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ICG Risk Blog - [ Hezbollah used Chinese cluster bombs as China benefits from its cluster bomb clearance of Israeli-dropped US cluster bombs ]

Hezbollah used Chinese cluster bombs as China benefits from its cluster bomb clearance of Israeli-dropped US cluster bombs

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The intersection of Information Operations, vibrant nonstate newsagents reporting in near real-time, asymmetrical access to advanced technology - cluster munitions in this case, 4GW combat intermingling military and civilian actors, military strategy and execution created a near perfect storm in which states like China, India and Pakistan, not to mention statelets as Hezbollah, are seen as conservators and rebuilders of Lebanon while Israel and its US patron are seen as wanton, thoughtless killers of its civilians.

Use and aftermath of cluster munitions in Lebanon are a special case of the general condition covered in the series:

[O]ne of the cheapest air-delivered weapons available… [all] cluster weapons consist of two primary elements: a container or dispenser; and submunitions, often called bomblets. The container can be a purpose-constructed bomb casing released from an aircraft, missile, rocket or artillery projectile which carry submunitions towards the target area and incorporate a system to release them close to or above the target area. It may also be a re-useable dispenser attached to an aircraft and designed to release the submunitions close to or above the target area. These cluster weapons encompass the whole range of submunition types and, especially in the case of Multiple Launch Rocket Systems (MLRS), have the capacity to blanket large areas of territory with bomblets or mines from considerable distances. Submunitions or bomblets are explosive projectiles, which normally incorporate some design feature allowing them to separate and spread as they are dispensed from the container/dispenser in order to achieve the optimum ground coverage.

Submunitions form four main categories: antipersonnel (fragmentation); antimateriel (explosion and/or shaped charge); Combined Effects Munition (CEM) combining antipersonnel, antimateriel and incendiary; and landmines (antipersonnel or antitank). The downside to being cheap in relation to the dispersal area covered is the very high number of UXO (unexploded ordnance) or duds (5% to 25+% due to manufacture; movement, aging and storage; loading, flight and landings; and ground impact) and the de facto "indiscriminate" pattern when noncombatants are in the intended or accidental dispersal area:

Military experts recognize that unexploded cluster bombs transform themselves into landmines. A South African army officer at the Certain Conventional Weapons conference in Vienna in October 1995 completed the sentence of a nongovernmental representative in revealing fashion. The NGO representative was speaking about unexploded "bombies" in Laos. "When they don't explode on contact," began the NGO representative, ". . .they become mines," finished the officer.

A quick look through this photo gallery shows how hard it is to detect many bomblets, while others are painted yellow and are immediately attractive to children as "toys":

A U.S. military service procedures report on unexploded ordnance corroborates the S.A. officer's statement, noting: "Although UXO is not a mine, UXO hazards pose problems similar to mines concerning both personnel safety and the movement and maneuver of forces on the battlefield." Reports from the Gulf War underscore this claim. For example, "When US Marine Corps forces attempted a night assault against Iraqi-occupied Kuwait International Airport, they reportedly were held up, not by fierce resistance, but by unexploded coalition cluster-bomb submunitions and mines."

It is not as if cluster munitions have not been used previously, and widely: Laos and Vietnam (Vietnam War), Iraq (Desert Strom and OIF), Afghanistan, Angola, Azerbaijan, Yugoslavia/Kosovo, Chechnya, Colombia, Ethiopia, Georgia, Lebanon (commencing in 1970s with Israel's first incursion to oust the PLO), Nicaragua, Sierra Leone, Turkey and elsewhere:

During the air war carried out between 1964 and 1973, the U.S. executed more than 580,000 bombing missions over Laos. Some 2.3 million tons of bombs, a large percentage of them cluster bombs, were dropped, making Laos the most heavily bombed country in the world. On average, a plane load of bombs was dropped every eight minutes, around the clock, for nine years...

In the first gulf war, U.S. planes dropped more than 24 million submunitions on Iraq, leaving roughly 1.2 million duds which resulted in over 1,600 Kuwaiti and Iraqi civilian deaths and an additional 2,500 injured following the war. The cost of clearing these duds and other unexploded ordnance was in the hundreds of millions of dollars.

In 1995 in Bosnia, U.S. military officers reportedly banned the use of cluster bombs because they were seen to present an unacceptable risk to civilians. However, 3 years later, during the NATO air campaign in Yugoslavia, U.S., British and Dutch military aircraft dropped more than 295,000 submunitions. The U.N. Mine Action Coordination Center estimated that more than 20,000 live bomblets remained after the war, and the International Committee of the Red Cross reported that in the year following the war there were 151 reported casualties due to cluster bombs.

