Pentagon calls off plan to ban use of cluster bombs

The Pentagon has put off indefinitely a planned ban on using certain cluster bombs which release explosive sub-munitions or bomblets. The US military considers them an important weapon. Civil defense members prepare to safely detonate cluster bombs in S

The Pentagon has postponed indefinitely a ban on older generations of cluster bombs that was set to take effect in 2019.

"Cluster munitions are internationally banned for very good reasons".

In 2008 then-Secretary of Defense Robert Gates ordered the military to cease using older types of cluster bombs by January 1, 2019, and to retain only newer versions of the bombs that explode at least 99% of the time or have advanced safeguards that would automatically defuse unexploded ordnance, reducing the risks of injuring civilians.

"This is a profoundly retrograde step that puts the US way out of line with the worldwide consensus-cluster munitions are banned by more than 100 countries due to their inherently indiscriminate nature and the risks they pose to civilians", said Patrick Wilcken, researcher on arms control and human rights at Amnesty global.

The Pentagon says it can not yet achieve the 1 percent standard but will keep trying. The views expressed in these articles are the author's own and do not necessarily reflect MintPress News editorial policy.

The Cluster Munition Coalition also condemned the change, calling the decision "shocking". But it exempts certain types of munitions that the Pentagon says it would nonetheless classify as cluster munitions.

Her organization is chair of the Cluster Munition Coalition, an global campaign seeking to eliminate cluster bombs.

Senator Dianne Feinstein called the move "unbelievable". That can lead to civilian deaths and injuries long after conflicts end.

However critics say they kill indiscriminately and pose hazards to civilians. The George W. Bush administration declared in 2008 that after
US delays ban on 'unsafe' cluster bombs

The US has used cluster munitions in Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam, Grenada, Lebanon, Libya, Iran, Iraq, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, Bosnia and Herzegovina, Serbia (including Kosovo), Montenegro, Afghanistan and Iraq. Instead, commanders are allowed to authorize using "sufficient quantities" of the bombs if deemed necessary.

"Safer" means meeting the 1 per cent failure standard or developing bombs equipped with a self-destruct mechanism or that can be rendered inoperable in 15 minutes or less by the exhaustion of their power source.

In practice, the U.S. rarely uses cluster bombs.

The U.S. rarely uses cluster bombs, but it has sold them to other countries and says they could be useful in any future large-scale ground war.

In a memorandum signed Thursday, Deputy Defense Secretary Patrick Shanahan said the USA remains committed to fielding weapons that are effective in war and that "minimize unintended harm" to civilians and United States and partner forces.

"The Department will retain cluster munitions now in active inventories until the capabilities they provide are replaced with enhanced and more reliable munitions", the memorandum said.

Shanahan also wrote that cluster bombs are "legitimate weapons with clear military utility" that may result in less harmed civilians compared to other weapons used against large numbers of enemy troops.

In the memo, Shannahan calls cluster munitions "legitimate weapons with clear military utility" and argues that "we can not risk mission failure or accept the potential of increased military and civilian casualties by forfeiting the best available capabilities".

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