ACTION ALERT: Tell Russia — and the US — “End the Use of Cluster Bombs”

April 28th, 2022 - by Win Without War & Congressional Research Service

Death Falls from the Sky

Win Without War

The war in Ukraine has entered a deadly new phase as death falls from the sky, with both Russia and Ukraine resorting to cluster bombs.

Cluster bombs are indiscriminate, inaccurate weapons that cause catastrophic civilian harm. For that very reason, over 100 countries came together in 2008 to ban the use of cluster bombs through an international treaty called the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

And you guessed it: the United States is not one of the signers of the treaty — neither are Russia and Ukraine. 

Witnessing the catastrophic harm caused by cluster bombs in Ukraine today reminds us that we urgently need the United States to show overdue leadership by banning the use of these weapons. And while the world and the White House are paying attention, we have a small window of opportunity to put pressure on President Biden to once and for all join the ban on cluster bombs.

ACTION: Let’s tell the White House: It’s time for the United States to show leadership and join the ban on cluster bombs! 

Cluster bombs are deadly weapons dropped from the sky or fired from the ground and sea to open up midair and scatter into dozens — sometimes hundreds — more smaller bombs, which then rain down over an area as big as several football fields.

Current US policy on cluster bombs was made by former President Donald Trump. It allows the US military to fully use the millions of cluster bombs we have in stockpile until “enhanced and more reliable” weapons are developed. In the meantime, the US government is also allowed to buy more cluster bombs from foreign sources.

You read that right — the US government’s disastrous policy on cluster bombs was made by Trump. And President Biden is sticking with it. 

Unexploded cluster-bomb left behind by US in Vietnam.

Today, people around the world continue to face devastating harm due to unexploded cluster bombs the United States dropped over the course of decades of endless war. Unexploded cluster bombs dropped by the United States during the Vietnam War over 50 years ago are still setting off and harming people in Southeast Asia to this day.

These indiscriminate killing devices are now falling all over the cities and villages of Ukraine. And the entire world is watching in horror. Joining the international ban on cluster bombs is not just the right thing to do — it is also the first step towards recognizing the harm caused by US cluster bombs throughout history.

We’re already seeing positive movement in Congress. Representatives Sara Jacobs, Jim McGovern, Bill Keating, and 24 others just sent a letter urging President Biden to join the ban.

ACTION: Let’s send a quick and forceful message to President Biden. It’s time for the United States to step up, show leadership, and join the international ban on cluster bombs. Add your name if you agree. 

A cluster-bomb survivor. Blinded for life.

Cluster Munitions: Summary
— Background and Issues for Congress

Congressional Research Service

WASHINGTON (March 9, 2022) — Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched weapons that release a number of smaller submunitions intended to kill enemy personnel or destroy vehicles. Cluster munitions were developed in World War II and are part of many nations’ weapons stockpiles.

Cluster munitions have been used frequently in combat, including the early phases of the current conflicts in Iraq and Afghanistan. Cluster munitions have been criticized internationally for causing a significant number of civilian deaths, and efforts have been undertaken to ban and regulate their use.

The Department of Defense (DOD) continues to view cluster munitions as a military necessity but in 2008 instituted a policy to reduce the failure rate of cluster munitions (a major contributor to civilian casualties) to 1% or less after 2018.

In November 2017, DOD issued a new DOD policy that essentially reversed the 2008 policy. Under the new policy, combatant commanders can use cluster munitions that do not meet the 1% or less unexploded submunitions standard in extreme situations to meet immediate war-fighting demands.

In addition, the new policy does not establish a deadline to replace cluster munitions exceeding the 1% rate and states that DOD “will retain cluster munitions currently in active inventories until the capabilities they provide are replaced with enhanced and more reliable munitions.”

In February 2022, Russia allegedly used cluster munitions during its invasion of Ukraine. Although the allegations have apparently not been officially verified, a reported pending International Criminal Court (ICC) investigation of war crimes in the Ukraine might provide insights.

Potential issues for Congress include potential policy impacts of allegations of Russian cluster munitions use in Ukraine, cluster munitions in an era of precision weapons, other weapons in lieu of cluster munitions, and the potential impact of DOD’s 2017 revised cluster munitions policy.

ACTION: To read the full report, click here.