The decision by the US to send cluster bombs to Ukraine exposes all of the pseudo-left defenders of American involvement in the war in Ukraine, including those in the Democratic Socialists of America who condemn “preemptive hostility to US imperialism,” as shameless apologists for the US military’s war crimes.
In fact, the US-led war against Russia in Ukraine is a war for American global hegemony, in which Ukrainians are mere cannon fodder. This is entirely in line with the series of criminal wars of aggression waged by the United States over the past half-century.
During the Vietnam War, the US dropped approximately 413,130 tons of cluster bombs in Cambodia, Laos and Vietnam. Many of these submunitions failed to explode on impact and continue to pose a significant threat to civilian populations, leading to countless injuries and deaths decades after the end of the war.
During the US-led invasion of Iraq in 2003, the United States regularly used cluster munitions to attack civilian areas, in what Amnesty International called “an indiscriminate attack and a grave violation of international humanitarian law.”
In Iraq, the devastation of cluster bombs was compounded by the use of depleted uranium munitions, which, according to one study, led the people of Fallujah to experience higher rates of cancer, leukemia, infant mortality and sexual mutations than those recorded among survivors in Hiroshima and Nagasaki in the years after those Japanese cities were incinerated by US atomic bombs in 1945.
During the 2001 invasion of Afghanistan, cluster bombs killed and injured hundreds of civilians and littered the countryside with deadly unexploded ordnance. The United States has been implicated in the use of cluster munitions via its support for Saudi-led forces in the Yemen conflict.
Over 110 countries have ratified the Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM), which prohibits the use, transfer and stockpiling of cluster munitions. The United States, which has killed more people with cluster munitions than any other country, is not a signatory.
A 2008 report by the United Nations explains the devastating impact cluster munitions have on the populations where they are used by the United States and its allies:
Over three decades after cluster munitions were used in Laos and Vietnam, they continue to cause death and injury, disrupt the economic activities of ordinary people, and hamper the implementation of development projects there. Even rapid large-scale clearance efforts, such as those that have been implemented in Kosovo and Lebanon, cannot prevent cluster munition contamination from having an impact. In Kosovo, civilian casualties from cluster munitions are still being reported, and in Lebanon, despite clearance beginning immediately after the 2006 conflict, it could not prevent casualties among the population as they returned to their homes and livelihoods.
The report continues:
Submunitions can prevent or hinder the safe return of refugees and internally displaced persons (IDPs) and hamper humanitarian, peace-building, and development efforts. Unexploded cluster munitions also pose a physical threat to humanitarian workers and peacekeepers.
The White House claims to have discussed and deliberated the move with the utmost care. The decision-makers would have been fully briefed on these known consequences of cluster munitions, and proceeded with them regardless.
Reporting on the decision by Biden to send the weapons, the New York Times wrote, “Mr. Biden has come under steady pressure from President Volodymyr Zelensky of Ukraine, who argues that the munitions—which disperse tiny, deadly bomblets—are the best way to kill Russians who are dug into trenches and blocking Ukraine’s counteroffensive to retake territory.”
The role of Zelensky in promoting a decision to send weapons that will maim Ukrainian children for generations sums up the role of his government, which serves as an instrument in enforcing the will of the NATO powers over the Ukrainian population.
This latest escalation by the United States must be seen as a warning. Washington will stop at nothing to prevent further military setbacks for its proxy force in Kiev and achieve its military goal of inflicting a strategic defeat on Russia. The same homicidal logic that justifies the deployment of depleted uranium rounds and cluster bombs will be used to justify even greater and more reckless crimes, from the direct entry of NATO into the war to the deployment and use of nuclear weapons.