[JURIST] US Sen. Dianne Feinstein (D-CA) [official website] has said she plans to introduce legislation in the Senate that would prevent the US military from using cluster bombs in civilian areas by cutting off federal funding for such weapons until the Defense Department "articulate[s] a new policy that will minimize civilian death and suffering from these weapons." In an op-ed published in Monday's Washington Times, Feinstein wrote:
Cluster bombs are intended for attacking large-scale enemy troop formations. They come apart in the air before making contact, dispersing between 200 and 400 small bomblets that can saturate a radius of 250 yards. The changing nature of warfare, though, has meant cluster bombs have been used against enemies in or near highly populated areas. So, all too often, cluster bombs critically injure or kill innocent victims instead of their intended military targets. The danger is this: These weapons are unreliable and cannot be used with precision. Up to 40 percent of the bomblets from cluster bombs fail to detonate immediately. This leaves a trail of unexploded munitions in war-torn areas...And 40 or 50 years after used, these munitions remain extremely volatile...The simple truth is that the remnants of cluster bombs become de facto land mines. They kill, maim, and wound civilians every day, even long after conflict has ended. In fact, 98 percent of cluster bomb victims are civilians. I believe use of these weapons in or near civilian areas runs counter to our values and counter to the international laws of war.In September, Feinstein and Sen. Patrick Leahy (D-VT) [official website] sponsored a similar bill that failed in a 30-70 floor vote [JURIST report]. In August, the US Directorate of Defense Trade Controls [official website] opened an investigation [JURIST report] into whether Israel used cluster munitions [FAS backgrounder; Cluster Munition Coalition advocacy website] in Lebanon during the most recent Middle East conflict [JURIST news archive] in violation of several US-Israel agreements restricting the use of the weapons.
Cluster munitions are considered by many to be inaccurate weapons designed to spread damage indiscriminately and could therefore be considered illegal [backgrounder] under multiple provisions of Protocol I [text] of the Geneva Conventions (1977).