Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Boycotting Caterpillar for all the wrong reasons

Looks like our Caterpillar boycott finally has some serious traction. Seems a couple of big mutual fund outfits are all aboard the Caterpillar boycott for the simple reason that the IDF uses the Cat D-9 when they're demolishing Palestinian homes in the West Bank.

At least according to the BDS folks, who are of course trumpeting a great victory.

I'm not so sure. While I'm no fan of bulldozing Palestinian houses, let's bear in mind that the IDF also used the Cat D-9 to take down Israeli settlements in Gaza. Let's also bear in mind that whether it's the government of China clearing slums to build the Olympic village or the government of Brazil clearing slums to build facilities for the 2014 World Cup, the tool of choice is the Cat D-9.

When international mining conglomerates need to rape pristine wilderness to clear mine sites and build access roads, you'll find Caterpillar.

When crop irrigation channels or flood remediation works are built, you'll find Caterpillar too.

Caterpillar just builds the tool.

The IDF has been using Cat's premier machine ever since they've needed it, without ever causing a twinge among the ethical investment crowd. Not even when Rachel Corrie was run over by a Caterpillar in 2003 was Caterpillar blamed. So why now?

Caterpillar closed their London plant in February. This blog gave the matter considerable attention at the time. What was so hugely offensive about the plant closing is that it was so obviously an anti-worker move.  A hugely profitable multi-national kills 500 jobs in a community for the simple reason that they can get workers to work for much less in another community.

In March the ethical investment funds delisted Caterpillar. The news just came out today because it was mentioned in their latest quarterly reports.

Suddenly the matter is a political football, and has been seized upon as a great "victory" by the BDS campaign. In reality, the ethical funds were responding primarily to the plant closing in Canada.

A Cat D-9 is a tool. I don't think Caterpillar is responsible for what the tool-buyers do with it after they bought one.

I do believe they are responsible for how they treat the tool builders.

That, and only that, is why Caterpillar should be boycotted.

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