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The Crime of Frag Weapons



The U.S. State Department, we hear, is investigating Israel’s use of U.S.-produced and U.S.-supplied anti-personnel weapons against civilian populations in Lebanon. It seems U.N. and Human Rights investigators have found nearly 300 sites where unexploded examples of these horrific weapons of mass destruction have turned up, many of them with their “Made in USA” labels intact.

The N.Y. Times even ran a color map displaying the wide area of southern Lebanon where the U.S.-built howitzer shells, bombs and rocket warheads fired by the Israeli Defense Force have landed.

This is an atrocity. I spent some time in Laos, in 1995, and saw children aged 10 or 12 missing arms and legs, or blind, because they’d run into stray or buried anti-personnel “bombies” (as they call them there), a deadly legacy of the U.S. secret air war against that country of a decade earlier. That’s what makes these nasty weapons particularly reprehensible: like mines, they kill soldiers and civilians alike, and they keep killing long after a conflict has ended.

But as disgusting as this story is, and as terrible as the IDF’s-and Hezzbollah’s-use of such inhuman weaponry may be, for us in the United States the real question should be not what Israel is doing, but rather why is our country making these weapons in the first place? And why haven’t we seen maps in our media showing where these weapons were used in Afghanistan and Iraq?

Because make no mistake: the U.S. military used and continues to use antipersonnel shells, bombs and rockets in both those places in quantities that dwarf their use by Israel in Lebanon.

There were isolated reports about anti-personnel ordnance being used in urban settings like Baghdad during the U.S. invasion of Iraq. Some were even parachuted down to the ground, so that they could explode later, when someone passes by-thus further clouding the matter of who actually gets killed (and increasing the likelihood that the victims would be inquisitive children). There were also a number of reports that anti-personnel ordnance was used in quantity during the assault on the city of Fallujah in 2004. But as far as I can tell, no mainstream media outlet has done a systematic investigation or report on how widespread U.S. use of anti-personnel weapons has been and is now in Afghanistan and Iraq, nor have I seen any report that looks at the actual rules controlling the use of those weapons by U.S. forces.

Reportedly, the State Department is investigating Israel’s use of anti-personnel weapons because of reports that the IDF violated a secret agreement not to use them against civilian targets. Israel’s response reportedly is that it only used them against Hezzbollah missile launching sites, but then they note that since Hezzbollah was allegedly launching its missiles from locations in residential neighborhoods, this means that the weapons were in fact being used where civilians were concentrated.

Is this the way the U.S. military uses these same weapons, too? The few reports I recall seeing suggest this is so. Certainly if our forces dropped anti-personnel weapons into cities like Fallujah and Baghdad, as reports indicated at the time, then they were putting large numbers of civilians in harm’s way.

It seems the height of hypocrisy for the State Department to be investigating Israel for doing just what the U.S. does with these ugly weapons.

It also seems hypocritical for the U.S. media to be devoting so much time and ink to reporting so breathlessly on the IDF’s use of American anti-personnel weapons and on Hezzbollah’s use of a primitive version of the same thing, while largely ignoring our own military’s much wider use of them.

DAVE LINDORFF and Barbara Olshansky will appear on “The Case for
Impeachment” on C-Span Books TV Saturday night at 11 Eastern and Sunday morning at 8:15 am Eastern.

DAVE LINDORFF is the author of Killing Time: an Investigation into the Death Row Case of Mumia Abu-Jamal and “This Can’t be Happening!“. Lindorff’s new book is “The Case for Impeachment“,
co-authored by Barbara Olshansky.

He can be reached at:



Dave Lindorff is a founding member of ThisCantBeHappening!, an online newspaper collective, and is a contributor to Hopeless: Barack Obama and the Politics of Illusion (AK Press).

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