Will Barack Obama have the Courage to Ban Cluster Bombs?
This website has been unsparingly ungracious toward Senator Dianne Feinstein — and she has deserved every impolite word. She has earned our wrath by supporting unconstitutional warrantless wiretaps, prioritizing corporate immunity over criminal accountability, and rammed pro-torture Michael Mukasey into the Attorney General’s Office. Dianne Feinstein voted for the Iraq war and the Protect America Act. Dianne Feinstein is a war hawk who is willing to throw the constitution and countless innocent people into the torture and surveillance grinders.
But Senator Dianne Feinstein’s record is not wholly without merit. In February of 2007, Senator Diane Feinstein introduced S.594, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007, to the United States Senate. The law forbids the United States government from spending money to use, sell or transfer cluster bombs unless they are shown to have a 1% or lower rate of malfunction, are kept away from civilian areas, and are cleaned up after use.
The United States currently uses cluster bombs and sells them to other countries, too. The thing that makes cluster bombs so much worse than ordinary bombs is that they have a high failure rate, combined with a high number of small bombs that are spread over large areas of land by the larger bombs in which they are originally obtained. Cluster bombs are designed to kill people, not to damage buildings or roads. Like land mines, they continue to kill people long after the battle in which they were used. It is typical for a large number of these smaller bombs to remain undetonated, waiting to explode, after their initial deployment. According to the Federation of American Scientists:
Studies that show 40 percent of the duds on the ground are hazardous and for each encounter with an unexploded submunition there is a 13 percent probability of detonation. Thus, even though an unexploded submunition is run over, kicked, stepped on, or otherwise disturbed, and did not detonate, it is not safe. Handling the unexploded submunition may eventually result in arming and subsequent detonation.
Cluster bombs kill civilians when they are used. Our government knows this, and yet our government continues to manufacture, use and sell cluster bombs to foreign countries.
Still yawning? All right, let’s bring in the kids. Who picks up these tiny, shiny unexploded cluster bombs? Little children:
“Hassan was flung about two to three metres and I flew to the other side,” she said, speaking slowly in her hospital bed. “I was on the ground with blood coming out of my stomach and I started to cry and scream. My stomach was making a funny noise as if it was whistling.” “My intestine came out and I held it and began to run, shouting Allahu Akbar,” Hassan said. I collapsed, my uncle picked me up and they took us to hospital.”
Those children survived. Other children don’t. Look at the children in your family. Give them a nice, warm hug. Then imagine what happens when these little, shiny cluster bomblets are dropped all over a country. Imagine that happening to the child that’s precious to you.
Yes, Senator Feinstein deserves our thanks for introducing the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to the floor of the Senate. What about Barack Obama? He is President-Elect now, but as Senator Barack Obama his record concerning cluster bombs is mixed. On September 6, 2006, Barack Obama voted for an amendment containing Senator Feinstein’s language to ban cluster bombs. Shortly thereafter, he decided to run for President. During the next spring, when Senator Feinstein introduced S.594, Senator Obama failed to cosponsor it. During the nearly two years that followed, Senator Obama failed to cosponsor the legislation. There is no mention of any cluster bomb policy by Barack Obama in his printed agenda or anywhere else on his presidential transition website. He’s been mum on cluster bombs during his speeches.
Tomorrow, more than one hundred nations will sign a treaty banning the use of cluster bombs. The United States is not among those nations. Will that change under the administration of Barack Obama? Take another look at your kid and ask yourself that question again.