Jacobs & Omar Plan to Block Biden’s Clusterbombs

July 10th, 2023 - by Blaise Malley / Responsible Statecraft & Dave DeCamp / Antiwar.com

“If the US is going to be a leader on human rights,
we must not participate in human rights abuses.”

Blaise Malley / Responsible Statecraft & Dave Decamp / Antiwar.com

WASHINGTON, DC (July 7, 2023) — President Joe Biden’s looming decision to include cluster munitions in the next weapons package to Ukraine could prove to be a political challenge. Democratic Reps. Sara Jacobs (Calif.) and Ilhan Omar (Minn.) have introduced an amendment to the 2023 NDAA that would effectively block the transfer of these munitions.

“Notwithstanding any other provision of law, no military assistance shall be furnished for cluster munitions, no defense export license for cluster munitions may be issued, and no cluster munitions or cluster munitions technology shall be sold or transferred,” reads the amendment.

“Cluster munitions keep killing 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 like Cambodia and Vietnam,” wrote Rep. Jacobs in a Twitter thread explaining her opposition. “Cluster munitions also prevent successful rebuilding and economic recovery in the countries where they’re used.”

“If the US is going to be a leader on international human rights, we must not participate in human rights abuses. We can support the people of Ukraine in their freedom struggle, while also opposing violations of international law,” Rep. Omar added in a comment to Politico’s NatSec Daily.

“I applaud the NDAA amendment proposed by Reps. Jacobs and Rep. Omar,”  Sera Koulabdara, CEO of the advocacy group Legacies of War, told RS. “I urge them and other leaders to continue to stand on the side of the 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-Colo.), a veteran of the war in Afghanistan, and Barbara Lee (D-Calif.), have also voiced their opposition to the transfer of these bombs.

Kyiv has been pushing for its Western supporters to provide them with what it views as weapons to help Ukraine in its ongoing counteroffensive. Russia has already been using them extensively in Ukraine, and Ukraine has also reportedly used cluster bombs, most recently using Turkish-provided munitions.

Washington has so far held off on 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 dug-in Russian positions on the battlefield.”

Cluster munitions inflict long-lasting and devastating consequences on civilian populations. Since World War II, cluster munitions have killed an estimated 56,500 to 86,500 civilians. In 2008, more than 100 countries signed a treaty pledging not to make, use, or transfer cluster bombs, though neither the US nor Ukraine are signatories.

“Cluster munitions, launched from air or ground, break apart in mid-air to scatter a large number of explosive submunitions known as ‘bomblets,’” explained Alyssa Blakemore recently in Responsible Statecraft.

“Independent estimates put the failure rate of cluster bombs as high as 10 to 40 percent, leaving unexploded remnants to kill and maim unsuspecting civilians long after a conflict’s end,” Blakemore added. “Children especially make up a large number of victims as they are drawn to the shape, size, and color of cluster submunitions often found embedded in the ground.”

Human rights groups raised serious concerns about the consequences of introducing more cluster bombs to the battlefield.

“Both countries should stop using these inherently indiscriminate weapons, and no country should supply cluster munitions because of their foreseeable danger to civilians,” according to a recent report from Human Rights Watch. “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 short-sighted but it shows a complete disregard to international consensus by over 100 countries, including 18 of our NATO allies,” said Koulabdara. “The government officials who made this shameful decision clearly did not learn from America’s own mistakes in using cluster munitions in the American wars in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan to name just a few.”

Inside Story: What’s Behind Decision
To Give Ukraine Cluster Bombs?
Adrian Finighan / Al Jazeera

(July 8, 2023) — Ukraine is to be supplied with cluster bombs by the U.S. That’s despite a ban by many countries and most NATO members. Ukraine and the U.S. accuse Russia of using them too. The United Nations says such weapons breach humanitarian law because they are indiscriminate. So what is behind the U.S. decision?

Congressional Democrats, US Allies
Break With Biden on Cluster Bombs 
UK, Spain, and Canada All Oppose Cluster Munitions

Rep. Ilhan Omar has co-authored a bill to block Biden’s clusterbombs

Dave DeCamp / Antwar.com

(July 9, 2023) — President Biden’s decision to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs has sparked rare Democratic criticism of his proxy war with Russia, and some of the US’s top NATO allies have also spoken out against the move.

“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-MN), the top Democrat on the House Appropriations Subcommittee on Defense, according to Politico

“The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death and expensive cleanup generations after their use … These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles, not dumped in Ukraine,” she added.

Nineteen House progressives issued a joint statement condemning the move. “Cluster munitions have been banned by nearly 125 countries under the United Nations Convention on Cluster Munitions because of the indiscriminate harm they cause, including mass civilian injury and death,” the statement said.

Rep. Barbara Lee (D-CA) signed on to the statement and criticized President Biden’s decision in an appearance on CNN. “Cluster bombs should never be used. That’s crossing a line,” Lee said.

NATO allies Spain, the UK, and Canada, all parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, have warned against providing Ukraine with cluster munitions. “Spain, based on the firm commitment it has with Ukraine, also has a firm commitment that certain weapons and bombs cannot be delivered under any circumstances,” said Spanish Defense Minister Margarita Robles.

British Prime Minister Rishi Sunak said the UK will uphold its commitment as a “signatory to a convention which prohibits the production or use of cluster munitions and discourages their use.”

The Canadian government said in a statement that “we do not support the use of cluster munitions and are committed to putting an end to the effects cluster munitions have on civilians — particularly children.”

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