Cluster bombs kill three daily in Lebanon

In an area the size of the city of Kent in southern Lebanon lies more than 2,700 unexploded cluster bomblets, according to a United Nations estimate, the New York Times reported Oct. 6.

Well, not exactly. Neither the Times nor the United Nations mentioned Kent. But with simple math, we can apply the U.N. figures to Kent.

First off, Lebanon is bisected into two roughly equal halves by the Litani River, meaning southern Lebanon measures some 3,200 square miles. This area, according to the U.N. estimate, is covered by 1 million bomblets. That comes to more than 300 per square mile.

Kent is 8.7 square miles. So, take the 300 bomblets per square mile that cover southern Lebanon, multiply by the area of Kent and you get more than 2,700 bomblets.

Convert miles to feet and it comes to one bomblet per 17 square feet. That means one of two neighboring dorm rooms in Centennial Court would have a bomblet. For your sake, I hope your neighbor’s dorm is the one with the bomblet.

The Times article said nearly three people have died each day from cluster bombs since Israel ended its aggression into Lebanon in August.

The bomblets are about the size of a D battery. Each has a white tail that is supposed to unscrew the firing pin on its way down from the sky. When they fail to detonate after hitting the ground, they lie there until a clearance team disposes of them or civilians happen upon them.

Forty percent of the bomblets dropped on Lebanon failed to detonate on impact, according to a Mine Action Coordination Center fact sheet. The normal failure rate is 15 percent.

The bombs used in the Lebanon conflict were made in the United States. And since Israel receives $2 billion in direct financial aid from the United States, U.S. taxpayers probably picked up the bill.

The bomblets’ white tails look like the string on a kite. Because the tails make the bomblets look like toys, the victims of unexploded cluster bomblets are most often children.

So, what if this happened to a country like the United States? Kent is a little too small to compare here, but south Connecticut will work. According to the CIA World Factbook, all of Lebanon is 70 percent of the size of Connecticut. Southern Lebanon would roughly fit in the southern one-third of Connecticut.

Three people, mostly children, dying every day from unexploded bomblets would prompt a worldwide outpouring of help. New Haven would be cleaned up before you could say “dismemberment.”

But not Lebanon. Officials predict the bombs will not be cleared for 15 months, if they’re lucky and if funding doesn’t run out. The number of deaths from cluster bombs will no doubt drop as the clearance teams do their jobs, but if the three-a-day pace keeps for six months, more than 500 people will die.

And that’s a thought that should horrify all of us.

Allen Hines is a sophomore pre-journalsm major and columnist for the Daily Kent Stater. Contact him at [email protected].