August 2008 Postcard

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Meeting in Dublin, Ireland, a group of 111 nations agreed on May 28 to a draft treaty for a global ban on cluster bombs. The treaty bans the “use, production and sale of cluster bombs”—much like the Ottawa Treaty adopted in 1997 bans anti-personnel landmines.

I am appalled, but not surprised, that the United States (along with Israel, Russia, China, India and Pakistan) boycotted the Dublin conference and continues to manufacture and stockpile this monstrous weapon.

In the last days of its 2006 bombardment of Lebanon, Israel deployed hundreds of thousands of cluster bombs in populated areas, which are still killing civilians. As a result, Congress has banned the export of cluster bombs unless the importing country has pledged in writing that it will not use the weapon in civilian areas.

That’s not enough. Please call for an ethical U.S. foreign policy, and a U.S. signature on this important cluster bomb treaty.


Each cluster bomb can contain up to 650 submunitions which can indiscriminately kill or severely injure anyone, civilian or military, in an area the size of several football fields. Nearly 40 percent of cluster munitions remain unexploded and can detonate decades after a conflict ends.

Civilians, a quarter of them children, make up almost all the 11,044 victims of cluster bombs over the last three decades, according to Handicap International.

Why would the U.S. boycott a conference that drew up a treaty for a global ban on cluster bombs?