Thursday, December 4, 2008

Shame on you, USA.

The Convention on Cluster Munitions (CCM) was signed here in Oslo yesterday. Representatives from almost a hundred nations gathered in our City Hall to sign the Convention, which is a commitment to 'prohibit the use, development, production, stockpiling and transfer of cluster munitions'. How effective the Convention will be remains to be seen. Perhaps, sadly, not very. But IMO it is a very important step in the right direction – it is saying to the world that we, the undersigned, are aware that these things are happening, we know that they are horrible, and we want them to stop. We want to work together, both affected and non-affected nations, to make these things stop.

The Convention is the end result of the Oslo Process which was initiated by a great politician, a man who is almost universally admired and who I'm sure will be remembered by history as a true statesman, Norway's current Minister of Foreign Affairs, Jonas Gahr Støre, in February 2007. The treaty has a double aim – partly the goal is to end the use of cluster bombs, and partly to 'secure adequate provision of care and rehabilitation to survivors and clearance of contaminated areas'. This is IMO very admirable. Cluster bombs are vicious weapons, the use of which is basically, when you get right down to it, terror. Not least because in the long run, the main targets of these weapons (98% of victims) are civilians, and often primarily children.

I really don't feel like going into detail about what these weapons are doing, long after the cessation of hostilities, to innocent men, women and children around the globe. For more info, though, here are a few links:
The home page of the Cluster Munitions Coalition.
Guardian news article about civilian casualty rates.
Yahoo news story on the signing.
Victims applaud the signing of the CCM.
Some pictures (click this at your own risk) and other information.
Survivor stories from different countries.
Of course there is much much more information available out there too. Google is your friend. But this is a start.

OK, so like I said, this is an admirable initiative, but it won't necessarily be very effective. Because – unsurprisingly – those countries most heavily involved on the perpetrator side have refused to sign. Russia, China and of course God's own country, the US. All of these are countries with a long history of human rights violations and disregard of UN policy behind them. But for my money, the US in this scenario are the worst. And I don't mean because WTF do you expect from Russia and China. Even though obviously any reasonable person would expect literally nada from both of them. Many feel that the expectations towards the Americans are higher, what with them being the self-appointed world police dedicated to bringing freedom and justice to the oppressed, and so on. At least the Russians have never claimed to be interested in bringing anyone anything other than Russian overlordship. And the Chinese, well, they're out for Chinese interests only and they're not ashamed of admitting it. They're vicious bastards, but they're honest about it. Oh, and wasn't it the Americans who squealed so loudly about cluster bombs being such dreadful inhumane tools of destruction back when the Russians were dropping them on Afghanistan … ?

Anyway, I'd be willing to let that slide. Because I don't believe one word coming from the American administration anyway when it comes to foreign policy (for one thing). They're lying through their teeth and they don’t seem to care who knows it, as long as they can keep their own population dumbed down enough not to question the status quo. But here's what makes my blood boil. They're against restrictions on the use of cluster bombs, and they don't want such restrictions placed on their own use of such bombs. Fair enough, although revoltingly unethical. But when they start threatening their so-called allies in order to – I'll speak frankly – bully us into giving them continued free rein in their terrorizing of innocent civilians … that's when someone really should put their foot down.

Although I am proud of my government for taking the initiative and following through to bring this treaty into life, I am also ashamed of them for being such cowards that they do not speak up, loudly and clearly, against this abusive conduct.

The criminalization of cluster munitions will make NATO less effective. […]
Attempts to ban cluster munitions will have serious repercussions for the alliance as a whole and will draw attention away from more important questions such as the expansion of NATO, missile shields, strategic flights and the fight against terrorism.

(My translation, I only have the Norwegian text in front of me right now.)

What in the name of all that's holy is wrong with these people??! I'll say it again: 98% of cluster bomb victims are civilians. One third of these 98% are children. And the Americans have the FUCKING GALL to call a ban on cluster bombs 'criminalization'?! NO. THEY are the criminals. And if their own children could not play outside in their own neighbourhoods without the constant risk of being maimed or killed by bombs left behind from a one-sided conflict that ended decades ago, I don't think they'd be so quick to condemn us for trying to effect some change for the better in the world.

