Reporting from Lebanon

This blog contains Dan Winter's live reports from Beirut Lebanon. Dan is a long time peace activist from Boulder Colorado.  He has been to Iraq 3 times and Palestine once.  He is  opening a non-profit office in Beirut to provide services for volunteers and the media.  Contact him for assistance.

Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Cluster bombs - the gıft that keeps gıvıng

I wrote the followıng pıece, to the Denver Post, about cluster bombs.

Senators Allard and Salazar recently voted not to prohibit the United States from continuing to manufacture cluster bombs. I write from Lebanon to express total dismay at their vote. If they had sufficient information they would have voted otherwise.

Cluster bombs or cluster munitions spread bomblets - small bombs - over a wide area, many of which do not explode on impact but remain live, and lethal. When they strike the ground they explode and release deadly shrapnel. However, over 25% of the bomblets do not explode but remain live.

The live bombs, the size of cell phones, are an especial problem for civilians who work or live in the area. Children are prone to see them as attractive nuisance and kick them or try to pick them up Even to touch a bush, on which they are hung up, can make one explode. The damage is extreme or deadly to that person and others nearby. Therefore, these weapons are deadly in three ways: first, they explode in the air, second, they explode upon contact with anything and third they act as land mines when they do not explode. Some of these cluster bombs have been found, still live, from their first use, by Israel in Lebanon in 1978.

The United States manufactures and sells tens of thousands of cluster munitions. The United States conditions the sale of these munitions, to foreign countries, with the provision that the purchasing country not to use them in civilian areas. Israel has not abided by these conditions.

Shortly after the cease fire went into effect, in August, the UN's humanitarian chief, Jan Egeland, accused Israel of "completely immoral" use of cluster bombs in Lebanon. He also said that 100,000 unexploded cluster bomblets at 359 sites have been found. As of September 24 the Mine Action Coordination Center, in South Lebanon, told me that the updated numbers are now one million cluster bombs at 590 sites. So far 104 have exploded kıllıng 14 and woundıng 90 - civilians.

Human Rights Watch executive director, Kenneth Roth, said "they should never be used in populated areas". There are documented cases of cluster bombs found in the middle of civilian areas ? far to numerous to be random accidents or collateral damage ? they are the result of, at best, a disregard for where they are used.

Amnesty International has called for the US to halt selling cluster weapons.

I visited a facility in the ancient city of Sidon, where they make artificial arms, legs, hands and feet. The facility produces very basic prosthesis; however, they are of great benefit to a child who had both legs amputated. The center has lost its funding, from the Lebanese government, for staff and material. The staff has been reduced from 12 to 3 and must now charge for a service they previously provided for free. I was told that they expect a large influx of patients due to the continued explosions from cluster bombs.

The victims are still in hospitals recovering from the amputations. What seems particularly grievous, on the part of Israel. is that over 80% of the bombs were dropped in the last 3 days prior to the cease fire - after it was known that a cease fire would be in effect. In addition the United Nations has repeatedly asked that Israel turn over maps detailing the areas it targeted with cluster bombs. Israel has not complied in any meaningful manner. A good source of information can be found at www.stopclustermunitions.org

The United States is just one of just one of less than ten countries that have refused to sign the International Land Mine Treaty. This is indeed interesting given that an American received the Nobel Peace Prize for her world wide work on the issue. The production, sale and use of cluster munitions must be included in future discussion of the land mine issue.

I sincerely hope that Senators Allard and Salazar will not only change their vote on prohibiting cluster munitions but will now lead the United States senate in such an endeavor.

Dan Winters is in Lebanon representing The Rocky Mountain Peace & Justice Center and the Colorado Coalition for Peace and Justice in the Middle East. He has a blog at www.daninlebanon.blogspot.com

Dan C. Winters; 1450 Ithaca Dr; Boulder, CO 80305 303 444-8405
Carolyn Bninski of the Rocky Mtn Peace & Justice Ctr can verify that I am in Lebanon

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