US is lobbying nations to bring Cluster Bombs back “NO” would be my Answer

Ahmad picked up a bright metal object in a park where he was celebrating his 5th birthday in Lebanon. It was an unexploded cluster bomblet, which blew up in his face, killing him slowly in front of his family.

Three years ago, public pressure pushed through a ban of these cruel bombs. But now the US is lobbying nations to quietly sign a new law that allows their use — signing the death warrant for thousands of other children. Most countries are still on the fence on how to vote. Only if we raise the alarm across the world can we shame our governments to block this deadly decision.

Positions are being drawn up now. We only have days until countries meet to send our leaders a clear message: stand up for the cluster bombs ban and keep our children safe. Click below to sign the petition — it will be delivered directly to delegates at the Geneva conference:

http://www.avaaz.org/en/cluster_bombs_ii_b/?vl

Thousands of people — many of them children — have been maimed or killed by these bombs. When they are fired, they spray small “bomblets” over a wide area, many of which fail to explode. Years later, people disturb them in their fields or school playgrounds not knowing what they are, and they explode.

In 2008, over half of the world’s governments outlawed these weapons by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions. But now, shockingly, countries like France, Germany, Italy, Sweden and the UK, who all signed the Convention, are under pressure from the US, China and Russia to run rings round the ban by signing a separate agreement that would allow them to use cluster munitions. Only Norway, Mexico, Austria and a few others are fighting this horror.

Negotiators at the Convention on Conventional Weapons meet in Geneva next week. Most governments don’t really want this protocol and have not said which way they will vote, but they are under severe pressure from the US to comply and will only object if the global public persuades them.

There’s no time to lose — the conference starts on Monday. Let’s call on our governments to reject this deadly and cynical US campaign to legalize cluster killing. Click below to sign the petition and forward this email widely — we’ve done it before, let’s do it again:

Cluster bombs and land mines were banned because citizens raised the alarm across the world — with victims and survivors leading the way. For their sakes and to ensure no more lives are lost, let’s not allow these cruel weapons back and join together now to demand a more peaceful world.

More information:

Fourth Review Conference of the Convention on Prohibitions or Restrictions on the Use of Certain Weapons:
http://www.unog.ch/80256EE600585943/%28httpPages%29/43FD798E7707CE5AC12578B20032B630?OpenDocument

UK backs bid to overturn ban on cluster bombs (The Independent):
http://www.independent.co.uk/news/world/politics/uk-backs-bid-to-overturn-ban-on-cluster-bombs-6259139.html

CCW – the potential to cause more humanitarian harm than good (Stop Cluster Munitions.org):
http://www.stopclustermunitions.org/ccw/

The Past and Future of the CCW (Arms Control.org):
http://www.armscontrol.org/act/2011_03/LookingBack

No backsliding on cluster bombs (The Indepedent):
http://www.independent.co.uk/opinion/leading-articles/leading-article-no-backsliding-on-cluster-bombs-6259009.html

Raed Mokaled and the story of Ahmad (Handicap International):
http://www.handicapinternational.be/en/raed-mokaled

Please pass this on. And do take the time to sign it.
US to stockpile cluster bombs in Australia? Despite Australia having signed the convention against cluster munition, a US base may transport and stockpile munition.

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Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Injured Troops

Afghanistan’s hidden toll: Troops invalided out triple in three years

Unpublished figures show thousands of ex-soldiers have sought financial help – many suffering with stress disorders. Brian Brady and Nina Lakhani report

Sunday, 30 August 2009

The numbers of ‘post-service’ claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005

At its bloodiest, the fighting around Sangin in Afghanistan’s Helmand Province, has been likened to Rorke’s Drift, the 1879 battle portrayed in the film Zulu. The military discourage the comparison but as one officer puts it: “The only difference is there are no Zulus at Sangin.”

The town has seen some of the deadliest fighting of the campaign. More British soldiers have been killed there and more medals won than anywhere else in Afghanistan. But the benefits the British troops have brought are seized on by officials, including decreased opium production and more Afghans being educated. But the benefits have come at a price, not all of which are as obvious as the monuments to the fallen British soldiers erected by their comrades.

