Qaddafi Using Cluster bombs on Civilian Areas

The NYT has confirmed that the pro-Qaddafi military in Misrata is using cluster bombs and other forms of indiscriminate anti-personnel weapon in the middle of a city full of non-combatants. Indiscriminate fire endangering civilian non-combatants is a war crime.

Human Rights Watch has also confirmed the crime, saying in a press release:

‘ Government forces loyal to the Libyan leader, Muammar Gaddafi, have fired cluster munitions into residential areas in the western city of Misrata, posing a grave risk to civilians, Human Rights Watch said today.

Human Rights Watch observed at least three cluster munitions explode over the el-Shawahda neighborhood in Misrata on the night of April 14, 2011. Researchers inspected the remnants of a cluster submunition and interviewed witnesses to two other apparent cluster munition strikes.

Based on the submunition inspected by Human Rights Watch, first discovered by a reporter from The New York Times, the cluster munition is a Spanish-produced MAT-120 120mm mortar projectile, which opens in mid-air and releases 21 submunitions over a wide area. Upon exploding on contact with an object, each submunition disintegrates into high-velocity fragments to attack people and releases a slug of molten metal to penetrate armored vehicles.

“It’s appalling that Libya is using this weapon, especially in a residential area,” said Steve Goose, arms division director at Human Rights Watch. “They pose a huge risk to civilians, both during attacks because of their indiscriminate nature and afterward because of the still-dangerous unexploded duds scattered about.”

A majority of the world’s nations have comprehensively banned the use of cluster munitions through the Convention on Cluster Munitions, which became binding international law in August 2010.

“Libya needs to halt the use of these weapons immediately, and take all steps to ensure that civilians are protected from the deadly remnants they have left behind,” Goose said.

The area where Human Rights Watch witnessed the use of cluster munitions is about 1 kilometer from the front line between rebels and government forces. The submunitions appear to have landed about 300 meters from Misrata hospital. Human Rights Watch could not inspect the impact sites due to security concerns.’

Qaddafi brigades were also firing other heavy weaponry into residential areas on Friday, as they made a major push into the Free Libya outpost in the west of the country.

Israel was heavily criticized for dropping cluster bombs on south Lebanon late in the summer war of 2006, which seemed intended to hurt non-combatant farmers in southern villages, since a cease-fire was scheduled three days later and the bombs were not targetting Hizbullah fighters or lines.

Posted in Libya | 25 Responses | Print |

25 Responses

  1. “Israel was heavily criticized for dropping cluster bombs on south Lebanon”

    Indeed they were, but a NATO intervention to overthrow the government of Israel wasn’t the response. I wonder why?

    • UN response, you mean.

      And among the more obvious answers are:

      Because the use of cluster munitions isn’t the justification for the Libya intervention.

      Because the humanitarian threat in Libya was, literally, a hundred times worse.

      Because the president in 2006 was George W. Bush, who hadn’t the slightest interest in either UN action or in humanitarian intervention.

  2. I remember reading a couple weeks ago that Qaddafi was being investigated for war crimes. Along with the bombing today, can anyone comment on the steps that are being taken on that issue? How would it work? Would he need to be removed from power first? If a cease-fire is declared and Qaddafi is still in power, does that affect any possible investigation? My knowledge about international war crime is very low.

  3. Is it possible any more to coherently claim that the war is benefiting the civilian population and saving lives?

    We have seen such dynamics in many wars before. In the Iran-Iraq war, Iran argued that because Saddam was an evil war criminal who had started the war, Iran should fight until he was overthrown. This resulted in countless deaths and unspeakable suffering for the two nations.

    In WWII, the US insisted that it would fight Japan until it was defeated. This, of course, required genocidal bombing of Japan. Negotiating for peace was not considered.

    Now, the U.S. and its allies declare that they’ll fight until Qaddafi steps down (which would lead to his execution). In other words, negotiating for peace is out of question. It doesn’t matter how many people die in this war: Qaddafi must step down. Is there any other proof required for the fact that saving lives was not the intent of the Western intervention?

    Behnam

    • “In WWII, the US insisted that it would fight Japan until it was defeated. This, of course, required genocidal bombing of Japan. Negotiating for peace was not considered.”

      The above-cited statement reveals a lack of understanding of the term “genocide” and historical amnesia regarding Japan’s war aims and the means by which they were pursued. The bombing of Japan, both conventional and atomic, was not genocide. The bombing was an attempt to weaken Japanese will and ability to continue pursuing its war policy of conquest and colonial savaging of its conquered territory. If any genocidal policy occurred, it was on the part of Japan, with its policy of singling out Chinese, both in China proper and in Southeast Asia, for retribution and death. There is much documentation demonstrating that not only did the Japanese War Cabinet pursue this policy, but Emperor Hirohito was well aware of it and agreed to it.

