The history of harm caused by U.S. cluster munitions and progress towards a ban

This chrolonogy is drawn from publications by Cluster Munition Monitor, Human Rights Watch, and the Mennonite Central Committee as well as the 2008 Convention on Cluster Munitions.

2016

Feb. 14: Human Right Watch report finds that a Saudi Arabia-led coalition is using recently transferred US-manufactured cluster munitions in civilian areas of Yemen contrary to US export requirements.

Feb. 9: US Secretary of State John Kerry expresses concern at "cluster munitions killing innocent women and children" in Syria as Russia stepped up an offensive with Syrian government forces on Aleppo.

2015

Sep. 7-11:  First Review Conference of the Convention on Cluster Munitions held in Dubrovnik, Croatia. States parties adopt a declaration condemning any use of cluster munitions by any actor. 

Jun.22-23: Intersessional meetings of the Convention on Cluster Munitions held in Geneva.

2014

May 27: The U.S. votes for UN Security Council Resolution 2155 expressing concern at the “indiscriminate” use of Cluster munitions in South Sudan.

Apr: A Congressional Research Service report on Cluster munitions and “potential issues for Congress” finds that, “there are doubts that CCW efforts to develop a Cluster munitions protocol will be viable, as some nations that are part of the CCW who have also signed the Convention on Cluster Munitions stand in opposition of a CCW protocol on Cluster munitions."

2013

Dec. 18: The U.S. votes in favor of UN General Assembly (UNGA) Resolution 68/182, which expressed “outrage” at Syria’s “continued widespread and systematic gross violations of human rights…including those involving the use of…Cluster munitions." Senator John McCain (R-Arizona) condemns the Syrian government’s use of Cluster munitions, stating that “Americans should be appalled and saddened” by the reported use.

Sep. 9-13: The U.S. does not attend the Fourth Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Lusaka, Zambia. Read the CMC press release calling on on all countries that have not yet joined the convention to do so without delay.

Sep. 4: Cluster Munition Monitor 2014 is released in Geneva. 

Aug. 29: U.S. NGOs call on the U.S. not to use Cluster munitions in any military operation in Syria and urge states parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions to help ensure that the weapons are not used after reports that the U.S. is considering a military action involving sea-launched Tomahawk cruise missiles. In a letter to U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry, U.S. campaigners again urge a review of U.S. policy on Cluster munitions. According to a press release, the last U.S. use of a Cluster munitions in 2009 in Yemen involved a TLAM-D cruise missile containing BLU-97 bomblets. 

Aug. 1: Convention on Cluster Munitions' third anniversary of entry-into-force (press release).

Jun. 19: Representative Darrell Issa (Republican [R]-California) introduces the Designating Requirements On Notification of Executive-ordered Strikes Act of 2013 or DRONES Act, which includes provisions requiring that U.S. Cluster munitions have a less than 1% dud rate and be used only against military targets and not in areas inhabited by civilians.

Jun. 17: Senators Dianne Feinstein (Democrat [D]-California) and Patrick Leahy (D-Vermont), as well as Representative James McGovern (D-Massachusetts [MA]) write to President Obama to urge that the U.S. government’s “outdated” cluster munitions policy be “immediately” and “expeditiously” reviewed to put the U.S. “on a path to join the Convention on Cluster Munitions.

Feb. 28: Senators Feinstein and Leahy reintroduce the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act, Bill S. 419, to limit the use of Cluster munitions to munitions that have a 99% or higher reliability rate, prohibit use of Cluster munitions in areas where civilians are known to be present, and require a clearance plan if the U.S. uses cluster munitions.

2012

Nov. 25: At the Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Fourth Review Conference, a U.S.-led effort to create a protocol allowing cluster munition use is rejected.

Sep. 11: The U.S. does not participate in the Third Meeting of States Parties to the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Oslo, Norway (press release).

Aug. 1: Second anniversary of the Convention on Cluster Munitions entry-into-force (press release).

Jul. 11: U.S. Secretary of State visits Lao PDR and meets a Cluster bomb survivor during a visit to COPE, a U.S.-funded prosthetic center in Vientienne, who expresses his hope to her that all governments will ban Cluster munitions to prevent more victims in the future. 

2011

Sep. 16: The U.S. does not participate in the Convention on Cluster Munitions' Second Meeting of States Parties in Beirut, Lebanon (press release).

Aug. 1: Convention on Cluster Munitions' first anniversary of entry-into-force (press release).

2010

Nov.9-12: The U.S. does not attend the First Meeting of States Parties of the Convention on Cluster Munitions in Vientienne, Lao PDR.

