ISIS is facing growing criticism for its use of cluster monitions in its ongoing war in Iraq and Syria. The complaints, interestingly enough, began with allegations that Syria’s government was the one using the “banned” munitions, and was treated in a similar negative light.
Both ISIS and the Assad government are “bad guys” and so predictably their use of the munitions was going to be treated as beyond the pale. Yet the problem of cluster munition use is much older and wider-spread than just Syria/ISIS, and rarely gets treated as an important situation, or even a problem.
The US military heavily used cluster bombs during both the Iraq and Afghan wars, causing massive civilian casualties. The Israeli military littered southern Lebanon with munitions during their most recent war there, with unexploded ordinance continuing to kill Lebanese civilians to this day.
The US has similarly ignored the “ban” on cluster munitions use with a massive export of such bombs to Saudi Arabia only last year.
Cluster munitions have proven a huge humanitarian problem, killing civilians years after the war they were used in is over. Yet the ISIS use of such weapons is hardly out of keeping with international norms, and the problem of cluster bombs spans the globe. It is a mistake to treat ISIS as unusually bad for using such weapons when the US does so casually and with impunity, and has a stockpile of such weapons that far, far exceeds anything ISIS could ever dream of looting from what warehouses it has.