I hope it’s incompetence.

One of the mysteries of the recent war in Lebanon was the use of cluster bombs by Israel. The topic is very much alive because the UN continues to claim that over a million unexploded cluster bombs remain strewn throughout S. Lebanon and because there are many special teams in place to attempt to remove these bomblets which have injured or killed about a dozen people since the war ended. The UN also claims that Israel has not provided detailed maps of where these bombs may have landed.

I suggest that this is because the IDF has no clue.

First, let’s deal with the absurdity of this story. Cluster bombs can be very nasty weapons because they are essentially large containers carrying hundreds of mini bombs that spread out over an area. Use of these bombs is permitted by international law when attacking military targets. However, their impact can be quite harsh and they are therefore considered to be a harmful weapon the use of which is highly questionable. Israel had committed to the US, its supplier of these bombs, only to use them in particular circumstances, and it is possible that they violated these terms in the recent war.

So where is the absurdity? Not only did these US bombs have a failure rate of about 40% (meaning that 40 out of every 100 bomblets didn’t explode), thereby worsening the post-war impact on Lebanese civilian society, but it turns out that the Israeli arms industry was aware of this problem and developed cluster bombs with a success rate in the high 90s. They sell these bombs to armies around the world. But they don’t sell them to the IDF. Why would the IDF not use exceptional, indigenous, fairly prices cluster bombs and instead buy outdated, poorly-performing American cluster bombs? Because Israel receives military aid from the US every year and is obligated to spend 75% of it in the US on American arms. What do they buy? Lousy cluster bombs.

Then Israel goes to war and actually starts lobbing gazillions of these bombs into Lebanon knowing they don’t work well. You think to yourself, they must have had a good reason for this: they wanted to punish the villages that support Hizbullah; they wanted to prevent civilians from returning quickly to these villages after the war; they felt the bombs neutralized Hizbullah operatives during the war; etc. Well, maybe somebody thought that but nobody knows who thought what. Weeks after these stories came out, and weeks after the IDF kept saying that use of all armaments was within international conventions of war, it turns out that the IDF Chief of Staff wasn’t reading newspapers and had no idea they were being fired.

That’s right, the Chief of Staff didn’t know. Or he says he didn’t know. Artillery officers and soldiers are claiming targets came from the offices of the General Staff, not from local commanders. The Chief of the General Staff says he didn’t know. In fact, what he said was that learning about it did not surprise him but disappointed him!!! What?! He knew it could happen but didn’t stop it? He allowed others to dictate such an important part of the war effort? He considers his officers to be little children and he hopes they will perform nicely but if they don’t he’s not surprised just disappointed?

There is now at least one investigative committee looking into this issue and I suspect a couple of the other more broad investigative committees will eventually consider this issue as well. Let’s hope that they come out with a reasonable story about what took place here. Most of all, let’s hope that story is the truth and nothing but the truth. The IDF cannot become an institution that cannot be trusted by the government of Israel or by its citizens. It must be trusted to be a smart, ethical army that will prepare well for Israel’s contingencies and treat its own soldiers with care and concern, just as it will treat its enemies harshly while ethically sparing their non-combatants from harm.

Story about this.

Another story about this.

Yet another story about this.

About the author



  • I read this post; and I didn’t like it at all; but I reserved judgment on this “themiddle” character. Then, I read the next post; and my suspicians were confirmed. This “themiddle” thing is a self-hating Jew.

  • at the very least you would think that idiot Israeli war machine members would learn from the microscope they are under and conduct war in as unimpeachable way as possible. you can laugh at this notion, but we all know there are rules, you read them well, then learn how to evade them. hello, we are Jews, we invented the concept of legal niggling.

  • Lance, every large newspaper in Israel is reporting this story and every large newspaper in Israel is reporting the story below. In fact, Yesha council has responded to the story thus far by saying it’s old news and the government permitted these settlements. The NY Times has covered both stories and a quick google search will show you that plenty of papers around the world are covering the cluster bomb issue.

    You can’t hide things when a fierce light shines upon them, and more important, you shouldn’t want to or try to hide things. Israel needs to fight to win, but there is no reason to be stupid about it and certainly no reason to use poorly-working cluster bombs that will affect a civilian population. Even if you are not a self-hating Jew, at the very least you would understand that it’s really, really bad for Israel’s and the IDF’s image.