Shortages of helicopters and surveillance equipment mean troops are only as safe as far as they can see with their rifle sights or binoculars. The Taliban also know it and are careful to lay their lethal mines and improvised explosive devices just out of sight. Soldiers work on the basis that every time they patrol there is a one in four chance one of them will die. Privately, senior British officers say they currently work on the assumption at least a “limb a day” will be lost.

The tally of dead currently stands at 208, but some senior officers believe this could rise sharply. The numbers of those wounded and maimed have soared by 300 per cent in the past three years as the increasingly bloody struggle to maintain order has intensified. New figures obtained by The Independent on Sunday also show that the numbers claiming compensation for injuries sustained in Iraq and Afghanistan are more than 12 times higher than the total in 2005.

Unpublished figures from the Armed Forces Compensation Scheme (AFCS) reveal in disturbing detail the “hidden costs” of the military action, with soaring numbers being forced out by wounds. The number of soldiers applying to the AFCS for financial assistance after being medically discharged rose from 200 in 2005-06, when the scheme opened, to 845 last year. Troops claiming for injuries suffered in service rose from 240 to 3,255 during the same period.

The disclosures follow revelations last week that service chiefs expect the number wounded in Afghanistan to have doubled by the end of the year. The total to the end of July was 299 – compared to 245 in the whole of 2008.

The figures also show that the numbers of “post-service” claims has risen by a factor of almost 100, from 15 to 1,455 since 2005. A Ministry of Defence spokesman admitted the heavy toll is due to the number of people experiencing post-traumatic stress disorder (PTSD) after leaving the services.

PTSD sufferers tell of how traumatic memories come back regularly and involuntarily, resulting in chronic anxiety and hyper-alertness. The numbers affected are contentious, but conservative estimates say that tens of thousands of British troops who have served in Afghanistan and Iraq are suffering.

The MoD’s latest assessment of psychiatric health problems within UK forces, completed late last month, showed there were 3,181 new cases of “mental disorder” in 2008 – 16 cases for every 1,000 personnel. Troops who had been deployed to Afghanistan or Iraq showed high rates of “neurotic disorders”, including PTSD, with the Royal Marines affected more than all the other services.

The MoD acknowledges the high rates of mental health problems caused by military operations. In documents, seen by the IoS, officials concede that “some personnel returned from operations with psychological problems particularly when tour lengths exceeded expectations”. The MoD has appealed for increased “X factor” payments, which recognise the extra difficulties faced by service personnel.

Critics insist it is too little, too late, and fails to acknowledge the scale of the problem. Lord Guthrie, the former head of the Army, said the authorities had been slow to recognise the problem’s scale and extent. “When we go to war, we just don’t have the wherewithal to look after the physical and mental needs of our service people. You have to make sure that when you go to war, you are prepared to look after people, and that hasn’t happened.

“Successive governments have had a very poor record and have cut, cut and cut again the care for our service people. Having to rely on the NHS is not good enough. It has no capacity to deal with the extra people who need medical attention, and all this has been compounded by the reluctance of the MoD to admit how big the problem is.

“We hear a lot about the dead, but rather less about the wounded. We haven’t been able to see the proper figures,” he said.

Problems grow once soldiers have gone home, Lord Guthrie said: “You no longer have people to talk to. Support is very hard to come by. The Government has woken up much too late to this. Ideally, you need a network of military people throughout the NHS, but how do you pay for that?”

James Saunders, 39, served in the first Gulf War in the Royal Artillery. Looking back, he was suffering from PTSD when discharged in 1993, but he believes the Army was glad to close the door on him and his problems.

“When I asked to get out, I’d already been AWOL for six months, totally off-track, so they were glad to get rid of me. I’d see guys who’d been in Northern Ireland, drinking and getting into fights, but they were never punished. I realise now that the sergeants knew it was because they were suffering mentally, but rather than talk about it, they just ignored it.”

Former SAS trooper Bob Paxman, 41, said veterans’ problems are exacerbated when they leave the forces and are “out of the family”. His GP “didn’t have a clue” where to send him and specialised counselling failed. He suffered a total breakdown in 2006.

“I was on a dangerous job in Africa. I was a total wreck, at rock bottom. If I was left alone for more than five minutes, the flashbacks would come big style. So I self-medicated and filled myself with as much booze as possible. One night, I sank a bottle of whisky and put my 9mm pistol in my mouth but I couldn’t pull the trigger,” he said.

