The Obama administration will review the Bush administration’s reasons for refusing to sign an international treaty banning the use of cluster bombs, its spokesperson announced the week.
So far 90 countries have signed the international ban. Cluster bombs are a devastating type of munition that critics say cause many civilian deaths long after conflicts end. Children, for example, often find unexploded ordinances after battles end leading to many non-combat injuries and deaths. Because of this, human rights advocates and humanitarian groups have led a decades-long international campaign to ban these bombs.
While the use of cluster bombs by the U.S. during the Vietnam war sparked international outrage and the movement to ban them, Israel’s recent use of cluster bombs in 2006 in Lebanon renewed international efforts. The UN estimated that Israel deployed millions of ‘bomblets’ during that conflict.
The Bush administration has refused to sign the ban or join efforts in the UN Security Council for its passage. According to press accounts, in addition to the U.S., China, India, Pakistan, Israel and Russia are also major countries that possess and/or use cluster bombs munitions that have refused to sign the treaty as well.
Over intense pressure from the Bush administration, the government of Afghanistan also signed the treaty. Over the past seven years of a U.S./NATO-led war there, Afghan civilians have experience excessive injuries and deaths due to the deployment of cluster bomb munitions.
This week, an Obama Transition Team spokesperson told the Chicago Tribune that when Obama takes office he will reconsider Bush’s decision. President-elect Obama will ‘carefully review the new treaty and work closely [with] our friends and allies to ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible to promote protection of civilians,’ she said.
In a press conference this week, White House Press Secretary Dana Perino reiterated the Bush administration’s opposition to the treaty. When asked to explain the position, Perino said, ‘I have forgotten all the reasons why.’
jwendland @ politicalaffairs.net