In Gulf War II, American forces dropped 1,500 cluster bombs on Iraq. These weapons are continuing to hurt civilians, weeks after the conflict's end, Time reports.
Unlike GPS- or laser-guided "smart" bombs delivered to, say, a tank or other specific target, cluster bombs come packaged in warheads that split in midair and rain as many as hundreds of grenade-like bomblets. They are effective against dispersed troops, but the bomblets generally cannot be targeted individually. And not all the devices explode on impact. Some remain, like leftover land mines, as a deadly postwar risk to civilians.The U.S. military may have downplayed the extent of cluster-bomb use in Iraq. Amid reports last month of heavy casualties, Air Force General Richard Myers, Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, said only 26 cluster bombs had landed in civilian areas, resulting in one casualty. That estimate is hard to reconcile with accounts from hospitals, residents and civil-defense officials in Iraqi cities visited by Time reporters.According to a March, 2002 U.N. report, over 14,000 unexploded bomblets were scattered across Afghanistan after the fighting there.