The Islamic Post Blog

Afghanistan President Bans Cluster Bombs by Khalida
January 2, 2009, 7:50 am
Filed under: January Volume I- 2009, World | Tags: ,

By Safiya A. Khafidh

Islamic Post Staff Writer

“Killing of civilians under any name or reason is unforgivable,” said President Hamid Karzai of Afghanistan late last month. “Winning people’s support is the key to defeating terrorism in Afghanistan,” he said. President Karzai recently made a last minute decision to join nearly 100 countries in signing the historic international treaty banning cluster bombs in Norway. According to the Cluster Munitions Coalition (CMC), during the period of 2001-2002, 1,228 cluster bombs, containing 248,056 bomblets, were dropped on Afghanistan.
Mr. Karzai hearkened to the pleas of human rights organizations and cluster bomb victims, particularly 17 year old Soraj Ghulam Habib of Heart, Afghanistan, who had lost both legs at the age of ten due to a cluster remnant. The Afghan ambassador to Norway, Jawed Ludin, met with Habib at the 2-day Oslo conference. “I explained to the ambassador my situation and that the people of Afghanistan wanted a ban,” said Habib. Mr. Ludin said his country’s reversal was due to a provision in the treaty allowing signatory nations to engage militarily with non-signatory nations. Many nations refused to sign.
The treaty, entitled “The Convention on Cluster Munitions,” hailed by the CMC as the “most significant and humanitarian treaty of the decade,” prohibits the use, production, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions, as well as holding states accountable for assisting victims and clearing contaminated land.  “What we’ve adopted today is going to create profound change,” said Norway’s foreign minister Jonas Gahr Stoere. “If you use or stockpile cluster weapons today, you will be breaking a new international norm.” The treaty must be ratified by 30 countries.
For over 40 years cluster bombs have terrorized, killed, and injured countless civilians. Handicap International says 98% of the victims of cluster bombs are civilians, of which 27% are children. Initially developed by the US, Russia and Italy, the bombs were first used in World War II by the Germans and Soviets. They have found their rightful place in the company of some of the most horrific, horrendous mechanisms of murder and torture ever conceived by mankind.
There are many different kinds of cluster bombs, but all are composed of large canisters containing small bomblets. The cluster bomb unit 26 holds 670 tennis ball sized fragments, each of which contains 300 metal fragments. When they strike flesh, pressure waves flutter through the body causing damage to soft tissues and organs throughout. Eyewitnesses have related seeing people literally nailed to the ground after being attacked by the WDU-4, which contained over 6,000 barbed metal darts that are released in the air upon detonation. However, many cluster bombs fail to detonate upon landing and can lie dormant for years until disturbed. The bombs are designed in bright colors, attractive to children who may mistake the bomblets for toys. “You cannot describe their sickly consequences,” said one survivor. “They look like sweets scattered from the sky. You don’t realize what they are until they touch you. You know it when they make you bleed. They massacre people in minutes.”
In recent months President Karzai has publicly criticized the killing and maiming of Afghan civilians, with or without cluster bombs. The Afghan president recently told a visiting U.N. Security Council delegation that the international community should set a date to end the war in Afghanistan. “If there is no deadline, we have the right to find another solution for peace and security,” the Afghani president noted. It is uncertain what outcome any prospective negotiations with the Taliban would bring about. The group reportedly rejected the proposal outright in November, as did U.S. State Department spokesman, Sean McCormack.


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