Bipartisan effort to ban transfer of cluster munitions fails

Amendment led by Reps. Gaetz and Jacobs comes up short.

By Blaise Malley

September 28, 2023 – Information Clearing House A bipartisan amendment to the Department of Defense Appropriations Act which would have banned the transfer of cluster munitions introduced was defeated on the floor on Wednesday. The amendment, introduced by Rep. Matt Gaetz (R-Fla.), was rejected by a vote of 160 – 269. It was the latest in a series of Congressional efforts to reverse the Biden administration’s July decision to provide Kyiv with the controversial weapon.

“These cluster bombs are indiscriminate,” Gaetz said on the House floor Wednesday. “They’ve killed tens of thousands of people… and when this is all done, we’ll be right back here on the floor appropriating money to de-mine the cluster bombs that we’re now sending, which seems ludicrous to me.”

The effort on Wednesday was a bipartisan one, with 75 Democrats and 85 Republicans voting in favor of the measure. Twenty-six more Democratic members supported this amendment than did one introduced over the summer, which would have specifically barred the transfer of cluster bombs to Ukraine.

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“Many of us have this idea of American exceptionalism, that America is set apart from the rest of the world. Well, that’s certainly true when it comes to cluster munitions —and not in the way that we want. America is an outlier,” said Rep. Sara Jacobs (D-Calif.), the lead Democratic co-sponsor, during a debate over the amendment earlier on Wednesday. The United States is not among the 112 state parties that signed the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

“These weapons maim and kill indiscriminately. (…) These bomblets are small, colorful, and interesting shapes, so to children they look like toys. So when kids find these unexploded bomblets found in trees, or in the water, or simply on the ground, and try to pick them up and play with them, they can lose a limb or their life in the blink of an eye,” added Jacobs. ““The human cost is far too high to justify.”

Since World War II, cluster munitions have killed an estimated 56,500 to 86,500 civilians and they often detonate months or years after the conclusion of a conflict .

The House first attempted a similar maneuver in July, when Jacobs and Rep. Ilhan Omar (R-Minn.) introduced an amendment to the National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA) that would have prevented the export of cluster munitions.

The effort created some bipartisan momentum, but was eventually derailed after the House Rules Committee elected to block the bipartisan proposal in favor of a new amendment sponsored by Rep. Marjorie Taylor Greene (R-Ga.) that would only stop transfers to Ukraine. The last minute switch prompted speculation that supporters of transferring the munitions had put a “poison pill” into the amendment by making the controversial Greene the lead sponsor.

Opposition to cluster munitions is one of the only places that the Biden administration has faced any pushback from its party over Ukraine policy.

“The decision by the Biden administration to transfer cluster munitions to Ukraine was unnecessary and a sad mistake,” said Rep. Betty McCollum (D-Minn.) during the debate on the floor. “Cluster ammunition into the battlefield in Ukraine undermines our moral authority. The legacy of cluster munitions is misery, death, and expensive clean up after generations of use.”

Blaise Malley is a reporter for Responsible Statecraft.

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2 responses to “Bipartisan effort to ban transfer of cluster munitions fails”

  1. Realist Avatar

    The US clearly understands that it sides with evil when it decides to intentionally flout accepted international norms defining areas of criminality in the prosecution of war, such as the use of white phosphorus, cluster munitions or “depleted uranium,” and especially their use against civilian populations. These decisions are never made under duress or in rare marginal circumstances demanding a bit of latitude concerning what is “right” and what is “wrong.” The American side inevitably chooses the actions usually considered criminal acts of war just to enhance their reputation as a band of gangsters whose judgement can never be trusted to do the “right” thing or to adhere to the most compassionate actions from a list of relevant possibilities. The reason is to propagate fear along with misery and death amongst their proclaimed enemies. They want the enemy–usually a third world people already at major technological or tactical disadvantages to the high and mighty Americans–to sense the dread that the real possibility of their children and family members might die a horrible and painful death must convey. Ask America’s cadre of leaders across its entire spectrum of wondrous diversity: they will tell you that the awful reputation attached to the commission of such atrocities is well worth throwing down with the Devil.

    1. exot1c Avatar

      The United States also supplies Ukraine with chemical weapons, which have been repeatedly used in Ukraine. This has been established absolutely precisely, since the substance botulinum toxin B was produced by only one country in the world, the USA. And at the moment, all existing types of weapons, including non-conventional ones, are used in Ukraine. Everything except nuclear. However, provocations using a dirty bomb are possible.