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Cluster Bombs

John Simkin

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Hilary Benn, the international development secretary, has written to cabinet colleagues arguing that cluster munitions used by the allies are causing thousands of unnecessary deaths and injuries. In a leaked letter, Benn claims the weapons are “essentially equivalent to land mines”. His remarks are bound to reignite the debate over “ethical warfare” and Britain’s policy in Iraq.

The bomblets, which can be dropped by planes or fired as artillery shells, are scattered over an area the size of several football pitches, but frequently fail to detonate, leaving a deadly trap for passers-by.

At the beginning of the Iraq war in March 2003, Britain dropped 100,000 cluster bombs. They were also used in Kosovo, and by Israeli forces in Lebanon last summer. Campaigners claim the munitions have killed or injured two to three Lebanese civilians every day since the ceasefire. Most of the cluster bombs dropped on the Lebanon, took place after peace negotiations and in the last few days before Israel withdrew from the country. A tactic used by Richard Nixon when he withdrew from Vietnam.

It is possible that Benn will stand for the leadership of the Labour Party. He is far more left-wing than he appears. He is of course the son, grandson and great grandson, of former politicians who became more left-wing as they got older.

His father is of course Tony Benn.


The biographies of his grandfather (William Wedgwood Benn) and great-grandfather (John Benn) can be found here:



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