World Nations Sign Treaty Banning Cluster Bombs, U.S. Absent; Mother of Marine Urges U.S. to Sign Treaty

OSLO, Norway-- More than 80 countries - including most U.S.…

OSLO, Norway– More than 80 countries – including most U.S. allies in NATO – began signing a treaty banning cluster bombs in Oslo, Norway today. The U.S. government is not there and the Bush administration has refused to join the majority of the world’s nations in stopping the use of these weapons, which kill or maim mostly civilians and children.

President-Elect Barack Obama has said he supports initiatives to minimize civilian casualties from conventional weapons, including cluster munitions. A spokesperson for Obama told his hometown newspaper this week that the president-elect will “carefully review the new treaty and work closely [with] our friends and allies to ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible to promote protection of civilians.”

President Obama would be in good company if he decides to sign the treaty. Because of cluster bombs’ impact on noncombatants, Pope Benedict XVI, Archbishop Desmond Tutu, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF, the American Academy of Pediatrics, and hundreds of humanitarian groups around the world have condemned the use of these weapons. A group of retired British military officers was influential in persuading the British prime minister to agree to give up cluster bombs.

The Foreign Ministers of Britain, Australia, Canada, France, and Germany — all fighting alongside U.S. troops under the NATO led mission in Afghanistan — signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions today.

Cluster munitions are fired from aircraft or artillery and spray smaller “bomblets” over an expanse the size of two football fields. Many do not explode on impact but remain in fields and parks as landmines, waiting to be found by unsuspecting civilians. Many of the unexploded munitions look like harmless objects, such as toys or cans of food.

“Like the Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is establishing a powerful norm that cluster bombs are no longer an acceptable weapon of war,” said Lora Lumpe, coordinator of the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, who is attending the Oslo treaty signing. “U.S. participation in this treaty would contribute a great deal toward stigmatizing the use of these weapons and saving lives of civilians.”

The United States has been the world’s largest producer, stockpiler, and user of cluster munitions. It has used cluster bombs in civilian-populated areas of three countries in the past decade, and the millions of cluster bombs that the United States dropped in Laos in the early 1970s are still killing and wounding people.

The Pentagon has opposed an outright ban on the weapons, arguing that their military utility outweighs the humanitarian concerns. In July, Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issued a new policy asserting that the United States would continue to use its arsenal (containing at least 750 million submunitions) for the next 10 years before replacing the weapons with more reliable and precise alternatives. However, the administration has not yet explained why Great Britain and other major allied powers can abandon these munitions on December 3, while the U.S. cannot.

“This treaty signing means a lot to me and the other victims and family members who have lost loved ones to these weapons,” said Lynn Bradach, whose son Travis, a U.S. Marine, was killed by a U.S. cluster submunition in Iraq in 2003. “I am saddened that my government is not here, but President-Elect Obama can help move our country toward the position of its major military allies and restore our moral leadership in the world community by pledging to stop U.S. production, export, and use of cluster bombs,” she added.

Load Comments
  • Don’t dare sign that THING DON”T DARE. That take away the SFW (Senson fused weapon).

  • Charlie Ranger

    Frankly, I would have to say this press release is total hog wash from some left-wing anti U.S source. The U.S has never used cluster bombs that are designed to look like cans of food or toys! And they were never designed to create more civilian casualties. I’m one of the people that first “field tested” them in Vietnam, code name “project firecracker.”

    The press release never goes into the actual purpose of a cluster munitions. The point is to spread handgrenade size bomblets evenly over a set area that then go off simultaneously. So they are designed to kill people, what military weapon isn’t? Would it be any different if a hundred infantryman threw handgrenades at a target at the same time?

    The problem is that there is a high dud rate leaving the unexploded bomblets scattered all over. Some of them will then go off if they are stepped on or picked up. I never was that stupid but I certainly saw a lot of them on the ground in the areas my team called them in on.