Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.), and Representative James P. McGovern (D-Mass.)  today introduced a joint resolution calling on the United States to sign on to a new treaty to ban the vast majority of cluster munitions.

The resolution specifically calls on the United States to “embrace efforts to protect innocent civilians from cluster munitions and sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions when it becomes open for signature in December 2008.”

In the treaty announced last week in Dublin, Ireland, 111 nations agreed to stop producing and using cluster munitions. The agreement also calls on signatories to destroy all cluster munitions stockpiles within eight years. The United States refused to sign on to the agreement.

The resolution is co-sponsored by Senators Ben Cardin (D-Md.), Bernard Sanders (I-Vt.), Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), and Sherrod Brown (D-Ohio).

“The United States should not sit on the sidelines,” Senator Feinstein said. “The United States should join the 111 other countries that have endorsed this effort, and we should take a leadership role in bringing other nations on board. Doing so is consistent with our values and our national security interests.

“Simply put, this treaty will save lives. There should be no place in our arsenal for cluster munitions, which maim and kill innocent civilians.”

Senator Leahy said, “I am pleased to join with Senator Feinstein in sponsoring a Joint Resolution calling on the Administration to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions.  This is an opportunity for the United States to show global leadership in establishing a new international norm to end the use of a weapon that continues to take a grim toll in the lives and limbs of innocent civilians. 
 
“One of the many lessons of wars today is that so many are fought in the midst of civilian populations.  Far more can and should be done to reduce civilian casualties and the anger and resentment they cause toward our own troops.  Cluster munitions, like landmines and even poison gas, have some military utility.  But weapons that are scattered over a wide area, which often fail to detonate until triggered by unsuspecting civilians, often children, have no place in the 21st Century.”
 
“Cluster munitions kill indiscriminately,”
Representative McGovern said.  “The United States should be leading the way in eliminating these weapons; instead, the Bush Administration is dragging its feet.  That is not acceptable. I commend the dozens of nations that have signed the treaty, and look forward to working with my colleagues and the next Administration to add the United States to that list.

Last year, Senators Feinstein and Leahy led the effort to restrict the sale or transfer of cluster bombs by the United States. Their language containing these restrictions was part of the State and Foreign Operations section of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill, signed into law by the President in December.

The measure specifically requires that no funds will be used for the sale or transfer of cluster munitions, unless:

  • The weapons have a failure rate of not more than 1 percent;
  • The sale or transfer agreement specifies that the weapons will be used only against clearly defined military targets, and not where civilians are known to be present.

The current U.S. arsenal contains an estimated 5.5 million cluster bombs – or 728 million bomblets – many of which have a failure rate of 1 percent or higher.

Following is the text of the cluster munitions resolution:

Whereas Cluster munitions are bombs, rockets, or artillery shells that contain up to hundreds of small submunitions, or individual “bomblets” intended for attacking enemy troop formations and armor.

Whereas cluster submunitions threaten the safety of civilians, particularly children, when used in populated areas because they are scattered over a wide area and up to 40 percent fail to explode as designed, remaining as duds that can be detonated by who ever comes into contact with them.

Whereas according to the nongovernmental organization Handicap International, civilians make up 98 percent of those killed or injured by cluster munitions of which more than 25 percent are children.

Whereas in Laos alone there are millions of  unexploded submunitions, left over from United States bombing missions in the 1960s and 1970s, and approximately 11,000 people, 30 percent of them children, have been killed or injured since the war ended

Whereas former Secretary of Defense William Cohen recognized the threat cluster munitions pose to civilians and United States troops alike and issued a memorandum which became known as the Cohen Policy stating that beginning in Fiscal Year 2005, all new United States cluster munitions would have a failure rate of not more than one percent.

Whereas the United States maintains an arsenal of an estimated 5.5 million cluster bombs containing 728 million submunitions which have estimated failure rates of from 5 to 15 percent.

Whereas the State and Foreign Operations division of the Consolidated Appropriations Act, 2008, signed into law on December 26, 2007 prohibits the sale or transfer of cluster munitions, unless:

  • They have a 99 percent or higher tested rate; and 
  • The sale or transfer agreement specifies that the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets and will not be used where civilians are known to be present.

Whereas in February 2007, 46 countries signed a declaration in Oslo, Norway calling for an international convention to prohibit the production, transfer, and stockpiling of cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians.

Whereas on May 30, 2008, 111 nations agreed to the Convention on Cluster Munitions requiring parties to stop producing and using cluster bombs and to eliminate their stockpiles within eight years.

Whereas the Bush Administration declined to participate in the Oslo negotiations

Resolved that it is the Sense of the Senate that the United States should embrace efforts to protect innocent civilians from cluster munitions and sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions when it becomes open for signature in December 2008.


###