ATFL Applauds 94 Countries Signing Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo

December 5, 2008

WASHINGTON, Dec. 5 /PRNewswire-USNewswire/ — Ninety-four (94) countries — including most U.S. NATO allies — signed a Convention on Cluster Munitions treaty banning cluster bombs in Oslo, Norway. The U.S. was not present 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. The December 3 Chicago Tribune quotes a spokeswoman for Obama’s transition team saying 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.” In 2006, then Senator Obama was one of 30 Senators who voted in favor of a Senate amendment that would have restricted the use and sale of cluster munitions. We salute Representative Darrell Issa for his leadership as an original sponsor of HR 1755, The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007, to limit the use, sale, and transfer of cluster munitions.

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 instruments of war, 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 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, the Convention on Cluster Munitions is establishing a powerful, humanitarian benchmark that cluster bombs are no longer an acceptable weapon of war,” said Dr. George Cody, Executive Director of the American Task Force for Lebanon and member of the Cluster Munitions Coalition. “U.S. participation in this treaty will contribute a great deal toward stigmatizing the use of these weapons while saving lives and preventing injuries.”

The United States has been the world’s largest producer, stockpiler, and user of cluster munitions. The U.S. provided Israel the hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs that Israel fired into Lebanon during the last 72 hours of the 2006 conflict. Despite repeated appeals from the administration, the UN Secretary General, the international community, and humanitarian organizations, Israel refuses to turn over the precise strike data to the United Nations, data that would save innocent lives and prevent injuries in Lebanon.

The Pentagon has opposed an outright ban on the weapons, arguing that their military utility outweighs the humanitarian concerns. In July 2008, 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 until 2018 before replacing the weapons with more reliable and precise alternatives even though Great Britain and other major allied powers will now abandon these munitions.

“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 in Oslo, but I hope our country will move 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.

SOURCE American Task Force for Lebanon

Source: newswire

comments powered by Disqus