US House Rejects Cluster-Bomb Ban

Democrats and Republicans turned down the chance to stop the export of weapons that harm and kill civilians long after military campaigns are over.

Men in 2009 talking and showing cluster bombs in Laos, where unexploded cluster bombs continue to endanger civilians. (M M, Flickr, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

By Brett Wilkins
Common Dreams

The U.S. House of Representatives this week rejected a bipartisan amendment to the 2024 military spending bill that would have prohibited the transfer of cluster munitions — which are banned under a treaty ratified by more than 100 nations but not the United States — to any country.

The House voted 160-269 on the amendment to next year’s National Defense Authorization Act co-sponsored by Reps. Sarah Jacobs (D-CA), Matt Gaetz (R-FL), Ilhan Omar (D-MN), Pramila Jayapal (D-WA) and Jim McGovern (D-MA). Seventy-five Democrats voted for the measure, while 137 voted “no”; 85 GOP lawmakers approved the amendment while 132 opposed it.

Rep.Jacobs. (Kristie Baxter, Wikimedia Commons, Public domain)

The vote took place less than a week after U.S. President Joe Biden said the United States would send more cluster munitions to Ukraine. 

“Many of us have this idea of American exceptionalism, that America is set apart from the rest of the world. Well, that’s certainly true when it comes to cluster munitions and not in the way that we want,” Jacobs said on the House floor before Wednesday’s vote. 

“America is an outlier. We are one of the few countries that hasn’t become party to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, and that is a grave mistake,” she asserted, referring to a landmark 2008 treaty, to which 112 nations are parties. 

Jacobs continued: 

“These weapons maim and kill indiscriminately. In 2021, the Landmine and Cluster Munition Monitor found that over 97% of casualties from cluster bomb remnants were civilians, and two-thirds of those were children. That’s because these bomblets are small, colorful, and interesting shapes, so to children they look like toys. So when kids find these unexploded bomblets stuck in trees, or in the water, or simply on the ground and try to pick them up and play with them, they could lose a limb or their life in the blink of an eye…. These weapons are unpredictable, and the human cost is far too high to justify.”

Since the end of the Vietnam War half a century ago, unexploded cluster munitions have killed approximately 20,000 civilians in Laos, where the U.S. dropped more bombs than all sides in World War II combined. The U.S. rained as many as 270 million cluster bombs on Laos, and less than 1 percent of the unexploded bomblets have been cleared since. They are still killing civilians today. 

“These cluster bombs are indiscriminate,” Gaetz said on the House floor Wednesday. “They’ve killed tens of thousands of people… and when this is all done, we’ll be right back here on the floor appropriating money to de-mine the cluster bombs that we’re now sending, which seems ludicrous to me.” 

Gaetz at an event in Phoenix in 2022. (Gage Skidmore, Flickr, CC BY-SA 2.0 DEED)

Since Vietnam, the U.S. has used cluster bombs in wars including the 1999 NATO air campaign against Yugoslavia; the 1991 Desert Storm war in Iraq and Kuwait; and in Afghanistan, Iraq, and Yemen during the so-called War on Terror. U.S. cluster munitions have been linked to birth defects, miscarriages, cancers and other ailments. 

Earlier this year, the U.S. began sending artillery-fired cluster munitions to Ukraine. Russian and Ukrainian forces have both killed and wounded soldiers and civilians with cluster bombs during the war. 

“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine in my opinion was unnecessary and a sad mistake,” U.S. Rep. Betty McCollum told her House colleagues Wednesday. 

“The legacy of U.S. cluster munitions… undermines our moral authority and places the U.S. in a position that directly contradicts 23 of our NATO allies who have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions.” 

“The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death, and expensive cleanup after generations of use,” McCollum added. “These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles.” 

Last week, Biden informed Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky that the United States will provide Kyiv with long-range missiles with cluster munition warheads. 

“Let’s be clear,” Jacobs added. “This isn’t about one country, this is not about Ukraine. This is about protecting civilian lives and ensuring our national security all over the world. Because sending these weapons anywhere makes us complicit in unavoidable civilian harm and creates blowback that undermines our national security.”

Brett Wilkins is a staff writer for Common Dreams.

This article is from  Common Dreams.

Views expressed in this article and may or may not reflect those of Consortium News.

