US Sending Saudi Arabia Thousands of Cluster Bombs, Despite International Ban

Even as they condemn the Syrian regime’s use of cluster munitions, the U.S. is selling Saudi Arabia $640 million worth of American-made cluster bombs. Cluster munitions have been banned in 83 countries on account of their indiscriminate nature and their record of killing children.

Ahmed Kamel, 12-year old Iraqi, victim of US cluster bomb
Ahmed Kamel, 12-year old Iraqi, victim of US cluster bomb

John Reed at Foreign Policy:

These weapons are loathed because in addition to killing enemy combatants, their fairly indiscriminate nature means they can kill plenty of civilians. And not just in the heat of battle. The little ball-shaped bomblets dispersed by cluster munitions don’t always detonate on first impact. Often, they will just sit there on the ground until someone, often a child, picks them up and causes them to explode.

So far, 112 countries have signed an international treaty banning cluster bombs, with 83 ratifying it.

The international ban began to take effect in June 2010, just after a U.S. cluster bomb killed 35 women and children in Yemen, with the Pentagon stubbornly refusing to admit to the wrongdoing despite damning evidence compiled by Amnesty International, which was later corroborated by classified diplomatic cables released by WikiLeaks.

Cluster bombs were used in the initial phases of the Afghanistan and Iraq wars, and the Obama administration has firmly opposed their prohibition, as have countries like Saudi Arabia, China, and Russia. What’s that old saying about how you’re known by the company you keep?

It’s also worth pointing out how eager the U.S. is to keep giving Saudi Arabia, one of the most horrific, repressive, mysogynist theocracies in the world, all the weapons and money it asks for. Reed again:

The cluster bomb sale is just the latest in a string ongoing arms deals between the U.S. and Saudi Arabia that include dozens of F-15SA Strike Eagle fighter jets, AH-64 Apache attack helicopters, H-60 Blackhawk helicopters and AH-6 Little Bird choppers as well as radars, anti-ship missiles, guided bombs, anti-radar missiles, surface to air missiles and even cyber defenses for those brand new Strike Eagles. It’s a relationship that’s worth tens of billions to American defense contractors. And even though the Saudi and the American governments have recently been at odds over a range of issues — Riyadh recently offered to replace any financial aid to Egypt’s military rulers that the U.S. withdrew —  those arms sales are all-but-certain to continue. If the Saudis want cluster bombs, the U.S. will provide — no matter what the world thinks.

On the one hand, the U.S. is desperate to maintain the geo-political dominance it has held over the Middle East at a time when it seems to be slipping through their fingers. And on the other, one of the strongest lobbies in Washington – the defense corporations – really want to proceeds of these nefarious weapons sales. And you gotta please them.

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