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Israel’s Cluster Bombs: Still Killing and Maiming


After Israel’s no-holds-barred attack on population centers in Lebanon last year, thousands of little bomblets were left behind that exacted little damage on the Islamic cleric and his rocket-armed Hizbullah forces. But those little things are still causing misery and damage to the Lebanese populace,its homes, farms and apartments.

In addition to massive destruction in the cities, Israel left millions of cluster bomblets scattered in villages and countrysides. Like nearly all of Israel’s ordnance, the bomblets were manufactured in the United States.

Nothing new about that. When U.S. forces exited Kosovo ten years ago, they also left a legacy of millions of cluster munitions armed with decades-long killing power. In both Lebanon and Kosovo, these tiny munitions become evident only when they blow up people or body parts.

In legislation seeking to prove that the Democrats are really dedicated to peace under a Democratic Congress, Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy have introduced tricky new legislation appearing to curb cluster weapons. Both claim to want to reduce “appalling” civilian deaths and injuries wherever the U.S. has employed-or will employ–cluster weapons. Even more the two Senators say they want to reduce the cluster bombs’ use by other nations-although it’s apparent “other nations” including Israel, are still receiving everything from mass-wrecking bulldozers to massive tanks, supersonic jets, plus village-busting bombs, all emblematic of the U.S. as the world’s leading arms supplier.

The problem is the Senators-and other Democratic co-sponsors- don’t want to ban the bomblets altogether, but to ban only defective weapons that have a failure rate of 1 per cent or more. One peaceminded organization, Jewish Voice for Peace–despite this atrocious legislative hook-is publicly supporting the legislation.

But there’s even more deception tied to this new legislation, for even if the specified level of defective bomblets is confirmed, their legislation allows the President to waive the prohibitions in the interest of “national security.”

Ha ha ha.

Even while introducing their legislation, Sens. Feinstein and Leahy were well aware that their bill does nothing to ameliorate or curb Israel’s air aggression. All they have to say is their bomblets aren’t defective at all, and to use the claim to push ahead with their aggression.

Of course, in bombing Lebanon, Israel was only emulating its trusty ally elsewhere.The United States, which provided them (probably free for “self defense”) and has itself extensively launched the bomblets from aircraft in Kosovo and especially throughout Afghanistan. Yet so impressed is the U.S. military by the devices, it’s currently replacing its aging and less effective Vietnam-era stock and stockpiling improved versions that are intended to disable not only humans but lightly-armored ground weapons .

So far, cluster weapons are not known to have been used in the bloody Iraq war, but it’s a clear possibility this Administration will suddenly discover “emergencies” like the 2 percent exemption to do so.

Meantime, the Bush Administration refuses, despite the fact that 122 nations have signed a 1999 treaty,

One organization that has been especially active worldwide in banning the bomblets is Human Rights Watch, an international organization that maintains a considerable presence in the United States. By international treaty the organization promotes a much more sweeping program that is more extensive and far superior to the Feinstein-Leahy bill. Human Rights Watch seeks:

* A prohibition on bomblet use in or near populated areas.

* Accurate mapping and recording of cluster bomb distributions.

* Clear warning markers for civilians, clearance crews and others at danger.

* Anti-cluster bomb research to defuse the weapons over time.

* Research into development of self-destruct weapons to curb their tragic and indefinite aftermath.

Because Israel is involved, it’s uncertain that even peaceminded Democrats will move toward approving the Feinstein-Leahy legislation, which as yet has no counterpart in the House of Representatives. And after that? Whenever has George Bush dignified an effective, peaceminded proposal that the world sorely and bloodily needs?

MITCHELL KAIDY, A journalist for over half a century, lives in Rochester, New York. He has contributed articles to a series which won a special citation from the Pulitzer Prize Committee in 1963, and in 1993 won a Project Censored award. He can be reached at:


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