Renewing the Call to Keep Cluster Munitions Out of Children’s Hands
There are millions of pieces of unexploded weapons scattered around the world. To kids, some of them look like toys or trinkets, inviting them to touch. Such weapons, even decades old, can explode when disturbed, maiming or killing children.
One major threat is from cluster munitions. A cluster bomb is designed to come apart in the air, dispersing hundreds of bomblets to saturate an area. However in older weapons, too many of the bomblets don’t explode on impact. Even though the United States now produces only cluster munitions with a failure rate of less than one percent, our Defense Department still has millions of old cluster munitions in its stockpile, with failure rates as high as 30 percent. The bomblets that fail to explode on impact are left scattered on the ground – still armed, still deadly.
To its credit, the U.S. Government is a world leader in helping clear unexploded weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions. The United States also supports UNICEF’s work as the lead UN agency for Mine Risk Education (MRE), to make children aware of the threat from unexploded weapons. These efforts have made a huge difference. According to the United Nations, in 2011 there were 4,000 civilian casualties worldwide from leftover munitions, down from 26,000 in 1997. That is still 4,000 too many – especially when 40 percent of those casualties were children.
Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act
In addition to helping to find and eliminate old cluster bombs, we need to ensure that we do not use cluster munitions. Unfortunately, that is not current U.S. policy. The U.S. Defense Department says it will give up its outdated, high-failure cluster munitions only after 2018. However, for the next several years the Pentagon reserves the right to use these weapons, and they remain in U.S. stockpiles.
Members of Congress from both parties believe that there is no justification for using antiquated weapons that often fail, and kill and injure civilians—when we have modern cluster munitions that almost never fail.
The Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act was recently introduced in by Sens. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) and Dianne Feinstein (D-CA), and by Rep. Jim McGovern (D-MA), Charles Boustany (R-LA), and Darrell Issa (R-CA). This bill bans the use of cluster munitions with failure rates higher than one percent beginning on the date of enactment, instead of in 2018. The legislation also makes clear that American-made cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets – not in civilian areas.
What You Can Do
Contact your Senators and Representatives and urge them to cosponsor and support S. 419 and H.R. 881, the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, to help protect children from injury and death caused by these outdated weapons!