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Yearning for an update on cluster bombs? Yearn no longer!

March 26, 2009

It’s been an exciting few weeks in the cluster bomb corner of FCNL… here’s the update:

In February, 67 national organizations sent this letter to President Obama, calling for a review of the landmine and cluster bomb ban treaties

Two weeks ago Congress and the president permanently outlawed exports of nearly all U.S. cluster munitions in the omnibus bill. The export ban has been in place for two years, but this bill has extended it indefinitely.

Specifically, it states that cluster munitions can only be exported if they leave behind less than one percent of their submunitions as duds, and if the receiving country agrees that cluster munitions “will not be used where civilians are known to be present.” Only a very tiny fraction of the cluster munitions in the U.S. arsenal meet the one percent standard.

This one percent business actually comes from a Pentagon policy, put in place by Sec. Def. William Cohen in 2001, which stated that the Defense Department would stop procuring cluster munitions with a failure rate of more than one percent by 2005. The standard was reinforced by Secretary Gates’ 2008 policy, which stated that by 2018, the U.S. would stop using cluster munitions that didn’t meet it.

This one percent standard may seem arbitrary, but only a tiny, tiny fraction of cluster bombs in the U.S. arsenal of 700 million+ meet this standard. So, what it means is a de facto ban on nearly all U.S. cluster bomb systems.

So wait a minute…the DOD doesn’t purchase cluster munitions that leave behind more than 1% of their submunitions as duds. The DOD doesn’t export cluster munitions that leave behind more than 1% of their submunitions as duds. And after (but only after) 2018, the DOD will no longer use cluster munitions that don’t meet this standard.

Anyone see an inconsistency? Me too.

FCNL believes that the U.S. should adhere to its own standards of acceptability now, not in ten years. That is why we are working on building cosponsorship of S. 416 , a bill that would apply the one percent condition to U.S. use immediately. To learn how you can help build cosponsorship and get your Senator on the bill, click on our nifty graphic. I’ll be back on Monday to tell you more.

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