Cluster Munitions

111 nations signed on to a draft treaty this last month in Dublin, Ireland to outlaw the use of cluster munitions by their military forces. The United States boycotted this conference to produce a humane treaty. Cluster munitions contain dozens to  hundreds of bomblets designed to explode above ground, inflicting maiming and lethal wounds. All battlefield weapons are cruel, but clusters rank up there with land mines––not only for their impact in battle, but more importantly because of their extensive residual damage long after the battlefield is quiet and overgrown.

Like land mines, the crippling and lethal legacy of cluster munitions is primarily on civilians––one in four victims are, children. The most recent example of their use was by the U.S. and Britain in the invasion of Iraq and Israel’s invasion of southern Lebanon against Hezbollah. The munitions used by Israel were older models purchased from American stocks that were prone to failure, with greater residual threats to civilian populations.

We should not lose sight of the irony that the U.S. is one of the five permanent members of the UN Security Council––the world’s major munitions producers (plus Israel)––the majority of which opposed the Dublin draft treaty.

If we ever needed proof of the degree to which America’s culture has been militarized it has to be our government’s foreign policy position on cluster munitions and land mines and that there is no meaningful political opposition. Eisenhower’s warning in 1961 about the threat of the military-industrial complex to the survival of our democracy is no longer merely a threat but is now fact with the universal acceptance by our political leadership of American Imperialism.

Only four senators voted for a ban on cluster munitions in 2006.These munitions, a legacy of First World War trench warfare tactics, are ludicrous for our nation’s defense needs in the 21st Century. Outmoded military judgments continue to trump the moral judgment of our political leaders.

Little wonder our nation has lost moral leadership in world affairs. Would the people do any worse than their leaders. I doubt it. Take another look at the National Initiative in