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MARCH 19, 2003
8:29 AM
CONTACT: Ralph Nader 
Ralph Nader or Robert Weissman, 202-387-8034
Nader Calls on Bush to Forgo Use of Cluster Bombs and Landmines in Iraq
WASHINGTON - March 19 - Following is a letter from Ralph Nader to President Bush on the use of cluster bombs and landmines in Iraq:

Dear President Bush:

In your March 17 address declaring your intention, assuming Saddam's unwillingness to go into exile, to take the nation to war with Iraq, you directed comments to the Iraqi people. You stated, "If we must begin a military campaign, it will be directed against the lawless men who rule your country and not against you."

The way the U.S. military under your command and the U.S. allies conduct the war will test the sincerity of this claim. U.S. military officials have already conceded that the war will inevitably take a substantial number of civilian lives. While there is little doubt of the brutal dictator Saddam's willingness to sacrifice his people's lives, your decisions over military tactics will be a major determinant of the extent of the civilian carnage.

Having determined to proceed with a war that violates international law on use of force and without a constitutionally required Congressional declaration of war, it is now incumbent on you to conduct the war according to international humanitarian and human rights law, and to take all possible measures to avoid loss of civilian life, especially the lives of children.

Among other steps, you must renounce the use of cluster bombs and landmines in the coming conflict. These are weapons that take a devastating toll on civilians, and continue to kill and maim long after the military hostilities in which they are used have ended.

Landmines have been subjected to an international treaty, which the United States has refused to sign, which bars their use. These weapons are also arguably barred by international customary law, since those deploying them are inherently unable to discriminate in application, especially over time, between combatants and civilians. These weapons are indisputably particularly gruesome in their impact, with civilians including children the vast majority of victims.

Cluster bombs deploy numerous bomblets, a significant number of which fail to explode. The unexploded bomblets then function as de facto anti-personnel mines, again with the greatest toll among civilians, including children. According to Human Rights Watch, "more than 1,600 Kuwaiti and Iraqi civilians have been killed, and another 2,500 injured, by the estimated 1.2 million cluster bomb duds left following the 1991 Persian Gulf War, which saw the most extensive use of cluster bombs in history."

Mr. President, given your decision in the name of the American people to embark on a discretionary war of choice against Iraq, the very least that you owe the Iraqi people is a commitment not to use weaponry that poses special dangers to civilians, during military conflict and in the period after hostilities have ceased.

Before the bombing begins, you should publicly detail the specific commitments the United States will make to spare the loss of life in the course of the war-invasion against Iraq, and the steps our nation will take to protect Iraqi populations after the war from the chaos, anarchy and grave humanitarian crisis likely to ensue. First on the list should be a public pledge not to use landmines or cluster bombs, indiscriminate weapons that steal limbs, senses and lives from innocents even more effectively than from combatants.

Sincerely, Ralph Nader


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