The U.S. Air Force has used cluster bombs in Afghanistan, where, predictably, they have caused the deaths of innocent civilians. Additionally, the appearance of the yellow bomblets bore a remarkable similarity to food aid parcels being airdropped. Civilians searching for food instead have found a hidden death. Also, the bright yellow of the bomblets attracted children, who thought it might be a toy.

How few outside the combat areas complained even as those in the target areas suffer terribly. Operating in the 807th MASH unit in Desert Shield, Brian Ginn chronicled their first civilian cluster bomb deaths in March 1991:

The first civilian cluster bomb victim died today. It was a child. These insidious bombs were sprinkled all over the desert. Despite numerous warnings to the contrary, people could not leave them alone. They seemed to be drawn to them, almost mystically.

The devastation they caused on explosion was unbelievable. Shrapnel flew everywhere. Limbs were severed by the force of detonation. Massive abdominal bleeding and pulmonary pressure wounds occurred.

Even innocent bystanders far from the point of the blast ended up with shrapnel injuries. All these patients needed surgery, whether to halt internal bleeding and complete partial amputations in the severe cases, or just to clean and debride the wounds in the case of those less severely injured.

The number of patients exceeded our modest abilities, so we improvised and moved some of the less seriously ill and injured into the medical supply tent. Fifty patients were treated and more continued to arrive, along with their families. Three children were admitted with flash burns, and again our need for a pediatric specialist showed. Civilian casualties from unexploded ordnance and ammunition continued to arrive daily.

Cluster bombs were extensively used by NATO forces in Kosovo in 1999 against Serbian assets (which Serbia vociferously objected even as they used cluster munitions against the Kosovars):

By late April [1999], the [LA Times and AFP] were reporting on the extensive damage done by cluster bombs in Kosovo. Dr. Rade Grbic, a surgeon and director of the main hospital in Pristina, reported an unprecedented number of amputations as a result of the bombs. Through a translator, he stated that:

I have been an orthopedist for 15 years now, working in a crisis region where we often have injuries, but neither I nor my colleagues have ever seen such horrific wounds as those caused by cluster bombs.... They are wounds that lead to disabilities to a great extent. The limbs are so crushed that the only remaining option is amputation. It's awful, awful.... Most people are victims of the time-activated cluster bombs that explode sometime after they fall.... People think it's safe, and then they get hurt.... There are villages here where large portions of the area cannot be accessed because of a large number of unexploded cluster bombs.... Even when all of this is over, it will be a big problem because no one knows the exact number of unexploded bombs.

Dr. Grbic reported that Pristina's hospital treated between 300 and 400 people wounded by cluster bombs, roughly half of those victims civilians. He also said that because the number does not include those killed by the bombs, and only covers the area of Pristina, the casualty toll is almost certainly higher.

Lebanon is different:

  • Lebanon is not remote but central to all frontline states in the Levant.
  • Israel is involved, as is Hezbollah, and so is at the center of Arab, and increasingly Muslim, attention.
  • The battlespace is different, compact and often urbanized such that combatant and noncombatant operate side by side (often by design on the part of Hezbollah so that Israeli counterfire injures noncombatants and inflames local sentiments against Israel).
  • Civilian technology is different in that noncombatants have their own means of reporting, e.g., weblogs, camera-phones and cellphones, that make the battlespace porous in terms of information control and shaping.
  • Hezbollah is mastering Information Operations vastly better than the Israelis and the US such that their excesses are shrouded while those of the Israelis are painted in vibrant hues.

John Rendon of The Rendon Group is said to have insisted that "information is terrain and someone will occupy it, either the adversary, a third party, or US."

The most important concept to remember about IO is that it is not a weapon per se; it is a process. IO is a way of thinking about relationships. IO is an enabler, a "source multiplier," a tool that increases one’s ability to shape the operational environment. It is a planning methodology, which supports the strategic, operational and tactical use of traditional military forces. It is also a strategy, a campaign, and a process that is supported by traditional military forces. IO does this by using planning tools to synchronize, synergize, and deconflict activities as well as enabling the horizontal integration of these activities across the interagency spectrum.

Information Operations is essential to the future of warfare even as the "warfare area is changing the way that the military is organized and how it conducts operations in the information age":

Information operations (IO) are described as the integrated employment of electronic warfare (EW), computer network operations (CNO), psychological operations (PSYOP), military deception (MILDEC), and operations security (OPSEC), in concert with specified supporting and related capabilities, to influence, disrupt, corrupt, or usurp adversarial human and automated decision making while protecting our own.