After his experiences Mr Paxman helped set up the charity talking2minds to help others with similar problems. Combat Stress is another charity which has stepped into the vacuum created by the MoD and the NHS. It is helping around 4,000 ex-servicemen and women with combat-related mental health problems.

It takes, on average, 14 years after discharge for a veteran suffering problems to approach them. Most current patients were on active duty
in the Falklands, Northern Ireland and the first Gulf War; less than 10 per cent have served in Iraq or Afghanistan. Hundreds more are treated in private hospitals ever year, paid for by the NHS.

David Hill, Combat Stress’s chief executive, said: “The scale and size of the problem is not known and is not adequately mapped in the UK – unlike the US and Australia. We are currently seeing an unprecedented increase in demand. Since 2005, there has been a 66 per cent increase in referrals and we are already providing support for 316 veterans of recent conflicts.” He says the NHS has no accurate figures on its veteran patients, and without such figures, no effective planning can be done.

In contrast, in Scotland, veterans are more involved in planning mental health services. They work in collaboration with NHS and voluntary services to ensure they get the services they need. “This is a very good model, and one that we could all learn from,” said Mr Hill. “There is a real drive in Scotland to understand more about the size and scale of the problem, and the services required to properly meet the current and future needs of veterans.”

The looming extent of problems created by Afghanistan has prompted the US to act. Earlier this month, it announced controversial plans to train all 1.1 million of its soldiers in emotional resilience. The training, the first of its kind for any military, hopes to prevent mental health problems from developing by helping soldiers to recognise and cope better with stressful situations in combat and civilian life. The $117m (£72m) scheme, to be rolled out by next summer, is unproven but the rising rates of suicide, PTSD and substance misuse has convinced military commanders to try it.

British experts aren’t convinced it is the correct route to take. Professor Simon Wessely, director of military health research at the Institute of Psychiatry in London, said: “I don’t think, to be honest, that there is a great call for this, I doubt it will be well received by the armed forces themselves anyway, and any benefits are likely to be slim… so no, I wouldn’t be pushing this. But if the US funds the research and show a significant benefit, then I am happy to be persuaded.”

Evidence strongly suggests that attempts to prevent PTSD work poorly, he said. “We have established and successful treatments;, the problem is acceptability and delivery.”

War wounds: ‘I was on a self-destruct train. There was no help’

James Saunders, 39, from Hampshire, joined the Army aged 17. Three years later, he flew to Iraq and spent six months fighting in the first Gulf War where he was involved in a terrifying friendly fire incident that injured five soldiers. On his return, his life spiralled out on control and he sought, and got, a discharge in 1993. It took another 12 years for him to find the psychological help he needed.

“We would drive down Basra Road, looking at the carnage left behind by allied air forces. It was like a slow motion film with body parts everywhere, sitting in cars. These images were burnt into my memory.

“When we flew home, a sergeant handed us all a piece of paper which said that we might experience problems with relationships. I was 21; I laughed and threw it in the bin. Eighteen months later, my son was stillborn and that sped up the self-destruct train. I ruined my relationship; cut myself off from family; I was taking every drug you can think of; went awol for months and eventually ended up in prison. I met at least six other army guys inside, all with similar problems, but there was no help.

“It wasn’t until a friend told me about Combat Stress four years ago that like so many guys, I realised I had PTSD.

“If I’d told anyone in the Army about the nightmares or how I felt I’d have been considered unreliable. That’s the way the military was, and still is. They train you physically but not mentally, which means good people are lost unnecessarily. If I’d had help back then, I’d still be in the Army now, coming up to my 22nd year of service.”
Source

Symptoms of mental illnesses.

  • PTSD
  • Clinical depression
  • Anxiety states
  • Adjustment disorders
  • Phobic disorders
  • Obsessive Compulsive Disorder
  • Bi-polar illness (manic depression)
  • Issues relating to past and present substance abuse/dependence (drug and alcohol)
  • Psychotic conditions in a non-acute phase
  • Issues relating to anger

Operation Enduring Freedom

Casualties of Troops By Country

More times then not, someone is watching their comrades dieing. That leaves a long term memory of sorrow and loss.

They may even be holding them in their arms as they die.

