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LETTERS TO THE EDITOR, Evening Post - 29 July 1999
Today's newspapers bring the news from Reuters that US General Wesley Clark is to be removed three months early as NATO's Supreme Commander. We may never hear the real reasons for his removal, but we do know of one ghastly mistake he made.
He has the responsibility for ordering the dropping of 1,100 cluster bombs containing over 2.2million bomblets in Kosovo. Over 5% of these bomblets did not explode on hitting the ground.
As a result, the US Marines and other KFOR mine clearers in Kosovo have the added dangerous task of clearing over 11,000 dud but very dangerous bomblets which have become ticking time bombs.
Almost daily through the internet we read of men, women and children of Kosovo and even the KFOR troops being killed and wounded from these "dud" bomblets which have become as dangerous as landmines.
Knowing the terrible results from plastering Laos and Iraq with cluster bombs Clark would have been aware of the high failure rate of these bombs. It was as high as 30% in the desert. He should have been aware also, that because of the danger to civilians inherent in the use of cluster bombs, air combat commander Maj. Gen Michael Ryan (now US Air Force Chief of Staff) decided to prohibit their use Operation Deliberate Force in Bosnia in 1995. It is very unfortunate that General Clark did not follow Ryan's example.
The NZ Campaign Against Landmines has called on the US President Clinton, through the US Ambassador in NZ, Josiah Beeman, to require the US Air Force not to use cluster bombs again until the producers can guarantee that 99.95 % of the bomblets will explode on contact with the ground.
The chaos and suffering caused by these weapons is inexcusable. These weapons should never have been used as they were known to be so technically unreliable.
John Head, Campaign Against Landmines (NZ)
Return to the 'NATO Bombing - has it brought peace to the Balkans?' Alert.