Thursday, May 31, 2007

Bombs Away

A beachcomber found a rusty object on Pensacola Beach yesterday and hauled it home to the 15th floor of Portofino's tower No. 3. After the beachcomber sent a cell phone photo of the curiosity to her boyfriend, he called back to say it looked like a bomb. The tower was evacuated.

Turns out this evil fruit of the sea was an unexploded W.W. II practice bomb. Just a taste of what many countries, including the United States, face in trying to rid the soil of similar stale war munitions. It's been estimated that at the current pace it could take up to 150 more years to rid just Germany, alone, of unexploded W.W. II munitions.

Luckily, no one was hurt yesterday on Pensacola Beach. Not so lucky? The people who live in some eighty other countries where cluster bombs and land mines litter the landscape. Tens of thousands, predominantly children, are killed and maimed every year.

Guess who is a major manufacturer, stockpiler, and user of cluster bombs?
The United States used cluster munitions in Southeast Asia (Cambodia, Laos, and Vietnam) in the 1960s and 1970s, Persian Gulf (Iraq, Kuwait, and Saudi Arabia) in 1991, Yugoslavia (including Kosovo) in 1999, Afghanistan in 2001 and 2002, and Iraq in 2003.
Apparently, we lie a lot about that when it comes to Iraq, too, although this much is known:
The U.S. military has a staggering arsenal of these weapons. According to a recent Human Rights Watch report, the Army holds 88% of the Pentagon's CBU inventory -- at least 638.3 million of the cluster bomblets that are stored inside each cluster munition; the Air Force and Navy, according to Department of Defense figures, have 22.2 million and 14.7 million of the bomblets, respectively. And even these numbers are considered undercounts by experts.
In what could be a dark footnote to the Portofino story that is exciting so many beach goers, this week the U.S. refused even to attend, much sign, an international treaty banning cluster bombs.

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