  • Leaving cluster bombs aside for the moment, what’s really bad for the image of Israel and the IDF is that the political hacks who pass for Israel’s government did not allow the IDF to fight to win.

    I still don’t understand why Olmert and Peretz are still in office.

  • Oh, yeah: how’s about shining a “fierce light” on Hizb’allah?

    Oh, right, I forgot: they’re Arabs, and oppressed, and victims, and “people of color” and all that shit, so they are inherently incapable of committing war crimes.

    Or at least war crimes that anybody cares about.

    Since their victims are, you know, like Zionists and all.

  • Once again, I’ll say that I do not see this as a clear case for the ‘war crimes’ claims made by many. It’s good to get the info that most(?) of the bomblets were from the MLRS. This makes a lot of sense, as this is part of our standard Arty package for the US Army.

    Yes, it’s well known that up to about 1/3 of the bomblets do not explode on impact. Yes, improvements in the systems have been ongoing & planned. Still this system was widely used in the Iraq war, and there was Very Little comment on it from much of anyone. Yes, if you are attacking under fire in populated areas, people other than immediate combatants will suffer casualties. Still worse, truly innocent children will be harmed in those areas targeted or covered from UXO’s, which are only discovered later. This is well known, and is to be expected. This is something that would be common to almost any Army covering the same terrain and attacking under similar conditions.

    The duty to disarm the remaining munitions might have been part of any ‘real’ cease fire, but Hez values the lives of their hostages & fellow Militia members more than they do any civilian living in S. Lebanon. They’ve proved that time & time again. So I suggest a blanket offer from the IDF. The IDF does the demining for you, or aid you in the effort, you send back our soldiers. That would be more than fair, it would be the honorable thing to do, and indeed would be pretty damn magnanimous according to any military & state standard. Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • This may not be a war crime, but it also seems to have been unnecessary. Just because there’s a war, that doesn’t mean everybody gets to do whatever they want. Besides, it’s far worse than this: the Chief of Staff is saying he wasn’t in control and that orders or rules may have been ignored or disobeyed. Furthermore, the US is supplying these bombs to Israel with specific restrictions and it may be that Israel violated them.

    Also, it doesn’t matter one whit what the US does in Iraq. A couple of weeks ago NATO targeted and killed in a school 80 civilians in Afghanistan and aside from a few relatively short articles in some newspapers, the incident more or less died there. Israel accidentally killed 18 in Beit Hanoun and the UN is about to send an investigative committee headed by ex-Prez Carter.

  • All decent points Middle. But a lack of control of certain batteries in a war? Pretty damn common. We can not expect that every single shell has a GPS targeting package and the enemy helpfully has remained in the area to be impacted. Orders ignored, overruled or disobeyed? Pretty SOP for much of war. We already know it was a pretty confusing start & middle & finish here too. I might even agree that in some instances this may have been unnecessary, but again, that would be tragically fairly common in war too.

    So yes, there are Laws of War. No this does not seem a prima facie case of either violation of these or of our (US) export control laws. I mean after all in the latter instance, Dick Cheney was selling dual use nuclear enabling technology to the Iranians as Halliburton’s head in the 1990’s!

    It might be troublesome, and if it was actually investigated by a fair or impartial panel, we’d know and learn a bit more of the context. But that’s not likely to happen, right? Cheers, ‘VJ’

  • It is becoming more and more obvious that E. Olmert is mentally ill.

    I don’t understand how anyone can be optimistic about Israel’s chances for survival.

  • Lance,

    I fail to understand why anyone who says something critical of Israel is an anti-semite, and if a Jew says it, he’s a self hating jew.

    Isn’t debate and criticism the core of democracy? Doesn’t this bring about moderation, analysis, and understanding? If this article were about non-firing M-16 rounds being supplied and provided by the US Gov’t, you would probably be screaming about an anti-Israel conspiracy lead by the liberal left.

    You should be ashamed at your vast painting of a reasonable criticism. If we’re going to be prosecuting a war, shouldn’t we be doing it with modern and reliable weapons?

  • For once, I find myself in total agreement with TM. *faints*

    I love Israel, I love it’s people, and I love Jews everywere, but I have very little love for an incompetent government that has more concern for lining it’s pockets, and very little concern for “moral high ground”.

    Israel has every right to pound the daylights out of anyone who attacks her, but she’s also responsible for the consequenses of those actions and should be held accountable.