Imagine you are in a public park and it is a beautiful day. There are other people in the park and you notice a group of children not too far away. One of the children discovers a small canister no bigger than a soda can. He picks it up and tosses it to a friend. Then suddenly, tragically, the small canister explodes, taking the life of one child and permanently maiming several others. An otherwise tranquil day is shattered by unimaginable violence, mayhem and grief, leaving an indelible scar on a community and altering the lives of many innocent people who will never be the same.
Unfortunately, this scenario is not uncommon in many parts of the world and it is all too real for several courageous folks who visited Indianapolis earlier this month as part of the "Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour."
Members of the tour included Soraj Ghulam Habib, who was 10 years old and playing in a park in Herat, Afghanistan, in 2001 when one of his friends discovered a canister left from a cluster bomb. Soraj lost both legs and two fingers on one of his hands as a result of what happened next.
Raed Mokaled's 5 year old son, Ahmed, was fatally wounded in southern Lebanon when he found an unexploded cluster bomb submunition while playing in a park on his fifth birthday in 1999.
Lynn Bradach from Portland, Ore., lost her son Travis, a U.S. Marine, when he was clearing an area of unexploded munitions outside of Baghdad, Iraq, in 2003.
Each of these unimaginable tragedies was poignantly described by the survivors of the indiscriminate violence of cluster bombs when they visited Lesley Reser in Sen. Lugar's Office, Doran Moreland in Sen. Bayh's Office and when they delivered a public presentation at Earth House in mid-October.
Cluster bombs are weapons that disperse thousands of submunition canisters or bomblets over an area the size of two or three football fields. Each bomblet is designed to explode upon impact; however, the failure rate is high and each cluster bomb leaves behind hundreds of unexploded lethal canisters. Thousands of cluster bombs are typically dropped in one location, thereby saturating an area with unexploded canisters that become ticking time bombs for years and even decades to come. Hundreds of innocent farmers and children in Laos continue to be killed and maimed each year by cluster bombs that were dropped by the United States during the Vietnam War.
More than half the nations of the world, including most major U.S. allies in NATO, agreed in May 2008 to ban cluster munitions, but the U.S. did not participate in the global negotiations. The "Cluster Bomb Survivors Tour" was organized by the U.S. Campaign to Ban Landmines and Friends Committee on National Legislation to raise public awareness about the tragic consequences of cluster bombs and to gain support for legislation: Senate Bill 594, introduced by Sen. Dianne Feinstein, which would help forever ban these weapons that unintentionally prey upon innocent civilians. About one-fourth of the U.S. Senate officially supports this bill and they are in good company. Pope Benedict XVI, Bishop Desmond Tutu, the International Committee of the Red Cross, UNICEF and the American Academy of Pediatrics, among others, have condemned the use of these indiscriminate weapons. Indiana Sens. Evan Bayh and Richard Lugar have not yet added their names to the list of senators supporting this legislation. Please phone both of their offices today, right now, and encourage them to join with millions of conscientious people around the world who call for an end to these inhumane and obsolete weapons.
Sen. Evan Bayh (317) 554-0750
Sen. Richard Lugar (317) 226-5555