The United States House of Representatives has approved the sales of more cluster bombs to Saudi Arabia despite an international ban on the controversial munitions.
The House voted Thursday against a measure that would have banned the sales of such bombs to Saudi Arabia. Yet, US lawmakers killed the bill out of fear that it “stigmatized” the weapon of war.
“The Department of Defense strongly opposes this amendment,” said House member Rodney Frelinghuysen, chairman of the House Committee on Defense Appropriations, during floor debate. “They advise us that it would stigmatize cluster munitions, which are legitimate weapons with clear military utility.”
Cluster bombs are large shell casings that contain hundreds or thousands of bomblets. Some of the miniature bombs, which spread over large areas of land to cause more fatality, fail to explode on impact, thus leaving the explosives unnoticed for even years; only to be picked or poked by unsuspecting civilians much later when the innocent bear the brunt.
Cluster bombs were banned by an international treaty signed by 119 countries, not including the United States.
Speaking in support of the bill, Representative Hank Johnson said Saudi Arabia has deliberately targeted civilians with these bombs in Yemen where the Riyadh regime has been waging a war since late March last year – without a United Nations mandate – in a bid to undermine Yemen’s Ansarullah movement and restore power to former fugitive president, Abd Rubbuh Mansur Hadi, a staunch ally of Riyadh.
“Earlier this year, the Saudi-led coalition dropped cluster bombs in Yemen’s capital of Sana’a, specifically targeting known civilian neighborhoods,” said the lawmaker. “One of the buildings hit was the al-Noor Center for Care and Rehabilitation for the Blind, which also has a school for blind children. The destruction of the school and the injuries sustained by the children was unbearably gruesome.”
The Saudis and their allies have also used US-produced weapons to destroy markets,factories, and hospitals in Yemen.
The House vote came a day after one of the Saudi war’s key architects, Mohammed Bin Salman, the Saudi deputy crown prince and defense minister, met with US lawmakers during his current visit to America.
Last month, Human Rights Watch (HRW) criticized the US for selling cluster munitions to Saudi Arabia, urging Riyadh to stop using such banned arms that leave behind unexploded sub-munitions and endanger civilians.
The Saudi war on Yemen has killed more than 9,000 people, among them over 2,230 children. More than 16,000 others have also been injured since the onset of the military raids. According to the UN, airstrikes account for 60 percent of the civilians killed so far.