Cluster Bombs: A Lethal Legacy We Mustn’t Pass On

Have you ever thought about the future being plagued by our present actions? Well, here’s a chilling possibility. Democratic Reps. Sara Jacobs (California) and Ilhan Omar (Minnesota) have sounded the alarm, challenging President Biden’s plan to potentially include cluster bombs in the forthcoming weapons package for Ukraine.

Why is this important? Here’s a crash course on cluster munitions. These devilish devices scatter ‘bomblets’ over a large area when deployed, causing immediate, indiscriminate damage. But their lethal legacy doesn’t stop there. With a failure rate of 10-40%, many of these bomblets remain undetonated, lurking like landmines and claiming innocent lives long after conflicts have ended. They transform homes into minefields and children’s playgrounds into death traps, inhibiting post-war recovery and reconstruction.

Representatives Jacobs and Omar have moved to block the transfer of such weapons through an amendment to the 2023 NDAA, drawing a clear line in the sand: The U.S., as an international human rights leader, cannot and should not contribute to such potential long-term human rights violations.

As Jacobs highlighted on Twitter, past post-war contexts like Cambodia and Vietnam continue to suffer from the lethal legacy of cluster munitions. Omar reinforced this position, stressing that upholding international law should not be incompatible with supporting Ukraine in its fight for freedom.

These congressional voices are not alone. Reps. Jason Crow (Colorado) and Barbara Lee (California) have also expressed their concerns over the provision of these inhumane weapons. And let’s not forget Sera Koulabdara, CEO of the advocacy group Legacies of War, who supports the amendment and urges more leaders to champion the basic human right to live free from fear of cluster munitions.

Ukraine, as it resists Russian aggression, understandably seeks all possible help from the West. But should this help come in the form of weapons that carry a long-term humanitarian cost? We know that both Russia and Ukraine have reportedly used cluster bombs, adding to their already troubling legacy.

Some argue that these bombs would be useful against fortified Russian positions. Laura Cooper, a Pentagon official, made this argument to the House Foreign Affairs Committee. But “usefulness” on the battlefield cannot and should not justify the foreseeable harm to civilians and the long-term suffering they induce. Over 100 countries, including 18 NATO allies, have pledged not to produce, use, or transfer cluster bombs, recognizing their inherent dangers.

This is where we need to take a stand. We need to learn from the past, from our own missteps in Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Iraq, and Afghanistan. We can and should support Ukraine in its struggle without resorting to tactics that inflict enduring harm on innocent lives. It’s not just about winning a battle; it’s about preserving humanity and dignity in the face of conflict. Let’s join hands with Reps. Jacobs, Omar, and others in opposing this dangerous decision.