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Ban the Bomblets

From the Australian Dateline program, an excellent segment on cluster bombs that aired in April this year, with a focus on Lebanon.

Unexploded Israeli-launched bomblets continue to litter the Lebanese countryside and endanger playing children and farming families, responsible for the maiming and killing of dozens of civilians well after a conflict has formally ended.

The campaign to ban these insidious weapons everywhere is a most important and worthwhile one. The program follows the effort to ban these munitions internationally.

We recall that during last year’s abominable summer war, 90% of Israel’s cluster-bombs were launched just in the last 72 hours of the war, when, significantly, a ceasefire was known to be imminent.

That is, quite apart from their obviously immoral use, launching them made absolutely no military-strategic sense for Israel, either. The millions of cluster bombs from Israel are nothing more than a massive war crime. In the second video clip, Shimon Perez says they were a “mistake”.

Yet the Israeli government still refuses to provide international mine clearing teams and the Lebanese government with details of where the cluster bombs were fired, which would facilitate clearing operations.

Video segment intro:

Ten years ago, a committed bunch of international activists received the Nobel Peace Prize for their campaign to have land-mines banned worldwide. As a result of their efforts, close enough to three-quarters of the world has signed up to the ban. Now, these same people have their sights set on cluster bombs. And at the forefront of their effort is an Australian, John Rodsted, who these days pretty much devotes his entire life to ridding the world of these deadly weapons. David Brill recently travelled with Rodsted to southern Lebanon, where people are still dying from the cluster bombs rained down by the Israelis in the last days of that recent war.

10 comments on “Ban the Bomblets

  1. jonolan
    30 August, 2007

    To start with, a “Push” or similar increase in the ferocity of attacks just prior to a ceasefire is Standard Operating Procedures for ALL militaries and has been for countless years. If Israel is immoral and guilty of wargcrimes for doing this, then virtually every nation who has ever gone to war is guilty as well.

    Now on to Cluster Munitions – their current implementation is horribly flawed, for exactly the reasons stated. The US has tried several modifications to ensure 100% detonation of the sub-munitions, but has met with “mixed-success”.

    A new version of the Cluster Munition is currently being developed that promises to actually reach 100% detonation. The ENTIRE structure, including casings of the munitions are explosive.

  2. Ann El Khoury
    30 August, 2007

    Hi Jonolan,

    Thanks for your comment. I am very interested in the claim that it is Standard Operating Procedure, militarily, to upscale attacks just prior to a known ceasefire taking effect. Can you provide any references to corroborate this?

    More specifically, in the use of cluster bombs, as opposed to a surge in fighting of ground troops, I could find no other situation in modern military history that came close to the aforementioned Israeli case of raining down enough cluster bombs to scatter as many as 4 million bomblets on Lebanon, in the last 3 days when a ceasefire was known to be taking effect.

    In their use in Iraq Invasion II by the US (as well as I) — yes, also a war crime going by the same standards — they were used at the start of the conflict in 2003. (See Asia Times and USA Today).

    The Cluster bombing of Niš during the Kosovo War, one of the most serious incidents involving civilian deaths and the use of cluster bombs, occurred on May 7 1999, fully four weeks before the cessation of conflict between Yugoslavia and the North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO).

    In Afghanistan, the US Air Force began dropping cluster bombs there within the first month of invasion in Oct 2001.

    Cluster bombs are a relatively recent weapon; though they have been around for a few decades the dud rate is still quite high despite undertakings to reduce this. They are not covered under the 1997 Convention on the Prohibition of the Use, Stockpiling, Production, and Transfer of Anti-Personnel Landmines (also known as the Mine Ban Treaty), of 1999.

    Thirty five years after the cessation of conflict, they continue to kill in Indochina.

    Most manufacturers claim about a 5% dud rate under test conditions. That is, 5% of those cluster bomblets will not detonate immediately but stay in the environment to detonate at a later time, as you know.

    But the dud rate in last summer’s war in Lebanon, according to this article, is estimated by de-mining experts and United Nations sources to be more like 25%.

    To quote:

    Why so high a rate? “Most of Israel’s arsenal was (and still is) American supplied, and the American clusters were for the most part older than the Israeli versions, and less reliable,” according to Steve Goose, head of the arms division of Human Rights Watch.

    UN figures estimate that 26 percent of south Lebanon’s cultivatable land is affected by the ordinance. A quarter of south Lebanon’s cultivation.

    Improving the lethality of the weapon doesn’t really bring me much assurance. Banning it altogether under strong international law wherein the US could take a moral stand and actually show leadership, would be a different story. Some significant progress towards this was made in May this year in Lima, Peru, with representatives from 68 countries.

    Related:
    * HRW Documents on Cluster Bombs
    * Circle of Impact Global Press Release May 2007

  3. michaelgreenwell
    31 August, 2007

    did you ever see this one minute one about landmines
    ?

  4. Ann El Khoury
    31 August, 2007

    Thanks Michael – a great vid. I hadn’t seen it before.

  5. michaelgreenwell
    31 August, 2007

    the us networks refused to show it.

  6. Ann El Khoury
    31 August, 2007

    I’d wondered who produced it … there’s not much info accompanying the vid.

  7. michaelgreenwell
    31 August, 2007
  8. Ann El Khoury
    31 August, 2007

    Thanks very much. Quite the quirky collective going by their site.

  9. jonolan
    31 August, 2007

    I cannot easily provide you with trustworthy online primary sources for increasing “pressure” immediately prior to a ceasefire. I can assure you, though that all my reading, classes and research on military history, military strategy andwargames theory supports my case. In most wars where some form of “peace talks” were used, each side tried to advance its position, claim extra territories, or increase control stagegic positions just prior to cease fires or truces being enacted.

    If you’re numbers are accurate – 25% dud rate – these were very deffective munitions. I’m not sure one can call Israelis war criminals in this case unless they were aware of the problem and chose to use them anyway. Personally I doubt they desired to use such defective munitions, not because I believe that the Israeli military has any ethical problems with killing muslim civilians, but because Israel relies heavily on ground troops and occupying strategic areas – they want more territory – and unexpended bomblets would be a huge hazard to their own troops.

    The US learned this in Vietnam. We stupidly delivered landmines via bombers and artillary! Idiots! Then, in the course of the conflict we ended up fighting in the same areas we had sown with randomly placed mines. Ouch. We learned.

  10. Ann El Khoury
    1 September, 2007

    Thanks for the rejoinder Jonolan. I will take your points into consideration, and do add some links at a later date if you come by them, as referring to nameless research one has read or done can not in itself support your case. They do not have to be online references, you are more than welcome to list book and journal references. I teach international relations, nd would be most interested in the references.

    The description of war crimes does not attach itself to the Israeli regime because it may have knowingly used cluster-bombs with a 25% dud rate, which is unproven, but because it used them when a ceasefire was called and agreed upon and due to take effect within hours. I therefore do not retract the charge of war crimes.

    I take your point about cluster bombs affecting the side launching them too, however this depends upon the method of launching. If it is from the air, Israeli troops would not have been affected and would not have “shot themselves in the foot”, a rather sad but apposite pun, as in your example of Vietnam.

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