The Eclectic Quill

July 9, 2008

What a Cluster Four Letter Word!

Filed under: Politics — Kelly @ 9:47 pm
Tags: , ,

I’ve learned to never  read a news article without a grain of salt, and by grain I actually mean a good sized mound. Reasons are articles like this from CNN. Allow me to begin by just highlighting a few quotes from this article, which for the vast majority who had the good sense to not click the link, is about the US  promise to try and reduce the number of cluster bombs that leave unexploded ordinance. It’s my opinion that unexploded ordinance is a BAD thing, especially if it’s lying around waiting for a five year old kid to come and play with it. It seems to me that reduce is an insufficient word here. I prefer eliminate .

A cluster bomb, when dropped from an aircraft or missile, releases hundreds of smaller explosives each the size of a grenade. When the bomblets detonate, they send shrapnel over an area about the size of a football field.

Let’s stop and think about that for a second. Hundreds of grenade sized bombs sending shrapnel over an area about the size of a football field. A football field! That’s starting to sound to me like a heck of a lot of damage. They’d better be pretty darned careful about where they drop those things don’t you think? I mean it sounds like it could be dangerous.

A number of the bomblets have remained undetonated until handled or stepped on by civilians — often children.

Am I alone in finding this utterly frightening. Somehow I think if the child’s name is Akbar it has less affect than if his name was Bobby. You ask me, anytime you spray a child over the area of a football field there’s something seriously wrong. Again, is the word "reduce" really enough here?  But then I’m thinking how often does it really happen?  How many unexploded cluster bombs can there really be lying around?

The U.N. said that 100,000 deadly bomblets dropped in 2006 were still lying unexploded across areas of southern Lebanon, where they are maiming and killing people.

That’s a lot of football fields, and by football fields I mean potentially dead people and children. And that’s just  Lebanon! What about Iraq? (Types Ctrl+f and Iraq. Nothing in the article on Iraq. Goes to search window "Iraq unexploded cluster bombs" OK, I’m back. I couldn’t find a hard figure but I found out two things. There were about 1.8 million bomblets dropped and the rate they don’t explode is between 3 and 16 percent. Based on the high volume we’ll assume that  the center of the bell curve is in play here, and that pretty much helps with the math tidiness of calling it an even ten percent, meaning that there are probably roughly 180,000 unexploded bomblets sitting around Baghdad. Am I alone in thinking that this is downright scary? [amazonify]B000EXRSVM[/amazonify]

I mean both parts of  that. 1,800,000 bomb football fields is a lot of area. It’s frightening. We blew up 1.8 million football fields wroth of Iraq. That’s a heavy number. So you also have to be thinking this had better be pretty darn accurate. Again, reviewing the article avails no such information. So it’s back to Google where I find this ZNet article where we learn that over 70,000 were killed in the air strikes when we first invaded. The vast majority of those are attributed to the cluster bombs, and those are just the ones that blew up. It seems to be hard to keep track of how many of these unexploded ordinances there are that detonate later and cause causalities. The military doesn’t seem to want to keep track of it. From the  article,

An analysis of data collected by another Iraqi NGO, the Iraqi Health and Social Care Organization, showed that, between March and June 2006, of 193 war-injured casualties analyzed, 148 (77%) were the result of cluster munitions of unspecified type.

This number can hardly be extrapolated over a six year period and if it were, the number would likely be too low as I’m relatively certain that as the clean up continues, the civilian population wises up, and there are just less bomblets to explode, one would expect the rate the to decline–and this was five years later–but even still that’s more than one bomblet-related civilian death a day five years later!

So let’s get back to the CNN article and my inspiration for writing this. See, the article is giving us the good news that the Pentagon is going to "reduce" the unexploded rate to one percent. Reduce.

U.S. military will continue to use cluster bombs but will try to reduce the number of civilian casualties by redesigning them so there are fewer ordnances that detonate long after the weapon is fired, officials said Wednesday.

The new policy requires that by 2018 the United States use only a new style of cluster bomb — one with a 99 percent detonation rate for the hundreds of bomblets released from each of the scatter-style weapons.

Well I suppose I should just be giddy and beside myself that the next time the US drops 1.8 million bomblets on a city only 18,000 of them will be unexploded waiting for some child to come and play with them but for some reason it’s not warming the cockles of my heart. Maybe it has something to do with the fact that the bombs are still going to explode. They’re just going to blow up when they land rather than five years later. The 70,000 plus civilians who died during the bombing would still be dead, and if ten percent more bombs went off then I’m fairly certain that it would have meant that even more civilians would be dead.

So that brings us to the next point, why is the US talking about this now?

The policy change comes as international pressure builds for a ban on cluster bombs.

The United Kingdom in May joined more than 100 other countries in signing an international treaty that would ban cluster munitions and require that stockpiles be destroyed within eight years.

The treaty is expected to be ratified at the end of the year in Oslo, Norway.

See, now that makes sense. I like the word "ban" so much better than "reduce." So where’s the US standing on this?

The United States, Russia, Pakistan, Israel, China and India, all makers of cluster bombs, boycotted the M ay talks.

OK, just give that list a quick once over. What a group! When it comes to thinking about care for our fellow man, being world leaders and respect for human life, is this the group we want to be included with? Seriously! Does this not make you shirk back when our closest companions start becoming China, Russia and Pakistan?  So why do we still use them?

"They provide distinct advantages against a range of targets, where their use reduces risks to U.S. forces and can save U.S. lives," according to a Pentagon statement.

See this is one of those things that infuriates me when it comes to the US. It’s vindication of maintaining a weapon that has already killed over 70,000 civilians is that then US troops won’t have to die. Apparently their lives are worth less than ours.


1 Comment »

  1. I can’t get past the word “bomblet.” Is that a real word? “Aw, look at the cute little bomblets! They’re just little tiny bombies. Yes they are. Who goes boom? Is it you? Is it you?”


    Comment by Kurtis — July 10, 2008 @ 5:57 pm | Reply

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