(First published in Norwegian 22 Feb 2007)
By Pia Gaarder
The Norwegian Government Pension Fund – Global leads the way internationally and has sold off its shares in a series of producers of cluster weapons. During the autumn of 2005 the first seven producers of cluster weapons disappeared from the portfolio, and before Christmas the eighth company disappeared. But the Advisory Council on Ethics does not perceive all cluster-weapon companies as undesirable investment objects. The Advisory Council on Ethics has in fact staked out a frontier and has limited withdrawal to producers of only cluster weapons that represent a humanitarian problem.
Norwatch has asked the Advisory Council’s leader, Gro Nystuen, whether the Council has discussed Textron, which is on the Human Rights Watch list of cluster-weapon producers.
“We have discussed Textron in connection with the anti-personnel landmine case. I imagine Textron is on the Human Rights Watch list because it produces the type of cluster weapon the Advisory Council has delimited itself against – that is, the target-seeking, self-destructing cluster weapons, which we do not consider a humanitarian problem”, Nystuen explained.
“On what basis has the Advisory Council made this decision?”, Norwatch queried.
“On the basis of the ethical guidelines, which state that we are to exclude weapons that through normal usage may violate fundamental humanitarian principles – that is, cluster weapons that do not distinguish between civilians and military personnel during an attack and which leave behind duds and therefore constitute a danger to civilians after the attack.” Nystuen pointed out that cluster weapons is a definition that in reality encompasses many conventional common weapons.
“So, you believe it is correct when the company writes that is a matter of a new type of “smart” munitions which do not leave behind duds?”, Norwatch asked.
“Yes, I believe so. We have been in contact with mine-clearing organizations, including experts from the Norwegian People’s Aid, who confirmed that they have never encountered duds after this type of cluster weapons. One has to keep in mind that these are expensive and extremely advanced weapons which, among other things, are target-seeking and designed to search out large masses of metal”, Nystuen answered. She does not believe Human Rights Watch would dispute this.
“But I think that it is more difficult for the humanitarian organizations to draw a line between acceptable and non-acceptable cluster weapons, as we have done. It is not an easy political delimitation to make for that kind of organization.”
According to Textron’s own description at their web site, the “smart” cluster weapons CBU-97 and CBU-105 leave behind a battlefield without duds. These bombs contain 10 smaller submunitions of the type BLU-108, which each contains 4 “smart” Skeet warheads, giving a total of 40 bomblets.
The 10 submunitions are described as equipped with a special technology, Sensor Fuzed Weapon (SFW), which, according to Textron, destroys movable and stationary targets with minimal “collateral damage”. In contrast to traditional cluster weapons, all the 40 bomblets are equipped with a mechanism that makes them self-destruct in case they do not hit the target during the attack. Textron therefore claims that the problem of bomblets remaining on the ground is non-existent.
Norwatch has not yet heard from Human Rights Watch about their opinion of Textron’s “smart” cluster weapons.
However, one of the problems of the whole campaign against the use of cluster weapons is that if the rich part of the world develops and uses “smart” cluster weapons, then this can be used as an argument that other, poorer countries can keep their ordinary, highly disputed weapons.