At top, a cluster bomb victim. Typically young children are attracted by the bright colors of cluster bombs they find on the ground.
Land mines are the weapons that keep on killing decades after a cease-fire or an end to a war. They are still killing civilians in Vietnam; the Vietnam War ended in 1974.
Cluster bombs, first used by the Germans in World War Two, are a way to drop thousands of land mines on an area from aerial bombers. Cluster bombs manufactured in the United States have been sold, with US government approval, to Israel, and were used in large number in last summer's war in southern Lebanon.
Other stories indicate that if Israel's use of the cluster bombs violated its permissions from the US government, the Bush administration will consider at most a mild rebuke to Israel.
It should be noted that Israelis are extremely unhappy with the performance of the Israel Defense Forces (IDF) in the Lebanon War. Hezbollah was certainly not destoyed, and two Israeli soldiers abducted from northern Israel by a Hezbollah raid were never returned. The IDF commander has resigned and been replaced. So cluster bombs are not necessarily particularly effective in killing the enemy or halting or impeding his military movements and activities.
But they'll be killing and maiming Lebanese civilians for many years to come.
International Herald Tribune
Sunday 28 January 2007
Israel may have violated
arms pact, officials say
Early U.S. report cites cluster bombs
by David S. Cloud and Greg Myre
WASHINGTON -- The Bush administration is set to inform Congress on Monday that Israel may have violated agreements with the United States when it fired U.S.-supplied cluster munitions into southern Lebanon during its fight with Hezbollah last summer, according to the State Department.
The finding, though preliminary, has prompted a contentious debate within the administration over whether the United States should penalize Israel for its use of cluster munitions against towns and villages where Hezbollah had placed rocket launchers.
Cluster munitions scatter tiny but deadly bomblets that explode over a wide area to kill or maim people. The grenade-like munitions, tens of thousands of which have been found in southern Lebanon, have caused 30 deaths and 180 injuries among civilians since the end of the war, according to the UN Mine Action Service.
Midlevel officials at the Pentagon and the State Department have argued that Israel violated U.S. prohibitions on using cluster munitions against populated areas, according to officials. But other officials in both departments contend Israel's use of the weapons was for self- defense, aimed at stopping Hezbollah rocket attacks that killed 159 Israelis, and at worst was only a technical violation.
Any sanctions against Israel would be an extraordinary move by the Bush administration, a strong backer of Israel, and several officials said they expected little further action, if any, on the matter.
The State Department is required to notify Congress even of preliminary findings of possible violations of the Arms Export Control Act, the statute governing arms sales.
Sean McCormack, the State Department spokesman, said the notification to Congress would occur Monday, but that a final determination about whether Israel violated the agreements on use of cluster bombs was still being debated.
"It is important to remember the kind of war Hezbollah waged," he said. "They used innocent civilians as a way to shield their fighters."
Even if Israel is found to be in violation, the statute gives President George W. Bush discretion about whether to impose sanctions, unless Congress decides to take legislative action. Israel makes its own cluster munitions, so a cutoff of U.S. supplies would have mainly symbolic significance.
Israel gave the State Department a dozen-page report late last year in which it acknowledged firing thousands of U.S. cluster munitions into southern Lebanon but denied violating agreements that prohibit their use in civilian areas, the officials said.
Before firing at rocket sites in towns and villages, the Israeli report said, the Israeli military dropped leaflets warning civilians of the attacks. The report, which has not previously been disclosed, also noted that many of the villages were deserted because civilians had fled the fighting, the officials said.
David Siegel, a spokesman for the Israeli Embassy in Washington, said Israel "provided a detailed response to the administration's request for information" on its use of cluster munitions "to halt Hezbollah's unprovoked rockets attacks against our civilian populations centers."
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A US B-1 Lancer releasing its payload of cluster bombs
Cluster munitions are air-dropped or ground-launched shells that eject multiple small submunitions ("bomblets"). Their primary purpose is to kill enemy infantry, although specialized weapons designed for anti-personnel, anti-runway, anti-armor and mine-scattering purposes have also been developed.
