PORTLAND, OR—The War Prevention Initiative condemns the decision by the United States government to send cluster bombs to Ukraine in the latest arms shipment package. Cluster bombs kill and maim civilians indiscriminately during and after war. They are also a major threat to the environment, contaminating land for decades after they are used. In short, cluster bombs do not win wars and will only hurt current and future generations of Ukrainians.
Cluster bombs work by dispersing multiple sub-ammunitions over a wide geographical area to inflict damage on opposing enemy combatants. 10-40% of sub-ammunitions fail to detonate upon impact and are still active while buried under ground. These “duds” stay active unless disarmed or detonated, meaning that anything—an armed combatant, a group of children, or the family dog—can cause a bomb to explode. In 2021, 97% of cluster munition casualties were innocent civilians who were killed by unexploded bombs.
By choosing to arm Ukraine with cluster bombs, the U.S. isolates itself from its closest international allies. More than 120 countries, including 23 NATO member states, have signed the Convention on Cluster Bombs which bans the production, stockpiling, use, and transfer of cluster bombs. The Human Rights Watch has recorded Russia’s use of cluster munitions in the ongoing Russia-Ukraine War. By using cluster munitions, Ukraine cedes the moral high ground that it has had over the conflict.
The U.S. can look at its own history to understand why cluster bombs should be banned. During the Vietnam War, the U.S. dropped 270 million cluster bombs onto the Laotian people and land from 1964-1973. 50 years later, those cluster bombs are still killing and injuring everyday Laotians. From curious school children to cautious elderly farmers, no one is spared from the threat of a detonating cluster sub-ammunition.
“As a child in Laos, I grew up watching my father operate on countless victims of [unexploded duds]. I know firsthand the horrors of cluster munitions,” Sera Koulabdara, CEO of Legacies of War and chair of U.S. Campaign to Ban Landminesexplains, “the U.S. administration’s decision to send cluster munitions to Ukraine is short-sighted, inhumane and shows the inability to learn lessons from its own history, and completely disregards international law. As a result, Ukraine will suffer the most in the long-term.”
Cluster bombs are not the only problem with U.S. military aid to Ukraine. “We must not be stuck in a militarized debate over which kind of so-called military aid—weapons and bombs—should be used to support the Ukrainian people. Instead, we should call for continued and relentless diplomacy at all levels, increased humanitarian assistance, and support for existing forms of civil resistance against occupation”, according to Patrick Hiller, Executive Director of the War Prevention Initiative. By pursuing a variety of nonviolent alternatives, the chances of deescalating the conflict and bringing about a lasting peace increase. Arming Ukraine with cluster bombs will further escalate the war and make peace more elusive.
The War Prevention Initiative aims to transform the global peace and security paradigm to one that is built around viable alternatives to war and all forms of political violence.
For further comment or questions, please contact Patrick Hiller, Ph.D., War Prevention Initiative’s Executive Director and Board Member of the Oregon Peace Institute at email@example.com