US Catholic Faith in Real Life

Cluster bombs: made in USA, likely to continue so

Kevin Clarke | Print this pagePrint | Email this pageShare

A treaty banning the use of cluster munitions was signed today in Oslo, Norway. While most of the rest of the civilized world--111 countries in all--joined in the grand united bomb demolition, notable truants included Israel, China, Russia, and yes, the United States, which adopted a similar position on cluster munitions to its resistance to the global abolition of landmines: Yes, they're unpleasant and nasty but necessary and we can improve them so they won't be a threat to children, farmers, farm animals, etc.

We have out work cut out for us on that improvement stuff. By some estimates as much as 25 percent of the 4 million bomblets dropped by the Israelis over Southern Lebanon did not explode. Let's hope the bombs left behind in Lebanon prove less of a long-term hazard than the residue from America's cluster bombing of Laos which more than 30 years after the end of the Vietnam War continues to kill and maim.

The new treaty calls for the destruction of stockpiles of the weapons within eight years.

Cluster munitions break apart in flight to scatter hundreds of small bomblets but because many of the weapon's bomblets don't explode as they are intended to, they can create safety hazards long after the fighting has ceased. According to the Red Cross, credible estimates show the weapons fail between 10 and 40 percent of the time, leaving civilians at risk of harm from unexploded ordnance.

According to CNN:

Cluster Munition Coalition activists behind the agreement expressed disappointment at the absence of the big four, but insisted it wouldn't undermine the treaty as it passes into international law.

"Obviously it's very disappointing that those countries aren't here, but at the same time, the strong message that this treaty sends will make it very clear to those countries that these are unacceptable weapons and inappropriate in future conflicts," CMC Co-Chair Richard Moyes told CNN from Oslo.

"The treaty and the stigma that it builds will make it practically and politically much more difficult for them to use these weapons again in the future," Moyes added about the absent countries.

"Many of their partners will no longer be allowed to use these weapons, and clearly recognize these weapons as far too costly in humanitarian terms."

Here's my past take on this matter: Weapons of lasting destruction