US Out of Step on Cluster Bomb Ban
A report "Banning Cluster Munitions: Government Policy and Practice" released jointly by Human Rights Watch, Landmine Action and Landmine Monitor points out that 96 signatories to the Convention on Cluster Munitions. It also points out significant holdouts -- United States, Russia, Israel and China. According to the report, the US has agreed to ban the munitions but only after 2018. They have taken steps to cease exporting the cluster bombs.
During the 30+ years since the Indochina War, cluster munitions have maintained a persistent and predictable record of maiming and killing innocent people, many of them children.
It is often difficult for cluster munition technology to discriminate between civilian and military targets, because of targeting difficulties and wide area footprints.
Civilian casualties after war often occur due to the high numbers of unexploded submunitions left behind. The curious shapes and colors of cluster munitions make them almost irresistible to children. A child’s playful exploration often turns into tragic injury or death.
While land mine fields may be marked and avoided, the nature of cluster munitions makes it difficult to know where the bomblets have landed. The bomblets are designed to explode above ground, killing combatents, however 10 to 30% of them fail to explode and create a deadly hazard.
Cluster munitions can be fired by artillery and rocket systems or dropped by aircraft. They typically explode in the air and send dozens, even hundreds, of tiny submunitions or bomblets over an area the size of a football field. These often fail to explode on impact, acting like landmines and posing a danger to civilians for years.
In its own policy shift, the US agreed last year that most cluster munitions should be banned, but only starting after 2018. At the initiative of the US Congress, the United States outlawed exports of cluster munitions in March 2009.
A total of 96 countries have signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions since December 2008, including 20 of the 28 NATO members. Thirty-five countries that have stockpiled cluster munitions have signed the treaty.