Saturday, August 26, 2006
Cluster bombs raising troubling questions
Humanitarian groups have long opposed cluster bombs. These unique weapons consist essentially of canisters full of small grenades or bombs that are launched or dropped on a target and then spread their payload far and wide.

Sometimes all the little bombs are designed to blow up on impact. Sometimes they are made to lie in the dirt and wait for a passing soul to disturb them before they erupt. And sometimes, no matter how they are designed, they just don't explode. Instead, they lie around for weeks, months, years, until someone stumbles upon them, and then, with no warning, they can burst, killing long after the serious fighting of a battle is done.

The United Nations says it has identified 249 cluster bomb strikes in southern Lebanon and expects to find more than 300 by the time the counting is through. Thousands of the little bomblets are believed to be scattered around these sites, posing a very real and mortal danger to both the UN peacekeeping soldiers and the Lebanese civilians who are now moving back home.

Military forces say cluster bombs are essential, powerful weapons, capable of wiping out a group of men operating a rocket launcher or even disabling a small patrol of vehicles. Others say any weapon that can kill a child by accident many years after the weapon was deployed is simply too crude and too imprecise to be used by civilized nations.

When it comes the worldwide battle against terrorist and militant groups, what do you think: Are cluster bombs a necessary tool or an avoidable evil?
Posted By Tom Foreman, CNN Correspondent: 5:12 PM ET
  31 Comments
No, if they were fighting this war in the remote mountains of Afghanistan, maybe. But we all now know that Lebanon is smaller than Connecticut and there are 4 million people crammed into it, civilian interspersed with miltia. This is the last venue to use such a weapon. I hope this investigation pans out.
Posted By Anonymous Nadia, Washington, DC : 11:54 PM ET
Landmines, sea mines, and cluster bombs need a safety re-design such that they cannot detonate after a period of time. They MUST be subject to an expiration date. Otherwise they should not be used at all. The alternative should be that after such an expiration date, the organization that deployed them must take on legal responsibility for the damage they cause and for cost of removal of all unexploded ordinance. Until such time that a redesign occurs, all existing ordinance of these types must be destroyed, PERIOD
Posted By Anonymous Tim Melbourne Florida : 7:15 AM ET
Cluster bomb should be banned. They should not be used at all. After this was I realized that Israel should be tried for war crimes. But with a big friend like US it will just easily sail.
Posted By Anonymous James, New York, NY : 7:24 AM ET
This is a biased way to ask this question, which focuses on only one side of a complex issue. Weapons kill, but they also save lives. When an army does not wear uniforms, and launch rockets at your children from built-up areas, it is definitely legal under international law to use cluster bombs against it. What are the alternatives?
Posted By Anonymous Mike, Minneapolis, MN : 7:55 AM ET
By using weapons of this sort which could hurt and damage civilians the so called civilized nations are falling to the same low level as terrorists. I beleive that nations will be able to justify their war efforts against terrorism only if there is very clear distinction between the style of methods and practices used to deal against these butcher of humanity i.e terrorists. By using dangerous weapons like cluster bombs the war fought by armies of civilized nation wipe out that distinction. These armies now seem to appear to have the same morality as terrorists.
Posted By Anonymous Arif B, Greensboro, NC : 8:04 AM ET
We have too many other weapons that are precise and useful in various situations, and so we should not have to use cluster bombs that can damage unintended lives and make us look like inhumane and careless barbarians.
Posted By Anonymous sarah, harrisonburg Va : 8:04 AM ET
Cluster bombs are an appropriate American response to Jihad.....when applied liberally.....by non-liberals.
Posted By Anonymous George Dixon Swannanoa, NC, USA : 8:47 AM ET
"too crude and too imprecise to be used by civilized nations" is the logic that brings "civilized nations" to their knees as the uncivil Jihadi cares not a wit about collateral damage.
If you care about collateral damage then you will lose......and get to buy a Burka for the little lady.
Posted By Anonymous George Dixon Swannanoa, NC, USA : 8:50 AM ET
On the war against militants everything available is legal.
Posted By Anonymous Don Martin, Uruacu, Goias, Brazil : 8:53 AM ET
If there is going to be an investigation, the results will never be made public. What bothers me the most, is that Israel not only used these cluster bombs, but used them during the last three days before the cease fire. With possibly thousands of these bomblets scattered across southern Lebanon waiting to explode, there appears to be no cease fire. Worse, it's guerilla warfare on citizens. I don't understand why we make these, let alone sell them. It doesn't seem to jibe with our stated goal to bring peace and democracy to the Middle East.
Posted By Anonymous Ben, Shaker Heights, Ohio : 8:54 AM ET
As a responsible military power, and as a military power that loves to go on about their precision weapon systems, Isreal should not be using this technology. It's dated, and is in effect a form of state sponsored terrorism that can have effect long after the war.
It's a calloused and irresponsible tactic, one that Isreal as a nation should be ashamed of. They are better people than that.
Posted By Anonymous Pete, Tampa FLorida : 8:59 AM ET
Team,

