A Quaker Lobby in the Public Interest
Petitions Delivered to Key Pentagon PolicymakersUrging Secretary of Defense to Renounce Use of Cluster Munitions
Lynn Bradach--whose son Travis, a corporal in the Marines, was killed in Iraq by a U.S. cluster submunition in July 2003--joined FCNL lobbyists Lora Lumpe and Laura Chirot on Friday January 30 to deliver nearly 9,000 petitions to key staff in the Office of the Secretary of Defense.
The petitions, addressed to Secretary Robert Gates, object to U.S. nonparticipation in the Convention on Cluster Munitions and call on him to announce a moratorium on cluster bomb use and "to publicly declare that the United States supports a ban on the use of cluster bombs in areas that are normally occupied by civilians."
Signatures came from FCNL supporters and cluster bomb campaigners around the country affiliated with the US Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs, which FCNL coordinates.
The FCNL lobbyists and Ms. Bradach met with the principal people who developed the Pentagon's latest policy on cluster munitions. This policy was released in July 2008, just after the world community completed its negotiation of a treaty banning the weapons. The Pentagon officials acknowledged that pressure resulting from the global campaign and treaty had resulted in the new DOD policy, which they view as far reaching and rapidly implemented (by Pentagon timeframes).
The Pentagon cluster bomb policy states that in ten years--2018--the U.S. military will no longer use its massive arsenal of cluster munitions that leave unacceptably high percentages of their submunitions unexploded on the ground after combat.
In the interim, however, the policy requires that any future use of cluster munitions be agreed to by the highest levels of the military command. Previously, officers in the field could decide whether to use these weapons.
This policy directive asserts that these Cold War era weapons continue to be particularly vital for the U.S. military, and in briefings to congressional staff Pentagon officials assert that these weapons "save U.S. soldiers' lives". Ms. Bradach questioned that assertion, challenging the OSD staff to describe one conflict in which the use of cluster munitions was decisive. She also asked how it was that our closest ally, Britain, which has also fielded and used cluster munitions, could renounce them as of December 2008 and still carry out its defensive missions. They didn't know the answer to that.
As anticipated, neither side changed the other's mind, but a respectful dialogue was opened up, the way paved by a calling card of 9,000 U.S. signatures. PDF Version