President Joe Biden’s cluster bombs explode in America’s Congress first. As his administration made up its mind to send banned cluster bombs to Ukraine, the Democrats were shocked. They rushed to call the decision ‘an unnecessary and a terrible mistake.’ The bombs were already causing distasteful divisions in American politics. Unfazed, Mr Biden is determined to stand his ground. He is sure the consignment of cluster bombs, also called cluster munitions, will reach Ukraine soon and help the country accelerate the pace of its counter-offensive.

Global Nations are Worried

The munificence is part of America’s new $800m security package to Ukraine. With this, total American military aid to Ukraine crosses $40bn since the onset of the war in February 2022. However, the generosity is raising hackles across nations and human rights groups are voicing their concerns. The United Nations and Amnesty International are among those who are viewing America’s stockpiles of cluster munitions as a grave threat to civilian lives across continents. cluster-munitions-ukraine-expected-fridays-800m-aid-package- 2023-07-07/

America’s decision is a red flag and the world is alarmed. The gnawing fear is that America’s cluster-bomb generosity could set a dangerous precedent for rogue nations. Global nations are worried about the potential of America’s decision to inspire undisciplined heads of state to breach the global convention that bans cluster bombs. Allaying such fears, America says Ukraine has tendered a written promise that it would not use cluster bombs in densely populated parts of Russia.

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Cluster Bombs are Wicked Weapons

The written assurance sounds hollow as a war is raging on with no end in sight. The words are meaningless as cluster munitions are already banned by the 2008 Oslo Convention on Cluster Munitions. Despite 123 nations joining the convention, just 71 nations were signatories to the Convention. Alarmingly, the United States, Russia and Ukraine are not signatories to this treaty that bans the making, stockpiling, using and transferring of cluster bombs. munitions

The 2008 cluster-munition ban has done little to stop the deadly canisters from carrying tens of hundreds of smaller bomblets called submunitions. Despite the ban, cluster bombs are being regularly air-dropped, missile-launched and artillery-fired to this day. Marauding nations fire them from naval guns and rocket launchers. Worse, cluster bombs are wicked weapons that spray numerous smaller bomblets that kill innocent civilians, particularly children, over a wide stretch.

The Duds are Bigger Dangers

Cluster bombs complete their wicked mission as they break open at a pre-determined height over the target and spread themselves out. The bombs are fused by a timer, explode on the ground and scatter shrapnels far and wide. This breaking and bursting sequence the cluster bombs trigger has the potential to kill troops, hit armoured vehicles and take the lives of a large number of civilians. Recorded history of cluster-bomb hits and explosions proves this.

Human rights organisations are drawing the attention of Mr Biden to the death of 226 civilians in Ukraine caused by cluster munitions in March this year. They are turning the spotlight on the fact that 97 per cent of all those killed were civilians, two-thirds of them were children. Since 1943, the number of civilians killed worldwide by cluster bombs ranges from 56,500 to 86,500. The duds that fail to explode continue to remain life-threatening for decades, even long after conflicts end. Cluster bombs kill civilians and children for ever.

Mr Biden is Crossing a Red Line

The potential of cluster bombs to harm non-combatant civilians ‘disproportionally’ is well documented. Statistical records from the International Committee of the Red Cross prove as much as 10 to 40 per cent of the cluster munitions end up initially as duds, failing to explode. The anti-cluster activist group The Cluster Munition Coalition says such cluster duds are dangerous to non-participating civilians and they continue to exist even to this day, even after half a century, in Cambodia and Vietnam.

