The Biden Administration is on defense after authorizing cluster bombs for Ukraine on Friday as part of an $800 million aid package. Cluster bombs are a controversial weapon that’s banned by over 100 countries that signed on to the Convention on Cluster Munitions, including most NATO countries. Both the U.S. and Ukraine haven’t signed on to the Convention.
Cluster bombs, also known as cluster munitions, are a type of air-dropped or ground-launched explosive weapon designed to disperse dozens to hundreds of smaller bombs over a wide area. Many of the bomblets fail to explode initially, leading to them posing a further risk to civilians for years. The failure rate of cluster bombs ranges from 2% to 40% or more.
This comes just over a year after the Biden administration said that Russia’s use of such weapons could constitute a war crime.
Back in February 2022, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki asserted that Russia’s use of cluster bombs could be a war crime. A reporter asked “There are reports of illegal cluster bombs and vacuum bombs being used by the Russians. If that’s true, what is the next step of this administration? And is there a red line for how much violence will be tolerated against civilians in this manner that’s illegal and potentially a war crime.”
Psaki replied: “It is – it would be. I don’t have any confirmation of that. We have seen the reports. If that were true, it would potentially be a war crime.”
Biden himself previously publicly opposed the use of cluster bombs when it was Israel using them in the Lebanon War in 1982.
In a rarity, a number of top Democrats are breaking with Biden over the move. According to Politico:
Top Democrats on the House Rules Committee and the panels that fund the Pentagon and State Department lashed out in rare public statements broadcasting their break with their party’s president.
“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine is unnecessary and a terrible mistake,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.), the ranking member of the House’s defense appropriations subcommittee. “The legacy of cluster bombs is misery, death and expensive cleanup generations after their use. These weapons should be eliminated from our stockpiles, not dumped in Ukraine.”
As the lawmakers noted, Congress has previously banned the transfer of any cluster munition with a “dud rate” greater than 1%.
Matt Palumbo is the author of Fact-Checking the Fact-Checkers: How the Left Hijacked and Weaponized the Fact-Checking Industry and The Man Behind the Curtain: Inside the Secret Network of George Soros
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