To September 18 2009

Country Total
Australia 11
Belgium 1
Canada 131
Czech 3
Denmark 24
Estonia 6
Finland 1
France 31
Germany 33
Hungary 2
Italy 21
Latvia 3
Lithuania 1
Netherlands 21
Norway 4
Poland 13
Portugal 2
Romania 11
South Korea 1
Spain 25
Sweden 2
Turkey 2
UK 216
US 838
Total 1403

Coalition Military Fatalities By Year

To September 18 2009

Year Total
2001 12
2002 69
2003 57
2004 59
2005 131
2006 191
2007 232
2008 294
2009 358
Total 1403

Source

Names of soldier,  dates  of deaths, cause of death

Each year the number of casualties are risisng.

The spin doctors try to make us believe things are getting better in Afghanistan, when in fact they are deteriorating.

Population of Afghanistan: In 2008  32,738,376

They are helping Afghanistan are they? Well I don’t see any improvements.

What you don’t hear much about in the News Media.

Unemployment rate In Afghanistan: No improvement there?

Year Unemployment rate (%)
2000 8
2006 40
2007 40
2008 40

Infant Mortality Rate is Rising: No improvement there?

Year Infant mortality rate (deaths/1,000 live births)
2000 149.28
2001 147.02
2002 144.76
2003 142.48
2004 165.96
2005 163.07
2006 160.23
2007 157.43
2008 154.67

Literacy Rate is Declining: Improved a bit for 5 years and is now below the 2000, 15% . No improvement there?

Year Literacy (%)
2000 15
2001 15
2002 21
2003 21
2004 21
2005 21
2006 21
2007 12.6
2008 12.6

Afghan Poverty rates are rising: No improvement there?

Year Population below poverty line (%)
2004 23
2005 53
2006 53
2007 53
2008 53

Afghans fit for Military Service: So one has to wonder, how many may decide to fight against NATO forces? They are seeing their friends and family die at the hands of NATO.

Year Manpower fit for military service
2000 3,432,236
2001 3,561,957
2002 3,696,379
2003 3,837,646
2004 3,642,659
2005 2,662,946
2006 2,508,574
2007 2,508,574
2008 3,946,685

Source

There have been over 56,000 Afghan Civilians injured and over 8,000 who have died because if the war.  They to suffer from all the same things soldiers suffer from as well.  The numbers on both side are growing.

The number of civilians killed in fighting between the Taliban and foreign forces in Afghanistan is rising.

March 9, 2009

The United Nations says the toll in 2008 was 40 per cent more than in the previous year, and things could get worse with the arrival of more US troops.

Al Jazeera’s Zeina Khodr reports from Kabul.

Within the first 6 months of 2009 over 1,000 Civilians were killed.

Since then many, many more have died.

Things have escalated in Afghanistan since the arrival of the troops from the US. The US is not wanted there.

The number of soldiers who die and get injured have risen as well.

Even the recent election was fraudulent.

So what are the soldiers dieing for?  Certainly not for “democracy” that is just a sham.  Something the spin doctors like to feed the public.

“We are making progress” something else the spin doctors like to feed the public.

The spin doctors tell us “Our soldiers die for a noble cause”. What a crock.

They actually want to control the middle east and it’s people. They want to control the resources of gas and oil.

That is really why men, women and  children  are dieing or becoming severely injured, civilian or military makes little difference.

Lost arms, lost legs, lost eyesight, mental health problems are just a few of the injuries that occur.  Permanent  injures that last for the rest of their lives.

On both sides there are thousands upon thousands of victims who will suffer for the rest of their lives.

Where do we draw the line? When do we say enough.

Usama Bin Ladin has never been connected to 9/11.

Has Usama Bin Ladin been dead for seven years – and are the U.S. and Britain covering it up to continue war on terror? FBI never linked him to 9/11

So why is NATO in Afghanistan?

More than half of British public against UK mission in Afghanistan

(Afghanistan 9) A Picture is Worth A Thousand Words

Elusive threats boost PTSD risk in Afghanistan

Traumatic brain injuries the signature wound of troops in Afghanistan and Iraq

British officer leaked 8,000 Civilians killed in Afghanistan

White House Protesters Throw Shoes at Bush Effigy

White House Protesters Throw Shoes at Bush Effigy
December 17 2008

Anti-war protesters throw shoes at a fellow demonstrator wearing a prison uniform and mask of President George W. Bush outside the White House in Washington, on Wednesday, Dec. 17, 2008. (AP Photo)

By  Tom Fitzgerald

President Bush may have though he’d see the last of shoes being thrown his way, but the anti-war group Code Pink showed up at the White House Wednesday to stage a protest inspired by the President’s much-discussed shoe ducking incident.

