Cluster bombs

Libya shows such weapons should not be allowed to fall into the hands of despots.Reports that forces loyal to Muammar Qaddafi have used cluster bombs in their siege of Misrata has brought to light once again the use of this controversial ordnance.There are many different kinds of air-dropped or ground-launched “sub-munitions,” but work more or less the same: One bomb opens prior to impact and casts up to 2,000 — depending on the type — smaller “bomblets” over a wide swath of territory. These “wide dispersal pattern weapons” explode on impact, but many of them do not. Instead they lay in wait for days, weeks, years, or even decades, to kill or maim shepherds, children or anyone else that stumbles upon them. Some of these bomblets are smaller than the size of a fist, but can blow off a limb. In a bit of sad irony, the modern bomblet is often brightly colored, meant to make them easier to spot and avoid; but the bright colors also prove to be an enticing object for a curious child to pick up — boom!

Countries whose people face the serious threat from leftover sub-munitions include Laos, Serbia, Afghanistan, Iraq, Western Sahara and Lebanon. The international arms trade is alive and well, and these weapons are easily obtained from unscrupulous vendors by murderous despots the world over.  The dormant threat these weapons pose is why in December 2008 dozens of countries signed the CCM, the Convention on Cluster Munitions. There are currently over 100 such signatories. The convention came into force on Aug. 1, 2010.Many of the countries that have made, stockpiled or used these weapons have in principle pledged to stop doing so by ratifying the CCM, including Japan, Italy, France, Germany, Spain, Serbia, the UK and Lebanon. Spain in particular has been called out for having been the source of Qaddafi’s stockpile of cluster munitions, sold to his regime a year before the country became a CCM signatory.

But there are many holdouts, including the usual suspects, the Big Three of the international arms trade: The US, Russia and China. Other glaring holdouts include: Israel, India, Pakistan, Turkey, Brazil and both Koreas.  The last time the issue of cluster bombs caught the world’s attention was during the July war of 2006 in Lebanon when Israel unleashed a powerful assault on Lebanese territory after Hezbollah rockets were fired at Israel and an Israeli military patrol was attacked. The month-long Israeli military assault razed southern Lebanon’s infrastructure, and it peppered the region with unexploded bomblets. According to an annual report by the UN’s Mine Action Coordination Center of South Lebanon, there are up to a million unexploded munitions in Southern Lebanon, including conventional bombs and land mines.Over the 12 months following the cease-fire from the July war, at least 12 civilians were reported to have been killed by unexploded cluster bomblets and 39 were severely injured, including, as reported by The Washington Post, 10-year-old Aita Al-Saab who was left with a shredded abdomen after he picked up what he thought was a small colorful ball — boom!Once the conflict in Libya is resolved, how many of these remnants of war are going to kill or maim Libyans on both sides of the conflict for years to come? – Arabnews