Press Releases

Washington, DC – U.S. Senators Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) and Dianne Feinstein (D-Calif.) today announced that the Fiscal Year 2008 Omnibus Appropriations Bill includes a measure they sponsored to restrict the sale or transfer of cluster bombs. 

The measure requires that no military funds will be used for the sale or transfer or cluster bombs, unless:

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

Currently, the arsenal of the U.S. military contains 5.5 million cluster bombs, or 728 million bomblets – many of which have a failure rate of 1 percent or higher. 

The Leahy-Feinstein cluster munitions provisions are included in the State and Foreign Operations section of the Omnibus Appropriations Bill.  Senator Leahy chairs the Appropriations subcommittee that handled the Senate’s work in writing the bill.

“We can do something about the civilian deaths and injuries from these weapons,” said Leahy.  “These are sensible steps that will make a difference in protecting innocent people from the indiscriminate carnage caused by cluster munitions.  These are reasonable limits that the Pentagon should embrace.  My hope it that this will serve as an example for other governments that share our concern.”

“The United States should not be in the business of selling and transferring weapons that pose such a significant risk to innocent civilians,” Senator Feinstein said.  “The sensible restrictions contained in this measure will help save lives and improve the image of the United States around the world.  I am hopeful that the Administration will join us in supporting this language and working together to protect innocent men, women and children from what are essentially de facto landmines. It’s time to put an end to this needless death and suffering.”


Cluster bombs are designed to come apart in the air before making contact, dispersing between 200 and 400 small bomblets that can saturate a wide radius of 250 yards.  They are intended for military use when attacking large-scale enemy troop formations.  However, in practice, cluster bombs have increasingly been used in or near populated areas.

Handicap International studied the effects of cluster bombs in 24 countries and regions, including Afghanistan, Chechnya, Laos, and Lebanon.  Its report found that civilians make up 98 percent of those killed or injured by cluster bombs and that children account for 27 percent of the casualties.

The civilian toll has been staggering:

  • Combining the first and second Gulf Wars, the total number of unexploded bomblets in the region is approximately 1.2 million.  An estimated 1,220 Kuwaitis and 400 Iraqi civilians have been killed since 1991.
  • In Iraq in 2003, 13,000 cluster bombs with nearly 2 million bomblets were used.
  • In Afghanistan in 2001, 1,228 cluster bombs with 248,056 bomblets were used.  Between October 2001 and November 2002, 127 civilians were killed, 70 percent of them under the age of 18.
  • Between nine and 27 million unexploded cluster bombs remain in Laos from U.S. bombing campaigns in the 1960s and 1970s.  Approximately 11,000 people, 30 percent of them children, have been killed or injured since the war ended.
  • Most recently, it is estimated that Israel dropped 4 million bomblets in southern Lebanon, and 1 million of these bomblets failed to explode.  And reports indicate that Hezbollah retaliated with cluster bomb strikes of their own.