Aug. 1: Convention on Cluster Munitions entry into force

2009 

Dec. 17: U.S. apparently uses at least one TLAM-D cruise missile containing 166 BLU-97 submunitions to attack an alleged terrorist training camp in al-Ma’jalah, killing 55 people including women and children. Neither the U.S. nor the Yemeni government has publicly denied the use. An October 2013 report by Human Rights Watch found the Cluster munition remnants from attack were never cleared and killed more civilians after the attack, most recently in January 2012. 

Sep.  29: Senators Leahy, Feinstein, and 14 other U.S. Senators write to President Obama urging him to “conduct a thorough review of U.S. policy on Cluster munitions,” noting that “the United States has already begun to move away from a reliance on cluster munitions."

Feb. 11: The “Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act” (S. 416/H.R. 981) is reintroduced in the Senate by Senators Feinstein and Leahy and in the House by Representative McGovern.

Feb. 10: Leaders of 67 U.S. organizations send a joint letter to President Obama requesting a review of U.S. policy on landmines and cluster munitions.

Jan. 21: U.S. ratifies Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW) Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW)

2008

Dec. 3-4: 94 nations including Afghanistan sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions as it is opened for signature in Oslo, Norway. The Bush administration White House does not explain why the U.S. is not present as an observer at the signing conference, while a spokesperson for the Obama campaign states releases a statement that said: “President-elect Obama is deeply concerned about the well-being of civilians in situations of conflict, as reflected by his support of the legislation in 2006 that would have prohibited the use of cluster munitions near concentrations of civilians. As president, he will carefully review the new treaty and work closely with other countries to ensure that the United States is doing everything feasible to promote protection of civilians in conflict."

Oct. 6-17: On behalf of the U.S. campaign, its coordinator the Friends Committee for National Legislation organizes a speaking tour by Cluster munition survivors from Afghanistan, Lebanon, and the U.S. through 11 Midwest cities to build awareness and support. 

Jul. 19: U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert Gates issues a new policy memorandum stating that by the end of 2018, the U.S. will no longer use Cluster munitions that result in more than 1% unexploded ordnance. The U.S. states that the 10-year transition period “is necessary to develop the new technology, get it into production, and to substitute, improve, or replace existing stocks." The policy requires that cluster munition stocks “that exceed operational planning requirements or for which there are no operational planning requirements” be removed from active inventories but no later than 19 June 2009 and demilitarized as soon as practicable.

May 30: 107 states adopt the Convention on Cluster Munitions adopted in Dublin, Ireland after almost three weeks of negotiations. Afterwards, Senators Feinstein and Leahy introduce a joint resolution expressing the sense of Congress that the U.S. should sign the Convention on Cluster Munitions (S. J. Res. 37, 110th Congress). While not participating directly in the Oslo Process or the negotiations, the U.S. worked hard to influence them as State Department cables made public by Wikileaks show. See letter from U.S. Senators Feinstein and Leahy to Ireland's Ambassador O'Ceallaigh, president of the Dublin negotiations. 

2007

Dec: Congress passed the Consolidated Appropriations Act for fiscal year 2008 which places a one-year moratorium on the transfer of cluster munitions unless they have a 99% or higher tested reliability rate. 

Nov. 5: As part of a Global Day of Action against cluster munitions, dozens of silhouettes representing civilian victims of the weapons are erected near the U.S. Capitol Building while U.S. NGOs urge Congress to pass legislation to protect civilians from cluster munitions.

Jun: After expressing concern at the launch of the Oslo Process outside UN auspices, the U.S. tells the Convention on Conventional Weapons that it is now prepared to consider future negotiations on Cluster munitions within the framework of the CCW, making a shift in its stance on international action.  

Apr. 27: U.S. NGOs urge Congressional representatives to support "clear, sensible U.S. policy on Cluster munitions" and vote for the Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007 (H.R. 1755), introduced by March 29, Representatives Jim McGovern (MA), Betty McCollum (MN), and Darrell Issa (CA).

Feb. 22-23: Representatives from more than 40 nations convene in Oslo to launch a historic initiative to ban Cluster munitions that cause unacceptable harm to civilians. The U.S. does not participate in the meeting or any subsequent meetings of what will become known as the "Oslo Process."

Feb: Senators Feinstein and Leahy, and Representative James McGovern, introduce the “Cluster Munitions Civilian Protection Act of 2007.” The act would limit the use and transfer of cluster munitions to those munitions that have a 99% or higher reliability rate, and would prohibit use of cluster munitions in areas where civilians are known to be present. The legislation garners support, but is not brought to a vote and reintroduced annually in subsequent years. 

2006

Nov: Norway invites states prepared to take urgent steps to address the humanitarian concerns posed by cluster munitions to a meeting in early 2007 to begin developing a new treaty after the Third Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons fails to respond to repeated calls to begin negotiations on cluster munitions. During the conference, both UN Secretary-General Kofi Annan and the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC) called on states to prohibit inaccurate and unreliable cluster munitions. The U.S. rejects a specific proposal for a mandate to negotiate a legally-binding instrument “that addresses the humanitarian concerns posed by Cluster munitions" by arguing states should apply existing laws “rigorously” and focU.S. on implementing CCW Protocol V. 

