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On Disarmament, Cluster bombs: 2 Strikes Against U.S., Europe and Africa Way Ahead


March 23, 2009
On Disarmament: 2 Strikes Against U.S.,
Europe and Africa Way Ahead
by Arn Specter

The United States has failed in the last two opportunities to join with the International Community, lead by Europe and Africa, in disarming
Landmines and Cluster Bombs (munitions), restricting their use.

The first opportunity was last December in Oslo, Norway when 95 Nations signed onto the Cluster Munitions Ban Treaty, prohibiting the making, sale,
use. transfer and giving aid to victims, and locating and destroying remaining cluster bombs from previous military attacks harming civilians.
The U.S. failed to sign that agreement and again failed to sign at a follow-up meeting held on March 18 at the United Nations.

The second opportunity, where the U.S. has failed, was in Congress and the Obama administration, as well as the Military, where the combination of
a watered down law was passed and a luke warm Bill, S.416 now in process,both falling far short of protecting civilians in future combats from the harmful effects of thousands to millions of these small, but deady bombs, from being dropped from planes and attacking the civilian populations.

Most recently horrors of dismemberment and death to civilians by the use and demolition of cluster bombs have occurred in Sri Lanks, south of India,
where many hundreds of civilians have been severely maimed and killed over the last month. The fighting continues today.

Europe, on the other hand, has made great progress by deciding to ban together, forming The Cluster Munitions Coalition, made up of many NGO's
from Europe and other countries, held meetings on different continents over the last few years, and held the Cluster Munition Ban Convention last Dec.
in Oslo, Norway. There 95 countries signed on to the Cluster Ban Treaty -a great victory for disarmament and hope for a safer and more secure future
for millions of civilians in the world.

The Cluster Ban Treaty bans the use, production, transfer, trade.and stockpiling of cluster bombs, according to the Cluster Munitions Convention.

The Treaty also makes provisions for some reduction and elimination of stockpiles (accumulations of cluster bombs previously manufactured).
Some countries have chosen to eliminate their stockpiles completely.

U.S. law and current legislation fall far short of protecting civilians than the Cluster Ban Treaty. The Law, H.R. 1105, FY 2009 Omnibus Appropriations Act, Division H-State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, Title 1,Department of State, p.155 was signed into law by President Obama earlier
this month. The Bill S.416 sponsored by Senators Leahy and Feinstein is currently active, after previous bills and law over the last few years -
which were stronger in their restrictions on clusters than this one.

Current Law states: (b) Cluster Munitions - No military assistance shall be furnished for cluster munitions, no defense export license for cluster munitions may be issued, and no cluster munitions technology shall be sold or transferred, unless -
(1) the submunitions of the cluster munitions have a 99 percent or higher functioning rate; and (2) the agreement applicable to the assistance, transfer,
or sale of the cluster munitions ...specifies that the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present.

The law falls short as follows: there is no restriction on the manufacture of cluster bombs (the U.S. is the world's largest ); they can be sold or transferred if a country says it will not use them where civilians are located ( most fighting
occurs today in urban areas where safeguards against civilian casualties cannot be guaranteed and there is no oversight on another country's casualties);
there is no limitation at all on the use of these bombs by the U.S. military (the Pentagon and Defense Secretary Gates insist their use is of vital necessity); no provision to reduce or eliminate stockpiles ( the U.S. has vast stockpiles
of 5,500,000 bombs and 728,500,000 submunitions (hundreds may fit into one bomb).

The bill S.416, called "Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2009" states: No funds appropriated or otherwise available to any Federal department or agency may be obligated or expended to use any cluster munitions unless -
...(2) the policy applicable to the use of such cluster munitions specifies that the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present or in areas normally inhabited by civilians. (current U.S. policy in Pakistan does not prohibit the U.S.military
from firing missiles into civilian areas, maiming and killing many, and raising mass protests from the people and government of that country)

With current vast stockpiles the U.S. military or any federal department does not need any additional funds to acquire and use these cluster munitions thus making
the provisions of this bill restricting funding rather useless.

In addition, the bill allows the President to override any restrictions for use if "it is vital to protect the security of the United States..." a provision so general that the bill and the law, in effect , would become useless.

With close reading and understanding of the law and bill regarding cluster bombs and civilian protection we see that the U.S. has failed time and time
again to show an interest in disarmament or to show a serious interest in protecting civilians from harm. Regardless of a few restrictions the U.S. Military
is still able to use and even foster the selling of these destructive weapons around the world.

In December 2008, according to Peter Beaumont, The Guardian, March 13 - and others- a spokesman for the Obama transition team said the next president would "carefully review" the treaty banning cluster munitions and "work closely with our friends and allies to ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible to promote protection of civilians". Earlier the President,then Senator Obama did vote for a bill that would help protect civilians.

Perhaps the President wasn't able to grant a full review of the importance of this provision in the new law due to the great length of the law or business of
his first 60 days in office.

With "two strikes against it" the U.S. has one more chance to make some progress on disarmament and civilian protection (and decrease military spending
as well). Despite a current campaign by one of our NGO's to support S.416 the U.S. can amend S.416 to include many more of the protections for civilians included in the International Treaty Ban restrictions and actually sign onto the Treaty as well. The next "official" signing at the UN is in September.

By upgrading S.416 and/or signing onto the International Treaty Ban the U.S. would uplift it's status greatly in the eyes of the world disarmament and peace movement and help give hope to millions of civilians around the world caught up in military conflicts where the U.S. or other countries who may purchase weapons from the U.S. (the world's largest producer and arms dealer) may well drop thousands of cluster bombs on them, causing lifelong injury and devastation.
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Resources:
For videos of the Dec.3 and 4th Convention from Oslo, Norway, and other videos
see: www.youtube.com/user/cmcinternational.
for more background see: www.stopclustermunitions.org.
for testimony by victims and families see: www.banadvocates.org
Also: The United Nations has worked on Cluster Munitions as well
as NGO's in the U.S. and Europe. Their websites cover legal and
humanitarian concerns and the history of cluster bomb protest...
check Google or Yahoo Search, Cluster Munitions.
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Arn Specter, Arn's News
P.O. Box 5857, Phila. Pa. 19128, USA
arnpeace@yahoo.com
(215) 843-1850
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