Cluster bombs are literally hell from above. Anyone who has seen the effects of cluster carpet bombing on innocent civilians - in Afghanistan, Iraq, Lebanon, and in the 60s and 70s in Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam - cannot help but be horrified.
A cluster bomb is a canister that opens in mid-air and ejects hundreds of "bomb-lets" across an area of more or less two football fields. These bomb-lets are little metal balls - as powerful as a hand grenade
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When these bomb-lets explode, there's a rain of jagged shrapnel. When they explode on the ground with a time delay they kill or maim anyone within a radius of 10 to 15 meters.
But as many as 1 in 4 of these bomb-lets never explode. The place where they fall becomes a minefield. And the victims, afterwards, stepping over them, are in most cases, children. Diplomats from 111 nations, meeting in Dublin, have just agreed on a landmark treaty banning cluster bombs.
Ban Ki-moon, the UN secretary-general, urged everyone to sign the treaty, I quote, "without delay." It goes into effect by mid-2009. Who did not agree; and who won't sign? The biggest producers – and users – of cluster bombs: Israel, Russia, China, India, Pakistan and the number one producer and user, the United States. The US did not even attend the meeting in Dublin.
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