Last year I went to a talk by an Australian photo-reporter at the Quaker House about Cluster Bombs. One of the images he showed that lingers in the mind was two Lebanese ambulance men pushing a bloody stretcher out of a hospital after the recent Israel campaign in Lebanon. They had delivered a victim of a cluster bomb explosion. One of the ambulance men was shirtless: having run out of bandages he had shoved his shirt into the wound. The man still died. Images like that tend to stick in my mind.

Cluster bombs are little canisters that hitting the ground shatter into little balls. If they don’t explode immediately that can stay in the environment for years, making mobility dangerous. Shaken a couple of times they explode. They are brightly coloured and children like to pick them up. They disfigure, cripple and kill. They have been used in battlefields around the world for at least twenty years, including the Balkan wars, Afghanistan and Lebanon.

At the end of the invasion of southern Lebanon Israel fired several million canisters into that country. 50% did not explode immediately and remain in the soil to be destroyed one by one, very carefully. This was reported to one of the countries of manufacture, Norway, I believe in this case. The government considered the consequences and told their military “We are banning these. Destroy your stocks.” They did so in a matter of weeks. When there is a will…

The New Zealand Cluster Munition Coalition has a petition to support an international ban on cluster bombs. New Zealand is one of the countries advocating this ban, as it did on landmines.

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