      Regarding negotiating with Japan rather than pursuing its defeat, I suggest you read a bit more history of the period, particularly the minutes of the Japanese War Cabinet in its deliberations. There is not a shred of evidence that they were willing to negotiate anything but Japan’s continued maintenance of the status quo in its conquered territories. When Prince Konoye went to Moscow in July 1945 to try to get the Soviet Union to intervene, he brought with him no terms at all–nothing–as a basis for negotiations. He apparently just wanted a cease-fire in place. And this, after the reign of misery and destruction Japan left in its wake.

      Regarding the atomic bombing of Hiroshima and Nagasaki, it is clear that it had the desired effect of ending the war. But only just! Even after the bomb was dropped on Hiroshima, the Japanese War Cabinet wanted to continue the war. It was only after the second bomb was dropped on Nagasaki that the emperor overrode his War Cabinet and decided to surrender. The magical thinking that Japan was just about ready to surrender, and that the atomic bombs were unnecessary, is just that–magical, wishful thinking. The hard facts suggest otherwise.

      In short, to blame the United States and its allies for the Japan’s wounds in defeat is ludicrous. Japan alone was responsible for the policies that led to its defeat, and its wounds were self-inflicted.

      • Mr. Barkell: When an individual identifies with a national state, any state, he/she will need to accept a number of myths to make themselves feel better about the crimes, even mass murders, committed by that state. You acknowledge zero American culpability in WWII. But not even in your worldview can one coherently consider the bombing of Nagasaki justified, as by then it was clear Japan was surrendering. Incidentally, history refutes your comforting myth that Japan would have never negotiated for peace: a nation that would eventually accept *surrender*, would would have accepted to negotiate for something less than surrender. The Japanese did *not* fight to the death. That is proof enough.

        • “But not even in your worldview can one coherently consider the bombing of Nagasaki justified, as by then it was clear Japan was surrendering. Incidentally, history refutes your comforting myth that Japan would have never negotiated for peace: a nation that would eventually accept surrender,would would have accepted to negotiate for something less than surrender.”

          Once again, Benham, you represent the triumph of blind hope over facts and experience. If you had studied the Japanese War Cabinet debate, you would know that even after Hiroshima they were not ready to surrender. It was only after Nagasaki that the Emperor made the decision, against the advice of his War Cabinet, to surrender.

          As for your contention that the Japanese would have accepted to negotiate for something less than surrender, of course they would have, as Prince Konoye’s mission to Moscow demonstrated. As I pointed out to you earlier, they tried to negotiate a Soviet intervention for a cease-fire without surrender, without any terms whatsoever. Konoye brought nothing to the table. In Japan’s case, the aggressor who initiated a terrible war of conquest and destruction in Asia and the Pacific was in no position to dictate a cease-fire without terms. And, frankly, the subsequent history of Japan as a model nation in the international community demonstrates the validity of the United States’ position at the time in demanding unconditional surrender.

      • Mr. Barkell: When a person identifies with a national state, they’ll need to accept a number of myths to make themselves feel better about the crimes, even mass murders, committed by that state. You acknowledge zero American culpability in WWII. Yet even on your premises one cannot coherently consider at least the bombing of Nagasaki as justified. Incidentally, history refutes your comforting myth that Japan would have never negotiated for peace: a nation that eventually accepted *surrender*, would have negotiated for something less than surrender. In fact, Japan did *not* fight to the death. That is proof enough that the idea that Japan intended to fight to the death is a myth.

        To bring back the discussion to Qaddafi, although it’s a fair guess that he might not accept surrender unless he is nearly defeated, there’s no reason to think he will not accept terms short of surrender right now. There is no reason to think he would not negotiate for peace, power sharing, expansion of civil rights, or at least granting rebels immunity if they laid down their weapons. None of this interests the US and its allies. They have a *geo-political* goal rather than humanitarian one, namely ousting Qaddafi and steering into power a government in the oil & gas-rich nation that is more friendly to US demands. This war is all about the US remaining the empire that it is.

        • “None of this interests the US and its allies. They have a *geo-political* goal rather than humanitarian one, namely ousting Qaddafi and steering into power a government in the oil & gas-rich nation that is more friendly to US demands. This war is all about the US remaining the empire that it is.”

          Well, Benham, it appears that you have accepted a few myths yourself in order to sustain your view of the United States.