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22 comments for “US House Rejects Cluster-Bomb Ban

  1. HelenB
    October 1, 2023 at 03:27

    Thank you for this article, Brett.

  2. Sudesh Prasad
    September 30, 2023 at 16:08

    No more hiding behind the “US good, Russia bad” fallacy…

  3. Laurie Holbrook
    September 30, 2023 at 12:54

    There is just too much money to be made. Greed on steroids.

  4. Jeff Harrison
    September 30, 2023 at 10:31

    I am embarrassed that my country refused to ban cluster munitions…..

  5. David Otness
    September 29, 2023 at 19:58

    Where stood the rest of the now-proven pathetic “Squad,” I wonder…?

    • gwb
      September 30, 2023 at 12:37

      The Squad actually all voted for the amendment to ban cluster munitions transfer – as did many of the Trump Republicans. Many of the so-called progressive Democrats voted against it. Interesting bedfellows. Check the link to the House Clerk’s web site in the second paragraph of the story.

  6. Realist
    September 29, 2023 at 18:07

    “The legacy of U.S. cluster munitions… undermines our moral authority and places the U.S. in a position that directly contradicts 23 of our NATO allies who have joined the Convention on Cluster Munitions.”

    It seems to me that there ought to be 23 Nato nations imposing economic sanctions against the United States for blatantly committing war crimes by supplying this banned munition to one of the combatants in its currently sponsored proxy war, thereby putting civilians, especially children, at risk. Why did these Nato countries sign the document to ban the devices if they had no intention of doing anything–even expressing a simple objection–to oppose their use? They must have got the “Convention on Cluster Munitions” mixed up with the “Minsk Accords.”

  7. September 29, 2023 at 16:58

    So much for claims concerning promotion of human rights, objections to crimes against humanity, etc. As usual, hypocrisy uber alles.

  8. Valerie
    September 29, 2023 at 16:03

    “Democrats and Republicans turned down the chance to stop the export of weapons that harm and kill civilians long after military campaigns are over.”

    Why don’t they stop the export of weapons which harm and kill civilians now? Never mind long after.

  9. Renate
    September 29, 2023 at 15:14

    To use cluster bombs against civilians is a war crime. Ukrainians have used cluster bombs against their Ukrainian civilians, our government must know about it and make it complicit in war crimes. A retired German general mentioned it on TV, he would not have said it if it were not true.
    War criminals are governing us.

  10. Wind Calls Mary
    September 29, 2023 at 14:54

    The Democrats are more pro-cluster-bomb (read that as more pro-dead-and-maimed-civilians) than the Republicans. That’s why the Dems run the Progressive Fraud to push the lie that they don’t like cluster bombs.

    This is by now an old routine. A Democrat stands up and becomes a voice against the very thing that the Democratic Party strongly supports. This is then presented to the Democrat Rank-N-File (who oppose the very thing that the Democratic Party supports) as a reason why the rank-n-file should support a party that does horrible things that they would never support.

    The vote of course is set so that the outcome is well-known in advance, in this case, giving a minority of members a ‘very safe vote’ where they can pretend to be normal human beings just in time for the next campaign. The vote and the speeches against are all just for show, and never had any real chance of changing anything. This is the way the Democrats keep an illusion of a party that isn’t insane, while at the same time fully funding these horrible weapons and handing them over to the people who honor former SS soldiers. Don’t forget to vote Democrat for more of the same.

  11. gwb
    September 29, 2023 at 10:58

    Unbelievable – I never thought that Matt Gaetz and Ilhan Omar would agree on anything – but they co-sponsored this bill? The warmongering logroll really is out of control.

    • James White
      September 29, 2023 at 16:26

      It speaks volumes about the corrupt middle of our Congress, that only what are viewed as the extremes of both parties have any common sense about these abominable munitions. Or about these forever wars that we can’t seem to wean ourselves off of. The Military Industrial Complex is at the core of continued votes in Congress for more weapons and wars. Despite the majority will of the American people to oppose them. My views have been made clear to both Senators and my Rep. It is not hard to communicate with them. If they persist, vote them out. But give them fair warning. I guarantee that you will get their attention. I voted for you in the past, but you will lose my vote if…

  12. Vera Gottlieb
    September 29, 2023 at 10:37

    And one day – hopefully soon, this misery and pain will befall the US. You deserve no better.

