The global ban, from this August, on the pernicious cluster bombs that drop deadly explosives in their hundreds over vast areas inflicting indiscriminate death and devastation cannot conceal the utter contempt the big powers had for the post-World War II Geneva Conventions on humanitarian law (laws of war) that seek to protect civilian populations during combat operations. Worse, the obdurate refusal of the major arms manufacturing and procuring countries such as the United States, Russia, Israel, China, India, and Pakistan to accede to the pact underscores the fact that a minority of countries, some of them democracies to wit, stand isolated on a concrete step to promote international peace and multilateralism. Cluster bombs, an anti-vehicle weapons legacy from World War-II, outlawed under the new United Nations Convention, are also de facto anti-personnel landmines to the extent that where they fail to detonate on impact, they explode when unearthed years after the end of conflicts, maiming and killing unsuspecting civilians in their thousands. Indeed, the relative success recorded in the abolition of landmines, banned in 1997 with support from the U.S., is often attributed to this similarity with cluster bombs, used extensively by the allied forces in Afghanistan and Iraq; not to mention Israel which deployed them in 2006 against Lebanon. Small wonder then that flagrant violations of the terms of engagement of these powers in West Asia are routine, and the apologies proffered, often as an after-thought and only after much public indignation and outrage, have become equally routine.

The new Treaty outlaws the production, use, and transfer of cluster bombs and States Parties are obliged to destroy stockpiles within eight years and clear their territory of unexploded bomblets within two years thereafter. Therefore, the view that the law may permit a waiver of certain forms of assistance when States Parties undertake joint military operations with countries that are not likely to accede to the Treaty in the foreseeable future is a dangerous and disingenuous interpretation that militates against strict compliance. World powers are under increasing domestic pressure to bring home their demoralised troops from the savage battlefields. It is time they also saw the writing on the wall — the demand to demobilise the demonic weapons, on top of which must be the catastrophic nuclear weapons of mass destruction.

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