I was going to write about NATO too today, but I think I'll leave that for some other time. This post is long enough already. Suffice it to say that I'm starting to think, more and more, that NATO's days are, or at least ought to be, numbered. It was formed as an alliance for defense, but it's becoming more and more aggressive every year, which in itself would be bad enough if it wasn't also being treated as pretty much an army reserve by the US. Something which will only get worse under president Obama. It would quite possibly be better for both Norway and the world as a whole if we withdrew from NATO and put our NATO-assigned troops at the disposal of the UN, who are the ones doing the real peacekeeping work. But I digress.

Shame on you, USA. Yes, I do know that not all Americans are the same; many of you are intelligent, educated, well-meaning people who 'voted for the other guy'. I don't hate you or your country, I'm not anti-American, bla bla bla. I'm not writing this to hurt my American friends' feelings. I know it's 'not right' to hold individuals accountable for the acts of the state. But the fact is that you do live in a democracy, one which you like to call the greatest, the best democracy on earth. Shame on you.


Anonymous said...

Damn, I'm sorry. I apologize on behalf of my country, but I don't excuse them.
I don't believe that patriotism is saying, "my country is the best." Patriotism is "i love my country and i want it to be the best, most moral, most wonderful place to live for everyone."
I don't know the full story, because I don't have time to click on your links right now, but from what you have said, I agree with you. My country is wrong in that respect. I feel ashamed of it right now. I am sorry.

Leisha Camden said...

Aw, now you make me feel bad. :-(

Again, I'm not trying to offend or hurt anyone ... but it does make my blood boil and I have to let out steam somewhere. That's what I have this blog for. :-) Thank you for sharing your thoughts.

I could not agree more with your definition of patriotism. It's so weird to me the way some people seem to feel that being patriotic means accepting things as they are, unquestioningly, no matter how bad they may be. In my country for instance, where the government claims that we are an important force for peace in the world and yada yada, we're also making a lot of money on weapons production and sales. That is so wrong; if that's the only way you can make money, it's better to be poor. That's how I feel, but no one here would think to question my love for my country because of that.

I would really be interested in reading about how this connection between patriotism and unquestioning acceptance came into being in your country. It's a mystery to me, I really don't get it.

It's so true what you say, that if you love your country, you'll want to do what you can to make it a better place. And this wilful blindness is just the antithesis to that.

IMO the problem in the US is that while the American people may be mainly a moral bunch who don't like the thought of little children out innocently playing being blown to smithereens, there are big companies in the US too which are making enormous sums of money producing the very items that make this happen. And their priority is to keep making money first and foremost. Not to keep the kids from being blown up, because there's no money in that. And these people are very influential in your government. So ... therefore you actively work against restrictions on 'dirty weapons' like landmines, cluster bombs etc.

I see why it's happening, and I don't see that it will change. :-(

Again, thank you for sharing your thoughts.

Paz said...

It is one of the toughest things to tackle, because of the systems in place, a few people can do little against "the Man", You need to have the money/majority, eg One of Irelands richest men went against the latest EU referendum and defeated the Government, the world needs people like him. The world needs to get together and get tough on US, Russia and China, France for all the jokes stood up to the USA's "if your not with us your against us" policy.
What is more frightening is that the wrong groups are getting organised to change America, the lone wolf stuff of the white supremists is more organised than is reported in mainstream media

Mombi said...

Have no fear--We're totally with you on this one.

STAG said...

I wish that I could just wave a magic wand and all mines and cluster mines would vanish. However, as long as there are wars, these horrid little explosives will be a fact of life. There will always be somebody somewhere who will be happy to make them, and somebody else who will be happy to deploy them.

Cluster bombs are a reality that really bites. Rather than try to get them banned (good luck with that, though I believe Canada has done something to that effect) they need to have a way to find and dispose of them in a timely fashion. In this day and age when even dogs are rfid'd, you would think there would be a way to make them harmless after a period of time. And gosh knows, nobody, not even the people deploying these nasty little brutes want them to hang around for more than a week or so!

Or at least come up with a way to find them! Some of my friends in EOD detest cluster ordinance more than stepping in dog poop. They usually call them "tricky".

Civilians are the victims because soldiers know about them and avoid them.

Personally I would like to see a way to detect and destroy IED's. Such technology might well be useful for cluster ordinance.

And yeah, I just checked, Canada is a signatory to the (non proliferation of) land mine convention. Don't know if that includes cluster ordinance though. I know we don't use them in Afganistan. But lots of other people do.