    • James White
      September 29, 2023 at 16:01

      Ms. Gottlieb, Assuming you are posting under your real name, the origin of Vera is ‘faith’ or Latin ‘truth’. Gottlieb translates from German to English as God’s love or love of God. Wishing pain and misery on others, regardless of their failings expresses neither faith, nor truth, nor God’s love. Do you honestly think of yourself as so superior as to be devoid of human weakness or error? Your fellow humans, despite their failings, deserve better from you.

  13. Drew Hunkins
    September 29, 2023 at 10:23

    What’s fascinating is that it’s the “FASCIST!” right that’s primarily behind the move to ban the cluster munitions sent overseas.

    The purported peaceful and progressive Dems are largely MIA.

    On this issue, give me the “FASCIST!” right any day.

  14. Dfnslblty
    September 29, 2023 at 10:08

    Such munitions are illegal and immoral.
    Congress’ refusal to permanently ban them is in stride with their anti-social, anti-educational, and anti-health assaults and unconcerns.

    usa actually pays its enslavers and traitors.

  15. mgr
    September 29, 2023 at 07:57

    Regardless of what the cDP and GOP like to say, this is who they really are.

  16. Andrew Nichols
    September 29, 2023 at 03:12

    “The legacy of U.S. cluster munitions… undermines our moral authority …”

    The words “America” and “moral authority” do not belong in the same sentence. You can’t lose anything you didn’t have in the first place..

    • Maria soledad calef
      September 29, 2023 at 11:07

      North America, an exceptionalist nation has not binding for any international law, and it has the right to interfere in other countries internal affair, and the right to destabilizes the world peace.

  17. James White
    September 28, 2023 at 23:49

    Yes, this is troubling, however:

    Two massive inflection points are happening at once.

    The Biden crime family cover up is starting to unravel.
    The hearing today was damning.
    Democrats can pretend there is no evidence, but they will be seeing
    more and more of it. As will the voters.
    As Biden’s chances in 2024 continue to fade, Democrats
    wil have to decide when to cut Biden loose.
    The Democrat convention is still almost a year away (August 2024)
    But the primaries will be held starting 15-Jan with the Iowa caucuses.
    That is now only 3 months away and as always, tempus fugit.
    If the Democrats are dumping Biden, they must do so before the start
    of the primary season.
    If not, they will be beaten out of the gate and never recover.
    You can’t switch horses after the primaries are already underway
    without creating chaos in the party.

    Also unraveling is the Ukraine war.
    Notable: The Germans are now delaying the delivery of missiles to Ukraine.
    In addition to the recent reversal of Poland to send arms to Ukraine.

    BERLIN—Germany is holding off sending Taurus long-range precision
    missiles to Ukraine because of concerns they would require German
    technicians to operate on the ground, which some officials fear could
    drag Berlin closer to a direct confrontation with Russia.

    Russia may not be able to defeat all of Europe. But they can kick
    Germany’s ass anytime they choose. Both Germany and Russia know it.

    More importantly, as the Germans are keenly aware, the
    U.S. Congress is balking at sending more funds to Ukraine.
    That means arms too.
    You can watch the tide turning in Congress. It is clear that a growing
    majority of the American people want to halt funding Ukraine.
    Enough members of Congress are even willing to shut down the U.S.
    government to deny funding to Ukraine.

    Zelensky was not well received in the U.S. save for the usual war hawks.

    Then he stopped in Canada and stepped into a complete disaster.
    Now there is no denying that Zelensky is representing Nazis (Azov) in Ukraine.

    This upends the narrative that Putin is Hitler in a stunning reversal.

    Minds are blown and the entire fake narrative is crashing down.

    The rain has come to Ukraine, ending most major offensive operations.
    Russia seems content with the status quo but will oblige any Ukraine
    offensive operations with more slaughter of Ukraine troops.

    Russia will also likely not agree to any ceasefire.
    The war will end on Russian terms which means Ukraine neutrality,
    no NATO and no E.U. for Ukraine.
    For as long as it takes.

    • Valerie
      September 29, 2023 at 16:10

      “Russia will also likely not agree to any ceasefire.”

      I believe Russia has already stated they will not agree to a ceasefire, as they cannot trust the West. (With good reason)
      And yes, the gung ho support attitude of Europe seems to be wearing thin now. One only has to look at the headlines of the tabloids/MSM to appreciate that.

Comments are closed.