This is why the global community says Mr Biden is crossing a red line with his decision to send cluster bombs to Ukraine. America is sitting today on a pile of 10,000 cluster munitions in Europe. These may be shipped to Ukraine at once. Expect Mr Biden to defend his decision by saying that Russia is using cluster munitions in Ukraine. Just because he has decided to consign the cluster explosives to Ukraine does not mean he has the backing of all Americans. 172613020.html

Banned for Obvious Reasons

Even Mr Biden’s Democrats are speaking against the shocker. Despite the ability of cluster bombs to push back Russians from the front lines, most Americans are against them as they can kill civilians for years. As the cluster controversy rages on in America, Ukraine has not stopped celebrating over Mr Biden’s magnanimous gesture. After all, Ukraine president Volodymyr Zelensky had been saying: “We need weapons, more weapons, and more weapons, including cluster munitions.” He is happy his prayers have been answered. have-enough-weapons-for-counter-offensive-against-russia- ukraine-says-89qj3p8cp

Cluster munitions are banned for obvious reasons. These bombs open in the air and spill smaller bomblets over a large area. The bomblets have the power to immobilise tanks and troops. They can hit multiple targets at the same time. Cluster bombs can be launched by the same Howitzers Ukraine has received from the West. The bombs are controversial because they have a high dud rate, look like small colourful toys and keep exploding on unsuspecting children over the years.

Sure to be Seen as a War Crime

This means thousands of smaller unexploded bomblets lie dormant on ground. They are disasters waiting to happen. They bide their time to kill civilians, decades later. They can hit more targets with fewer rounds. They are more effective than unitary artillery shells as they can destruct on a wider area. As Ukraine has been promised cluster-bomb consignments, Ukraine is happy as it feels now confident of eliminating fortified frontline Russian positions.

Ukraine’s happiness will not diminish the possibility that using cluster bombs could be construed as a war crime. Though their usage does not breach international laws, explosions of duds over innocent civilians, including children, are sure to be seen as war crimes by the global community. Indiscriminate targeting of civilians and children is an established war crime, particularly when as much as 98 per cent of recorded cluster-munition casualties are civilians. sheets/critical-issues/4583-cluster-munitions

Killing Civilians is a War Crime

The horror is that children add up to 40 per cent of this number. Cluster bombs are not new and have been used during the Second World War. Yet, they continue to strike terror to this day. The United States used them in Vietnam, and in Iraq, between 2003 and 2006. Russia used them in Afghanistan in 2001. They were also used by the US-led group in Afghanistan during the conflict’s initial years. Syrian forces have used cluster munitions in its civil war. sheets/critical-issues/4583-cluster-munitions

Worse, Israel used them on civilian settlements in south Lebanon in its 2006 war with Hezbollah. Then, the Saudi-led grouping in Yemen used cluster bombs against Iran-backed Houthi rebels. The bombs have been used on a large scale in the Gulf War and in Chechnya. Even today, Russia is said to be using its own pile of cluster munitions in the ongoing Ukraine war. Using Cluster munitions is not unlawful under any codified international law, but killing civilians is a definite war crime.

The Boy on the Burning Deck

Reason why nations around the globe are enraged over the United States’ decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine. Many of them have conveyed their displeasure to the United States. Yet, Mr Biden is behaving like the boy on the burning deck. He did admit it was a ‘very difficult decision’, somewhat reluctantly. But, he tried to escape global condemnation by saying he had to do it because ‘Ukrainians were running out of ammunition’. This was a hopeless bid to wash his hands off the decision and his childish words have not gone down well with global peaceniks and leaders. cluster-munitions-biden.html

The Last Word

Mr Biden’s National Security Advisor is trying to placate the disgruntled by saying the dud rate of America’s cluster bombs is less than 2.5 per cent, against Russia’s high of 30 to 40 per cent. The argument is weak as cluster bombs harm non-combat civilians and children, a low dud rate notwithstanding. They inflict pains piecemeal on future generations of civilians and children. This makes no humanitarian sense and using cluster bombs is a horrendous war crime for sure. Equally, consigning them to potential users is a serious war offence. The crawling progress of Ukraine’s counter-offensive is no excuse for Mr Biden to make an inhuman decision. He may soon discover everything is not fair in war.