Aug: After criticism of Israel’s use of cluster munitions in Lebanon, the U.S. State Department blocks the transfer to Israel of 1,300 artillery rockets containing more than 800,000 cluster bomblets and subsequently announces an investigation into whether Israel had inappropriately used U.S.-made cluster munitions in Lebanon during the 2006 conflict. 

Sep: Senators Dianne Feinstein and Patrick Leahy introduce the first Congressional legislative action to address cluster munitions, with a proposed amendment to “protect civilian lives from unexploded cluster munitions” by preventing U.S. forces from using Cluster munitions in or near any concentrations of civilians. The measures is was defeated by 70-30.  

2003

Nov. 29: At the Convention on Conventional Weapons, states adopt Protocol V on Explosive Remnants of War (ERW) after one year of formal negotiations, making a state responsible for clearance of all explosive remnants of war in territory under its control. Human Rights Watch criticizes the protocol for "qualifiers and ambiguities" instead of clear cut obligations and dismay that the protocol does not specifically address the issue of cluster munitions. 

Nov. 13: Cluster Munition Coalition (CMC) launched in The Hague

During Operation Iraqi Freedom in Iraq, the U.S. and UK use nearly 13,000 cluster munitions containing an estimated 1.8 to 2 million submunitions in three weeks of major combat. 

2001

During Operation Enduring Freedom in Afghanistan, the U.S. drops 1,228 cluster bombs containing 248,056 submunitions. In November 2001, Human Rights Watch calls for the U.S. to stop using Cluster munition bombs in the operation due to the unacceptable risk posed to civilians. 

Dec: At the Second Review Conference of the Convention on Conventional Weapons, nations agree to a mandate establishing a Group of Governmental Experts to examine the types and factors of weapons that produce explosive remnants of war. 

Jan. 10: Secretary of Defense William Cohen issues a policy memorandum stating that all submunitions reaching a production decision in fiscal year 2005 and beyond must have a dud rate of less than 1%.

1999

Dec: At the Convention on Conventional Weapons in Geneva, Human Rights Watch calls for a global moratorium on the use of cluster munitions until humanitarian concerns can be adequately addressed.

During Operation Allied Force in Yugoslavia, NATO forces--U.S., UK, and the Netherlands--drop 1,765 cluster bombs containing 295,000 submunitions in what is now-Kosovo, Montenegro, and Serbia. In May 1999, Human Rights Watch calls on NATO to stop using Cluster munitions, expressing concern at civilian casualties.

1998

Aug: U.S. ships and submarines fire 66 TLAM-D Block 3 cruise missiles, each containing 166 BLU-97 submunitions, at a factory target in Khartoum, Sudan, and at NSAG training camps in Afghanistan.

1992-1995

NATO aircraft dropped two CBU-87 bombs while Yugoslav forces and NSAGs used cluster munitions during civil war in BiH.

1991

During Operation Desert Storm in Iraq, U.S., France, and the UK drop 61,000 cluster bombs containing some 20 million submunitions. The number of cluster munitions delivered by surface-launched artillery and rocket systems is not known, but an estimated 30 million or more dual purpose improved conventional munition (DPICM) submunitions were used in the conflict.

Saudi Arabian and U.S. forces used artillery-delivered and air-dropped cluster munitions against Iraqi forces during the battle of Khafji in Saudi Arabia.

1988

U.S. Navy aircraft attacked Iranian Revolutionary Guard speedboats and an Iranian Navy ship U.S.ing Mk.-20 Rockeye bombs in Iran during Operation Praying Mantis.

1986

U.S. Navy aircraft attacked Libyan ships using Mk-20 Rockeye Cluster bombs in the Gulf of Sidra on March 25, while on April 14–15, U.S. Navy aircraft dropped 60 Rockeye bombs on Benina Airfield.

1983

The U.S. Navy aircraft dropped 21 Rockeye bombs in Grenada during close air support operations.

U.S. Navy aircraft dropped 12 CBU-59 and 28 Rockeye bombs against Syrian air defense units near Beirut in Lebanon.

1960s-1970s

U.S. forces extensively use cluster munitions in Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam. According to an analysis of U.S. bombing data by Handicap International, approximately 80,000 cluster munitions containing 26 million submunitions were dropped on Cambodia between 1969 and 1973; over 414,000 Cluster bombs containing at least 260 million submunitions were dropped on Lao PDR between 1965 and 1973; and over 296,000 cluster munitions containing nearly 97 million submunitions were dropped in Vietnam between 1965 and 1975.  

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