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Reps. Jacobs, Keating, McGovern, and Sen. Leahy Announce Letter to President Biden Calling on the Administration to Review U.S. Policy Towards Cluster Munitions and Prohibit Their Use by the U.S. Military

Today Representative Sara Jacobs (D-CA) joined Chairman Bill Keating (D-MA) of the House Foreign Affairs Subcommittee on Europe, Energy, the Environment, and Cyber; Chair Jim McGovern (D-MA) of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission; and Senator Patrick Leahy (D-VT), Chair of the Senate Appropriations Committee, in sending a letter to President Biden urging him to review the Administration’s cluster munitions policy. Subsequent to this requested review, the authors are urging the Biden administration to take all the necessary steps to revise the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2017 Policy on Cluster Munitions and ultimately ban the development, sale, and use of these weapons while expediting the destruction of our stockpile of cluster munitions.

 

Co-signers of the letter include: Representatives Blumenauer, Grijalva, Khanna, Lee, Malinowski, Murphy, and Norton.

Representative Sara Jacobs said, “The United States’ cluster munition policy stands in direct conflict with our values and our reputation as human rights defenders around the world,” said Congresswoman Sara Jacobs. “Cluster munitions keep killing long after their initial use, injuring and killing generations of civilians and preventing successful rebuilding and economic recovery in the countries where they’re used. We’ve seen Russia’s horrific use of cluster munitions in Ukraine – and we cannot faithfully criticize their actions while continuing to stockpile these deadly weapons ourselves. It’s long overdue to apply our values consistently to our national security policies and end the use, production, export, and stockpiling of cluster munitions.”

Representative Keating said, “In April of this year, my colleagues and I sent a letter to President Biden following Russia’s renewed invasion of Ukraine and Putin’s use of cluster munitions. The use of cluster munitions in Ukraine by the Russian government has renewed the discussion related to US policy toward cluster munitions. Recognizing the harm that these munitions have caused in Ukraine against civilians, I believe the time has finally come for the United States to ban their use and destroy and remaining stockpiles we have.”

 

Senator Leahy said, “Cluster munitions are notorious for the indiscriminate carnage they inflict on civilians, and for that reason the Biden Administration rightly condemned Russia for using them in Ukraine. The convention banning cluster munition has been signed by 123 countries, but not the United States.  The White House should recognize that these weapons do not belong in the arsenals of civilized nations, and put the U.S. on a path to join the convention.” 

 

“Every year, countless innocent civilians around the world are injured and killed by cluster munitions. These weapons cause horrific suffering and death, and the bottom line is that they have no place in the world today. America cannot fairly criticize Russia for using cluster munitions in Ukraine while continuing to stockpile these weapons for future use,” said Congressman McGovern. “As Co-Chair of the Tom Lantos Human Rights Commission, I strongly believe that America must be a leader on this issue, stand up for human rights and the protection of civilians, and prohibit the use of these barbaric and indiscriminate weapons by our military.”

Background: The United States last used cluster munitions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, with the exception of a single attack in Yemen in December 2009.  The U.S. has not exported cluster munitions of any kind since 2015, and they are no longer produced by any American company. The United States is also by far the world’s leading supporter of efforts to clear unexploded cluster munitions from battlefields and to aid the victims. 

 

 

The Honorable Joseph R. Biden

President

The White House

Washington, DC 20500

 

Dear Mr. President,

 

Since Russia’s illegal invasion of Ukraine, the world has witnessed, again, the devastating consequences of cluster munitions.  Preliminary data collected by the Cluster Munition Monitor 2022 has documented at least 689 reported casualties due to cluster munition attacks in Ukraine in the first half of 2022 alone. 

 

In a special United Nations meeting on March 2, 2022, UN Ambassador Linda Thomas-Greenfield criticized Russia’s invasion of Ukraine in part for using cluster munitions, which she said have “no place on the battlefield.”  Shortly thereafter, her speech was revised, removing that phrase, because the United States itself has yet to renounce these weapons.  It is time for the United States to become a leader in banning cluster munitions which have a long history of causing disproportionate and indiscriminate harm to civilians.

 

While we welcome your administration’s recent review of, and improvements to, U.S. policy on anti-personnel landmines, and support for policies related to the protection of civilians in conflict more broadly, we have seen no indication of a similar review regarding cluster munitions.  As a first step, we urge you to review your administration’s cluster munitions policy and revise the Department of Defense’s (DoD) 2017 Policy on Cluster Munitions, with the goal of banning these weapons.  Additionally, we urge you to expedite the destruction of stockpiled cluster munitions, whose destruction was initiated by President George W. Bush.

Recognizing the harm these munitions cause, the United States is by far the world’s leading supporter of efforts to clear unexploded cluster munitions from battlefields and to aid the victims.  In Laos, these efforts are addressing DoD’s past use of the weapons, which continue to kill and maim civilians and make land inaccessible, 50 years later.

 

The United States last used cluster munitions during Operation Iraqi Freedom in 2003, except for a single attack in Yemen in December 2009.  We have not exported cluster munitions of any kind since 2015 and they are no longer produced by any American company.

 

Ambassador Thomas-Greenfield was right.  If the United States used cluster munitions today we would be criticized as we have condemned the Russians for using them in Ukraine. We should be leading the global effort to rid the world of these weapons, not continuing to stockpile them. The Convention on Cluster Munitions, which bans the weapons entirely, is supported by a majority of our NATO allies and 110 countries worldwide.  We urge you to promptly order a review of U.S. policy on cluster munitions with the goal of halting their use, production, export, and stockpiling and putting the United States on a path to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions by a date certain. 

 

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