| A cluster bomb capsule is seen on the ground amid the Russia Ukraine war at the frontline city of Avdiivka Ukraine on March 23 2023 Photo Andre Luis AlvesAnadolu Agency via Getty ImagesCommon Dreams | MR Online A cluster bomb capsule is seen on the ground amid the Russia-Ukraine war at the frontline city of Avdiivka, Ukraine on March 23, 2023. (Photo: Andre Luis Alves/Anadolu Agency via Getty Images/Common Dreams)

Cluster bomb opponents ‘appalled’ by Biden becision to send banned weapons to Ukraine

Originally published: Common Dreams on July 7, 2023 by Jake Johnson (more by Common Dreams)  | (Posted Jul 08, 2023)

President Joe Biden has reportedly given final approval for the transfer of U.S. cluster munitions to Ukraine, ignoring warnings from human rights groups and progressive lawmakers who underscored the indiscriminate weapons’ devastating impacts on civilians immediately upon use and far into the future.

According to The Washington Post, a drawdown of the globally deplored weapons from Pentagon stocks is set to be formally announced on Friday. The U.S., which has used the weapons around the world, is believed to possess more than 3 million cluster munitions containing over 400 million submunitions.

More than 120 countries have signed the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions, which prohibits the use or stockpiling of the weapons. But the U.S., Russia, and Ukraine have opposed global efforts to ban the weapons, which are notorious for failing to explode on impact and littering landscapes with what are effectively landmines.

Human Rights Watch (HRW), which urged the Biden administration not to transfer the weapons to Ukraine, has documented the use of cluster munitions by both Russian and Ukrainian forces since the start of the war last year.

We can support the people of Ukraine in their freedom struggle, while also opposing violations of international law.

The Cluster Munition Coalition, a global civil society campaign working to eradicate the weapons, said it was “appalled” by the U.S. president’s approval of the transfer to Ukraine.

“The Biden administration’s decision to transfer cluster munitions will contribute to the terrible casualties being suffered by Ukrainian civilians both immediately and for years to come,” said Paul Hannon, vice chair of the coalition’s governance board.

Russia and Ukraine’s use of cluster munitions is adding to Ukraine’s already massive contamination from explosive remnants and landmines.

The Post reported Friday that “the principal weapon under consideration, an M864 artillery shell first produced in 1987, is fired from the 155mm howitzers the United States and other Western countries have provided Ukraine.”

“In its last publicly available estimate, more than 20 years ago, the Pentagon assessed that artillery shell to have a ‘dud’ rate of 6%, meaning that at least four of each of the 72 submunitions each shell carries would remain unexploded across an area of approximately 22,500 square meters—roughly the size of 4½ football fields,” the Post added.

In order to deliver the weapons to Ukraine, the Post noted, Biden is trampling on “U.S. law prohibiting the production, use, or transfer of cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than 1%.”

Mary Wareham, advocacy director of the arms division of HRW, told the newspaper that “it’s dismaying to see the long-established 1% unexploded ordnance standard for cluster munitions rolled back as this will result in more duds, which means an even greater threat to civilians, including de-miners.”

HRW released a report this week detailing its research showing that “Ukrainian cluster munition rocket attacks on Russian-controlled areas in and around the city of Izium in eastern Ukraine during 2022 caused many casualties among Ukrainian civilians.”

“Transferring these weapons would inevitably cause long-term suffering for civilians and undermine the international opprobrium of their use,” the group said.

The use of cluster munitions in areas with civilians makes an attack indiscriminate in violation of international humanitarian law, and possibly a war crime.

Reports that Biden has approved the munitions transfer to Ukraine—which has repeatedly pressed the White House for the weapons—came after Germany, a NATO member and U.S. ally, expressed opposition to sending the bombs to Ukraine, citing its commitments under the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

In the U.S., progressive Reps. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) on Thursday proposed an amendment to the nation’s annual military policy bill that would prohibit the transfer or sale of cluster munitions.

“If the U.S. is going to be a leader on international human rights, we must not participate in human rights abuses,” Omar told Politico.

We can support the people of Ukraine in their freedom struggle, while also opposing violations of international law.

Jake Johnson is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

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