Sri Lanka not signatory to Cluster Bomb Pact: Did she adopt U.S. position in effort to counter LTTE terrorism? (US)


Washington, D.C. 4 December (Asiantribune.com): The South Asian island-nation of Sri Lanka which is in a serious military offensive against a lethal Tamil Tiger separatist movement, a micro group which has proved over the years to have a macro effect, largely responsible since the late eighties influencing the national agenda of the country threatening its sovereignty, territorial integrity and democracy came closer to the position of the United States in not being a signatory to the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) when the treaty came up for ratification on December 3 in Oslo, Norway.


(04.12.2008)

The United States fighting her own Global War on Terrorism with two fronts opened one in Iraq and the other in Afghanistan was not at Oslo. So were China, Russia and India.

"Although we share the humanitarian concerns of states signing the CCM, we will not be joining them," the State Department said in a statement.

"The CCM constitutes a ban on most types of cluster munitions; such a general ban on cluster munitions will put the lives of our military men and women, and those of our coalition partners, at risk," it added.

Nearly 10 years after the Ottawa Landmines Treaty banned an indiscriminate weapon causing tens of thousands of civilian casualties a year, more than 100 countries met in Dublin and agreed to ban another weapon system. On May 30, 2008, 111 countries agreed to a treaty that bans the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions and provides survivor assistance and cluster munitions clean-up. The Convention on Cluster Munitions was opened for signature on December 3 and 4 2008 and will come into force once 30 countries have ratified it.

Cluster munitions are deployed from either the air or ground, scattering bomblets over a wide area on the ground. One of the effects of cluster munitions is that these submunitions sometimes fail to explode, littering areas with unexploded ordnance. These dud bombs, which are still active, often cause human casualties. The Cluster Munitions Coalition believes 60 percent of those injured by cluster munitions receive their injuries while going about their daily lives, and one-third of these are reportedly children.

On July 9, 2008 The United States Department of Defense in a statement under the signature of Secretary Robert Gates declared that "Cluster munitions are legitimate weapons with clear military utility in combat. They provide distinct advantages against a range of targets, where their use reduces risks to U.S. forces and can save U.S. lives. These weapons can also reduce unintended harm to civilians during combat, by producing less collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure than unitary weapons. Because future adversaries will likely use civilian shields for military targets ' for example by locating a military target on the roof of an occupied building ' use of unitary weapons could result in more civilian casualties and damage than cluster munitions. Blanket elimination of cluster munitions is therefore unacceptable due not only to negative military consequences but also due to potential negative consequences for civilians."

Sri Lankan military in its current combat against the LTTE in the north of the country has to face a separatist group that often use civilians as human shield to negate the forward march of the soldiers. The Secretary Gates' policy statement clearly refers to this civilian factor deployed by terrorist groups.

Gates, who is defense secretary of the outgoing Bush administration, was last week nominated by President-Elect Obama to continue in the same position when he takes over the US administration on January 20, 2009.

And, a resolution adopted in the U.S. Senate and the House in 2007 advocated the limits the use of cluster munitions to clearly defined military targets not in the vicinity of civilians. Senator Barack Obama supported the Senate resolution.

Recognizing the need to minimize the unintended harm to civilians and civilian infrastructure associated with unexploded ordnance from cluster munitions, in its cluster munitions policy of July 9, 2008 the secretary of defense has approved a new policy on cluster munitions intended to reduce the collateral effects resulting from the use of cluster munitions in pursuit of legitimate military objectives. The new policy is the result of a year-long Department of Defense review of cluster munitions.

The United States believes that the new policy will provide better protection of civilians and civilian infrastructure following a conflict, while allowing for the retention of a legitimate and useful weapon.

The US Defense Secretary policy statement states: "Cluster munitions are legitimate weapons with clear military utility in combat. They provide distinct advantages against a range of targets, where their use reduces risks to U.S. forces and can save U.S. lives. These weapons can also reduce unintended harm to civilians during combat, by producing less collateral damage to civilians and civilian infrastructure than unitary weapons. Because future adversaries will likely use civilian shields for military targets ' for example by locating a military target on the roof of an occupied building ' use of unitary weapons could result in more civilian casualties and damage than cluster munitions. Blanket elimination of cluster munitions is therefore unacceptable due not only to negative military consequences but also due to potential negative consequences for civilians."

Post-combat, the impact of cluster munitions is limited in scope, scale and duration compared to other explosive remnants of war (ERW). According to the Feb. 15, 2008, State Department white paper in 2006 fewer than 400 casualties were attributable to cluster munitions out of a global total of 5,759 reported for all ERW, is the US position.

A key facet of the US Department of Defense (DoD) policy establishes a new U.S. technical norm for cluster munitions, requiring that by the end of 2018, DoD will no longer use cluster munitions which, after arming, result in more than one percent unexploded ordnance across the range of intended operational environments. Additionally, cluster munitions sold or transferred by DoD after 2018 must meet this standard. Any munitions in the current inventory that do not meet this standard will be unavailable for use after 2018. As soon as possible, military departments will initiate removal from active inventory cluster munitions that exceed operational planning requirements or for which there are no operational planning requirements. These excess munitions will be demilitarized as soon as practicable within available funding and industrial capacity. Effective immediately through 2018, any U.S. use of cluster munitions that do not meet the one percent unexploded ordnance standard must be approved by the applicable combatant commander.
Previous DoD policy required military departments to design and procure "future" (after 2005) submunitions to a 99 percent reliability rate, but did not address use and removal of current munitions.

The new US policy is viewed as a viable alternative to a complete ban proposal generated by the Oslo Process in Dublin, Ireland, (in June 2008). The new policy serves as the basis for the U.S. position in negotiations toward an international agreement at the U.N. Convention of Conventional Weapons (CCW) that began on July 7. The United States has called for the completion of a new cluster munitions protocol by the end of the year. The CCW, unlike the Oslo process, includes all of the nations that produce and use cluster munitions, making any agreement reached there much more practically effective.

Although the Bush administration has been consistent in its opposition to an international treaty, U.S. Congress has taken a different path. Less than a week after the Dublin meeting concluded, Democratic Senators Dianne Feinstein, Patrick Leahy, and Democratic Rep. James P. McGovern, introduced a joint resolution urging the United States to sign onto the Global Convention in December 2008.

Senator Barack Obama, now the President-Elect of the United States, supported the resolution.

This joint resolution reinforces previous congressional efforts on cluster munitions. In 2007, Democratic Senators Feinstein, Leahy, Bernie Sanders, and Barbara Mikulski introduced the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 which restricts the use and transfer of cluster munitions with higher than a 1 percent failure rate and limits the use of cluster munitions to clearly defined military targets not in the vicinity of civilians.Although stalled in the Senate Committee on Foreign Relations, the bill sent a clear message of Congress' intent on U.S. use of cluster munitions. A similar bill was introduced on the U.S. House of Representative side and has been referred to the House Armed Services Subcommittee on Readiness. In addition, within the 2008 Foreign Appropriations bill was a provision (Sec. 695) limiting the sale and transfer of cluster munitions systems that have a 1 percent or lower failure rate and mandating that any country importing U.S. cluster munitions only use them against clearly defined military targets where no civilians are present. President George W. Bush signed the bill into law in December 2007, which in effect results in a one year moratorium on the sale of cluster munitions.

- Asian Tribune -

Von: 04.12.2008, Daya Gamage – US National Correspondent Asian Tribune News Analysis, www.asiantribune.com

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