Spring Quarterly 2018
The Trump administration has repealed a 2008 prohibition on the use of cluster munitions and declared that it will again make combat use of them, in spite of a 2008 UN treaty ban that’s been ratified by 120 countries. Cluster munitions—rockets, bombs, missiles and artillery projectiles that scatter hundreds of smaller exploding bomblets over wide areas—were outlawed by the treaty because they indiscriminately maim civilians, and because unexploded bomblets in war zones around the world have killed or wounded civilians many years after the conflict has ended.
CNN reported: “In 2008 then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the military to cease using older types of cluster bombs by Jan. 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.”
The 2008 US prohibition was compromised, and in 2009 Cluster bombs in Cruise missiles were used by the Navy in an attack inside Yemen that Amnesty International reported killed 41 people, including 14 women and 21 children. The Pentagon keeps more than 1.5 million of the older munitions (containing over 90 million bomblets) in South Korea, where they imply readiness for war against North Korea, and another 2.2 million in the United States.
—New York Times, Dec. 1; CNN, Nov. 30, 2017