Magazine article The Christian Century

Banning Land Mines: What the U.S. Can Do

Magazine article The Christian Century

Banning Land Mines: What the U.S. Can Do

Article excerpt

A DOCUMENTARY film on land mines first aired on British television includes a scene in which a Khmer Rouge leader in Cambodia shows his troops how to take apart a land mine. According to a story in the Burlington (Vermont) Free Press, the film captures in living color a computer chip in the land mine that has an "M" for Motorola stamped on it. Motorola, an international corporation based in Schaumburg, Illinois, produces computer chips for such commercial products as washing machines and hair dryers. The film demonstrated that the chips can also be used in land mines.

When Human Rights Watch first asked Motorola for an explanation, it received none. After the film received a far wider viewing on U.S. public television, Motorola began an internal review which revealed, says company spokesman Larry Barton, that Motorola was unwittingly involved in the production of land mines through secondary distribution. "Those sales were legal, [but] I don't think they were right," Barton said.

With the help of a surprising ally, Human Rights Watch, the organization that brought the issue to Motorola's attention, Motorola produced a 50-page handbook to instruct employees on how to keep their products from ending up in the wrong hands through secondary markets.

Steve Goose, who directs Human Rights Watch's Arms Project, cites the actions of Motorola as "a potent example" of a what can be done to stigmatize a weapon which continues to kill or maim 28,000 people a year, or one person every 20 minutes. His organization has contacted 48 companies that produce the mines or their components; thus far 14 have agreed to halt production. Human Rights Watch plans to release the names of companies still involved in land-mine production. It will also endorse efforts of companies like Motorola that have either stopped production of land-mine components or aggressively worked to block the use of its components in these weapons.

The Senate's leading activist against land mines is Patrick Leahy (D., Vt.). Leahy started what he describes as his "crusade" in 1989 after he saw what land mines were doing to children in Central America and Africa. Commenting on Motorola's quick response to the revelation that its chips were being used in land mines, the senator says: "It is only a matter of time before other manufacturers follow Motorola's example." Motorola is "acting in a way that will help convey the message that antipersonnel land mines do not belong in the arsenals of civilized nations. …

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