The protesters took turns throwing shoes at a large puppet that was made up to look like President Bush. A shoe memorial was also laid out on Pennsylvania Avenue in front of the White House to represent the Iraqi civilians who have been killed during the war.

The group’s founder, Meda Benjamin, says she views the Iraqi reporter who threw his footwear at the president as a role model, saying “We feel that the Iraq reporter is now a hero throughout the world because he has expressed the sentiment of millions of people who are so angry at George Bush’s policies”

Critics of Code Pink say the event was more publicity stunt than constructive discussion of the problems facing a post-Bush administration.

Brian Darling of the Heritage Foundation, a conservative think tank, says Code Pink may have to change its style once Barack Obama inherits both the White House and the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan, saying “There is a mainstream left which respectfully discusses what’s happened in Iraq and then there is Code Pink – no where near respectful – and their actions are out of the mainstream.”

The U.S. Secret Service stood by during the protests; however there were no conflicts with authorities and no arrests were made.

Source

Berkeley Code Pink activists support Iraq shoe-throwing reporter

December 17 2008

Code Pink members and supporters hold a “Farewell Kiss, Shoe-in” outside the Marine Recuitment…
Anti-war activists from the group Code Pink gathered at a Marine recruiting station in Berkeley this morning to show solidarity with an Iraqi journalist who threw his shoes at President Bush on Sunday.

Members of the group and others marched around the recruiting station holding shoes in the air to show support for Iraqi journalist Muntadhar al-Zeidi, who hurled two shoes at Bush during a news conference in Baghdad.

In many Arab countries, showing the sole of one’s shoes, much less throwing shoes at another person, is considered extremely disrespectful.

Organizers said their demonstration was to show support for the Iraqi people who have been killed, tortured or maimed and U.S. soldiers who have died since the Bush administration’s invasion of Iraq.

The Code Pink protest didn’t effect operations at the Shattuck Avenue recruiting station, said Marine Corps spokesman Sgt. Matt DeBoard.

“Code Pink has been protesting at Shattuck Square for almost a year now,” he said. ”They don’t bother us and we don’t bother them.”

He repeated the Marine’s contention that their recruiting and military operations help defend Americans right to freedom of speech. “Our position is that we do what we do so that everyone can express their opinion.”

For more than a year, women from CodePink picketed weekly in front of the U.S. Marine recruiting center at 64 Shattuck Square in downtown Berkeley. They say the Marines are not welcome in liberal, anti-war Berkeley and that the office should shut its doors.

In January, the Berkeley City Council got involved when it officially stated that the Marines were “uninvited and unwelcome intruders” and granted CodePink a permit waiver and a free parking space in front of the Marine center for the weekly protests. The move angered people across the country, who flooded City Hall with about 25,000 letters and e-mails.

Source

Protesters shake shoes at US Embassy in London

Dec 17: Peace Activists Take Shoes to White House in Solidarity with Shoe-Throwing Iraqi Journalist

Please also sign Petitions at below link.

Join the Calls to release Iraqi Journalist Muntadhar Al-Zaydi

EU member states urged to sign, ratify, implement cluster bomb ban treaty

December 1 2008

OSLO: Some 100 countries will ban the use of cluster bombs with the signing of a treaty Wednesday in Oslo but major producers such as China, Russia and the United States are shunning the pact.

The treaty, agreed upon in Dublin in May, outlaws the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions which primarily kill civilians.

“It’s only one of the very few times in history that an entire category of weapons has been banned,” said Thomas Nash of the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC) umbrella group that comprises some 300 non-governmental organisations.

It’s unlikely now that you’re going to see large scale use of cluster bombs,” he said.

Dropped from planes or fired from artillery, cluster bombs explode in mid-air to randomly scatter hundreds of bomblets, which can be three inches (eight centimetres) in size.

Many cluster bomblets can fail to explode, often leaving poverty-stricken areas trying to recover from war littered with countless de-facto landmines.

