Every once in a while, the news hour will raise a sigh of relief.
This is the case with the draft Dublin treaty on the ban on Cluster Bombs, which was agreed by more than a hundred countries across the world. Although many countries have not signed on – and others like Germany, Italy and Japan want a grace period to find alternative weapons – its moral force cannot be underestimated. It was critically important that the world’s majority assumes moral leadership for a cause that is manifestly right.
As war machines go, it was a brilliant innovation: the concept of a mother bomb that opened its bowels over enemy airports and villages, dispersing up to two hundred bomblets in a swoop, sowing death and destruction with the mincing thoroughness of a tractor’s plows. As a human artefact, it was also anathema: a balm so focussed on the pimple as to horribly scar the face; artillery seeds that continued to blow up in the faces of children and innocents years after armistices were signed.
Israel’s prime minister has admitted that it was a mistake to drop a million cluster bombs over Lebanon two years ago. It is cold comfort for the victims, especially as Israel, along with Russia, China, USA, Pakistan and India – significant users of the device – will not be signing on. Yet, the distance still to be travelled must not dishearten the victors of this Dublin parade. In this battle to ghettoise unscrupulous war-making, this peacetime coup may not have blown the cluster bomb out of the skies, but, God-willing, it has dealt a telling blow, and dimmed the swagger of her fly past.
This draft treaty is no flyweight: it forbids the development, production, acquisition, stockpiling, retention or transfer of cluster bombs to any third party. Already countries are committing to destroying their stockpiles of bombs. The countries that do retain, and use, these weapons will remain the blackspots of human civilisation; and when the next bombers take to the skies with their consignments of articulated misery, they shall do so as outlaws to our common morality.