Cluster Bombs Banned, US Dissents

Cluster Bombs Banned, US Dissents May 30, 2008

A momentous agreement was reached in Dublin. Over 100 governments agreed on a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, bombs that break up in the air and scatter hundreds of smaller bombs over a large area. The success owes much to a push from Gordon Brown, who agreed to take the UK’s cluster bombs out of commission. Who did not take part in these talks? Why, a sundry group of renegade countries including China, Russia, India, Pakistan, Israel— and the United States. Yes, the Bush administration still defends the use of these weapons and even tries to browbeat its NATO allies into opposing the ban.

There are two basic problems with cluster bombs. First, by their very nature, they do not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants. Second, legions of unexploded bombs present enduring risks long after hostilities have ceased. As an example, cluster bombs killed about two people a day in southern Lebanon for many months after Israel’s assault in the summer of 2006. Many who die are children.

By being incapable of distinguishing between combatants and non-combatants, I would contend that the use of cluster bombs rises to the status of an intrinsically evil act, falling under the category of “the targeting of non-combatants in acts of terror and war” as laid out by the UCSSB in its Faithful Citizenship document. And the Vatican seems to agree, noting that “both military and financial excuses to defend the use of cluster bombs are unacceptable”. Pope Benedict was a strong supporter of the Dublin negotiations, calling for a cluster bomb ban, and noting that “it is necessary to remedy the errors of the past and to avoid their repetition in the future”. And indeed, the Vatican delegation declared it was “working intensely” to secure a ban.

Oh, and one more thing. We know where Bush stands. On a 2006 Senate measure to block the use of cluster bombs in civilian areas, both McCain and Clinton voted against. Obama supported it.

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