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Cluster fuck

By Michael J. Smith on Tuesday February 27, 2007 01:10 PM

A sourly humorous bout of shadow-boxing in the Senate over cluster bombs. The four horsemen of humanitarian militarism, Leahy, Sanders, Feinstein and Mikulski, have introduced a bill that would "limit" the use and sale of cluster bombs -- or well, sort of halfway pretend to limit them:
2. No funds appropriated or otherwise available to any Federal department or agency may be obligated or expended to use, sell, or transfer any cluster munitions unless--

(1) the submunitions of the cluster munitions have a 99 percent or higher functioning rate;

(2) the policy applicable to the use, or the agreement applicable to the sale or transfer, of such cluster munitions specifies that the cluster munitions will only be used against clearly defined military targets...

3. The President may waive the requirement under section 2(1) if, prior to the use, sale, or transfer of cluster munitions, the President--

(1) certifies that it is vital to protect the security of the United States; and

(2) not later than 30 days after making such certification, submits to the appropriate congressional committees a report....

Blah blah, you can fill in the rest. In effect, the great humanitarians mandate the use of nice new well-functioning cluster bombs, not those crummy old ones, unless the President should want to use the crummy old ones.

This toothless bill adds some tech detail to last year's Feinstein/Leahy amendment, which simply specified that cluster bombs were not to be used against civilians. (Neither bill, of course, contains any provision for enforcing this ban.) Last year's amendment failed in the Senate, 70-30, with fifteen Democrats voting against it:

  • Bayh
  • Biden
  • Clinton
  • Dodd
  • Inouye
  • Landrieu
  • Lautenberg
  • Lieberman
  • Lincoln
  • Nelson (FL)
  • Nelson (NE)
  • Pryor
  • Rockefeller
  • Salazar
  • Schumer
And why did they vote against it? The Hill has the answer:
“Perhaps unfortunately, the issue of cluster munitions came about so prominently by Israel’s use or misuse of cluster munitions in its conflict with Hezbollah,” Colby Goodman, a program manager at Amnesty International, said. “It was seen by some as a focus on criticizing Israel...."
So we can't say it's a no-no to use cluster bombs on civilians, because that might reflect badly on Israel. Pretty breathtaking, huh?

Obama, in an uncharacteristic display of relative ballsiness, actually voted for the amendment last year. Perhaps on account of that, The Hill says

... Obama has a tougher row to hoe with Jewish voters. A survey last week by the Jerusalem newspaper Ha’aretz ranked him 17th out of 17 presidential candidates on a scale of friendliness to Israel.
Or maybe it's just that he's a schvartzer. The New York Sun adds:
[Ha-Aretz's] chief Washington correspondent, Shmuel Rosner, said... "His supporters will come mainly from the left wing of the Democratic Party and from the African-American community — from constituencies which are traditionally not that supportive of Israel."
Poor Barack. All that bluster about Iran and he still can't get the time of day from the Israelis.

Clinton and Schumer and the rest of last year's cluster-bomb fan club may get a little wiggle room on this year's amendment. The Hill reports that

AIPAC is not taking a position on the cluster-bomb curbs this year, according to a spokesman for the group. Zionist Organization of America President Morton Klein offered conditional approval of the Feinstein-Leahy bill: “I have no problem ensuring that our allies receive more effective and efficient cluster bombs … unless it would impact on our allies receiving cluster bombs they need at critical times."
That Klein. A heart as big as the West Bank.

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