Monday, August 2, 2010

Pressure Washington to Sign the Global Cluster Bomb Convention!

First developed by the Germans for use in World War 2 as an airborne anti-infantry weapon, cluster bombs of various designs have become a standard part of the modern military arsenal.

The basic idea behind cluster bomb design is simple. Rather than comprising a single large explosive intended to be dropped on a specific target, they are designed to disperse several smaller explosives over a larger, less concentrated, area.

Cluster-bombing strategies have proved useful not only against infantry, but also for knocking out an enemy's essential infrastructure (e.g. pockmarking runways with hundreds of small craters to render them unusable), and laying minefields.

The danger posed to civilian bystanders by any weapon designed to distribute a non-specific swathe of destruction over a large area is obvious. Indeed, since their introduction, the use of cluster bombs has accounted for a disproportionately large number of civilian fatalities when compared to other, more "targeted", munitions. Even after a particular war has ended, unexploded "bomblets" and aerially dispersed minefields have been known to claim scores of innocent lives.

Yesterday, an historic international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, the "Convention on Cluster Munitions", officially went into effect. As of the time of this writing, 108 countries have signed the convention of which 38 have ratified it. While, with the exception of the UK, none of the countries in which it has been ratified are what would be considered "major" global military powers, its signatories collectively represent about half of the world's population.

Unfortunately, out of the 14 countries known to have used cluster bombs in recent history, only 8 have signed the convention and, of these, only 2 have ratified it. The six countries that have both used cluster bombs and abstained from signing the treaty are Eritrea, Ethiopia, Georgia, Israel, Russia, and the United States. Among all of the "free" and "democratic" nations of the first world, only Israel and the United States have not signed the convention.

The failure of both Israel and the United States to sign this convention is both a humanitarian and foreign relations travesty. While, given it's sometimes tenuous position on the world political stage, Israel's failure to sign is perhaps understandable if not forgivable, the failure of the United States to sign the convention is virtually an admission of guilt to the general disregard for civilian lives alleged by so many of the United State's enemies.

The era of American hegemony fueled with blood must come to an end if the United States is to maintain its position of global political and economic influence. From the Korean war to Iraq, hundreds of thousands of civilians, and hundreds of thousands of American citizens, have died to protect American political interests abroad. This state of endless war has only fanned the flames of dissent sown throughout the world by the United State's enemies. What could possibly be a better way to douse those flames than demonstrating to the world a newfound commitment to preventing unnecessary fatality?

In order for the United States to ratify a treaty, it must be both approved by a super-majority (2/3) of the senate and signed by the president. Accordingly, it now falls to the people to put pressure on their state's federal senators and on President Obama to add the United States to the list of countries agreeing to refrain from using such weapons.

Thus far, there is little publicized public effort to do this. In the next day or so, I will create a petition on and draft letters to the president and my state's Senators and post them on here for sufficiently motivated readers to copy and send for themselves.

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