The campaign to ban these terrible weapons is making progress. This week, as half the world's nations gathered in Norway to sign a treaty banning cluster bombs, here in the United States the Obama transition team announced that the new president will "carefully review the new treaty" when he takes office.
We at FCNL find the Obama team's statement a welcome departure from the position of the Bush administration. The Bush administration refused to send a representative to the treaty negotiations and actively lobbied other countries not to support the treaty. This week Bush's spokesperson couldn't even answer a question from veteran journalist Helen Thomas about why the White House opposes the pact.
Now that President-Elect Barack Obama has said he will review the treaty, FCNL and the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Cluster Bombs will build support for the U.S. signing the cluster bomb treaty by mobilizing people around the country, lobbying here in Washington, and meeting with key members of the new administration. FCNL's Lora Lumpe went to the treaty signing in Oslo and has been coordinating the campaign. She led a tour to Chicago, Indiana, Michigan, and Ohio to generate messages and press coverage and has briefed both the Bush administration and the Obama transition team on these issues.
Lora does all this work with the help of our grassroots. Your work this year helped persuade 23 senators to sign legislation that would prevent the United States from using cluster bombs in civilian populated areas. Now you can help expand the movement to stop the use of these weapons.
Cluster bombs have gotten a lot of press coverage this week, so let's keep the discussion going. Write a letter to the editor of a newspaper in your community. Thank the paper for any stories it has published about the treaty signing this week. Express your support for a U.S. ban on cluster bombs and your hope that your members of Congress will also support a ban.
About Cluster Bombs
Cluster munitions are dropped from aircraft or fired from artillery. They spray smaller "bomblets" over an expanse the size of two football fields. Many of these smaller explosives do not go off on impact but remain in fields and parks as landmines, waiting to be stepped on or picked up by unsuspecting civilians. Many of the unexploded munitions look like harmless objects, such as toys or cans of food.
The United States is the world's largest producer, exporter, and stockpiler of these weapons. The Bush administration and the Pentagon assert that they need them to fight wars - despite the fact that cluster bombs are ineffective, indiscriminate, and dangerous for decades after they are dropped. Cluster bombs dropped in Vietnam and Laos in the 1970s are still killing and maiming people today.
See press reports about the cluster bomb treaty signing.
At a press conference yesterday, veteran reporter Helen Thomas asked White House Press Secretary Dana Perino why the United States was not signing the treaty. Perino said she had "forgotten all the reasons why." See a transcript of the exchange.