President Joe Biden’s impending decision to include cluster munitions in the next arms package for Ukraine could turn into a political challenge. Democratic Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-California) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minnesota) have filed an amendment to the 2023 NDAA that would effectively block the transfer of these munitions.
“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no military assistance for cluster munitions shall be provided, no defense export license may be issued for cluster munitions, and no cluster munitions or cluster munitions technology,” the amendment reads.
“Cluster munitions continue to kill long after their initial use with the potential to injure and kill civilians for generations, something we have seen in many other post-war contexts such as Cambodia and Vietnam,” Rep. Jacobs wrote on Twitter. thread explaining your opposition. “Cluster munitions also impede successful reconstruction and economic recovery in the countries where they are used.”
“If the United States is to be a leader in international human rights, we must not participate in human rights abuses. We can support the people of Ukraine in their fight for freedom, while also opposing violations of international law,” Rep. Omar added in a comment to politicalNatSec Journal.
“I applaud the NDAA amendment proposed by Representatives Jacobs and Omar,” Sera Koulabdara, executive director of advocacy group Legacies of War, told RS. “I urge them and other leaders to continue to stand on the side of basic human rights to live free from the fear of cluster munitions and speak out publicly to their colleagues and the American people.”
Other lawmakers, including Reps. Jason Crow (D-Colorado), a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and Barbara Lee (D-California), have also expressed opposition to the transfer of these bombs.
kyiv has been pushing for its Western supporters to provide them with what it considers weapons to help Ukraine in its ongoing counter-offensive. Russia has already been using them extensively in Ukraine, and Ukraine has also reportedly used cluster bombs, most recently using munitions provided by Turkey.
Until now, Washington has refrained from providing kyiv with these highly controversial weapons. But in June, Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official responsible for Russian, Ukrainian and Eurasian affairs, told the House Foreign Affairs Committee that the munitions “would be useful, especially against entrenched Russian battlefield positions.” .
Cluster munitions inflict devastating and long-lasting consequences on civilian populations. Since World War II, cluster munitions have killed between 56,500 and 86,500 civilians. In 2008, more than 100 countries signed a treaty pledging not to manufacture, use or transfer cluster bombs, although neither the US nor Ukraine are signatories.
“Cluster munitions, air-dropped or ground-delivered, break up in midair to disperse large numbers of explosive submunitions known as ‘bomblets,’” Alyssa Blakemore explained recently in Responsible state.
“Independent estimates put the failure rate of cluster bombs at between 10 and 40 percent, leaving unexploded remnants to kill and maim unsuspecting civilians long after the end of the conflict,” Blakemore added. “Children especially make up a large number of victims, as they are attracted to the shape, size and color of cluster submunitions that are often found embedded in the ground.”
Human rights groups expressed serious concerns about the consequences of introducing more cluster bombs onto the battlefield.
“Both countries should stop using these inherently indiscriminate weapons, and neither country should supply cluster munitions because of their foreseeable danger to civilians,” according to a recent Human Rights Watch report. “Transferring these weapons would inevitably cause long-term suffering for civilians and undermine the international opprobrium of their use.”
The decision to transfer these weapons “is not only wrong and shortsighted, but shows complete disregard for international consensus by more than 100 countries, including 18 of our NATO allies,” Koulabdara said. “The government officials who made this shameful decision clearly did not learn from America’s own mistakes in using cluster bombs in the American wars in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan, to name just a few.”