Now the cluster bomb story - merely different actors but the same story of grief - shoots across the Muslim world as well as penetrating into the Western high street press where it had only been in the specialist press of the committed collectors such as Human Rights Watch:

Suddenly a strange object caught Sikna’s eye. It was small, round and metallic, with a tip that looked like a cigarette end. She picked it up to show her cousins. Marwa and Hassan remembered warnings not to touch strange objects. "It’s one of those bombs," one of the children cried. Sikna panicked and dropped the cluster bomb, which exploded instantly.

"Hassan was flung about two to three metres and I flew to the other side," she said, speaking slowly in her hospital bed. "I was on the ground with blood coming out of my stomach and I started to cry and scream. My stomach was making a funny noise as if it was whistling."

Doctors discovered later that shards of metal had penetrated her liver. While Marwa received relatively minor injuries, Hassan was wounded in the abdomen. "My intestine came out and I held it and began to run, shouting ‘Allahu Akbar’ (God is greatest)," said Hassan. "I collapsed, my uncle picked me up and they took us to hospital."

Like Sikna, he spent two days in intensive care. Both children are struggling to comprehend what happened. "They left us toys that will kill us," said Hassan blankly.

Part 2 to follow, Impact and aftermath of cluster bomb employment by Israel and Hezbollah in Lebanon

Lebanon/Israel: Hezbollah Hit Israel with Cluster Munitions During Conflict
First Confirmed Use of Weapon Type
Human Rights News, HRW
Jerusalem, October 19, 2006

Convention on Conventional Weapons (CCW): First Look at Israel’s Use of Cluster Munitions in Lebanon in July-August 2006
Briefing Delivered by Steve Goose, Director of Human Rights Watch Arms Division, at the Fifteenth Meeting of the Group of Governmental Experts
Human Rights News, HRW
Geneva, Switzerland
30 August 2006

Cluster bombs leave ‘toys’ that kill children
Hala Jaber, Yuhmur, South Lebanon
The Sunday Times (UK)
August 27, 2006

Israeli Cluster Munitions Hit Civilians in Lebanon
Israel Must Not Use Indiscriminate Weapons
Human Rights News, HRW
Beirut, July 24, 2006

Information Operations
Joint Publication 3-13
13 February 2006

Off Target: The Conduct of the War and Civilian Casualties in Iraq
Human Rights Watch
HRW Index No.: 1564322939
December 12, 2003
Summary
Full report PDF

Mapped: The lethal legacy of cluster bombs
BY ANN TRENEMAN
September 11, 2003

Floor Statement of Sen. Patrick Leahy on the use of Cluster Bombs and Landmines in Iraq
Patrick Leahy
US Senate
April 10, 2003

Fatally Flawed: Cluster Bombs and Their Use by the United States in Afghanistan
Human Rights Watch
Vol. 14, No. 7 (G)
December 2002

Landmines: War's Lingering Menace
Vietnam Passage, PBS
May 2002

PUBLIC DIPLOMACY - CAPTURING THE INFORMATION TERRAIN ON THE WAY TO VICTORY
By Linda R. Urrutia-Varhall, Lt Col, USAF
Maxwell Air Force Base, Alabama
April 2002
Note: Readers should be aware that the US has failed to deliver the information dominance in Arab/Muslim minds that this author had outlined. The reality is bluntly the reverse.

Information Operations: The Hard Reality of Soft Power
Joint Command, Control and Information Warfare School
Joint Forces Staff College, NDU, 2002

Above the Law and Below Morality: Data on 11 Weeks of US Cluster-Bombing of Afghanistan
Marc W. Herold
Cursor, Feb.1, 2002

CLUSTER BOMBS: The military effectiveness and impact on civilians of cluster munitions
By Rae McGrath, edited by Richard Lloyd
Commissioned by The UK Working Group on Landmines and Mennonite Central Committee US
UK Working Group on Landmines
ISBN 0-9536717-1-2
August 2000

Cluster Bomb Use in the Yugoslavia/Kosovo War
By Virgil Wiebe
Mennonite Central Committee
June 1999
Original scrolled off
Cache

Drop Today, Kill Tomorrow: Cluster Munitions as Inhumane and Indiscriminate Weapons
Prepared by Virgil Wiebe, Titus Peachey
from the Mennonite Central Committee
June 1999 [first published December 1997]
Original off line
Mirror in html

807th MASH Operation Desert Shield and Operation Desert Storm 'Restore to Serve'
Brian Ginn, 1995
Original no longer active
Mirror as: 807th MASH, Mar. 1991 - Jun. 1991

Operation Desert Storm: Casualties caused by the improper handling of unexploded US submunitions
GAO/NSIAD-93-212
August 1993

Gordon Housworth



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