According to Handicap International, about 100,000 people have been maimed or killed by cluster bombs around the world since 1965, 98 per cent of them civilians.

More than a quarter of the victims are children who mistake the bomblets for toys or tin cans.

“This is not about disarmament, this is not about arms control. This is a humanitarian issue,” said Annette Abelsen, a senior advisor at the foreign ministry in Norway which played a key role in hammering out the international agreement.

In Laos, the most affected country in the world, the US Air Force dropped 260 million cluster bombs between 1964 and 1973, or the equivalent of a fully-loaded B52 bomber’s cargo dropped every eight minutes for nine years.

Dispersed in fields and pastures, the weapons make it perilous to cultivate the land and can claim numerous lives for decades after the end of a conflict.

On Wednesday, France and Britain will be represented by their foreign ministers, Bernard Kouchner and David Miliband. Japan, Canada, Germany and Australia will also sign the treaty.

But, as was the case with the Ottawa Convention that outlaws landmines, key countries such as the United States, Russia, China and Israel have objected to the ban and will not sign it because they are the biggest producers and users.

The election of Barack Obama as president may however bring about a change in the US position, activists hope.

“Obama has voted for, previously, a national regulation in the US for cluster ammunitions,” said Grethe Oestern, a policy advisor at the Norwegian People’s Aid organisation and a co-chair of the CMC.

“So that’s not just a theoretical possibility at all that we could see the US onboard this treaty sometime in the future,” she added.

In 2006, Obama voted in the US Senate to ban the use of cluster munitions in heavily populated areas, but in the end the motion was rejected.

The Oslo Convention is nonetheless expected to stigmatise the use of the weapon even by non-signatory countries, according to activists.

While the United States, Russia and China “seem to have an allergy to international law in general,” there are signs that “the stigma against this weapon is already working,” Nash said.

NATO’s decision not to use cluster bombs, including in Afghanistan, and the lightning-quick denial from Moscow when it was accused of using the munitions against Georgia in the August war shows that these countries also find the weapon “morally unacceptable,” Nash said.

“Even big countries like Russia don’t want to be associated in the media with having used cluster bombs.”

Source

November 21 2008

BRUSSELS,

The European Parliament on Thursday urged European Union (EU) member states to sign and ratify the Convention of Cluster Munitions (CCM) as soon as possible and to take steps toward implementation even before it is signed and ratified.

The resolution was adopted with 471 votes in favor, 6 against and 21 abstentions in Strasbourg, France.

The European Parliament requests EU member states not to use, invest in, stockpile, produce, transfer or export cluster munitions even though the CCM has not entered into force.

EU member states which have used cluster munitions are called on to provide assistance to affected populations and to provide technical and financial assistance for the clearance and destruction of cluster munitions remnants.

The European Parliament urged the European Commission to increase financial assistance through all available instruments to communities and individuals affected by unexploded cluster munitions.

Cluster bombs scatter over a wide area when dropped from the air or used in artillery shells. Many do not explode and it is often children who pick them up, with devastating consequences.

The charity Handicap International estimates that 98 percent of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians, of whom 27 percent are children.

EU member states are also requested to refrain from taking action, which might circumvent or jeopardize the CCM and its provisions. In particular, the parliament called on all EU members not to adopt, endorse or subsequently ratify a possible Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol allowing for the use of cluster munitions which would not be compatible with the CCM.

Source


How Big is the Problem?

Timeline and Use


Laos still paying the price of Vietnam war
November 5 2008

Cluster bomb survivor Ta with examples of the weapons that maimed him. Photo by Stanislas Fradelizi.

Cluster bomb survivor Ta with examples of the weapons that maimed him. Photo by Stanislas Fradelizi.

Xieng Khouang, Laos –

Imagine growing up in a country where the equivalent of a B52 planeload of cluster bombs was dropped every eight minutes for nine years. Then imagine seeing your children and grandchildren being killed and maimed by the same bombs, three decades after the war is over.

Welcome to Laos, a country with the unwanted claim to fame of being the most bombed nation per capita in the world. Between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. military dropped more than 2 million tons of explosive ordnance, including an estimated 260 million cluster munitions – also known as bombie in Laos.

To put this into perspective, this is more bombs than fell on Europe during World War Two.

