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Ban cluster bombs

Tags:   Ban cluster bombs

Web Site:   http://www.clusterbombs.org/

A cluster bomb, when dropped, splits in half and releases one to three hundred smaller sub ordnance or ?bomblets.? These bomblets shoot out in all directions, spreading out and falling slowly with the aid of a small parachute-like device. Once these small sub ordnance reach a very low altitude, around 50 feet or so, they explode into hundreds of pieces of sharp shrapnel, killing or maiming any ?soft target? nearby. They indiscriminately kill civilians, have a high failure rate, and, when dropped and unexploded, are deadly for years after the conflict.

Cluster bombs are indiscriminate in a number of ways. They are not a ?smart bomb?, which is controlled by a computer guidance system to eliminate a pre-determined target. Cluster bombs have a broad ?killing zone?, turning no less than 350 football fields into a shrapnel-littered death trap. The small sub ordnate shrapnel that comes from cluster bombs is designed to damage and destroy ?soft tissue?, i.e. human organs. This shrapnel travels at very high speeds, so when they hit their human targets, they set up a pressure wave in the body, and does horrific damage to the internal organs. Even a single fragment hitting somewhere else in the body can rupture the spleen, or cause the intestines to explode.

Along with being indiscriminate, cluster bombs are also one of the most unreliable weapons in a military?s? arsenal. A portion, 10-30%, of the bombs dropped are duds. Either they don?t go off and become disarm themselves or remain armed until some unfortunate victim happens upon them. The most common incident of discovery is by small children. They find the small sub ordnance, which look like colored balls or fruit, then start playing with them or trying to open them up. This, in turn, rearms the internal fuse and the bomb goes off, sending shrapnel 150 feet in every direction, killing or seriously injuring anyone nearby.

Over the years, many different cluster bombs have been developed and dropped by the U.S. military all over the world. Cluster bombs come in all shapes and sizes and can have many different sub ordnance contained inside them. The bombs can be programmed to deploy at different altitudes, the bomblets can explode at different altitudes and can be designed to cover a broad area.

The WDU-4 is probably the most gruesome of any sub ordnance. This bomblet, used primarily in Laos and Vietnam, contain 6 000 barbed metal darts, which are projected over the target area and rain down onto their victims. The WDU-4 has been reported to literally ?nail? people to the ground.

The ?Honest John? is one of the few cluster bombs that uses chemical technology. This large bomb carries 368 bomblets filled with Sarin nerve gas (isopropyl methylphosphonofluoridate), which causes the muscles in one?s body to twitch uncontrollably, to the point where one?s lungs cannot sustain breathing. This effect is accompanied by nausea, vomiting, sweating and drooling.

The BLU-26, the most widely used cluster bomb in Laos, contains 100g of explosive and 300 or more ball bearings. The U.S. dropped over 90 million of these on Laos; an estimated 1/3 of them remain unexploded. A single bomb carries 670 bomblets, each containing 300 ball bearings. That?s 201 000 ball bearings per bomb. A B52 bomber can carry up to 40 of these bombs. That totals 8,400,000 ball bearings in one bombing run, and it only takes one ball bearing to kill.

Since cluster bombs spread out over a large area, up to 350 football fields, they are hard to recover and disarm. Over time, they can bury themselves and resurface when an unsuspecting farmer buries his hoe to turn the soil. As time goes by, the bombs become more and more unstable. The shells can corrode, exposing gunpowder and shrapnel to the elements. Some bomblets are even designed to explode when a metal detector is present, making recovery all the more dangerous.

Cluster bombs have been used since the Korean War and are still in use today. They have been dropped on such countries as Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict, on Kuwait during the gulf war, and are now being dropped on Afghanistan to combat the Al-Queda terrorist network. In all of these conflicts, the damage caused by these bombs has been devastating. The worst destruction caused by cluster bombs was in the country of Laos, a neighbor of Vietnam during the Vietnam conflict.

Initial targets were communist troops, supply depots and communication lines. Then, the United States moved on to farms, villages and towns so that the communists had no access to men or supplies.

Through 580 000 bombing missions, the United States dropped over 300,000 tons of bombs on Laos throughout the war, two tons per inhabitant, which is more bombs than the United States dropped on Japan and Germany combined during World War II. That is equal to one bombing mission every eight minutes, 24 hours a day, for nine straight years.

The U.S. military did not segregate military and civilian targets. Any sign of life brought the risk of an air attack. Of all the victims of the bombings, 80% were civilians. In the first 25 years after the war, more than 11 000 civilians died from unexploded bombs. People are still dying today, though the numbers are decreasing.

In Laos, in 1992, it was reported Mr. Tung Soun sent his three sons out to prepare their rice fields for replanting by burning off all of the remaining plants. The heat from their fire set off a bomblet and Lai, 8 and Thi, 12 watched their brother, Thai, 10, be blown away by the razor sharp shrapnel.

As of the year 2000, UXO Lao, who now employs more than 1000 Laotians, supervises all unexploded ordnance removal.

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