Contributed by Jim Hayes
United Sates president Joe Biden has given the green light to send cluster bombs to Ukraine. This is an open defiance of the Geneva Convention, which long ago banned the use of these bombs. They are designed to attack civilians rather than military targets.
More than 100 countries have signed the convention against the use and transfer of cluster bombs to other parties.
The use of cluster bombs by the United States was one of the biggest scandals of the Vietnam Wars. Sometimes, they were even loaded with explosive toys and delayed explosives to be dropped villages to target their children. The purpose was to punish the parents for supporting the other side in this war.
Cluster bombs carry small bomblets designed to cover a wide area with small explosions designed for civilian targets
Whichever civilian demographic is targeted, cluster bombs leave behind a lot of unexploded bomblets that continue to kill and main for years. Their use is defies the international convention against them, and any nation using them should be brought to justice. This won’t happen here, because Washington considers itself immune from international law via its policy of American exceptualism.
Cluster bombs will be used against civilian targets in Ukraine. One can surmise from this that the target will be the ethnic Russian population centres. Like in Vietnam, this only makes sense when the purpose is to terrorise and punish for supporting the wrong side.
Claims from Washington that these bombs will not be used against civilians are hollow. They are of little use against fortifications. The cluster bombs are to be delivered with shells from artillery. But artillery serves to target enemy army positions. To be effective, they would have to be turned away from these positions are redirected towards population centres.
There is the real possibility that this weapon could be used against civilian population centres in Russia.
Various reports suggest that a rational behind the shift is that stocks of conventional shells are running low, and that this is putting Kyiv’s war effort at serious risk. So, there is a certain desperation coming in to play.
World leaders and human rights groups have already spoken out against the sending of cluster bombs to Ukraine. Spain, Germany, and Canada have already been forthright in their opposition. The United Nations is criticising it, difficult for allies if the United States to justify their position.
President Joe Biden is due to head to Europe to attend the NATO summit in Vilnius (Lithuania) and is likely to find attention put on the use of this cruel weapon. More than two thirds of NATO members have banned them, and they are under pressure in terms of their own legitimacy to speak out on the issue.
Whatever the outcome at Vilnius, the order to use cluster bombs in Ukraine is a clear sign that the proxy war is not going well. Information from the battlefront confirms this. The use of cluster bombs is not going to change this. Targeting the civilian population won’t intimidate it into submission. It is more likely to work in the opposite direction, build anger and strengthen the resolve of the Russian speaking population centres to break away and take charge of their own affairs.
Washington has further weakened its capacity to take the high moral ground.