You have got to be kidding me about deciding whether a cluster bomb is fair for combat. Real simple answer, combat is not fair, you must impose your will on the enemy and in this case of "total war" between two enemies, pretty much anything goes. I am sure you are not asking the Hezbollah if it was legal to occupy a host nation and attack a nation state? The media once again trying to stir and control the thoughts of the masses who have no concept or definition of the word war. I am sure that you will not post this because like the controlling media you are, you simply will delete anything that challenges the thought of this very conversation.
Posted By Anonymous J.O., Virgina Beach, VA : 9:06 AM ET
No, The same was first said of landmines and everyone now knows the danger of those.
Millions were used in millitary actions around the world and even though not allowed are still seen as the poor mans weapeon.
Posted By Anonymous B Cherrington Auckland New Zealand : 9:08 AM ET
Absolutely a necesary tool. I believe we, the U.S., restrict ourselves far too much in the weapons we use and our rules of engagement. War is war and it is hell. Do the job as best you can with what is available. Children? Yea some get killed. Try not raising them in a country or regime that invites military action. Innocents? There are not as many of them out there as the media wants you to believe. You support radical islam if you allow it to thrive in your community and you do nothing to repel it, even if you don't believe in it. So, to avoid big 20,000 pound bomb, the guided down the chimney stack bomb, and the wide area destroying cluster bomb, get with the rest of the CIVILIZED world and stop inviting trouble.
Posted By Anonymous David L., Tucson, Arizona : 9:16 AM ET
So is the UN investigating Hezzbollah's practice of packing thousands of ball bearings into the missiles it fires randomly into civilian areas?
I'd take such UN pronouncements a lot more seriously if it was evenhanded in its condemnation. War is a messy business. The more it is sanitized the more likely nations are to engage in it.
Posted By Anonymous John, Asheville, NC : 9:18 AM ET
No. When it comes to analyzing an event, military tactic, political statement, etc., I usually follow my Dad's advise..."Look at what people do, not what they say."

So, cluster bombs are meant to kill people indiscriminately. They are not "intelligent" enough to decide when and who they blow to pieces.

In other words, they are the weapons of civilian-killers. Since Israel killed mostly cilivians during its last bit of aggression against Lebanon, their use of cluster bombs seems to fit the above pattern of behavior.

The reason or purpose for the deliberate killing of civilians (who couldn't escape because the road system was smashed or because most moving vehicles were targeted)by Israel is open to speculation.
Posted By Anonymous Frank Balzer Plant City, Florida : 9:21 AM ET
These so-called "conventional" weapons are small scale weapons of mass destruction.
Posted By Anonymous Paul, Harrisonburg, Virginia : 9:34 AM ET
Israel, like the u.s. has become the worlds most powerful terrorest nations, attacking those nations who are too weak of defenless to fight back. It is the responsibility of the U.N and the world court to take action against both the actions of these two nations and the weapons they are using. If the U.N and the world court are to weak or afraid to intervene then God help us all.
Posted By Anonymous Glenn Richmond, Sarasota, Florida : 9:50 AM ET
Cluster bombs should be banned anyway, but for Israel to use them in civilian areas is unconsionable. The fight was over 2 reservists taken captive by Hezbollah in Lebanon. It wasn't over land, oil, water or other long term disagreements between the two nations.
Posted By Anonymous moe, toronto,ontario : 9:59 AM ET
Why cluster bombs were not included in the 1997 Ottawa Convention to ban landmines is a mystery to me. The consensus to ban landmines was based on the indiscriminate nature of the weapon. Cluster bombs are equally indiscriminate and, to top it off, are often painted with bright yellow or green markings which make them attractive to children, who think they are toys. The failure rate of cluster bombs (i.e., whether or not they all detonate) depends on a variety of factors, including the altitude from which they are dropped, and the surface conditions where they land. Like landmines, cluster bombs scattered over wide areas also lead to the inability to farm or raise animals - often main livelihoods in countries where they are used. Worse than landmines, cluster bombs cannot be accurately mapped and so it is difficult to determine which areas should be avoided, and difficult to execute clean-up operations. Cluster bombs are used regularly by US and NATO forces in conflict zones. In the hype about 'smart weapons' and other features of the revolution in military affairs, there is little public attention to or awareness of the fact that weapons such as cluster bombs remain a basic feature of military operations.
Posted By Anonymous Elizabeth, Manasquan, NJ : 10:01 AM ET
Cluster bombs kill mainly civilians long aftyer the conflict is done. Using them is a criminal act against humanity. They should be banned from use since they can kill indiscriminetly.
Posted By Anonymous iordanis,NYC,NY : 10:29 AM ET
Since when has war ever been civilized? The objective of war is to kill as many of the enemy as possible, and civilians need to leave the area or risk being killed.

