Friday, December 21, 2007

Cluster bombs: an evil we must ban outright

The Independent, UK, December 20, 2007

By Johann Hari

Welcome to Cluster's last stand – the final fight of a weapon that has shredded a hundred thousand legs and arms and eyes since it was lovingly created by the Nazis in the 1940s.

This week, the Austrian government has banned cluster bombs and begun to dismantle its stockpile of 10,000. Official delegates from 138 countries, representing two-thirds of humanity, are now on their way back from the turning-point conference in Vienna to prepare for a treaty in 2008 that will ban them outright. But a handful of superpowers – most notably Russia, the US and China – are clinging to their right to shred civilians, and the British government is dancing awkwardly between the two camps.

Cluster munitions are bombs that, as they fall, separate into dozens of smaller, bright yellow "bomblets", each about the size of a can of Coke. Every one carries flying shards of metal that can tear through a quarter-inch of steel. They fall as "steel rain" over an entire kilometre, and they cut up anything they hit.

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