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News :: Human Rights : International : Organizing : War and Militarism
Textron Cluster Bombs Focus of Vigil in Wilmington MA
06 Oct 2006
Northampton, Mass -- About 80 people joined the Northampton (MA) Committee to Stop the War in Iraq yesterday to protest Textron Systems based in in Wilmington, Mass., for its manufacture of cluster bombs. The vigil took place outside the plant to call on all people of conscience to oppose the use of cluster munitions and to actively work to end the manufacture and sale of cluster bombs. The Northampton Committee initiated this protest after one of its founding members, Frances Crowe, 87 of Northampton, learned of Textron's role in the production and sale of cluster munitions. Since then Merrimack Valley People for Peace, Traprock Peace Center, Code Pink of western Massachusetts as well as Progressive Democrats of America/Massachusetts, Northampton Chapter have endorsed the protest in Wilmington, Massachusetts.
Massachusetts-based Textron Systems is one of the two companies (Alliant Techsystems is the other) producing the greatest number of cluster bombs in the U.S. Textron is 30th largest arms producer in the world. Textron has 37,000 employees in 33 countries, and revenues of $10 billion. Textron Systems manufactures precision strike weapons, submunitions, ground munitions, and ground and airborne surveillance systems.

Recently cluster bombs have come to public attention because of their use in Lebanon. According to Patrick Cockburn (Independent, September 18, 2006) "Every day, some of the million bomblets which were fired by Israeli artillery during the last three days of the conflict kill four people in southern Lebanon and wound many more." A September 27, 2006 article in the New York Times stated that Arjun Jain of the Office of the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees said in Beirut that 200,000 Lebanese displaced by the Israel-Hezbollah war were delayed from returning home because of the unexploded bomblets. "Displacement is going to continue for many months to come," Mr. Jain said.

On September 7, 2006, The Holy See appealed for a moratorium on the use of cluster munitions and for international treaties to restrict them, lamenting the thousands of deaths caused by the indiscriminate weapons. At the Convention on Conventional Weapons Archbishop Silvano Tomasi, the Holy See's permanent observer to the U.N. office in Geneva stated, "The victims of past conflicts and the potential victims of future conflicts cannot wait for years of negotiations and discussions on the use of these weapons. Thus a moratorium is imperative on their use."

Cluster bombs cause an immediate threat from bomblets or submunitions that do not hit their military targets and kill and injure civilians instead. Because of the nature of this weapon and the difficulty of containing its effects, cluster bombs cause an unacceptable risk to civilians under the principles of International Humanitarian Law. Cluster munitions strike an area wider then an individual target and when used in or near populated areas, cluster munitions guarantee civilian casualties.

In addition to killing and injuring civilians during war, there is a severe post-conflict threat from bomblets or submunitions that fail to explode on impact. These relatively small explosive remnants of war are highly explosive, usually fragmentation weapons and sometimes very sensitive to contact. While all explosive remnants of war (ERW) threaten the lives and livelihoods of the people that live with them, cluster munitions generate a particularly dangerous type of ERW. The main reason for this is that their use in such high numbers (sometimes in the hundreds of thousands of bomblets or submunitions) means the risk to civilians is extreme. Because of this unexploded cluster munitions can deny land and safety to civilians in the same way as landmines. However, unlike landmines, cluster munitions are designed to kill, and an explosion from a cluster munition bomblet or submunition can kill anyone within 50 meters. Cluster munitions are small and are often brightly colored; therefore, they are very attractive to children. Only a trained military expert can tell when a bomblet is armed and hazardous. Cluster bomblets must be cleared one at a time.

(Information from Cluster Munitions Coalition

Cluster bombs have been used by Eritrea, Ethiopia, France, Israel, Netherlands, Nigeria, Russia, Serbia and Montenegro, Sudan, United Kingdom, United States. Cluster munitions have been used in Afghanistan, Albania, Bosnia & Herzegovina, Cambodia, Chad, Croatia, Eritrea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Kuwait, Laos, Lebanon, Russia (Chechnya), Saudi Arabia, Sierra Leone, Sudan, Syria, Tajikistan, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo), Vietnam and most recently in Lebanon.

The Northampton Committee to Stop the War in Iraq has been working since December 1998 to educate members of the community on the human costs of US policy in Iraq and the Middle East: sanctions, war and occupation. The goal of its activities is to create a well informed, broad based citizen’s group that will be actively involved-- at the local, national and international level-- in the critical conversations and decisions about US, Iraq and Middle East policies.

-30- Information on Textron blu-108. The last paragraph describes how the bombs are being modified to enhance their lethality for soft targets. The range the bombs will cover will be extended to 600 to 1,800 ft. which will increase the chances of collateral damage. 1,800 ft. is over 4 football fields long! The NFL Professional football field is 368 ft. long.

BLU= Bomb Live Unit. SFW= Sensor fuzed weapon. CBU= Cluster Bomb Unit
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