"War is the greatest threat to public health." - Gino Strada, Italian war surgeon and founder of the UN-recognized Italian NGO Emergency

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

BAN the (Cluster) BOMB!


One has to wonder what kind of person sits around designing any one of the many diabolical weapons systems with which the world's armies go around killing people, particularly weapons like cluster bombs. Any kind of bomb is bad in my book. But cluster bombs are particularly diabolical in that by their very nature, design and use, they end up killing and injuring many more civilians (and particularly children) than enemy soldiers.

If you have never seen one in action - and I hope you never do - you are lucky. You must not live in one of the more than two dozen places where they have been used, such as Lebanon, Afghanistan, Iraq, Laos, or Kosovo. Cluster bombs are sometimes referred to as indiscriminate killers; but I would disagree with that assessment. By the very design of the bomblets and their high failure rate, meaning that a large percentage of bomblets do not immediately explode, they are attractive to children who, out of a natural curiosity, pick them up. The results are almost always tragic. They are, in a very real sense, selective killers.

The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that in Laos, where the United States dropped loads of cluster bombs until 1973, as many as 11,000 people have been killed or injured.

Real world failure rates for cluster bombs are as much as 30%, and one cluster bomb can contain as many as 2000 bomblets. Do the math!!! Try and picture an area the size of two football fields littered with unexploded bomblets. But instead of well mowed football fields, they are in farmers' fields or in and around villages, and are often difficult to spot.

Getting back to the high failure rate, I don't understand how companies that produce some of the most sophisticated weapons systems can produce a weapon that is such a lemon. Or is it??? Could it be that cluster bombs are actually intended to leave behind many unexploded bomblets in order to keep on killing and maiming? Whatever the intent, it is clear that cluster bombs must be banned, and that is just what the Convention on Cluster Munitions (that was signed in Oslo this last December by 92 nations) will do once ratified.

To get an idea of what life might be like with landmines and cluster bomblets littering our streets, parks and playing fields, watch this YouTube video.

The United States (under the Bush Administration) refused to sign the cluster bomb treaty, but Congress and President Obama just permanently banned the export of nearly all cluster munitions! And now we can help Congress pass the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2009 (S. 416/H.R. 981) that would block use of cluster munitions (by U.S. forces) that leave behind more than one percent of bomblets as duds, and any use in areas where civilians live. It isn't a total ban, but it IS a huge step in that direction.

CLICK HERE to read more about cluster bombs and learn how to participate in the National Call-In Day on March 30th. We want to flood Congressional offices with calls telling them to pass the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act. You can also CLICK HERE to send an email to your senator, and CLICK HERE to email your Representative.

The U.S. has been the World's biggest user of cluster munitions. We are on the verge of joining the nations that have already signed the Convention (and leading by example for a change), and perhaps one day the use of cluster munitions will be only a bad memory. Let's make that happen.



Photo Credits:
Child cluster bomb victim: http://aftermathnews.files.wordpress.com/2009/02/cluster-bomb-victim.jpg

No comments: