The NYT’s At War blog has been trying to identify a type of cluster bomb found in Libya. A few of you asked for more photographs to help your efforts, so we have put three more here. These come from the Joint Mine Action Coordination Team in Libya, and are of submunitions that had not undergone the weathering of those we photographed in November in Mizdah. If they can help, we are happy to share them.
We’d like to think that there were readily accessible on-line resources to help civilians run down this kind of information when weapons like these turn up near their homes. But though there are many resources, most have gaps. We (and several others who took this on) have looked at many of the available materials. None of us found a clear match.
That said, these weapons should be fairly easy to identify to specialists in government service, as there are governments that have built international munitions databases and restricted websites for their EOD techs and intelligence services. Unfortunately, though these materials are underwritten by taxpayers and contain information that could be vital to civilians working in conflicts or in post-conflict environments, these sites are largely walled off from civilians — and even from many members of government service who have security clearances. On Twitter, @brettfriedman, a U.S. Marine officer, seems to have bumped into a few of these walls this afternoon. A short while ago he tweeted: “Most of the websites I’m trying to access to research @cjchivers mystery submunition are blocked by US Cyber Command. Thanks, dicks.”
Of course there are other ways. Before the post went live, I was talking with the blog’s editor, Jeff Delviscio, and we agreed that we might get lucky and have a reader solve this at a snap. Here is why: The specialists we showed the photographs to are just like anyone else — they are guided by their own experiences. What this means is that if these submunitions had not been seen, or at least seen widely, in the conflicts where they had worked then the pictures might not register with them. But there could well be a reader who has seen these same items repeatedly in other wars, or (just as likely) a reader who had attended the right arms shows over the years and would recognize the submunitions from the kiosks and displays. Such a reader might even have sales brochures.
This was our hope. That, or that a determined Googler would find a site or a pdf document that we had missed or skimmed while working on this little side project and doing everything else, and would make us eat crow. That would be welcome, too.