The first cluster bomb used operationally was the German SD-2 or Sprengbombe Dickwandig 2 kg, commonly referred to as the Butterfly Bomb. It was used during the Second World War to attack both civilian and military targets. The technology was developed independently by the United States of America, Russia and Italy (see Thermos Bomb). Cluster bombs are now standard air-dropped munitions for most nations, in a wide variety of types.
Artillery shells that employ similar principles have existed for decades. They are typically referred to as ICM (Improved Conventional Munitions) shells. The US military slang terms for them are "firecracker" or "popcorn" shells, for the many small explosions they cause in the target area.
Types of cluster bombs
A US Vietnam era BLU-3 cluster bomblet.
A basic cluster bomb is a hollow shell (generally streamlined if intended for carriage by fast aircraft) containing anywhere from three to more than 2,000 submunitions. Some types are dispensers that are designed to be retained by the aircraft after releasing their munitions. The submunitions themselves may be fitted with small parachute retarders or streamers to slow their descent (allowing the aircraft to escape the blast area in low-altitude attacks).
Incendiary cluster bombs, also called firebombs, are designed to start fires. They are generally specifically designed for this purpose, with payloads of white phosphorus or napalm, but they are often combined with a payload of anti-personnel and anti-tank submunition to make firefighting efforts more difficult. When used in cities they were often preceded by the use of conventional explosive bombs to break open the roofs and walls of buildings to expose flammable contents for the incendiaries. This type of munition was extensively used by both sides in the strategic bombings of World War II. It was bombs of this type that were used to start firestorms such as those in Dresden and Tokyo.
Anti-personnel cluster bombs use explosive fragmentation to kill troops and destroy soft (unarmored) targets. Along with incendiary cluster bombs, these were among the first forms produced by Germany during WWII. They were most famously used during the Blitz with delay and booby-trap fusing to prevent firefighting and other damage control efforts in the bombed areas. They were also used with a contact fuse when attacking entrenchments.
Most Anti-armor munitions contain shaped charge warheads to pierce the armor of tanks and armored fighting vehicles. In some cases, guidance is used to increase the likelihood of successfully hitting a vehicle. Guided submunitions can use either a shaped charge warhead or an explosively formed penetrator. Unguided shaped-charge submunitions are designed to be effective against entrenchments that incorporate overhead cover. To simplify supply and increase battlefield effectiveness by allowing a single type of round to be used against nearly any target, submunitions that incorporate both fragmentation and shaped-charge effects are produced. In United States Army and Marine Corps Field Artillery units, this is a common type of shell used in ground warfare.
Anti-runway submunitions such as the JP233 are designed to penetrate concrete before detonating, allowing them to shatter and crater runway surfaces. In the case of the JP233, the cratering effect is achieved through the use of a 2-stage warhead that combines a shaped charge and conventional explosive. The shaped charge is designed to create a small crater which the conventional explosive falls into and then enlarges by its explosion. Anti-runway submunitions are usually used along with anti-personnel submunitions equipped with delay or booby-trap fuses to make repair more difficult.
Mine-laying weapons do not detonate on contact, but scatter their cargo of land mines for later detonation. They come in antipersonnel and antitank forms. Antitank mines are nearly always used in combination with antipersonnel mines to make the antitank minefield more difficult to clear. Since such mines usually lie on exposed surfaces, the antipersonnel forms, such as the US Area Denial Artillery Munition normally deploy tripwires automatically after landing to make clearing the minefield more difficult. In order to avoid rendering large portions of the battlefield permanently impassable, and to minimize the amount of mine-clearing needed after a conflict, scatterable mines used by the United States are designed to self-destruct after a period of time from 4-48 hours.
During the 1950s and 1960s the United States and Soviet Union developed cluster weapons designed to deliver chemical weapons, ranging from lethal nerve gas like Sarin to defoliants and tear gas. International pressure has made the use of chemical weapons politically volatile, although both the U.S. and Russia retain such weapons in their arsenals.
