There are millions of pieces of unexploded weapons scattered around the world. To kids, some of them look like toys or trinkets, inviting them to touch. Such weapons, even decades old, can explode when disturbed, maiming or killing children.
Cluster munitions are a major threat to children. They are designed to come apart in the air and scatter bomblets, but as many as 30 percent of the bomblets in older weapons don't explode in the air and are left scattered on the ground, armed and deadly to children.
Even though the United States now produces only cluster munitions with a failure rate of less than one percent, our Defense Department still has millions of old cluster munitions in its stockpile, with failure rates as high as 30 percent.
To its credit, the U.S. Government is a world leader in helping clear unexploded weapons, including landmines and cluster munitions. In addition to helping to find and eliminate old cluster bombs, we need to ensure that we do not use cluster munitions. Unfortunately, that is not current U.S. policy. The U.S. Defense Department says it will give up its outdated, high-failure cluster munitions only after 2018. We can't wait that long.
Members of Congress from both parties believe that there is no justification for using antiquated weapons that often fail, and kill and injure civilians—when we have modern cluster munitions that almost never fail. Call on your Senators to sponsor and support the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act to ban the use of cluster munitions with failure rates higher than one percent.
As you may know, cluster munitions are large bombs, rockets, or artillery shells that contain hundreds of small, individual bomblets. The bomblets are designed to explode on impact; however, in older weapons, many of the submunitions fail to detonate. They remained armed and dangerous, injuring and killing civilians long after conflicts end.
Although U.S. cluster munitions procured after FY 2005 are required to have a failure rate of less than one percent, there is no such restriction on existing stockpiles of these weapons. Our government still has in storage 5.5 million cluster bombs with more than 700 million bomblets, some with failure rates as high as 30 percent. Current U.S. policy still allows for the use of these antiquated weapons.
Children are all too often the victims of these lethal weapons. The bomblets come in interesting shapes that attract children’s curiosity – some bomblets look like tiny bottles with short ribbons; some are yellow with tissue parachutes; some look like little gray tennis balls; some are small canisters with a white ribbon attached. All can injure and kill children.
S. 419 would make sure that the United States does not use the old, unreliable cluster munitions that leave behind deadly threats to civilians and particularly children.
I urge you to support this sensible policy on cluster munitions. Please cosponsor and support this important legislation. U.S. weapons should never cause an innocent child’s death or injury during or after armed conflict.