Senate Presidential Candidates Failing on Cluster Bombs
Almost a month ago now, 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 the following requirements are met:
There is a waiver in the law for the first requirement (for the malfunctioning rate of 1 percent or lower), in cases in which it is “vital” to use cluster bombs in order to protect the security of the United States. However, even in such cases, the President is required to submit a report to Congress which explains how civilians will be protected from the cluster bombs, and revealing the failure rate of the cluster bombs, as well as whether the cluster bombs are equipped with self-destruct functions.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act is not a perfect law. I’m not too fond of that waiver. However, the law is a big improvement over the status quo. Right now, there’s nothing to stop the United States from using cluster bombs, as it did during the invasion of Iraq, or selling them for other countries to use, as was done last year with the cluster bombs that Israel used against the civilian population of Lebanon.
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. The Federation of American Scientists reports, “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.
Senator Feinstein deserves our thanks for introducing the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to the floor of the Senate. Senators Edward Kennedy, Patrick Leahy, Barbara Mikulski, and Bernard Sanders also deserve our thanks, for co-sponsoring the bill.
Where are the Presidential candidates on this issue? There are six United States senators who are running for President. Not a single one of them has given support to the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act.
McCain and Brownback are Republicans. The other senators are Democrats. They all have in common their dangerous neglect of the threat posed by American cluster bombs. This is a moral issue on which many Democrats and Republicans have failed. Five good Democrats have taken a stand against the uncontrolled development and spread of cluster bombs. Other Democrats in Congress have not.
That failure includes Democratic Congressman and presidential candidate Dennis Kucinich. There is no bill at all on the floor of the U.S. House of Representatives to control the use of cluster bombs. What has Representative Kucinich, the supposed peace candidate, done about that? Absolutely nothing.
The failure of most Democrats in Congress to support the effort to stop the use of cluster bombs is yet another reminder that there is a big difference between being a Democrat and being a progressive. In 2008, it’s not enough to just elect a Democrat President. If we don’t elect a progressive President, we can expect many more years of disappointment.
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