Sunday, August 1, 2010

Cluster Munitions Treaty Enters Into Force, But America Still Not Signed On

Today is a day for celebration among those who desire a more peaceful world. Having been ratified by the required number of nations, the international treaty known as the Convention on Cluster Munitions entered into force today, marking the culmination of years of effort by activists and diplomats across the planet. The treay, negotiated in Dublin in late 2008, bans signators from using, producing, or stockpiling cluster bombs. To date, it has been signed by 107 countries, adn the ratification process has been completed in 38 countries.

Cluster bombs have been a scourge on humanity ever since they were first developed. Because they scatter small bomblets over wide areas, it is difficult and in many cases impossible to avoid civilian casualties when using them, especially when they are deployed during fighting in urban areas. Furthermore, a surprisingly high proportion of the small bomblets fail to explode on impact, leaving a lethal danger to civilians that can persist for months and even years after the fighting has ended.

Used in conflicts such as Vietnam during the 1970s, Afghanistan in the 1980s, Kosovo in 1999, Iraq in 2003, and Lebanon in 2006, among many African conflicts, cluster bombs have killed thousands of innocent civilians over the years, and continued to do so today. Indeed, cluster bombs kill significantly more noncambatants than soldiers, and four out of ten people killed by cluster bombs are children. They are barbaric weapons by any moral standard.

This issues involved in the cluster bomb debate are very similar to those of the debate over whether to ban anti-personnel landmines, which this blog has touched on in the past. Thomas Jefferson, being a man of the Enlightenment, was always in favor of doing whatever was possible to alleviate the sufferings war inflicted upon innocent people, and would have have warmly approved of these international efforts to ban the use of weapons that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

Conspicuous on the list of countries which have thus far refused to sign the Convention is the United States of America. This fact should outrage every American. It's time for our country to join with the rest of the world and sign the treaty as well.

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