      • There is ample evidence that Japan was willing to surrender before the atomic bombs fell. Negotiations were under way with Russia and the bombing schedule was brought up so that the bombs could be tried before the war ended. All the people that died in Hiroshima and Nagasaki were sacrificed to an American experiment. There was No military target in either city.

        • “There is ample evidence that Japan was willing to surrender before the atomic bombs fell. Negotiations were under way with Russia and the bombing schedule was brought up so that the bombs could be tried before the war ended.”

          J Weisch: You refer to Prince Konoye’s mission to Moscow in July 1945, a subject that I covered above. It was no negotiation. As I said, and I will say it again here, Konoye brought no terms to negotiate. He simply attempted to get the Soviet Union to intervene. I repeat, there were no “negotiations” underway at all; the Soviets didn’t play the Japanese game, and, of course, they entered the war against Japan shortly afterward.

          By the way, the bombing schedule was not accelerated so “the bombs could be tried before the war ended.” They were dropped because the U.S. and its allies wanted to avoid the invasion of the Japanese home islands that appeared to be inevitable. Dropping the bombs saved thousands of U.S. and allied soldiers lives. I know that is a hard one to swallow for those who place their faith in naive hope over the hard facts and experience of history, but there it is.

    • Is it possible any more to coherently claim that the war is benefiting the civilian population and saving lives?

      It’s not only possible, but more and more obvious with each passing day, as the evidence of Gadaffi’s atrocities keeps coming out.

      “Now, the U.S. and its allies declare that they’ll fight until Qaddafi steps down (which would lead to his execution).”

      Huh? Dictators step down and enjoy cushy retirements in other countries all the time.

      • Joe: How is the continuation of wartime atrocities proof that war is saving lives? The war is a cause of the atrocities, and that is why it is important to negotiate for peace rather than reject negotiations and thereby prolong the war.

        Behnam

  4. Meanwhile, the French are looking for another UNSC resolution. So, this could be a sting staged by he Western special forces.

  5. From the manager of the UN’s mine removal centre in south Lebanon, Chris Clark:

    “Israel fired up to 6,000 bombs, rockets and artillery a day into Lebanon during the 34-day conflict.”

    He also claimed “Up to a million cluster bomblets discharged by Israel in its conflict with Hezbollah remain unexploded in southern Lebanon”
    link to news.bbc.co.uk

    To compare a handful of mortar shells fired in Libya with the Israeli onslaught is stretching it a little. While the Israeli attack was going on, both the US and the UK opposed a ceasefire – until Hezbollah’s militia had been disarmed or removed from southern Lebanon.

    According to the nations currently bombing Libya, cluster bomb attacks are sometimes a war crime. sometimes self defence.

  6. Human Rights Watch on US cluster bomb usage in Iraq:

    The widespread use of cluster munitions, especially by U.S. and U.K. ground forces, caused at least hundreds of civilian casualties. Cluster munitions, which are large weapons containing dozens or hundreds of submunitions, endanger civilians because of their broad dispersal, or “footprint,” and the high number of submunitions that do not explode on impact. U.S. Central Command (CENTCOM) reported that it used 10,782 cluster munitions,[2] which could contain at least 1.8 million submunitions. The British used an additional seventy air-launched and 2,100 ground-launched cluster munitions, containing 113,190 submunitions. Although cluster munition strikes are particularly dangerous in populated areas, U.S. and U.K. ground forces repeatedly used these weapons in attacks on Iraqi positions in residential neighborhoods. Coalition air forces also caused civilian casualties by their use of cluster munitions, but to a much lesser degree.

    Given that the US has used cluster munitions liberally in the past (also Afghanistan, Yugoslavia), and apparently has no intention of joining the Convention on Cluster Munitions, we don’t have great standing to express outrage at Qaddafi’s use – its what we might do (and have done) in similar situations. But as The Worlds Most Heavily Armed Nation, whose to argue with us.

    Depending on what’s on his dance card, I expect that within the next few day Obama will announce that, because of Qaddafi’s intolerable use of cluster bombs, we have to step back into the fray. Simultaneous with the announcement will be the sea launch of a big bunch of cruise missiles, hundreds of fighter bomber sorties, and several those fire breathing C-130’s will go on station. (I may be completely wrong – I’m just going by that tired old script.)

  7. If you want a link to cluster bomb usage and the damage they do in civilian areas try link to usatoday.com

    10,800 cluster weapons were fired by U.S. artillery and aircraft outside Baghdad as U.S. forces approached the Iraqi capital on April 7 and their British allies used almost 2,200. One anti-war group calculates that cluster weapons killed as many as 372 Iraqi civilians.