An anti-electrical cluster weapon -- the CBU-94/B -- was first used by the U.S. in the Kosovo War in 1999. These consist of a TMD (Tactical Munitions Dispenser) filled with 202 BLU-114/B submunitions. Each submunition contains a small explosive charge that disperses 147 reels of fine conductive fiber; either carbon fiber or aluminium coated glass fiber. Their purpose is to disrupt and damage electric power transmission systems by producing short circuits in high voltage power lines and electrical substations. On the first attack, these knocked out 70% of the electrical power supply in Serbia. There are reports that it took 500 people 15 hours to get one transformer yard back on line after being hit with the conductive fibers.
Modern cluster bombs and submunition dispensers are often multiple-purpose weapons, containing mixtures of anti-armor, anti-personnel, and anti-materiel munitions.
A growing trend in cluster bomb design is the "smart" submunition, which uses guidance circuitry to locate and attack particular targets, usually armored vehicles. Some recent weapons of this type include the U.S. CBU-97 sensor-fused weapon, first used in combat during the 2003 invasion of Iraq. Munitions specifically intended for anti-tank use may be set to self-destruct if they reach the ground without locating a target, theoretically reducing the risk of collateral damage to civilians and non-military targets. Another limitation of the "smart" submunition is cost: such weapons are many times more expensive than standard cluster bombs, which are cheap and simple to manufacture.
Threats to civilians
98% of 11,044 recorded cluster munitions casualties that are registered with Handicap International are civilians. Cluster munitions are hotly opposed by many individuals and hundreds of groups, such as the Red Cross, the Cluster Munition Coalition and the United Nations, because of the high proportion of civilians that have fallen victim to the weapon. Since February 2005, Handicap International called for cluster munitions to be prohibited and collected hundreds of thousands signatures to support its call.
Cluster bombs pose a threat to civilians for two reasons: they have a very wide area of effect, and they almost always leave behind unexploded bomblets.
The area affected by a single cluster munition, also known as the footprint, can be as large as two or three football fields. Because of the weapon's very wide area of effect, they have frequently been documented as striking both civilian and military objects in the target area. This characteristic of the weapon is particularly problematic for civilians when cluster munitions are used in or near populated areas and has been documented by research reports from groups such as Human Rights Watch, Landmine Action and Handicap International.
The other serious problem is unexploded ordnance (UXO) of cluster bomblets left behind after a strike. These bomblets may be duds or in some cases the weapons are designed to detonate at a later stage. In both cases, the surviving bomblets are live and can explode when handled, making them a serious threat to civilians and military personnel entering the area. In effect, the UXOs can function like land mines. These are sometimes called triple-threat weapons, because they can explode in the air, on the ground, or later when stepped on or disturbed.
Even with cluster bombs that are designed to fully explode there a certain number of individual submunitions that do not explode on impact. The US-made MLRS with M26 warhead and M77 submunitions are supposed to have a 5 percent dud rate but in reality have a rate of 16 percent. The rate for this type tested during the Gulf War was as high as 23 percent. The M483A1 DPICM artillery-delivered cluster bombs have a reported dud rate of 14 percent.
Given that each cluster bomb contains hundreds of bomblets and are fired in volleys, even a small failure rate can lead each strike to leave behind hundreds or thousands of UXOs scattered randomly across the strike area. For example, after the 2006 Israel-Lebanon conflict, UN experts have estimated that as many as one million unexploded bomblets may contaminate the hundreds of cluster munition strike sites in Lebanon.
In addition, some cluster bomblets, such as the CBU-87, are brightly colored in order to increase their visibility and warn off civilians. However, the color, coupled with their small and nonthreatening appearance has caused children to interpret them as toys. This problem was exacerbated in the United States military action against Afghanistan, when US forces dropped humanitarian rations from airplanes with the same yellow colored packaging as the BLU97. The rations packaging was later changed first to blue and then to clear packaging in the hopes of avoiding such hazardous confusion.
