I am reminded by The Economist that a significant treaty banning cluster bombs was signed this month in Oslo, Norway. I am pleased to hear that Canada has signed on along with 108 or so other countries. It is refreshing to see our government out of step with the Bush administration. It so rarely happens these days.
The USA did not sign, nor did China, India, Russia, Israel and Pakistan. They are all countries that produce and stockpile the weapons. Washington has said that an all-out ban on the weapons would hurt world security and could endanger U.S. military co-operation on humanitarian projects in countries that do sign onto the convention. I wonder what humanitarian projects they had in mind and how signing the treaty could affect those initiatives. Oh well.
Under the treaty signatories have eight years to destroy their stockpiles. France, Germany and Norway have already begun destroying their cluster munitions stocks. I am unclear if Canada actually has any stockpiles of this type of munitions.
Cluster munitions typically contain dozens to hundreds of small, explosive sub-munitions. They have been used in more than 30 countries and territories, and have a devastating impact. Cluster bombs leave large areas littered with unexploded bomblets that go on killing civilians for years after they were dropped. Civilians account for 98 per cent of all recorded casualties and children are particularly vulnerable, and many are killed or injured as they pick up the bomblets out of curiosity.
These bombs are still widely used by some countries. For example, Israel dropped some four million bomblets on Lebanon during the last three days of the 2006 war and more than 30 people have been killed by them since the war ended.