U.S. takes the lead on behalf of cluster bombs

After long refusing to join the convention banning these weapons, Obama now works to overturn it

Topics:

Slightly more than two months after he was awarded the 2009 Nobel Peace Prize, President Obama secretly ordered a cruise missile attack on Yemen, using cluster bombs, which killed 44 innocent civilians, including 14 women and 21 children, as well as 14 people alleged to be “militants.” It goes without saying that — unless you want Rick Perry to win in 2012 — this act should in no way be seen as marring Obama’s presidency or his character: what’s a couple dozen children blown up as a part of a covert, undeclared air war? If anything, as numerous Democrats have ecstatically celebrated, such acts show how Tough and Strong the Democrats are: after all, ponder the massive amounts of nobility and courage it takes to sit in the Oval Office and order this type of aggression on defenseless tribal regions in Yemen. As R.W. Appel put it on the front page of The New York Times back in 1989 when glorifying George H.W. Bush’s equally courageous invasion of Panama: “most American leaders since World War II have felt a need to demonstrate their willingness to shed blood” and doing so has become “a Presidential initiation rite.”

But one aspect of the December, 2009, attack that perhaps did merit some more critical scrutiny was the use of cluster bombs, weapons which “scatter hundreds of bomblets over a large area but with limited accuracy and high failure rates.” The inevitability of “duds” — “unexploded ordnance” — poses a great risk to civilians, often well after the conflict has ended, since — like land mines — they often detonate when stumbled into by children and other innocents long after they disperse. According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition, cluster bombs “caused more civilian casualties in Iraq in 2003 and Kosovo in 1999 than any other weapon system.” As Wired pointed out, while the U.S. used these weapons in both Iraq and Afghanistan, “neither the Taliban nor Saddam used cluster bombs against U.S. troops.” And here is how the Council on Foreign Relations describes the impact these weapons had in the 2006 Israeli bombing campaign in Lebanon:



They left dozens dead or maimed on both sides of the conflict. The reason . . . is because the “fighting in southern Lebanon was often in villages and towns where people were living.” Israel dropped up to four million submunitions on Lebanese soil, one million of which remain unexploded “duds,” according to the UN Mine Action Coordination Center. Throughout the thirty-four-day conflict, the United States resupplied Israel’s arsenal of cluster bombs, which prompted an investigation by the State Department to examine if Israel had violated secret agreements it signed with the United States governing their use. Hezbollah, meanwhile, fired thousands of cluster munitions—a Chinese-made Type 81 122mm rocket—into northern Israel, a number of which targeted civilian populations, according to human rights groups.

Given how indiscriminate and civilian-threatening these weapons are, more than 100 countries have signed a treaty banning their production and use and compelling compensation to their victims. Needless to say, the U.S. has categorically refused to join the Convention, along with the other biggest stockpilers of these weapons, such as Russia, Israel and China. The Obama administration’s refusal to join the Convention has caused tension and controversy even with its most subservient allies, such as Britian, a signatory to the treaty. The British Parliament had insisted that the U.S. rid itself of all cluster munitions at American bases on British soil, but a WikiLeaks cable revealed that “British and American officials colluded in a plan to hoodwink parliament” through “the use of a loophole to manoeuvre around the ban and allow the US to keep the munitions on British territory.”

But now the Obama administration is moving far beyond a mere refusal to join the convention banning these munitions. According to The Independent, the U.S. is playing the leading role “to torpedo the global ban on cluster bombs” through a “proposal that would permit the use of cluster bombs as long as they were manufactured after 1980 and had a failure rate of less than one per cent.” The paper also reports that despite Britain’s long-time role in supporting the ban, its conservative government is now backing the Obama administration’s efforts to codify their use. The Pentagon claims that newer cluster bombs can be used more safely, but activists have documented that “many modern cluster bombs have far higher failure rates on the field of battle than manufacturers claim.”

So it isn’t only massively increased, secret drone attacks in numerous Muslim countries around the world that will be an enduring foreign policy legacy of the Obama presidency. Nor will it be merely the death knell of the War Powers Resolution from his prosecution of the war in Libya even in the face of a Congressional vote against its authorization, nor the continuation and — in some cases expansion — of the most controversial Bush/Cheney Terrorism policies. We will also be ensured of living in a world where the use of cluster bombs continues unabated.

* * * * *

Speaking of Change:

Don Rumsfeld, November 21, 2002, on Iraq: “All I can say is if history has taught anything, it’s that weakness is provocative. It entices people into doing things that they otherwise would not do.”

Bill Kristol, July 24, 2006, on Iran and Syria: “We have done a poor job of standing up to them and weakening them. They are now testing us more boldly than one would have thought possible a few years ago. Weakness is provocative.”

Leon Panetta, yesterday: “Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has been steadily escalating his warnings about the impact of the deep cuts facing the Pentagon if the congressional super committee fails to reach a deal. On Thursday, he played the last – and strongest — card in his deck, arguing that the hundreds of billions of dollars of mandatory cuts would directly imperil U.S. national security. . . . Mandatory defense cuts, he warned, would weaken the armed forces to the point that enemies would be emboldened to attack the U.S. ’In effect, it invites aggression,’ Panetta said during the new conference, just his second since taking office in July.”

