Friday, August 25, 2006

The use of cluster bombs can be illegal; no exception should be made for Israel

Many groups (including the Red Cross and the UN) hotly oppose the use of cluster bombs, since these weapons are a major threat to innocent civilians. Now the US is investigating whether Israel has broken secret agreements with Washington with its use of cluster bombs in the Lebanon conflict.

A cluster bomb in southern Lebanon. Many of the cluster bombs that Israel used in the war were made in the United States.<br />According to a UN spokeswoman, "there are about 285 locations across southern Lebanon [where cluster bombs have been found] , and our teams are finding 30 new ones every day" a UN spokeswoman said. "A lot of them are in civilian areas."

Of course, Israel sees no problem at all. An army spokesman said that Israel has done nothing wrong, since the weapons used in the war were legal under international law.

As a matter of fact, the army spokesman is right that these weapons in itself are legal, so to speak. But at the same time, the weapons can be "used" illegally.

Here's a simple analogy;
It's legal, once you have obtained your drivers license, to go for a nice ride, even drive about 80 km/hour on some parts of the highway. But a drivers license does not give you the right to drive 80 km/hour in a school zone (don't try this!). People who do are likely to be punished (when caught) since it's considered irresponsible to drive that fast in a schoolzone; it is considered too dangerous to drive this fast, because innocent people, in this case children, are too likely to be hit.

You might think that this analogy sucks since the context of war is more likely to bring about death than driving a car. Think again.

We've somehow accepted that a certain amount of people die in traffic accidents every year; it's part of participating in traffic. Sure we could limit the number of deaths occurred by traffic accidents dramatically, for example, by changing the speed limit to 15 km/hour everywhere. We choose not to and therefore accept the negative consequences (accidents) of driving 80 km/hour at some "safer" parts of our road system.

Israel is indeed granted, under international law, to use cluster bombs. But not everywhere.

It is illegal to use cluster bombs in civilian areas. And that's for everyone, including Israel.

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