The U.S. bombing was largely aimed at destroying enemy supply lines during the Vietnam war which passed through Laos. The war ended 35 years ago, yet the civilian casualties continue.

According to aid agency Handicap International, as many as 12,000 civilians have been killed or maimed since, and there are hundreds of new casualties every year.

Take Ta, a father of seven who lives in a remote village in Khammoune Province in southern Laos. One morning four years ago, he saw something that looked like a bombie. He knew it was dangerous, but he had also heard that the explosive inside could be used for catching fish, so he decided to touch it with a stick. That one small tap cost him both arms and an eye. Ta had to travel nine hours to get medical help. He sold his livestock to pay hospital bills, and when he ran out of things to sell, he went home.

Ta says he had to ‘eat like a dog’ for four years, before non-governmental organisation COPE provided him with prosthetic arms. Now he is able to help in small domestic chores.

When $50 is too much:

Then there is 31-year-old Yee Lee. He was digging around in his garden in August when suddenly his hoe came down hard on a bombie. He lost both legs and two fingers.

I met Lee at Xieng Khouang provincial hospital where he was having a moulding done for prosthetic legs. He was unsure and worried about what the future held. “I have five very young children, and my wife is six months pregnant,” he said. For now, his elderly parents and younger brother help his family. “I hope, with the prosthetic leg, to get back to work either in the field or around the house.”

Unfortunately, most survivors are unable to continue physical work, even if, like Lee, they receive free treatment and prosthetic limbs from agencies such as COPE and World Education . A prosthetic leg that can last up to two years costs as little as $50, yet in a country consistently ranked one of the region’s poorest and where almost 30 percent of the population live on less than $1 a day, this is more than most families can afford. Worse, loss of a breadwinner means loss of income and increased poverty.

Cluster bombs are dropped by planes or fired by mortars. They open mid-air releasing multiple explosive sub-munitions that scatter over a large area. These bomblets are usually the size of tennis balls.

Aid agencies say the indiscriminate nature of these weapons and the fact many bomblets fail to go off mean they have a devastating humanitarian impact.

On December 3 this year, over 100 nations will sign an international treaty to ban the use of cluster bombs.

Legacy of Vietnam War:

In Laos, it’s thought that around 30 percent of bombies failed to explode on impact, leaving about 80 million live munitions lying on or under the soil which has posed a serious threat to people’s lives and livelihood.

So far, fewer than 400,000 bombies have been cleared, a meagre 0.47 per cent. The United Nations estimates almost half of all cluster munition victims are from Laos.

Even with community awareness programmes run by national authority UXO Laos, with support from numerous aid agencies, the injuries and deaths continue. Sometimes people touch the bombies out of ignorance, other times it’s out of curiosity (children) or for economic reasons (adults).

With scrap metal going at $1 to $3 a kilogramme, some people collect war remnants to sell, and this includes unexploded ordnance.

In a private foundry on the outskirts of Phonsavanh, the capital of Xieng Khouang, the humanitarian organisation Mines Advisory Group (MAG) sorted through five years’ worth of scrap metal, and discovered over 24,000 live items, including 500 cluster munitions.

Xieng Khouang, in northern Laos, is one of the most affected areas – more than 500,000 tons of bombs were dropped here.

The mountainous and beautiful terrain is marred by craters of all sizes – locals liken it to the surface of the moon – and littered with metal shrapnel.

Children are at constant risk. In a small village school 20 minutes from the provincial capital, 248 bombies were found in a 4,200 sq metre area.

The province is also famous for the Plain of Jars – a vast plateau of ancient stone jars whose origins remain a mystery. But the amount of war debris scattered between the giant jars has seriously hampered archaeologists’ efforts to find out more about them.

David Hayter, country director of MAG, says the sad truth is that Laos will never be 100 percent rid of cluster bombs. “The priority is in clearing the land where people are living and working,” he said. “We are teaching them to learn to live safely within the environment. It’s a mixture of education and clearance.”

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Cluster Bomb

Thursday, 29 May 2008

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More than 100 nations have reached an agreement on a treaty which would ban current designs of cluster bombs. Diplomats meeting in Dublin agreed to back an international ban on the use of the controversial weapons following 10 days of talks. But some of the world’s main producers and stockpilers – including the US, Russia and China – oppose the move. Prime Minister Gordon Brown called it a “big step forward to make the world a safer place”.

