On Sunday, Human Rights Watch reported that Saudi Arabia is dropping cluster bombs supplied by the United States in the relentless onslaught on Yemen. These horrific weapons — which not only unleash mass death on first use but leave unexploded bombs that can kill for months or years afterward — have been banned by 116 nations. The United States has not signed the convention against cluster bombs, but has greatly restricted their use. However, a loophole left in US law allows the Pentagon’s favorite war profiteers to sell cluster bombs abroad.
The Saudis are dropping the cluster bombs near villages, HRW reports. But the Saudis — and their ally, the United States, which is supplying weapons, logistics and intelligence support to the act of aggression — have already shown they are unconcerned about civilian casualties in the conflict. More than 1,000 people have died in 2,300 airstrikes launched by the Saudis and their allies. According to best estimates, hundreds of civilians have been killed. Millions of civilians are now at dire risk, due to a brutal blockade imposed by the Saudis and the Americans. Yemen imports 90 percent of its food. It is now running out of food, medical supplies and fuel. People are dying from the deprivation.
But of course, the use of cluster bombs against Yemen is nothing new. As the New York Times reports, American ships fired cruise missiles loaded with cluster bombs in an attack that killed “dozens of civilians.” This was in 2009, the year the man who launched those attacks was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize. The Saudis also dropped American-made cluster bombs on Yemen that year, in yet another attack on the Houthis. HRW reports:
Credible evidence indicates that the Saudi-led coalition used banned cluster munitions supplied by the United States in airstrikes against Houthi forces in Yemen, Human Rights Watch said today. Cluster munitions pose long-term dangers to civilians and are prohibited by a 2008 treaty adopted by 116 countries, though not Saudi Arabia, Yemen, or the United States.
“Saudi-led cluster munition airstrikes have been hitting areas near villages, putting local people in danger,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “These weapons should never be used under any circumstances. Saudi Arabia and other coalition members – and the supplier, the US – are flouting the global standard that rejects cluster munitions because of their long-term threat to civilians.”
Cluster munitions contain dozens or hundreds of submunitions. The submunitions are designed to explode after spreading out over a wide area, often the size of a football field, putting anyone in the area at the time of the attack at risk of death or injury. In addition, many submunitions often do not explode, becoming de facto landmines.
While the CBU-105 is banned under the Convention on Cluster Munitions, its use is permitted under existing US policy and its export is permitted under existing US export restrictions on cluster munitions.
In August 2013, the US Department of Defense concluded a contract for the manufacture of 1,300 CBU-105 Sensor Fuzed Weapons for Saudi Arabia by Textron. … Additionally, [Saudi ally] UAE received an unknown number of CBU-105 from Textron Defense Systems in June 2010. … In addition to the recent transfer of CBU-105, the US provided Saudi Arabia with significant exports of cluster bombs between 1970 and 1999. Saudi Arabia possesses attack aircraft of US and Western/NATO origin capable of dropping US-made cluster bombs.
Most of our political reality now is almost beyond commentary. Its evident evil stands as stark as a naked body unearthed from a mass grave. Yet millions of people will be heatedly engaged in the coming months by the “struggle” over who will temporarily preside over the stinking slaughterhouse of our militarist empire. The mass hallucination — of a rational political system, of our national goodness, of the chance of “reform” if only the right murderer gets into power — will go on.