A few years ago, prominent Democrats were pretty firm in their long-held belief that cluster munitions were evil near war-crime level weapons that should have been banned a long time ago.
When cluster munitions are launched, they disperse into smaller bomblets that rain over the targeted area. While most of those bomblets explode, a considerable portion often do not. Much like land mines, those unexploded bomblets pose risks to civilians and nonmilitary infrastructure for years after a conflict has ended, reported Austin Ahlman for The Intercept.
Far Left Democrat Rep. Barbara Lee, one-time chair of the House Appropriations Subcommittee on State, Foreign Operations, and Related Programs, has repeatedly advocated for a total ban on cluster bombs. “Cluster munitions are outdated and simply cruel,” she said in 2016. “They are indiscriminate killers, serve no useful purpose, and must be discontinued.”
Back in 2017 Democrat Sen. Patrick Leahy of Vermont joined Massachusetts Democrat Congressman Jim McGovern and California Democrat Sen. Dianne Feinstein in an effort to ban cluster munitions.
“Cluster munitions, which are scattered by the thousands over a wide area, have caused horrific suffering and death among civilians in every conflict in which they have been used, often years after the fighting ended,” Leahy said in a statement with Feinstein and McGovern.
“While the United States has not widely used cluster munitions since the 2003 invasion of Iraq, U.S.-made cluster bombs have recently been used in Yemen, endangering civilians,” Feinstein said.
“As a world leader, America has a solemn responsibility to stand up for human rights and must join the more than 100 nations that have agreed to never again use or export these weapons by signing the Convention on Cluster Munitions,” McGovern said.
“President Trump and Secretary Mattis must take action and end the use of these indiscriminate weapons altogether,” he said, according to reporting by Brian Seay of Guns.com.
However, in 2022, when it came time to markup of the relevant appropriations bill by the subcommittee Lee led, House Democrats embraced a George W. Bush-era policy that allows cluster munitions sales to continue with loose restrictions.
The Senate Appropriations Committee, then-chaired by Democrat Leahy, likewise promptly threw aside his long history of advocacy against cluster munitions and land mines, and followed suit and American sales of the once despised cluster munitions were allowed to continue.
What changed for Democrats?
The Russia – Ukraine war.
The Biden administration said on Friday it would supply Kyiv with the widely banned bombs as part of a new $800 million security package that brings total U.S. military aid to more than $40 billion since Russia's invasion of Ukraine began in February 2022.
Newsweek reported Democrats, such as Arizona Senator Mark Kelly, have praised the decision. Kelly, in a statement released with a bipartisan coalition of senators, wrote that he appreciates "the work from the administration that went into this plan and will continue working with them and my colleagues in the Senate to provide Ukraine with the weapons and support they need to beat Putin and win this war."
Republicans never seemed to have any qualms about cluster munitions and U.S. Representative Michael McCaul, chairman of the House of Representatives Foreign Affairs Committee, said Ukraine's 2023 counteroffensive was going slowly and that the cluster bombs could be a "game changer" for the Ukrainians.
"They would be a game changer in the counteroffensive. And I'm really pleased the administration has finally agreed to do this," McCaul told CNN on Sunday.
Meanwhile, Democrat Rep. Lee has tacked back to active public opposition to the use of cluster munitions. "Cluster bombs should never be used. That's crossing a line," the Democratic lawmaker told CNN host Jake Tapper. "We know what takes place in terms of cluster bombs being very dangerous to civilians. They don't always immediately explode. Children can step on them. That's a line we should not cross."
We don’t have particular viewpoint – pro or con – on the export of cluster munitions. And we shouldn’t expect anything other than moral and political flexibility on the part of Democrats – after all, Rep. Barbara Lee is now running to replace retiring Far Left California Democrat Sen. Diane Feinstein, so tacking back to the Left makes political sense as Ms. Lee chases the nomination in the Far Left state’s Far Left party.
However, if the standard for deployment of a weapons system is whether use of a particular type of munition is useful to the Ukrainians in their effort to repel Russian aggression it is probably fortunate that the United States just destroyed the last of its chemical weapons stockpile, lest Sen. Kelly and Rep. McCaul be tempted send over a few planeloads of M687 Sarin gas shells the next time the Ukrainians get bogged down.
Ukraine Russia war
cluster munitions ban
Convention on Cluster Munitions
cluster munitions sales
American military aid to Ukraine
U.S. Representative Michael McCaul
Democrat Rep. Lee