MARCH 1998 · VOLUME 19· NUMBER 3
THE CORPORATE WAR MACHINE
Fields of Nightmares
The Not-Yet Eliminated Global Landmine Industry
The December 1997 signing of the Landmine Treaty marked a major step in the campaign to eradicate landmines, but not a final victory. More than 120 countries signed the Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Mines and on Their Destruction (the Ottawa Treaty), including 33 former producer states.
The Ottawa Treaty was largely the product of an unprecedented effort by more than 1,000 non-governmental organizations in the International Campaign to Ban Landmines (ICBL). In recognition for its work, the ICBL and its coordinator, Jody Williams, received the Nobel Peace Prize earlier this year.
The ICBL has succeeded through aggressive campaigning that highlights the tragic consequences of the use of anti-personnel (AP) mines. Every 22 minutes someone is injured, maimed or killed in a landmine incident -- more than 26,000 people each year. Most of the victims are civilians, often women and children, and nearly all these incidents occur after fighting has ended in the area where the mines were laid. AP mines ensure war damage continues after the fighting is over in other ways, as well. AP mines slow reconstruction, prevent resettlement and divert the scarce resources of post-conflict societies to landmine clearance, which the U.N. estimates costs between $300 and $1,000 per mine cleared.
But production of AP mines has been a big business -- one many producers are reluctant to abandon. Nineteen current or former producer countries refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty.
Profit margins for AP mines are small, largely because individual mines sell so cheaply. Recent prices for conventional AP mines include $3.00 for a Chinese Type 72 mine, $6.75 for the Pakistani P4 MK2 mine and $27.47 for U.S. M18A1 claymore mines. (More sophisticated mines, for example those that self-destruct after a preset time, are much more expensive, typically costing hundreds of dollars each.) But even small profit margins can pay off with big sales volume.
More than 400 million AP mines have been emplaced since World War II, the vast majority in the last three decades, according to Thomas Reeder, a senior mine warfare analyst at the U.S. National Ground Intelligence Center. Of this total, 110 million mines in approximately 70 countries remain to be cleared. More than 100 million AP mines are also held in storage around the world, according to U.S. military estimates, including 14 million in U.S. stockpiles. (State parties to the Ottawa Treaty will be required to destroy their stockpiles of AP mines.)
It is unclear how much demand there will be for AP mines once the Ottawa Treaty enters into force, but some will undoubtedly remain. Until the international ban on antipersonnel mines is universal, members of the ICBL will continue to research the production and trade of AP mines and publicly identify and stigmatize the countries and companies involved in the supply, use and production of AP mines.
The producer states that have not signed the Ottawa Treaty are: Belarus, Burma, China, Cuba, Egypt, India, Iran, Iraq, Israel, North Korea, South Korea, Pakistan, Russia, Singapore, Taiwan, Turkey, Ukraine, the United States, Vietnam and Yugoslavia.
THE U.S. CORPORATE PRODUCERS
Although it has had a unilateral export moratorium on AP mines in place since 1992, the United States has refused to sign the Ottawa Treaty.
From 1969 to 1992, the United States exported 4.4 million AP mines to at least 34 different countries. U.S. mines have been sown in Afghanistan, Angola, Cambodia, Cuba, Iraq, Kuwait, Mozambique, Nicaragua, Somalia, South Korea, Sudan and Vietnam.
Forty-seven U.S. companies have been involved in the manufacture of anti-personnel landmines, their components or delivery systems. Because U.S. stockpiles are full, there is apparently no current production of AP mines.
Last year, Human Rights Watch approached these companies, highlighted the humanitarian impact of AP mine warfare and asked them to renounce future involvement in AP mine production. Nineteen of the 47 companies agreed to do so. Notable companies that declined to renounce future involvement are General Electric, Alliant Techsystems (the main U.S. manufacturer of AP mines), Lockheed Martin and Raytheon.
Of the 28 companies that rejected Human Rights Watch's humanitarian appeal to renounce future involvement in AP mine production, 16 responded in writing, and 12 never bothered to respond to repeated requests.
A number of companies insisted they should not be on the list of mine producers because they were currently not involved in the production of AP mines. Human Rights Watch pointed out that, because at the moment U.S. stockpiles of AP mines are full, no AP mines are being produced in the United States. The purpose of the pledge was to obtain guarantees that companies would not engage in any future production.
Despite Human Rights Watch's clear request, some companies refused to address the issue of future involvement. General Electric, in a carefully crafted January 16, 1997 letter, stated: "We know of no active GE contracts nor any current direct sales of GE products or materials in which we are involved with manufacturers of antipersonnel mines, mine components or mine delivery systems. ... GE's name on an undated (but apparently old) government list of suppliers is not relevant to the Company's current operation." GE never renounced involvement in future production, despite repeated requests for clarification.
Some companies were more forthright. Raytheon wrote, "It is generally not our practice to broadly and formally renounce participation in businesses."
Other companies said governments, not corporations, were to blame for landmines' deadly toll. "It is irresponsible to imply in any way that companies such as Alliant Techsystems have contributed to the world's landmine problem," insisted Alliant Techsystems, a major defense contractor which was awarded Pentagon antipersonnel and antitank mine production contracts worth $336 million between 1985 and 1995 (a subsidiary, Accudyne Corp., received contracts worth another $150 million in the same period). "To do so wrongly maligns responsible U.S. citizens, and diverts resources that could be applied toward stigmatizing governments that violate international law."
THE GLOBAL PRODUCERS
With 19 other producer states refusing to sign the Ottawa Treaty, the threat of ongoing or renewed AP production and commerce is not limited to the United States. Among the other countries that will face increased scrutiny are:
Of known exporters of AP mines, only Iran, Iraq, Serbia and Vietnam have not declared export bans or moratoria. However, self-declared bans and moratoria are matters of discretionary domestic policy and do not represent the same obligation as international treaties. Additionally, many of these countries do not have adequate export controls or the ability or will to monitor arms-producing factories.
One important task for the ICBL will be to monitor and verify that these non-Ottawa-Treaty-signing states are adhering to their promises to stop exporting AP mines.
CLEARING THE LANDMINE FIELD
Even prior to the signing of the Treaty, the International Campaign to Ban Landmines has facilitated a dramatic reduction in the landmine trade and in the use of AP mines altogether. Continued vigilance and aggressive campaigning will be required to achieve an eventual complete and effective worldwide ban on the production, stockpiling, use and export of AP mines, with attention focused especially on the countries and companies that refuse to renounce involvement with the inhumane weapon.
But with so much accomplished already, efforts to limit landmines' gruesome toll on life and limb will increasingly be focused on clearing the more than 100 million still in the ground.
E.J. Hogendoorn is a research associate at the Human Rights Watch Arms Division.