Massachusetts Peace Action, the American Friends Service Committee, Friends Meeting at Cambridge (Peace and Social Concerns committee) and Merrimack Valley People for Peace welcome the news that Textron has decided to end production of cluster bombs. Textron sold the weapons to Saudi Arabia whose military uses them in the ongoing Saudi attack on Yemen which has displaced 3 million people and created a humanitarian disaster. The decision by the Rhode Island-based company, which has a large plant in Wilmington, Mass., follows a White House order in May to suspend the delivery of a Textron shipment of CBU–105 cluster bombs to the Saudis. The White House responded to documentation by Human Rights Watch and Amnesty International of instances in which Saudi forces dropped CBU-105 bombs on multiple civilian locations in Yemen. All nine Massachusetts members of the House of Representatives voted in June to end cluster bomb sales to Saudi Arabia, but the measure narrowly failed to pass.
Rhode Island peace groups held weekly rallies at Textron’s international headquarters in Providence; in Massachusetts, peace activists picketed outside Textron’s large plant in Wilmington in July calling for an end to the production of cluster bombs and to the extensive U.S. involvement in the Saudi war in Yemen, following years of religious protests there by Quakers. The national anti-war organizations, CodePink, Just Foreign Policy, and the Campaign to End the U.S.-Saudi Alliance campaigned against cluster bomb exports. A Textron spokesman acknowledge the difficulty in getting approvals from the president and congress for more cluster bomb sales: “The current political environment has made it difficult to obtain these approvals”.
Cole Harrison, executive director of Mass. Peace Action, which organized the July 6 Wilmington protest, hailed Textron’s decision: “We appreciate Textron’s bold decision to respond to public concern and protest by terminating cluster bomb production. We hope that other military contractors in Massachusetts will now terminate their weapons sales to the Saudi dictatorship, which are being used to commit war crimes against the civilian population of Yemen. And we fully support ongoing efforts in Congress to block the new request for $1.15 billion worth of these immoral and illegal arms sales to Saudi Arabia. It is shameful that the Obama administration is a collaborator in the criminal Saudi attack on Yemen.”
President Obama, in his speech in Laos this week, painted a grim picture of the devastation caused by cluster munitions, which continue to make large parts of Laos off limits for agriculture 40 years after the end of the secret U.S. bombing campaign in that country. Cluster bombs contain bomblets that can scatter widely and kill or injure indiscriminately. The weapons are banned by the Convention on Cluster Munitions, a 2008 international treaty that arms-sales giants, including the United States and Russia, have not signed. Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA) has filed legislation calling on the U.S. to sign the convention. In a statement praising Textron’s decision, Human Rights Watch spokeswoman Mary Wareham urged U.S. support for the treaty: “Textron was the last U.S. manufacturer of cluster munitions so this decision now clears the path for the Administration and Congress to work together to permanently end U.S. production, transfer and use of cluster munitions.”