From the Washington Post:
LONDON, May 28 -- More than 100 countries reached agreement Wednesday to ban cluster bombs, controversial weapons that human rights groups deplore but that the United States, which did not join the ban, calls an integral, legitimate part of its arsenal.
British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, whose personal intervention Wednesday led to final agreement among representatives of 111 countries gathered in Dublin, called the ban a "big step forward to make the world a safer place."
So what's the big deal, you say? "'Cluster' bombs can't be too bad -- we're not talking about anything nuclear, are we?" Well, yeah, actually they're unbelievably nasty:
The weapons consist of canisters packed with small bombs, or "bomblets," that spread over a large area when a canister is dropped from a plane or fired from the ground. While the bomblets are designed to explode on impact, they frequently do not. Civilians, particularly children, are often maimed or killed when they pick up unexploded bombs, sometimes years later.And so you might add, well fine. Let these 111 countries do what they want. But oh no -- the Bush Administration can't leave it at that:
American officials are not attending the treaty talks but have lobbied hard in world capitals to undermine the treaty. Diplomats in Dublin say US Secretary of State Condeleezza Rice and even President George W. Bush have been telephoning their counterparts around the world to promote US positions.photo from No More Landmines
“In the end, the Americans had very little support in Dublin,” said Steve Goose, arms director at Human Rights Watch. “It’s a big defeat for the Bush administration. This conference is going to produce a strong treaty banning cluster munitions, and there’s nothing the White House can do to stop it.”