Congress Permanently Bans Cluster Bomb Exports

Mar 11, 2009

Breaking News: Today President Obama signed into law a permanent ban on nearly all cluster bomb exports from the United States. Congress included the export ban in an omnibus budget bill that passed the Senate last night, and the House in late February. This provision will move the U.S. one step closer to the position of the nearly 100 nations--including our closest NATO allies--that signed a treaty banning cluster munitions in December.

The legislation 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 meets the one percent standard. This export ban was first enacted in a similar budget bill in December 2007, but that law mandated it for only one year. The law was then extended for six months in the fall of 2008. Yesterday’s omnibus bill, H.R. 1105, extends the ban indefinitely.

U.S.-exported cluster bombs were most recently used by Israel in Southern Lebanon, where dud rates were reportedly as high as 40 percent; hundreds of civilians and deminers have been killed or maimed since the fighting ended in 2006.

Now Congress needs to take the next step and ban U.S. use of these deadly weapons. Nearly one in four senators have already cosponsored the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act (S. 416), introduced one month ago, which would stop the military from using virtually all of the cluster bombs in its vast arsenal by applying this same one percent standard to U.S. use. Do your senators support this bill? If not, urge them to co-sponsor today . If it's unacceptable to export high dud-rate cluster bombs, then it's unacceptable to use them. Growing Senate support for S. 416 will show President Obama that the U.S. public stands with the rest of the world in supporting a ban on cluster bombs.

As 17 year old Soraj Ghulam Habib from Herat, Afghanistan, who lost both legs to a U.S. cluster submunition in 2001, observes, "You'd ban them for sure, if you had them here."

A live, U.S-made M77 cluster submunition in a citrus orchard in Southern Lebanon--one of an estimated 4 million dropped in 2006.
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