He announced earlier that Britain would be taking cluster bombs out of service. The final draft of the treaty went before delegates from a total of 109 countries on Wednesday afternoon.

How a Cluster Bomb Works (Source: Handicap International)

Cluster bombs are complex weapons. The following sequence explains its functioning and why bomblets cover a large area.

cluster1.pngStep 1: The cluster bomb CBU-87 is dropped from a plane. It weighs about 430 kg and carries about 200 bomblets. This bomb can be dropped from a wide range of aircrafts from many different countries. The bomb can fly about 9 miles by itself before the bomblets are released.


cluster2.pngStep 2: A short time before the bomblets are released the cluster bombs begin to spin. The canister opens at an altitude between 100m and 1000m. The height, velocity and rotation speed determine what area will be covered by the bomblets.


cluster3.pngStep 3: Each bomblet is the size of a soft drink can. They deploy a little parachute that stabilizes them and makes sure that they descend with their nose down. Each of the bomblets holds hundreds of metal pieces, which can pierce armour.


cluster4.pngStep 4: Depending on the altitude from which the bomblets were released and on the wind conditions, the bomblets can cover an area of up to 200m by 400 m. When the bomblets explode, they cause injury and damage across a wide area. The blast of one bomblet can cause deadly shrapnel injuries of in a radius of up to 25 metres.


cluster5.pngThis map shows the area of Trafalgar Square, London. It illustrates the radius of the bomblets. One cluster bomb could spread bomblets covering the red area. The green area shows the radius in which the bomblets could cause fatal injuries.

‘Bomblets’

Cluster bombs have been used in countries including Cambodia, Kosovo, Afghanistan and Lebanon.They are made up of a big container which opens in mid-air, dropping hundreds of smaller individual sub-munitions, or “bomblets”, across a wide area.

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All politicians around the world should be “Urged” to sign and ratify this Treaty.

Don’t hesitate to give your “Government” a call or e-mail them.

Some times a bit of encouragement is needed.

War “Pollution” Equals Millions of Deaths

Landmine Treaty Ignored, 5,400 killed or injured in 2007

US and Zimbabwe were the only countries to vote against the Arms Treaty


Control Arms campaign demands urgent move to end the carnage

On Friday 31st October, 147 states voted overwhelmingly at the United Nations to move forward with work on an Arms Trade Treaty. This is an increase on the 139 states which voted to start the UN process in October 2006, showing increasing global support for the treaty. Support was particularly strong in Africa, South and Central America and Europe indicating high demand for global arms controls, both from countries severely affected by armed violence and from major arms exporters. Only the US and Zimbabwe voted against, ignoring growing global consensus on an ATT.

The Control Arms campaign, which represents millions of people around the world welcomes the vote but continues to call for more urgency from states to advance the process quickly and ensure a strong Treaty with human rights and development at its heart.

Every day, over 1000 people are killed directly with firearms and many thousands more die indirectly as a consequence of armed violence, or are driven from their homes, forced off their land, raped, tortured or maimed. Since the UN process started in December 2006, approximately 695,000 people have been killed directly with firearms, illustrating the urgent need for an Arms Trade Treaty. Any further delay means more lost lives.

Brian Wood from Amnesty International said:

This big vote today moves the world closer to an Arms Trade Treaty with respect for human rights at its heart, the only way such a treaty can really stop the carnage. Today’s decision is that the principles of the UN Charter and other state obligations must be considered central to the Treaty. It is shameful that the US and Zimbabwe governments have taken an unprincipled stand today against a Treaty that would save so many lives and livelihoods.

Anna Macdonald from Oxfam International, said:

Most governments now support an Arms Trade Treaty and they must now move forward with urgency. Today’s vote is one step closer to turning off the running tap of irresponsible arms transfers which have flooded the world’s conflict zones for decades, fueling death, injury and poverty, such as is happening now in DRC. However we need leaps forward not steps, as every day lost means hundreds more lives lost.

Mark Marge from the International Action Network on Small Arms said:

This vote is a victory for the millions of campaigners in countries around the world. But we cannot afford to rest. All those against the misuse of arms will continue to pressure their governments to move quickly to implement a strong, legally binding treaty.

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