President Joe Biden’s administration has taken a cruel weapon—the cluster bomb—off the shelf and sent it to Ukraine to be used in the war against Russia. Prior to being transferred to Ukraine, cluster bombs made in the United States were used by Saudi Arabia as recently as last year to devastating effect in its war in Yemen. The weapons pose such an extraordinary danger to civilians that—although the U.S. is among a minority of countries that refuses to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions banning them, and retains such weapons in its arsenal—they have largely been gathering dust because their use and sale are so controversial on the world stage. The White House’s decision to transfer the bombs to Ukraine both escalates the already horrific war and legitimizes a weapon that has no place in our world.
Cluster bombs are large bombs that contain dozens or even hundreds of smaller bombs, or “bomblets.” Cluster bombs are designed to scatter the bomblets over a wide area upon detonation. At a time when the United States and its allies often claim—inaccurately—to carry out precision killing with “surgical strikes,” cluster bombs are imprecise by nature.