    And the US, along with Libya and Israel, is yet to sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions and does not agree to the ban. With a US stockpile reported at more than 740 million cluster bomblets, one can understand the reason for the US reluctance.

  8. “U.S. government experts believe the state of the opposition is so grave that it could take years to organize, arm and train them into a fighting force strong enough to drive Gaddafi from power and set up a working government.

    The realistic outlook, U.S. and European officials said, is for an indefinite stalemate between the rebels — supported by NATO air power — and Gaddafi’s forces.” Source

    So what’s next for this disastrous ‘humanitarian’ war? 2 semi failed states or boots on the ground?

  9. Juan, could you please comment on the posts relating to US and UK ( especially) use of cluster bombs in built up areas and how that differs from Gaddafi using them?

  10. Read Gar Alperovitz’s The Decision to Use the Atomic Bomb. It is fairly obvious that the inexperienced Truman got rolled by Secretary of State James Byrnes, who was eager to show the Soviet Union that the U.S. was not to be messed with. Dropping the A-bombs was a disgusting example of ‘realpolitik’ at work.

    As for Qaddafi’s cluster bombs, they pale in comparison to the depleted uranium armaments being unleashed by the ‘allies’ on the people of Libya.

    link to original.antiwar.com

  11. There is a problem here, Juan. The three such mortar bombs fired were a modern NATO bomb, manufactured in Spain, and designed to be fired from the NATO standard 120mm AMOS (advanced mortar system). This was not a weapon Gadaffi was known to possess.

    I am NOT saying that NATO fired the bombs, or that it is impossible that Gadaffi got hold of some of these somehow. But it is a problem. There were, remember, no witnesses to their firing and by whom.

    • Hi, Craig. It is always great to hear from you.

      The cluster bombs were sold to Qaddafi by Spain before Madrid banned the weapons.

      • Juan, where is the evidence of that pricise transaction.

        Whilst the munitions are made in Spain, that doesn’t he got them from Spain, e.g. some of his US made transport aircraft (Herc’s & Chinooks) were sourced from Italy.

        My understanding is that these shells aren’t fired by free standing weapons. The weapons are incorporated into combat vehicles & boats, all of which appear to made in the Nordic states.

        Some African countries are said to have purchased AMOS equipped combat vehicles systems – e.g Namibia, and Lebanon is also believed to have some. The Malaysians have gunships with the AMOS system installed (Malaysia was a link in the nuclear chain from AQ Khan to Qaddifi). Some of UN forces in in Africa have AMOS equipped armoured vehicles, I wouldn’t be surprised if they’ve not lost some.

        The arms market as we all know is a very murky business.

  12. “Cluster bomb hypocrisy” link to lefti.blogspot.com

    “I’ve been hearing and reading a drumbeat of stories about Libyan forces using cluster bombs against Libyan rebels, and it may well be true, although the Libyan government denies it. But let’s consider. TV reports and many press reports have only talked of “cluster bombs” being used. But in a handful of print sources, we find that the total number claimed to be used so far is…four (with 21 submunitions each, for a total of 84 submunitions). Not exactly a major development. Furthermore, while many of the news items I’ve heard and read talk about how cluster bombs are banned in many countries, only one (I can’t remember where I read it) actually named the countries that have not renounced their use, countries which include not only Libya, but the United States and Israel. I guess using cluster bombs wouldn’t sound so bad if the reports mentioned that they aren’t even prohibited from use by the good old U.S. of A.
    And the coverage itself is interesting. Needless to say, there hasn’t been one word reminding viewers and readers that the U.S. and U.K. used 1400 cluster bombs in Yugoslavia in 1999, with at least 100 civilians dying post-“war” after coming in contact with the unexploded bombs. Nor has there been one word about the massive use of cluster bombs by Israel in Lebanon in 2006, with an estimated 4.6 million “bomblets” which have killed over 200 people since the assault ended. 90% of those munitions were fired in the last three days of the war, in an act which can only be regarded as one of the most massive war crimes ever committed.

    Here’s something else to note. While Israel was regularly firing cluster bombs during their assault on Lebanon, and while the phenomenon of the unexploded bombs and their consequences was covered by the U.S. corporate media after the war ended, while the war was going on a paper like the Washington Post ran not a single story mentioning cluster bombs. Contrast that to what’s happening in Libya today where, on the sketchiest of evidence, and on the basis of alleged use of cluster bombs which is quite literally dwarfed by the number used by Israel against Lebanon and the U.S./U.K. against Yugoslavia, the media is already filled with such stories.”

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