Thursday, May 29, 2008

Not One More Child Killed

There is a bill in the US Senate right now that deserves our support. Senate Bill 594, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, currently has twenty-one sponsors in the Senate. This bill would ban the use of cluster bombs, which injure thousands of innocent people each year. Unfortunately the Pentagon and Department of Defense officials have fought the effort to outlaw these weapons. Their reasoning is difficult to understand given the sobering reality that almost thirty percent of the bomblets released in each bomb fail to explode initially, leaving a deadly legacy for future generations of children to discover. The Middle East is filled with children who have lost arms and legs to unexploded cluster bombs. This is not the legacy of freedom and democracy we wish to leave the people of Iraq.

As a candidate for federal office, I support passage of Senate Bill 594 and would make this a priority if elected to office. In the meantime, it is important to pressure the US Senate to pass this bill now, before one more innocent child is killed or maimed for life due to our reckless foreign policy. On the international level, some eighty-two nations have supported resolutions to ban the use of cluster bombs. The United States still insists on the effectiveness of these weapons and refuses to join the international movement to ban this weapon, in spite of the fact that cluster bombs are one of the most deadly weapons facing our own troops. Unexploded bomblets remain a real threat to US troops long after they have been dropped on their intended targets.

Although they are a threat to our soldiers serving overseas, the biggest threat that cluster bombs pose is to civilians who remain in the areas of conflict long after the fighting has subsided. Unexploded cluster bombs scatter across large tracts of land, turning the areas bombed into defacto land mine zones. According to the American Friends Service Committee, ninety eight percent of the casualties of cluster bombs have been civilians. The United States manufactures these weapons and private manufacturing companies profit from the use of these weapons, which are largely inaccurate and indiscriminate in whom they kill. The time has come for the United States to join the international community in banning these inhumane weapons.

Senate Bill 594 would prevent the US military from using cluster bombs on civilian populations and it would prevent the export of cluster bombs for use in residential areas. Finally the bill would restrict all use and export of cluster bombs by the government. This bill would go a long way toward preventing unintended deaths and injuries to children and adults. The reality of cluster bombs is that long after the war is over, non-combatants are still being killed because of our current policies. In Lebanon, for instance, US produced cluster bombs were used by Israel in 2006. These bombs killed 285 people during the conflict, which ended that same year. In the two years since that time an additional 250 people have been killed in Lebanon by unexploded cluster bombs, nearly as many as were killed during the conflict itself. Additionally, there remains an estimated one million unexploded US produced cluster bombs, which continue to pose a threat to civilians in Lebanon.

Now is the time for the United States to begin to work to restore the trust of the international community. We must withdraw our troops from areas of occupation, and we need to remove our military forces from Iraq. We should clean up the mess that we have made of that country, including clearing landmines and civilian neighborhoods, which have been contaminated with unexploded cluster bombs and depleted uranium. Passage of Senate Bill 594 will send a clear message to the people of Iraq and the surrounding region that we really do care about international human rights and the well being of their children.

to learn more about the campaign to stop cluster bombs visit:

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