Democrats Fail in Bid To Curb Cluster Bombs

By Forward Staff

Published September 15, 2006, issue of September 15, 2006.
  • Print
  • Share Share

Senate Democrats backed overwhelmingly legislation that was seen as reflecting Washington’s growing discontent with Israel’s use of American-made cluster bombs in heavily populated areas of Lebanon.

The Cluster Munitions Amendment, co-sponsored by Democrats Dianne Feinstein of California and Patrick Leahy of Vermont, was defeated September 6 in a 70-30 vote. All 55 Republican senators opposed the measure, which would require recipients of American-made cluster bombs not to use them in or near civilian centers. Democrats, on the other hand, backed the measure by a 29-15 margin. Senator Jim Jeffords, a Republican-turned-independent who now caucuses with the Democrats, also voted in favor of the measure, a proposed amendment to the 2007 defense appropriations bill that would have prevented Department of Defense funds from being spent to transfer cluster bombs to foreign countries unless the Pentagon ensures that such bombs do not jeopardize civilians.

In a September 12 article, Ha’aretz quoted the unnamed head of an Israeli rocket unit as saying: “What we did was insane and monstrous, we covered entire towns in cluster bombs.” The rocket unit commander also stated that Multiple Launch Rocket System platforms were used despite the fact that they were known to be highly inaccurate.

Quoting his battalion commander, the rocket unit head stated that Israeli forces fired about 1,800 cluster bombs, containing more than 1.2 million bomblets. In addition, Ha’aretz reported, soldiers in Israeli artillery units have testified that the army used phosphorous shells during the war, widely forbidden by international law.

In response, the Israeli military spokesman’s office reportedly said that “international law does not include a sweeping prohibition of the use of cluster bombs. The convention on conventional weaponry does not declare a prohibition on [phosphorous weapons], rather, on principles regulating the use.” The military spokesman’s office asserted that the Israeli military “makes use only of methods and weaponry which are permissible under international law.”

Congressional sources, as well as several senior officials of national Jewish organizations, said that many officials in Washington — both in the administration and on Capitol Hill — are unhappy about the way in which Israel used cluster bombs in Lebanon. Some believe that Israel may have violated an American-Israeli agreement, the details of which never have been published, regarding the terms of the use of the munitions, sources said. Some government officials are concerned about the impact on America’s image abroad of the continued explosions of small American-made bombs in civilian neighborhoods in an Arab country that the Bush administration considers friendly to America.

According to data collected by the United Nations’ Mine Action Coordination Centre of South Lebanon and by human rights organizations, Israel used many thousands of cluster rounds in its shelling of southern Lebanon in July and August, leaving behind tens — if not hundreds — of thousands of unexploded bomblets. So far, such duds caused at least 12 deaths, as well as injuries to 51 people, during the two-and-a-half weeks that passed between August 14 and September 2, according to the data.

Before the vote in Congress last week, Feinstein and Leahy, members of the Senate Defense Appropriations Subcommittee, identified Israel’s use of cluster bombs in Lebanon as an “example” or a “factor” in proposing the amendment. “The recent experience in Lebanon is only the latest example of the appalling human toll of injury and death,” Leahy said in a joint press release, issued September 5, with Feinstein.

Among the Democrats supporting the bill were Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid of Nevada; Senator John Kerry of Massachusetts, the Democratic presidential nominee in 2004 and a likely contender in 2008; Senator Russ Feingold of Wisconsin, another likely contender in 2008, and Senator Robert Menendez of New Jersey, who is currently facing a tough re-election fight in a state with a significant Jewish population.

The other Democrats who backed the Feinstein-Leahy measure were Daniel Akaka of Hawaii, Max Baucus of Montana, Jeff Bingaman of New Mexico, Barbara Boxer of California, Robert Byrd of West Virginia, Maria Cantwell of Washington, Tom Carper of Delaware, Kent Conrad of North Dakota, Mark Dayton of Minnesota, Byron Dorgan of North Dakota, Richard Durbin of Illinois, Tom Harkin of Iowa, Tim Johnson of South Dakota, Ted Kennedy of Massachusetts, Herb Kohl of Wisconsin, Carl Levin of Michigan, Barbara Mikulski of Maryland, Pat Murray of Washington, Barack Obama of Illinois, Jack Reed of Rhode Island, Paul Sarbanes of Maryland, Debbie Stabenow of Michigan and Ron Wyden of Oregon.






Find us on Facebook!
  • When YA romance becomes "Hasidsploitation":
  • "I am wrapping up the summer with a beach vacation with my non-Jewish in-laws. They’re good people and real leftists who try to live the values they preach. This was a quality I admired, until the latest war in Gaza. Now they are adamant that American Jews need to take more responsibility for the deaths in Gaza. They are educated people who understand the political complexity, but I don’t think they get the emotional complexity of being an American Jew who is capable of criticizing Israel but still feels a deep connection to it. How can I get this across to them?"
  • “'I made a new friend,' my son told his grandfather later that day. 'I don’t know her name, but she was very nice. We met on the bus.' Welcome to Israel."
  • A Jewish female sword swallower. It's as cool as it sounds (and looks)!
  • Why did David Menachem Gordon join the IDF? In his own words: "The Israel Defense Forces is an army that fights for her nation’s survival and the absence of its warriors equals destruction from numerous regional foes. America is not quite under the threat of total annihilation… Simply put, I felt I was needed more in Israel than in the United States."
  • Leonard Fein's most enduring legacy may be his rejection of dualism: the idea that Jews must choose between assertiveness and compassion, between tribalism and universalism. Steven M. Cohen remembers a great Jewish progressive:
  • BREAKING: Missing lone soldier David Menachem Gordon has been found dead in central Israel. The Ohio native was 21 years old.
  • “They think they can slap on an Amish hat and a long black robe, and they’ve created a Hasid." What do you think of Hollywood's portrayal of Hasidic Jews?
  • “I’ve been doing this since I was a teenager. I didn’t think I would have to do it when I was 90.” Hedy Epstein fled Nazi Germany in 1933 on a Kinderstransport.
  • "A few decades ago, it would have been easy to add Jews to that list of disempowered victims. I could throw in Leo Frank, the victim of mob justice; or otherwise privileged Jewish men denied entrance to elite universities. These days, however, we have to search a lot harder." Are you worried about what's going in on #Ferguson?
  • Will you accept the challenge?
  • In the six years since Dothan launched its relocation program, 8 families have made the jump — but will they stay? We went there to find out:
  • "Jewish Israelis and West Bank Palestinians are witnessing — and living — two very different wars." Naomi Zeveloff's first on-the-ground dispatch from Israel:
  • This deserves a whistle: Lauren Bacall's stylish wardrobe is getting its own museum exhibit at Fashion Institute of Technology.
  • How do you make people laugh when they're fighting on the front lines or ducking bombs?
  • from-cache

Would you like to receive updates about new stories?




















We will not share your e-mail address or other personal information.

Already subscribed? Manage your subscription.