United States military indefinitely delays ban on cluster bombs

03 Diciembre, 2017, 00:07 | Author: Kelly Blake
  • A man covers windows in a building which was damaged by shelling in Donetsk

The Pentagon will soon issue a new policy on cluster bombs, abandoning a previous plan that mandated the military ditch older versions of the controversial weapons by 2019, according to a copy of a Defense Department memorandum signed by Deputy Secretary of Defense Patrick Shanahan and obtained by CNN.

In 2008 then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the military to cease using older types of cluster bombs by January 1, 2019, and to retain only newer versions of the bombs that explode at least 99% of the time or have advanced safeguards that would automatically defuse unexploded ordnance, reducing the risks of injuring civilians.

Cluster bombs are anti-personnel and anti-vehicle weapons launched from aircraft or artillery that disperse as many as several hundred bomblets over a large area. That can lead to civilian deaths and injuries long after conflicts end.

In the memo, Shannahan calls cluster munitions "legitimate weapons with clear military utility" and argues that "we can not risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities".

Cluster munitions have been widely condemned by rights groups for their impact on civilians.

In a memorandum signed Thursday, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the United States remains committed to fielding weapons that are effective in war and that "minimize unintended harm" to civilians and U.S. and partner forces.

The Bank of America building is shown in Los Angeles California
REUTERS Mike Blake Global Financial Giants Fund Deadly Cluster Bomb Production

Under the new policy, the Pentagon says bombs that have advanced self-destruct or deactivation technology would also be acceptable for future acquisition.

'Although the (Defense) Department seeks to field a new generation of more highly reliable munitions, we can not risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities, ' Shanahan wrote. Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont introduced a bill that would have banned funding for cluster bombs that do not meet a 1% unexploded ordnance standard.

Defense Department spokesman Tom Crosson said in a statement that the decision "was a hard choice, not one the Department made lightly". But it exempts certain types of munitions that the Pentagon says it would nonetheless classify as cluster munitions. "On the eve of that deadline, the Pentagon has chose to go back on its commitment, just as it did after pledging to develop alternatives to anti-personnel landmines more than two decades ago", Leahy said in a statement.

"After spending hundreds of millions of dollars researching alternatives to cluster munitions, the USA has decided it can't produce "safe" cluster munitions so it will keep using "unsafe" ones", Mary Wareham, arms division advocacy director at Human Rights Watch (HRW), said in a statement.

"We condemn this decision to reverse the long-held U.S. commitment not to use cluster munitions that fail more than 1 per cent of the time, resulting in deadly unexploded sub-munitions." she said.

The new policy also outlines possible waivers. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, an global treaty that began in 2018 and has been signed by more than 100 countries, prohibits the use, transfer and stockpile of the weapon. Over 100 countries signed the pact as full parties and 17 as signatories, but the USA declined to do so.

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