The US military is developing new cluster bombs which they claim have a much lower (less than 1%) dud rate. However, in the past, new more efficient cluster bombs have not been made in sufficient quantities to push the older bombs out of the stockpiles and use. Sensor-fuzed weapons that contain a limited number of submunitions that are capable of autonomously engaging armored targets may provide a viable, if costly, alternative to cluster munitions that will allow multiple target engagement with one shell or bomb while avoiding the civilian deaths and injuries consistently documented from the use of cluster munitions.
Civilian deaths from unexploded cluster bomblets
* In Vietnam, people are still being killed as a result of cluster bombs and other objects left by the US military. Estimates range up to 300 per year.
* In post-war Kosovo unexploded cluster bomblets caused more civilian deaths than landmines.
* In Lebanon as many as 40% of the bomblets dropped may not have detonated . 16 have been killed and 100 civilians were injured  by unexploded bomblets since the August 14, 2006 ceasefire in the 2006 Israeli-Lebanon conflict. The US State Department is inquiring into whether Israeli use of US-made cluster bombs during the conflict conformed with the terms of agreements between them as to the conditions of the munition's use. It is confirmed that Hezbollah also used clusters. Israel has expressed readiness to cooperate, but has not provided detailed maps or coordinates of areas targeted with cluster munitions. In August 2006, the UN's Mine Action Coordination Center in Tyre, Lebanon, raised an alarm over the post-conflict impact on returning civilians of unexploded cluster bombs used by Israel in village areas.. Israel immediately after the cease-fire gave UNIFIL maps indicating the likely locations of unexploded ordnance, to aid the international attempt to clear these areas and avoid injury to the population, but these maps only showed the general location of unexploded ordnance and were not useful for systematic clearance of areas contaminated by cluster munitions. Immediately after the cease-fire Israel distributed warning notices to the residents in the areas of warfare, and recommended that they wait a few days before returning to the south until the UNIFIL forces were deployed there and the area had been cleared of unexploded ordnance. Clearance experts have estimated that it will take 12-18 months to remove the immediate threat from unexploded ordnance from southern Lebanon.
Areas with significant cluster bomb UXO problems
* Indochina, especially in Laos and central Vietnam's former demilitarized zone.
Countries that have been affected by cluster munitions include:
Bosnia & Herzegovina
Although covered by the general rules of international humanitarian law, cluster munitions are not currently covered by any specific international legal instrument. However, a number of sections of the Protocol on Explosive Remnants of War (Protocol V to the 1980 Convention), 28 November 2003 address the use of cluster muntions, in particular Article 9, which mandates States Parties to "take generic preventive measures aimed at minimising the occurrence of explosive remnants of war". So far Belgium is the only country to have issued a ban on the use (carrying), transportation, export, stockpiling, trade and production of cluster munitions.
There has been parliamentary activity on cluster munitions in several countries, including Austria, Australia, Denmark, France, Germany, Norway, Sweden and Switzerland. In some of these countries, there are ongoing discussions concerning draft legislation banning cluster munitions, along the lines of the legislation adopted in Belgium. Norway has also committed itself to an international ban on cluster munitions and recently announced a moratorium on the weapon. Austria has also committed itself to an international legally-binding instrument on cluster munitions, after the Parliament passed a resolution on cluster munitions in July. On December 5, 2006, an Australian senator introduced a private bill, titled the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill 2006, to prohibit Australia's use, manufacture and possession of cluster munitions. This bill is not supported by the Australian Government and as a result is unlikely to be passed by Parliament. Moreover, the Australian Defence Force does not currently possess stocks of cluster munitions.
Cluster bombs and international treaties
Although other problematic weapons, such as land mines have been banned in many countries under specific legal instruments for several years, notably the Ottawa Treaty and the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons, cluster bombs are not yet banned by any international treaty and are considered legitimate weapons by some governments. International governmental deliberations in the Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons still revolve around the broader problem of explosive remnants of war, a problem to which cluster munitions have contributed in a significant way. However, despite calls from humanitarian organizations and approximately 30 governments, international governmental negotiations to develop specific measures that would address the humanitarian problems cluster munitions pose have not proven possible in the conventional multilateral fora.
