students interfere with Dow Chemical? Occasionally, we read of housewives blocking off a busy inter section because children have been killed there as a result of a lack of traffic lights. These housewives thereby interfere with the freedom of automobiles and of pedestrians, in order to temporarily regulate, or even disrupt, traffic, on behalf of the lives of children-hoping this will lead to the permanent regulation of traffic by government. (Those are not the automobiles that killed the child, anymore than this Dow Chemical representative, or the student he is recruiting, is actually dropping the napalm bomb.)

Why do we so easily sympathize with actions like that, where perhaps one child was killed, and not with actions against Dow Chemical, where countless children have been victims? Is it possible that we sub consciously distinguish between the identifiable children down the street (who move us), and the faceless children of that remote Asian land (who do not)? It is possible also that the well-dressed, harassed representative of Dow Chemical is more human, therefore more an object of sympathy, to the well-dressed, harassed officials of the University (and to us), than the burning, bleeding, blurred faces of the Vietnamese?

There is a common argument which says: but where will these student actions lead? If we justify one act of civil disobedience, must we not justify them all? Do they then have a right to disobey the Civil Rights Acts? Where does it stop? That argument withers away, however, once we recognize the distinction between free speech, where absolute toleration is a social good, and free action, where the existence of values other than free speech demands that we choose right over wrong-and respond accordingly. We should remember that the social utility of free speech is in giving us the informational base from which we can then make social choices. To refrain from making choices is to say that beyond the issue of free speech we have no substantive values which we will express in action. If we do not discriminate in the actions we support or oppose, we cannot rectify the terrible injustices of the present world.

Indiana University, 1967

Whether the issue of the Vietnam war is more effectively presented by protest and demonstration (that is, the exercise of speech, press, assembly) rather than by civil disobedience, is a question of tactic, and varies with each specific situation. Different student groups (at Harvard and MIT, for instance) have used one or another against Dow recruitment, and each tactic has its own advantages. I tend to favor the protest tactic as keeping the central issue of the war clearer. But, if students or faculty engaged in civil disobedience, I would consider that morally defensible.

So much for student-faculty action-but what of the University administration? The University's acceptance of Dow Chemical recruiting as just another business transaction is especially disheartening, because it is the University which tells students repeatedly on ceremonial occasions that it hopes students will be more than fact-absorbing automatons, that they will choose humane values, and stand up for them courageously. For the University to sponsor Dow Chemical activities as a protective civil liberty means that the University (despite its courses in Constitutional Law) still accepts the nineteenth century definition of substantive due process as defending corporations against regulation, that (despite a library with books on civil liberties) the University still does not understand what civil liberties are, that (despite its entrance requirement of literacy) the University has not read in the newspapers of the terrible damage our napalm bombs have done to innocent people.

The fact that there is only an indirect connection between Dow recruiting students and napalm dropped on Vietnamese villages, does not vitiate the moral issue. It is precisely the nature of modern mass murder that it is not visibly direct like individual murder, but takes on a corporate character, where every participant has limited liability. The total effect, however, is a thousand times more pernicious, than that of the individual entrepreneur of violence. If the world is destroyed, it will be a white-collar crime, done in a business-like way, by large numbers of individuals involved in a chain of actions, each one having a touch of innocence.

Sometimes the University speaks of the "right of recruitment." There is no absolute right of recruitment, however, because (beyond the package of civil liberties connected with free expression and procedural guarantees, which are the closest we can get to "absolute" right) all rights are relative. I doubt that Boston University would open its offices to the Ku Klux Klan for recruiting, or that it would apply an absolute right of private enterprise to peddlers selling poisonous food on campus. When the University of Pennsylvania announced it would end its germ-warfare research project, it was saying that there is no absolute right to do research on anything, for any purpose.

The existence of University "security" men (once known as campus police) testifies that all actions on campus are not equally tolerable. The University makes moral choices all the time. If it can regulate the movement of men into women's dormitories (in a firm stand for chastity), then why cannot it regulate the coming and going of corporations into the university, where the value is human life, and the issue is human suffering?

University of Wisconsin, 1967

And if students are willing to take the risks of civil disobedience, to declare themselves for the dying people of Vietnam, cannot the University take a milder step, but one which makes the same declaration-and cancel the invitation to Dow Chemical? Why cannot the University-so much more secure-show a measure of social commitment, a bit of moral courage? Should not the University, which speaks so often about students having "values," declare some of its own? It is writ ten on no tablets handed down from heaven that the officials of a University may not express themselves on public issues. It is time (if not now, when? asks the Old Testament) for a University to forsake the neutrality of the IBM machines, and join the human race.

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(1) Lumsden, Incendiary Weapons, 43-44.

(2) Quoted in “The Loneliness of Noam Chomsky,” Arundhati Roy. The Hindu. August 24, 2003.

(3) "Dow Shalt Not Kill" by Howard Zinn, 1967. Available at: http://www.thirdworldtraveler.com/Zinn/Dow_napalm.html.

(4) ibid.

(5) "Why is Canada in Vietnam?" by Caire Culhane, 1975.

(6) H. Bruce Franklin, Vietnam and Other American Fantasies (Amherst: U Mass Press: 2000), 75-77.

(7) Who Spoke Up? American Protest Against the War in Vietnam, 1963-1974 (NY: Holt, Reinhardt, Winston) 1984

(8) “Why Dow continues to make napalm,” Business Week, 118. Available at: http://moderntimes.vcdh.virginia.edu/PVCC/mbase/docs/napalm.html.

(9) Heck, Jim "Wisconsin Protestors to Mourn 'Brutality'. The Michigan Daily, October 21, 1967

(10) Tom Wells, The War Within: America’s Battle over Vietnam, 263.

(11) “Dow Stock is Sold by Union Seminary,” New York Times 11 January 1969: 31.

(12) Associated Press, “Church Unit Sells Shares Of Dow Chemical Stock.” New York Times 11 June 1969: 58.

(13) “Dow Chief Says Protests Hurt,” New York Times 18 Nov. 1967

(14) Anthony Ripley, “Napalm Protests Worrying Dow, Though Company is Unhurt,” New York Times 11 Dec. 1967

(15) E. Ned Brandt. Growth Company: Dow Chemical’s First Century. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1997. p.356

(16) E. Ned Brandt. Growth Company: Dow Chemical’s First Century. East Lansing, MI: Michigan State University Press, 1997. p.361



The international student campaign to hold Dow accountable for Bhopal, and its other toxic legacies around the world.
For more information about the campaign, or for problems regarding this website, contact
Shana Ortman, the US Coordinator for the International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal.
Last updated: April 30, 2008


"The year 2003 was a special year in the history of the campaign for justice in Bhopal. It was the year when student and youth supporters from at least 30 campuses in the US and India took action against Dow Chemical or in support of the demands of the Bhopal survivors. As we enter the 20th year of the unfolding Bhopal disaster, we can, with your support, convey to Dow Chemical that the fight for justice in Bhopal is getting stronger and will continue till justice is done. We look forward to your continued support and good wishes, and hope that our joint struggle will pave the way for a just world free of the abuse of corporate power."

Signed/ Rasheeda Bi, Champa Devi Shukla
Bhopal Gas Affected Women Stationery Employees Union
International Campaign for Justice in Bhopal