Thank God we did not fight World War II with the same set of "humanitarian" standards we have today. We might not have won. War is hell and you save lives in the long run by ending it as quickly as possible and this means killing the enemy in mass numbers.
Posted By Anonymous Jim, Chandler, Az : 6:03 PM ET
But really, what can or will the State department do if Israel is found guilty on account of misuse of these weapons?
Posted By Anonymous Bobby, Los Angeles, California : 6:34 PM ET
Intentional unexploded munitions in the border area of Lebanon are one way of keeping the area unpopulated.
Posted By Anonymous Simon Northern Ireland : 8:03 PM ET
The fact is that cluster bombs were designed to cause a dense concentration of casualties in a specific location. Safety issues in design were limited to safer handling for the crews employing the weapons. The selection of targets and the decision to use this particular technology is strictly up to the political and military authorities. War is not a precise system of killing but a method of overcoming a problem with an indiscriminate set of technologies. The real culprits are those civil and military authorities who lie, cheat, and "only follow orders" to support national objectives based on personal biases of the ruling political-economic elite. Israel, Iran, United States, United Nations, and every terrorist/freedom fighter group has this problem. The tool, cluster bombs, work as designed and serve a legitimate battlefield task. War is not clean, nor sterile, nor limited to the "enemy". Those warfighters risking thier lives should have the option of using any effective weapon. The decision to go to war is the problem.
Posted By Anonymous Philip D., Titusville FL : 8:43 PM ET
It seems that the "war on terror" has become a war on the innocent civilians of this planet (mostly the non-white ones). How sad to kill multitudes of innocent civilians just to subdue a few terrorist. Cluster bombs do not belong in suburban wars.
Posted By Anonymous Sonia Rosa Lokey Sausalito, Ca. : 10:41 PM ET
I think the use of cluster bombs should be seen as a war crime. The officer who approved the use of such weapons should be tried.

But I guess that'll never happen. You'll never know who actually approved of it. Just some more collateral damage that's effected in this so called War on Terror.

The only result is some kid walking there blows up her leg, and when she wakes up (if she wakes up) asks her mom if her leg will grow back again.

Why Oh WHY don't the leaders of the world read the works of Mahatma Gandhi.. Peace or freedom won through violence is like the morning mist - wonderful to see, but gone in a few moments.
Posted By Anonymous Arun Sadhashivan, Bussum, the Netherlands : 4:16 AM ET
Cluster bombs are meant to maim, after the fighting is finished. They do not target combattants.

By now it is obvious that Israel, with our blessing, was only interested in terrorizing southern Lebanon; perhaps even de-populating it. There is no other explanation for the nature of the attacks launched against Lebanon.

As for the brutility of war, I compare the ratio of civilian-to-military deaths and casualties suffered by Israel and Lebanon. Most Israeli casualties were military personnel; most Lebanese casualties were civilians.
Posted By Anonymous AM, Vienna, VA : 8:30 AM ET
Necessary, These countries should take care of their own terrorist " Brothers and Sisters" then cluster bombs would not be needed. They bring it upon themselves.
Posted By Anonymous Tom, Jacksonville, NC. : 8:34 AM ET
There is no effective difference between a cluster bomb and the "acceptable" mortar/artillery barrage. They both leave unexploded ordinance in their wake prone to the same unintended effects.

The only way to kill in war while minimizing civilian casualties is with the bayonet, knife, or sword. Propose this, and I'll take your concerns about unexploded ordinance seriously. Until then, you've got no credibility with me.

J.
Posted By Anonymous Jack, O'Fallon, IL : 9:19 AM ET
A mine is the world's most efficient soldier. It stands guard 24/7 for years until its sector is compromised and then it strikes with deadly force. The trouble is that it does not identify between friend, foe or non-combatant. Cluster bombs need not be removed from the inentory if the are designed to either a: detonate on impact or b: detonate within 24-48 hours after impact. However, many armed forces use these to distribute mines that have no time limitation. Those need to be banned.
Posted By Anonymous Kyle, Odenton MD : 10:49 AM ET
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