Friday, May 30, 2008
Banning Cluster Bombs
Good News! Today in Dublin more than 100 countries signed on to a treaty banning cluster bombs. According to the treaty, the signatories agreed not to develop, use, trade, or sell cluster munitions ever.
If you are unfamiliar with cluster bombs, they are a particularly nasty weapon system designed to spread hundreds of “bomblets” over a wide area. The bomblets are often brightly colored and small—much like children’s toys—and they often fail to detonate on impact. There are now more than twenty countries that have had vast swaths turned into uninhabitable minefields due to unexploded cluster bomblets. Most recently, Israel dropped an estimated four million bomblets on Lebanon during a short-lived war in 2006.
Roughly 25 percent of these bomblets failed to explode on impact. Since that 34-day war ended, more than 250 civilians and bomb-disposal experts have been hurt or killed in Southern Lebanon. Many of the civilians hurt or killed have been children.
So again I say, Good news! These 111 countries have recognized that munitions that remain deadly long after hostilities have ceased have no place on the modern battlefield—a “battlefield” that is more often than not comprised of city streets, farmers’ fields, or disputed villages. When these fights are over and the warring sides have agreed to set down their guns and silence their mortars, the killing should cease. But instead it goes on for years. So, when combined with the international treaty banning land mines, this treaty makes an excellent start to addressing the problem of civilian casualties of war and should be celebrated.
And now for the bad news…the United States has refused to participate in the talks leading to this treaty and has steadfastly refused to sign the treaty. State Department spokesmen have said that cluster munitions are an important part of the defensive strategy of the United States. In fact, estimates are that the United States has more than one BILLION bomblets stockpiled. Additionally, companies in the United States and Israel are some of the largest manufacturers of cluster bombs in the world.
So, as things stand now, the United States, Russia, China, and seventy-some other countries have not yet signed on to the new treaty banning cluster bombs. Nor has the United States signed the treaty banning land mines—a treaty much of the world agreed to more than ten years ago. President Bush has stated outright that the United States will NEVER agree to the land mine treaty.
When I have finished with this post, I am going to contact the two United States Senators from Connecticut as well as Senators McCain, Obama, and Clinton to express my opinion on this issue.
It is hard to accept that my country wants to hold onto its landmines and cluster bombs. I know there are bigger, more pressing issues facing our country right now, but this one has resonated with me more than most of the others. It somehow gets at what I feel is wrong with our national attitude toward the world lately. Maybe by letting those in charge know how we feel, we can effect some change in the next few years.