From the Mailbag ...

an email from Senator Patrick Leahy:

The world community has spoken with one voice, and once again the Bush-Cheney Administration has yet to hear the call.

I just returned from Dublin Ireland where I supported international negotiations which ultimately produced a treaty to rid the world of indiscriminate "cluster" munitions -- dangerous weapons which pose an unacceptable threat to civilians in warzones. This groundbreaking treaty will require all signatory nations to halt production of these devastating weapons, and destroy their stockpiles within eight years.

Unfortunately, the Bush-Cheney Administration refused to participate in these negotiations. So Senator Dianne Feinstein and I have introduced a resolution in Congress, urging President Bush to sign on to this important treaty -- and we need your help to get it passed.

More than 100 countries sent envoys to attend the conference, but sadly the United States was not among them. In keeping with its familiar pattern of "us vs. them" unilateralism, the Bush Administration refused to participate in the talks and declined to sign on to the agreement.

That leaves the United States outside of the newly established international framework to ban cluster bombs once and for all, and shows once again that the Bush Administration's foreign policy is harmfully and shamefully high-handed and out of touch.

In an age of advanced precision-guided weapons and high-resolution satellite imagery, cluster bomb threats to innocent civilians outweigh their military value. They should not be in America's military arsenal -- or that of any nation. These weapons typically scatter hundreds of deadly "bomblets" over a large area, and due to their indiscriminate nature, they frequently claim the lives of noncombatants caught in the cross-fire.

All too often undetonated bomblets kill or maim unsuspecting civilians, often children, long after military operations have ended. Such is the case in Laos, where the Leahy War Victims Fund continues to treat survivors of cluster munitions dropped by the United States military nearly forty years ago.

That's why here at home Senator Feinstein and I have introduced legislation that requires that no military funds be used for the sale or transfer of cluster munitions, unless they meet extremely rigid standards to protect civilians, and in February we enacted a law to ban their export. But an estimated 5.5 million substandard cluster bombs -- containing 728 million bomblets -- remain in our military arsenal. That is simply unacceptable.

Please forward an email to your Senators today -- urge them to join our call for President Bush to sign the cluster munitions treaty!

It's time for the United States to step up and join the rest of the world in signing the treaty to ban cluster munitions -- so we can ensure that our children and grandchildren grow up in a world free of these devastating, indiscriminate weapons.

Thank you for your help.


Patrick Leahy

U.S. Senator

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