Sowing Death in Ukraine
The decision by the Biden administration to supply large quantities of artillery cluster munitions to Ukraine will create a long-term danger to civilians caused by unexploded ordnance lingering in former war zones. In 2008, recognition of the harmful effects of such weapons led to an international treaty banning their production and use. The Convention on Cluster Munitions has since been ratified by 111 nations. Unfortunately, the U.S. is not a party to this treaty.
The U.S. used vast quantities of cluster munitions in Southeast Asia during the Vietnam War. The Red Cross has reported that Laos is contaminated by about 80 million cluster submunitions, affecting all 17 provinces and resulting in 300 yearly casualties. The U.S. also used cluster munitions in the 1991 Gulf War, dropping 61,000 cluster bombs. Usage of this type of weapon has diminished in more recent years, but the U.S. retains a vast arsenal of over a million cluster artillery shells, which it now intends to provide to Ukraine.
The small percentage of cluster munition bomblets that fail to detonate immediately remain dangerous unexploded ordnance (UXO). They may explode randomly, or when a farmer works in a field, or when a child handles one, mistaking it for a toy. The arithmetic of calculating this danger is simple: multiply the dud rate (usually around 2%) times the number of bomblets in a shell (typically about 50) times the number of shells fired (Ukraine currently fires thousands a day). This calculation yields the ugly result that the U.S. will cause the sowing of civilian death in the fields and towns of Ukraine.
The danger of cluster munitions UXO compounds the hazard of widespread mining of the battlefields of Ukraine. In addition to conventional mine-laying methods, both sides in the Ukraine war now employ remote mining weaponry that scatters mines via rocket and conventional artillery. The locations of these new minefields are unlikely to be documented accurately and will pose a long-term postwar danger to civilians.
Callous disregard for the consequences of sending cluster munitions to Ukraine is consistent with the cynical U.S. use of Ukraine as a proxy for harming Russia. Heedless of the escalation risk, the U.S. will continue sending weapons to Ukraine as long as the Zelensky regime is willing to sacrifice Ukraine’s people to serve U.S. geopolitical goals. The civilians who die because of the legacy of death bequeathed by unexploded U.S. weapons in Ukraine is considered acceptable collateral damage by the Washington neocons who remain firmly in control of U.S. foreign policy.
The Peace Action Committee of the U.S. Green Party calls for an end to the arming of Ukraine and immediate U.S. negotiations for a cease-fire and permanent settlement of this conflict. The U.S. can and must stop this war that is destroying Ukraine and seeding its land with future death and destruction.