Against this background, a new flexible multilateral process similar to the process that led to the ban on antipersonnel landmines in 1997 began with an announcement in November 2006 by the Government of Norway that it would convene an international meeting in early 2007 in Oslo to work towards a new treaty prohibiting cluster munitions. This announcement followed Belgium's decision to ban the weapon in February 2006, Austria's decision to work for an international instrument on the weapon and the international controversy over the use and impact of cluster munitions during the war between Hezbollah and Israel in July and August 2006. 40 governments are expected to attend the meeting in Oslo in February 2007 in order to reaffirm their commitment to a new international prohibition on the weapon. The ICRC will hold an expert meeting on cluster munitions in April 2007 to clarify technical, legal, military and humanitarian aspects of the weapon with a view to developing an adequate international response.
In November 2006, a new international law came into force requiring countries to undertake or facilitate clearance of explosive remnants of war and to provide information on location of explosive remnants of war in order to make this clearance possible, but the law includes no specific obligations on cluster munitions, which are not mentioned in the text of the instrument.
* Cluster Munition Coalition
* Handicap International's global petition against cluster-munitions
* Bomb disposal
* Clear Path International
* Human Rights Watch
* CBU-100 Cluster Bomb, an American cluster bomb, known as the Rockeye, employed primarily in an anti-tank mode and displaying very high failure rates in combat situations.
* JP233, a British cluster bomb delivery system designed to attack runways
* CBU-97, an American submunition-based weapon system which contains a small number of individually guided submunitions. It is considered effective against groups of vehicles such as tanks and support vehicles and because of the guided nature of its submunitions, there is some debate over whether to consider it a cluster munition.
* BL755, a British cluster bomb used in the Falklands War, Gulf War / Operation Granby, and 2003 Invasion of Iraq / Operation Telic.
1. ^ (2003-12). "Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq" (PDF). Human Rights Watch.
2. ^ 1 Office of the Under Secretary of Defense for Acquisition, Technology, and Logistics, "Unexploded Ordnance Report," table 2-3, p. 5. No date, but transmitted to the U.S. Congress on February 29, 2000
3. ^ (August, 1993). "Operation Desert Storm: Casualties Caused by Improper Handling of Unexploded U.S. Submunitions" (PDF). US General Accounting Office. Retrieved on 2006-09-01.
4. ^ "'Million bomblets' in S Lebanon", BBC, 2006-09-26. Retrieved on 2006-09-26.
5. ^ (February, 1993). "Army RDT&E Budget Item Justification, Item No. 177, MLRS Product Improvement Program" (PDF). Defense Technical Information Center. Retrieved on 2006-09-01.
Threat to civilians
* Official Web Site of the International Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC)
* "Fatal Footprint," a report released by Handicap International, November 2006.
* Web site of Clear Path International. An organization assisting cluster bomb survivors in Vietnam.
* Handicap International's global campaign to ban cluster-munitions.
* Human Rights Watch - Reports, studies and statements on cluster munitions.
* Landmineaction.org Research reports on cluster munitions.
* Passievoorvrede.nl "Cluster weapons: Necessity or convenience?" report on the limited military utility of cluster weapons.
* Cluster Bombs: The Hidden Toll, article by Richard Norton-Taylor
* Swiss Foundation for Mine Action (FSD), an organisation clearing cluster bombs and landmines
* Textron Inc.
[a Fortune 500 company headquartered in Providence, Rhode Island USA]
* Insys Ltd.
* CBU 97 Cluster Bomb
* Federation of American Scientists article on the CBU97 and CBU105 cluster bombs with smart munitions.
* Federation of American Scientists article on the BLU-114 anti-electrical weapon.
* Inquiry by the Foreign Affairs, Defence and Trade Committee of the Australian Senate into the provisions of the Cluster Munitions (Prohibition) Bill 2006
* This page was last modified 06:15, 29 January 2007.
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