Apr 18, 2011

Kidkillers: Gadhafi's Cluster Bombs--and Uncle Sam's

04/16/2011 by Jim Naureckas

"Gadhafi Troops Fire Cluster Bombs Into Civilian Areas," declares a New York Times headline (4/15/11). The lead of the story makes clear that these weapons are considered in many countries to be illegal:
Military forces loyal to Col. Moammar el-Gadhafi have been firing into residential neighborhoods in this embattled city with heavy weapons, including cluster bombs that have been banned by much of the world.

These so-called indiscriminate weapons, which strike large areas with a dense succession of high-explosive munitions, by their nature cannot be fired precisely. When fired into populated areas, they place civilians at grave risk.

The dangers were evident beside one of the impact craters on Friday, where eight people had been killed while standing in a bread line. Where a crowd had assembled for food, bits of human flesh had been blasted against a cinder-block wall.

Iraqi child victim of cluster bomb

The United States has used cluster munitions  in battlefield situations in Afghanistan and Iraq, and in a strike on suspected militants in Yemen in 2009.
Oh--so these "indiscriminate weapons" that "place civilians at grave risk" have been used by the United States as well? But only in "battlefield situations," far from civilians, right? Well, not exactly. The U.S. was criticized by Human Rights Watch for using cluster bombs in populated areas in Afghanistan, killing and injuring scores of civilians (Washington Post, 12/18/02). Amnesty International (4/2/03) called the U.S.'s use of cluster bombs in civilian areas of Iraq "a grave violation of international humanitarian law."

The "suspected militants" attacked by a cluster bomb in Yemen in 2009 turned out to be "21 children and 20 innocent women and men" (NewYorkTimes.com, 12/9/10)--all killed in the U.S. attack.

You can be sure that none of these examples of U.S. use of cluster bombs in civilian areas prompted the New York Times to suggest that they justified military attacks on the United States in order to protect civilians. And you'd be hard-pressed to find any descriptions in the Times of the "bits of human flesh" resulting from any U.S. military action.
As for cluster bombs being "banned in much of the world," that includes Britain.

But as WikiLeaks revealed, the U.S. colluded with the British government to circumvent the ban and allow U.S. cluster bombs to remain on British soil. WikiLeaks also disclosed that the U.S. has been lobbying for countries to keep cluster bombs legal, arguing that they are "legitimate weapons that provide a vital military capability" (Guardian, 12/1/10).

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