Yes, President Obama’s Defense Secretary is actually running around the country trying to scare Americans into believing that if the U.S. cuts military spending, then the nation will be attacked. After all, weakness is provocative, just like Rumsfeld and Kristol have long taught us. I have no doubt that this is the same reason we must have cluster bombs: if we no longer have them, we will be overrun by hordes of aggressive invaders. Is that something that you want? I doubt it: so you better support cluster bombs and demand that your Social Security benefits and other domestic services — rather than military spending — be cut.

* * * * *

I apologize for the ongoing confusion over the Kindle version of With Liberty and Justice for Some, but I am happy to report that the Kindle version is, for real this time, available for immediate downloading on Amazon, here.

Glenn Greenwald

Follow Glenn Greenwald on Twitter: @ggreenwald.

More Related Stories

Featured Slide Shows

  • Share on Twitter
  • Share on Facebook
  • 1 of 14
  • Close
  • Fullscreen
  • Thumbnails

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Pilot"

    One of our first exposures to uncomfortable “Girls” sex comes early, in the pilot episode, when Hannah and Adam “get feisty” (a phrase Hannah hates) on the couch. The pair is about to go at it doggy-style when Adam nearly inserts his penis in “the wrong hole,” and after Hannah corrects him, she awkwardly explains her lack of desire to have anal sex in too many words. “Hey, let’s play the quiet game,” Adam says, thrusting. And so the romance begins.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Elijah, "It's About Time"

    In an act of “betrayal” that messes up each of their relationships with Hannah, Marnie and Elijah open Season 2 with some more couch sex, which is almost unbearable to watch. Elijah, who is trying to explore the “hetero side” of his bisexuality, can’t maintain his erection, and the entire affair ends in very uncomfortable silence.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Charlie, "Vagina Panic"

    Poor Charlie. While he and Marnie have their fair share of uncomfortable sex over the course of their relationship, one of the saddest moments (aside from Marnie breaking up with him during intercourse) is when Marnie encourages him to penetrate her from behind so she doesn’t have to look at him. “This feels so good,” Charlie says. “We have to go slow.” Poor sucker.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and camp friend Matt, "Hannah's Diary"

    We’d be remiss not to mention Shoshanna’s effort to lose her virginity to an old camp friend, who tells her how “weird” it is that he “loves to eat pussy” moments before she admits she’s never “done it” before. At least it paves the way for the uncomfortable sex we later get to watch her have with Ray?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Hard Being Easy"

    On the heels of trying (unsuccessfully) to determine the status of her early relationship with Adam, Hannah walks by her future boyfriend’s bedroom to find him masturbating alone, in one of the strangest scenes of the first season. As Adam jerks off and refuses to let Hannah participate beyond telling him how much she likes watching, we see some serious (and odd) character development ... which ends with Hannah taking a hundred-dollar bill from Adam’s wallet, for cab fare and pizza (as well as her services).

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Booth Jonathan, "Bad Friend"

    Oh, Booth Jonathan -- the little man who “knows how to do things.” After he turns Marnie on enough to make her masturbate in the bathroom at the gallery where she works, Booth finally seals the deal in a mortifying and nearly painful to watch sex scene that tells us pretty much everything we need to know about how much Marnie is willing to fake it.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Tad and Loreen, "The Return"

    The only sex scene in the series not to feature one of the main characters, Hannah’s parents’ showertime anniversary celebration is easily one of the most cringe-worthy moments of the show’s first season. Even Hannah’s mother, Loreen, observes how embarrassing the situation is, which ends with her husband, Tad, slipping out of the shower and falling naked and unconscious on the bathroom floor.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and the pharmacist, "The Return"

    Tad and Loreen aren’t the only ones to get some during Hannah’s first season trip home to Michigan. The show’s protagonist finds herself in bed with a former high school classmate, who doesn’t exactly enjoy it when Hannah puts one of her fingers near his anus. “I’m tight like a baby, right?” Hannah asks at one point. Time to press pause.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Role-Play"

    While it’s not quite a full-on, all-out sex scene, Hannah and Adam’s attempt at role play in Season 3 is certainly an intimate encounter to behold (or not). Hannah dons a blond wig and gets a little too into her role, giving a melodramatic performance that ends with a passerby punching Adam in the face. So there’s that.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Shoshanna and Ray, "Together"

    As Shoshanna and Ray near the end of their relationship, we can see their sexual chemistry getting worse and worse. It’s no more evident than when Ray is penetrating a clothed and visibly horrified Shoshanna from behind, who ends the encounter by asking if her partner will just “get out of me.”

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Frank, "Video Games"

    Hannah, Jessa’s 19-year-old stepbrother, a graveyard and too much chatting. Need we say more about how uncomfortable this sex is to watch?

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Marnie and Desi, "Iowa"

    Who gets her butt motorboated? Is this a real thing? Aside from the questionable logistics and reality of Marnie and Desi’s analingus scene, there’s also the awkward moment when Marnie confuses her partner’s declaration of love for licking her butthole with love for her. Oh, Marnie.

    13 of "Girls'" most cringeworthy sex scenes

    Hannah and Adam, "Vagina Panic"

    There is too much in this scene to dissect: fantasies of an 11-year-old girl with a Cabbage Patch lunchbox, excessive references to that little girl as a “slut” and Adam ripping off a condom to ejaculate on Hannah’s chest. No wonder it ends with Hannah saying she almost came.

  • Recent Slide Shows

Comments

0 Comments

Comment Preview

Your name will appear as username ( settings | log out )

You may use these HTML tags and attributes: <a href=""> <b> <em> <strong> <i> <blockquote>