Providing cluster bombs to the Ukrainian military is crossing a line. NATO-sponsored forces are losing the moral high ground.
Ron Jacobs is the author of Daydream Sunset: Sixties Counterculture in the Seventies published by CounterPunch Books
Cross-posted from CounterPunch
Photograph Source: DoD photo, USAF – Public Domain
When certain lines are crossed, the nature of other things becomes clearer. Providing cluster bombs to the Ukrainian military is such a rubicon. The pretense that the NATO sponsored forces have some kind of moral high ground in their conflict with Moscow is fading quickly. Even retired Vermont senator Patrick Leahy together with current senator Jeff Merkley acknowledged as much in a recent opinion piece in the newspaper of the warfare state, the Washington Post.(7/8/2023). Neither of these men oppose the US involvement in the conflict, but providing a weapon banned by most governments in the world is too much for these humanitarian warmongers. Historically, the first cluster bomb in the United States was developed in the 1950s by Ralph M. Parsons Company. Its identity number was E86 and was originally developed to disperse chemical and biological agents among enemy populations during war. After chemical and biological warfare fell out of favor with those servants of Mars who plan wars, the concept was modified so that the bombs would explode in the air. The explosion releases hundreds of bomblets which fall to the ground, creating a sort of minefield. The primary type being sent to Ukraine is the Mk 20 Rockeye II, which is considered an anti-tank weapon but was used by the US military during the first US attack on Iraq on numerous types of targets. According to Globalsecurity.org, US Marines used the weapon extensively against armor, artillery, and personnel targets. The remainder were dropped by Air Force and Navy aircraft. (accessed 7/8/2023)
The alleged use of cluster bombs by Russian troops has been called a war crime by some politicians in the global north. In fact, then-White House press secretary Jen Psaki called Russia’s alleged use of cluster munitions a potential “war crime” in March 2022. I don’t disagree. These charges must now also be applied to Kyiv’s government and the government in Washington, DC. Any other NATO regime approving this move should also be put on notice. One of the primary reasons liberal human rights organizations and the United Nations support the ban on cluster bombs is because, like underground mines, the bomblets remain deadly for years after a war ends. No one removes the explosives from the former battlefields, which means they can (and do) kill civilians well after a military conflicts is over. The victims of these random explosions are often children. The International Committee of the Red Cross estimates that in Laos alone, 9 to 27 million unexploded bomblets remain, causing death or injury to at least 11,000 people, with over 30 percent of them children.
I wrote several months ago that the Ukraine-Russia-NATO conflict did not meet the criterion for what is called a just war. The primary reason I wrote this is because the hoped for ends of this war do not justify the means used to achieve those ends. This applies to all military participants in the conflict—government troops, mercenaries and so-called foreign volunteers. The addition of cluster bombs to the NATO/Kyiv arsenal puts an exclamation point on my statement. Of course, the Kyiv government dutifully told Washington it would not use cluster bombs in civilian areas. This type of reassurance is meaningless, but its repetition is a perfunctory requirement of every client of US weapons shipments, from Israel to Colombia; Saudi Arabia to Pakistan. As if the introduction of cluster bombs wasn’t bad enough, Zelenskyy was quoted in the Wall Street Journal earlier in the week as demanding long range missiles from Washington. His reasoning goes like this: “Without long-range weapons, it is difficult not only to fulfill an offensive mission, but also to conduct a defensive operation,” Zelenskyy said Friday after talks with Czech officials in Prague. “This means that you are defending your land and cannot reach the appropriate distance to destroy your enemy. That is, the enemy has a distance advantage.” In other words, the defense of the Ukrainian nation from Russian invaders now requires attacks deep into Russia. Beyond the obvious sophistry of Kyiv’s argument for the missiles, their delivery would make it even clearer that this war is about Washington’s rivalry with Moscow much more than it is about defending Ukraine’s borders no matter where one places them.
As I write this piece, I cannot help but wonder what those liberals, progressives and leftists who have supported Ukraine’s military since the Russian 2022 invasion are now thinking. As this war drags on I wonder if those who consider the Kyiv’s nationalist war to be one of national liberation and therefore deserve to get any kind of weapons are okay with this addition to Ukraine’s arsenal. I truly hope this latest escalation is causing them to reconsider their position. Before the next one is forced upon Europe and the world.
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