Ban this bomb

June 25, 2007

This is one way to use cluster bombs:

Milan Martic, a leader of the breakaway Serbian Krajina Republic, which sought independence from Croatia during the Yugoslav civil wars, avenged a Croatian assault in May 1995 by directing a cluster bomb attack against Zagreb, the capital. It killed at least seven civilians, and injured hundreds. This month, for that and other crimes, he was sentenced to 35 years in prison by the war crimes tribunal in The Hague.

This is another way to use cluster bombs:

When Israel went to war against Hezbollah last summer, it dropped as many as 4 million bomblets on northern Lebanon, according to a United Nations estimate. An estimated 40 percent failed to explode on impact.

And this is another way:

The United States, which has the largest stockpiles of cluster bombs, says they are effective against artillery positions, armored columns and missile sites. They are designed, however, to scatter "submunitions" - or bomblets - in such a way that anyone in the area stands a good chance of being killed or wounded. Some cluster bombs float down to earth with little parachutes, and because they're often a bright yellow, they're irresistible to small children. Those that don't explode right away can be dangerous for years afterward.

Last week in Geneva, U.S. negotiators modified their previous refusal to negotiate a treaty governing cluster bombs. Now the U.S. says it wants to limit the impact they will have on civilians and improve their accuracy. Considering that 45 other nations have been working on a treaty to ban them outright, this may be a rearguard action on Washington's part - but at least it's a move in the right direction. A better move, though, would be to join the crowd (Japan recently renounced cluster bombs) and get rid of them.

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